COLOR GRADING PREPARATION GUIDELINES

THE COLOR GRADING WORKFLOW

The overall workflow of conforming, color grading, and delivery are outlined as follows:

1. Project is imported into DaVinci Resolve using an XML or AAF file from the editing software. Audio, titles, some graphics, etc. are usually removed in the color grading software as they frequently do not translate properly.

2. Color grading work is completed and new color graded media is rendered (one clip for each cut)

3. The new media and an XML or AAF file is delivered on the hard drive. The XML file or AAF is then imported back into the editing software by the Editor for final completion and output. Usually audio, titles, graphics, etc. needs to be added to the new color graded sequence.

 

GUIDELINES

So that Escient Digital can continue to provide such low rates, it's important that projects are properly prepared for color grading and finishing. Below are guidelines that should be followed to properly prepare the project for color grading. These are all fairly simple things that experienced editors and assistant editors will be familiar with. Failing to fulfill these guidelines will add more time and cost to the process of color grading and finishing. If there are any issues or questions about these guidelines please ask.

1. Single Sequence.

Unless the project is multiple episodes, such as a TV or web series, the entire project should be in one full long play sequence.

2. Flatten/collapse all multi-cam and compound clips.

Sequences with multi-cam clips may not import properly. These must be flattened before export of any XML or AAF files, as well as before rendering out a reference video of the sequence with clip file names and source timecode burn-in. See below for more information on the reference video requirements. Special note for Final Cut Pro X: There is no simple command to flatten/collapse mutli-cam and compound clips. Mutli-cam and compound clips have the potential for shots to not connect to the media. If this happens the project may be sent back for these to be fixed or it can be done for an additional charge.

3. Single Video Track.

The sequence should be reduced/collapsed to one single video (V1) track. Titles on additional tracks are acceptable, but all media to be color graded should be on V1 whenever possible.

4. Composites, Superimpositions, Cropped Shots, etc.

Color grading of individual elements in these situations can be done with media clips on multiple tracks (V1, V2, etc.), but the final output will also have these elements separated, and the effect being created may need to be reworked by the Editor after color grading. If that is an issue, then the effect should be rendered as a separate single video clip and re-edited back into the sequence prior to color grading. If that is the case, be sure to render at the final delivery resolution as a minimum if editing with lower resolution media than than the original camera media. It is usually better to use the original source resolution. If editing with offline/transcoded media, then new offline/transcoded media should be created at the original source resolution first.

5. Media File Names.

Every media file used in the project should have a unique file name. For example, if two shots like scene 1A take 1 and scene 7F take 3 both have the filename MVI_8587.MOV, they will not import into and conform within the color grading software properly. All media filenames must also have a proper file extension (for example, .movx is not a valid file extension).

6. Frame Rates.

Every media file used in the sequence must be the same frame rate as the sequence. If the sequence is 23.98fps, and there’s a shot that is 29.97fps and another shot at 24.00fps, then those shots needs to be transcoded or rendered as 23.98fps and edited into the sequence in place of the 29.97fps and 24.00fps clips. Failure to do so may cause the wrong part of the shot to appear in the project. Be sure to render at the final delivery resolution as a minimum if editing with lower resolution media than than the original camera media. It is usually better to use the original source resolution. If editing with offline/transcoded media, then new offline/transcoded media should be created at the original source resolution first.

7. Still Images & Freeze Frames.

Any still image file (.jpg, .png, .psd, etc.) and/or freeze frame must be rendered as video clips and edited into the sequence in place of the still image files, or they may not appear in the color grading software to be color graded. Be sure to render at the final delivery resolution as a minimum.

8. Speed Changes.

Any clips with speed changes done in the editing software need to be rendered and edited into the project in place of the original clip. Failure to do so may cause the wrong part of the shot to appear in the sequence. Be sure to render at the final delivery resolution as a minimum if editing with lower resolution media than than the original camera media. It is usually better to use the original source resolution. If editing with offline/transcoded media, then new offline/transcoded media should be created at the original source resolution first. NOTE: If you have speed changes, please check with the colorist first before replacing the shots. It now may not be an issue depending on the original camera media and editing software.

9. Mixed Resolution, Transforms, & Changing Sequence Resolution.

Clips that are different than the resolution of the sequence (or if the project is 1080p, but being mastered in 4K, for example) and/or have transform changes such as scale and position, may have different scaling and positioning when the color graded media is imported into the original project. If these are not translating from the editing software to the color grading software properly, then these adjustments will need to be removed. Any shots with these adjustments should be checked and adjusted when the color graded project is delivered.

10. Filters & Titles

All color correction filters and titles need to be removed from the sequence. These sometime can translate to the color grading software, but not properly. Other filters that are applied in the sequence will likely not translate properly and may be stripped from the sequence when it is imported back into the editing software. After importing the color graded sequence into the editing software, the Editor should check any shots that are supposed to have filters applied and re-apply or adjust them as necessary.

11. Shot Stabilization Filters.

Any shots that have stabilization filters already applied in the editing software will end up with different results after color grading. This is due to contrast and color of the picture changing. These shots will need to be analyzed again and potentially require adjustments made to the stabilization settings. Stabilization can be done in the color grading software, but will likely have different results than the Editing software. Any shots that the stabilization needs to remain exactly the same as they are prior to color grading should be rendered as a separate single video clip and re-edited back into the sequence prior to color grading. If that is the case, be sure to render at the final delivery resolution as a minimum if editing with lower resolution media than than the original camera media. It is usually better to use the original source resolution. If editing with offline/transcoded media, then new offline/transcoded media should be created at the original source resolution first.

Failure to follow these guidelines may cause errors when importing the project into the color grading software or undesired results in the final project.

If errors are encountered that cannot be easily and quickly fixed, the project/hard drives will be returned to the production company to fix the project according to these guidelines, or the work to fix the issues and properly prepare the project for color grading can be done by Escient Digital at an additional cost. The production company will be contacted immediately upon determining the project has not been properly prepared for color grading for the production company to decide between the options.

WHAT IS NEEDED FOR THE COLOR GRADING TO BEGIN?

Generally, what is needed to begin work is the items listed below on a USB 3.0, USB 3.1, or Thunderbolt drive. The drive must be fast enough for the media that’s being color graded. For example, a portable USB (or Thunderbolt) bus-powered hard drive is not fast enough for Red RAW or ArriRAW footage. Because it will increase the amount of time and work for the color grading, there will be an additional charge for projects that are provided on drives that are not of appropriate speed. Not every project will need all of these items and some projects may need additional items. Please inquire to be sure.

1. All original camera media (i.e. Log or RAW)

2. Transcoded media used for the edit (if not edited directly with original camera media)

3. An XML (FCP or Premiere) or AAF (Avid) export of the sequence(s) being color graded. If editied in Da Vinci Resolve, the Da Vinci Resolve project is needed.

4. A rendered export of the sequence(s) being color graded. This is for reference when conforming the project in Resolve to make sure it imports properly with all proper in/out points on each shot. Include the following burn-in data: sequence/program timecode, source file name, source timecode. An example is shown below.

Below is an example of how to set the burn-in in Premiere Pro. The effects are added to a transparent video clip on the top video track.

PPrefburnin
PPfxcontrols

5. The editing project file, if possible, to help resolve any potential issues with the conforming process.

Please ask if there are any questions about these guidelines. Thank you.