Fini.tv Adopts DaVinci Resolve Workflow

In January of 2011 Fini.tv started the switch from Apple Color to DaVinci Resolve.

In July, with the release of DaVinci’s updated software, the transition has been completed and Fini.tv has adopted DaVinci Resolve as our grading solution of choice. And we couldn’t be more pleased.

When we started on this road it was a big decision. Apple Color hadn’t seen any significant software updates in many years and we were concerned about its future. Meanwhile, from a distance we watched as DaVinci was acquired by Blackmagic Design, the price was dropped significantly, and they seemed to target color grading companies such as Fini.tv. And they impressed us as they released important software updates on an accelerated schedule that signalled BlackMagic’s commitment to a storied color grading platform.

In January we bought a license and slowly started doing paid jobs with it.

Yet we couldn’t embrace it whole-heartedly -DaVinci Resolve Version 7 lacked the integration workflow that our clients were accustomed to with Apple Color, namely: XML roundtrips and multiple video track timelines.

Why XML Workflows Are Important

The XML workflow between Color and Final Cut Pro Legacy is big big feature. You see… XML is a modern EDL that allows a multi-video track timeline to be sent to Apple Color, which also displays multiple tracks – giving the colorist access to each layer, ready for ‘in-context’ color correction. Once rendered, Color exports an XML of that exact same timeline into Final Cut Pro – resulting in a timeline *identical* to the locked offline (and keeping any filters not recognized by Color).

But here’s the kicker: This new timeline links back to the newly rendered color graded footage!

Including handles for each individual shot.

It’s brilliant. And our clients love it.

This workflow allows our clients to make slight editorial tweaks after the color grade is completed. They get a project file that looks exactly like the project file they handed us. And rather than one long Quicktime movie – every shot is individually rendered (with the aforementioned handles). Perfect.

DaVinci Resolve 7

DaVinci Resolve 7 threw a bit of a wrench into this workflow. It only supported EDL workflows. Meaning: It could only see one video track at a time.

Clients accustomed to the simple Color round-trip – if they wanted to work in DaVinci Resolve – had to radically change the way they delivered projects to us (or pay us to make those changes). And from our perspective, EDLs are usually inadequate to carry across filters & transitions – which would have to be tediously placed back into the final FCP timeline. By hand. Shot by shot.

I can tell you – many hours were lost as we learned the unique quirks of antiquated EDL workflows.

But now – something amazing has happened… and its name is: DaVinci Resolve 8

DaVinci Resolve 8: Like Apple Color (on steroids)

Fini.tv was honored to have been invited into the Resolve 8 beta testing team. And we quickly realized everything we had read about the tremendous strides this software made proved to be true. Resolve 8 is the perfect inheritor to Apple Color (which has been now been End-Of-Life’d by Apple).

Resolve 8 supports:

  • Multiple track timelines
  • Import / Export of XMLs for Final Cut Pro workflows (including some big advancements for Resolve 7 colorists when importing the footage, making our lives sooo much easier – saving our clients time, money, and keeping the colorist from quickly falling into a sour mood).
  • Resolve 8 adds several new features that Apple Color colorists will love including: Fully controllable Noise Reduction, Image Stabalization, Masking tools that go far beyond anything Apple Color could do (with a tracker that is so good it induces little fits of the giggles), a grading pipeline that allows us to reorder our operations – all of which is changing the way we grade, giving us more power without taking more time.
  • It also adds the possibility for compositing shots (think: green- and blue- screens) directly inside Resolve with support for imported footage that has alpha channels (for instance, coming from After Effects or CGI)
  • Native Avid Workflows: Including multi-track roundtrips via AAF and ALE
  • Native Avid DNxHD codec support for playback and rendering – and – AMA support
  • Native HDRx support for the RED Epic, Arri Alexa v3 color science, and Cineform support

There are many more workflows, codecs, and features that were added to Resolve v8… but those listed above are the ones of most interest to our clients.

A Next Generation Color Correction Toolset

Apple Color was a great gateway for Fini.tv into high-end color grading. It changed our business. We’re sad to see it slowly lose its relevance. It holds a special place in our heart.

But as the saying goes: A door has closed, but a window has opened. And that window is BlackMagic’s DaVinci Resolve.

We are thrilled to offer DaVinci Resolve to our clients – a top-notch grading solution that’s under active development by a team of enthusiastic engineers and artists dedicated to providing a color grading toolset that takes us into the second decade of this century!

Come join us.

Ask A Question, Get An Answer

Do you have an upcoming project that might need our color correction services? Let us know!

Call Patrick: 347-878-3464

We’d love to introduce you to Resolve 8 and hope to see you in our (or your) grading suite.

Just like it ever was…

…Only better.

 

Mixing Light & Sound

How To Think Like A Post-Production Supervisor

Tonight I’m teaming up with Peter Levin of Splash Studios to do a free seminar, “Mixing Light & Sound: Strategies for Finishing Your Project”.

It could also be called, How To Think Like a Post Production Supervisor.

Peter is a terrific audio mixer, his wife Barbara a talented Dialog Editor. Their recent projects include the festival circuit’s acclaimed My Peristroika (nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year) and the upcoming You Tube Symphony Orchestra (it’s a doc commissioned by You Tube following musical proteges culminating in a gala symphony).

Mixing Light & Sound

Peter and I have been working together for over a year (we were introduced by our dear departed friend, Michael Vitti): He’s the ears of the operation, I’m the eyes (and our wives are the brains!). When comparing notes we found are clients are consistently confused by the same technicalities of the last few steps in finishing their projects.

