Music video Dreamin' by Pillar Point was shot on a RED Epic, edited on Final Cut Pro X and graded in DaVinci Resolve.
Sam Petersson got in touch with us about a rather cool music video that he edited, as you can see Vimeo made it into a Staff Pick. We will let him take up the story:
I recently finished a music video using a combination of FCPX and Da Vinci Resolve. Directed by the ultra talented Jacob Krupnick and shot on a MōVI-mounted Red Epic: Dreamin’ by Pillar Point
Cutting a project shot on RED can seem like a daunting task due to massive file sizes, fast disk I/O requirements and notoriously long transcode times. Thanks to the RED Plugin for FCPX, along with the built in simplicity of the Proxy/Original Media switch in FCPX, the post production process can be smooth and simple, even on older computers.
Background of tech used for post production:
After three shoot days we had around 800GB of REDCODE RAW at 8:1 Compression Ratios, mostly shot at 72 FPS. Frame size was UHD 3840x2160, along with one HD 1920x1080 pickup shot made with a 5D Mark III using the Magic Lantern Raw hack. The .R3D files were delivered to post with a one-light pass done in Redcine-X Pro.
Our edit workhorse was a Octocore 2008 Mac Pro (3,1) - running FCPX 10.1.1 OS X 10.9.1; equipped with dual HD 5770 GPUs and 32GB RAM.
All files were stored on an 8 Disk Raid 50, connected to the MP via dual Mini-Sas which yielded approximately 300-400 MB/s reads and writes (speeds were hamstrung a bit due to the x8 HBA being placed in an x4 PCIe slot to accommodate dual GPUs).
A Black Magic Decklink Mini-Monitor provided video output to a gorgeous Sony OLED (PVM2541a).
Once we achieved picture lock, the Raid 50 was connected to a 2009 Mac Pro (8 core // 32 GB Ram // Cubix chassis running dual GTX 760 w/4GB VRAM) to color grade in Da Vinci Resolve (full licensed version), and outputting via BMD Decklink to the same Sony OLED monitor used for the edit.
Right away we installed the RED Plugin for FCPX. This plugin is free, takes seconds to install (does require a reboot), and works superbly. Even running on my long-in-the-tooth Mac Pro 3,1 we were able to playback the UHD .R3D files in realtime (24FPS project setting), but after 15-20 seconds playback was compromised and frames started to drop.
After reviewing some footage and realising that we would indeed want to transcode to ProRes for a more fluid edit, the decision was made to cut with ProRes proxies. Given how easy FCPX makes switching media from Proxy to Original, and how good the proxies actually looked, the decision was easy. (One of the improvements in FCPX 10.1.1 was the reducing the time taken to switch between Proxy media and Original, making it even more enticing.)
This was also the first time I had personally taken advantage of the new media management options in 10.1. We kept all the original .R3D files External to the Library, so that the only managed media in the FCPX library bundle itself were are small file sized ProRes proxies. Keeping the massive .R3D files external to the library resulted in a very small FCPX library bundle that could be quickly duplicated to an external drive for the director to review on his laptop.
We spent about a week trying different approaches and combinations, working to link the dancer's movements together in the most fitting and engaging visual connections. We experimented with the juxtapositions of city and nature; age and youth; intense physicality and contemplative stillness. Eventually we had a cut that felt great and made the move over to Da Vinci Resolve.
When it came time to import our FCPX XML into Resolve we were blessed to work with heavy duty talents Joe Victorine and Luke Taylor.
Joe is a seasoned DP who lent his expertise (along with his Red Epic and MōVI kit) to our cause, operating the MōVI along with Soren Nielson, our DP on the shoot. We spent a day with Joe trying different LUTs and finding a look that best suited the video.
The following day we spent with Luke Taylor really getting into the finer details and taking advantage of the amazing functionality in Da Vinci Resolve. The Osiris LUT we used, for example, caused NYC’s yellow taxi cabs to pop in an alarming and distracting manner, so Joe and Luke quickly used HSL Qualifiers to quiet down the Taxicabs.
All of our shots were lit from natural/environmental sources, and ranged from super early morning to late afternoon. Having the raw files high dynamic range enabled us to match the looks of shots from super early morning to those made later in the day, especially outside in the snow.
Back to FCPX for Delivery:
This is where things got a bit dicey. Due to some of the complex opacity adjustments and layering we had created in FCPX, there were sections that had not successfully navigated the XML roundtrip. This meant exporting a new XML with the effects removed, and roundtripping back to and from Resolve, then rebuilding the effects in FCPX.
This turned out just fine, but for anyone utilizing a similar FCPX -> Da Vinci Resolve roundtrip workflow I would really recommend adding certain complex effects AFTER grading in Resolve and save a minor headache. While some FCPX effects and transitions are indeed understood by Resolve, and therefore roundtrip seamlessly between the two applications, there is still room for improvement.
Using FCPX with RED RAW .R3D files is a great workflow and I highly recommend it. The metadata access and media management we all hear about really does save an incredible amount of time later on in the cut when looking for specific shots. The more time and attention taken when organizing footage into different collections and events is invaluable later in the edit process.
While all of today’s contemporary NLEs can playback .R3Ds without transcoding, the incredible ease of switching between proxy and original media in FCPX allow for much older machines to work with files shot on RED with ease. Even the proxy media created from UHD .R3D files is Full HD 1920x1080 and looks terrific.
We found that FCPX integrated impressively with Da Vinci Resolve. We had a straightforward XML roundtrip experience, other than the multilayered, nuanced opacity adjustments in one section of the piece which needed to be rebuilt in FCPX after grading. With a little care and patience the FCPX -> Resolve roundtrip workflow has become a more viable option than ever before, with minimal conforming needed in either application.
Thanks much for reading; hope you enjoy the video!
Sam Petersson is a Brooklyn-Based filmmaker and collaborator at Wild Combination.
Initially working as a producer for commercials, music videos, and feature films, including the dance film Girl Walk//All Day, he has steadily developed a taste for post-production. FCPX is his tool of choice and he prefers to edit standing up.