The two of us decided it was time to get in front of producers, directors, editors, documentarians – filmmakers – and start answering all the questions we both get asked, day in / day out. Such as:

  • What should you expect from your color correction, when should you do it, how should you prepare for it?
  • What is a 5.1 audio mix? What is an LtRt? What’s the best way to prepare your audio for your sound edit? What is Dolby E encoding and why should you be thinking about it?
  • What are the different tape formats and what are festivals and networks going to require? What’s the best way to upconvert NTSC to HD? What about mixing HD formats and Frame Rates?
  • How do your decisions to these (and many more) questions affect the finishing pipeline?

Our number 1 piece of advice: Begin at the end. You need to define where your project will most likely be seen. Once defined, your roadmap becomes very clear – and allows for unexpectedly happy detours (like, getting picked up by HBO).

We did our first free seminar 3 weeks ago. A total success. It ran almost 3 hours, an hour longer than planned. The group was small, 15 people. The questions came from all parts of the room. Tonight’s session is (again) a sellout. This time around we’re adding a ‘recommended workflow’ that should cover about 80% of the projects out there.

Building Out The Concept

We’re excited about this seminar and plan to take it on the road and evangelize these strategies. We’re  developing a website / forum specifically devoted to finishing strategies.

Our goal: Demystify the complexities of finishing picture and sound – resulting in educated clients making informed decisions in pre-productions saving them time, money, and frustration. Stay tuned for more details as the website goes live.

If you think you might be interested in attending one of these NYC seminars (we’re still developing the content based on how the early seminars progress), contact me and we’ll keep you in the loop. Or just subscribe to this RSS feed. Or Fini’s Facebook page… or…

- pi

 

Fini Experiments with Facebook

If you like this blog, then connect with me on Facebook via Fini.tv’s Facebook page.

Why am I suggesting this?

5 years ago a blog like this is how we all shared our thoughts, with quick hits and long posts all interspersed. As my blog has become the face of Fini.tv (literally on the front page) I’m looking to keep this feed tidy. Yet I still have things to say, which, as of yet, haven’t made it anywhere. Mostly short posts and thoughts. I’ve decided to use Fini’s Facebook page for more stream-of-consciousness posts.

While Twitter is fine, it doesn’t allow for feedback or conversations. And really, that’s what those short posts are about.

Blogs and Facebook make for real interaction. Twitter? Too much like broadcast TV or Radio for my tastes. And while I do agree that Facebook displays a callous disregard for the Privacy of its users, the truth is millions upon millions of interactions are taking place there every day. I don’t think I can afford NOT to be on Facebook. So, if Facebook freaks you out a bit, make sure you update your Privacy settings.

I encourage you to head on over to Fini’s Facebook page, then click the “Like” button to follow those posts. Let’s have a conversation.

If you really like us, use the “Share with Friends” button to suggest our page to your like-minded friends.

Hope to see you there!

- patrick

 

“What Would James Cameron Do” & Prime Time Mediocrity

James Cameron "Avatar" Production Still

Lying in bed, sick, watching Prime Time televsion in NTSC for the first time in years - I couldn’t help to juxtapose the train wreck I was seeing on the screen with an article in The Hollywood Reporter concerning the deliverables for Avatar: (stay with me on this…)

“No studio has ever faced what we faced on this,” says Ted Gagliano, president of postproduction at Fox. “Jim wanted the best, most immersive experience possible. So he pushed us to have a multiple-version inventory that would give each theater the best experience it could possibly deliver for that given theater.”

“The best experience it could possibly deliver”

According to the article, the end result:

Cameron made the decision to complete the movie in three aspect ratios: Scope (2:39:1), flat (1:85:1) and Imax (1:43:1). “You are not going to see many directors releasing in different aspect ratios, as most pick their canvas and that is their format,” Fox vp postproduction Steve Barnett says.

The article is a great read about one man’s pursuit and dedication to ensuring his film is seen in its best possible light… staying as true to the director’s original intent as possible. In my mind, there’s no doubt this type of pursuit of excellence can be attributed to much of the film’s success.

But I digress…

So. I’m shivering under my heating blanket and I can’t believe what I was seeing on Prime-Time network television. They made consistently terrible decisions as to how to present their wide-screen originated television on NTSC screens.

Rather than adding an extra few hours to their post pipelines to properly reformat their 16:9 HD pictures to fit into a 4:3 NTSC screen ABC, NBC and CBS made identical decisions, they chopped off the sides of the picture and called it a day. They traded excellence for expediency resulting in a terrible viewing experience for the home viewer. Here’s the type of framing I kept seeing all night long (special thanks to Mike Mazur for the image):

720p Still Image with 4:3 centercut overlay

16:9 HD image with 4:3 NTSC Center Cut. Notice the discombobulated nose.

Of course, the networks could decide to follow the direction of almost every cable station and letterbox the image – maintaining the intent and storytelling authenticity of their programs. But rather than doing a shot-by-shot Pan & Scan, re-framing shots so they fit best in the 4:3 screen, the major Nets all seem to be happy to have noses talking to each other, network bugs covering key pieces of information, and generally showing a complete lack of caring for their audience or the visual quality of their content.

Need another example of network carelessness? Take a look at this post with a screenshot from the March 30, 2010 episode of Lost. The first thing to notice, the image they’re showing is from the 4:3 centercut. Notice how half the words on the notebook are cut off? The entire sentence is readable on the 16:9 version. Except, of course, that the V countdown clock takes this in-camera subtitle, already difficult to decode due to the center cut, and renders the conversation unreadable.

How mad were the fans of Lost?

“I try to avoid Twitter around 6 p.m. PT on Tuesdays, in order to steer clear of Lost spoilers from eager East Coast Tweeps. But tonight, with the Tweet Deck still on, I couldn’t help but notice the increasing anger from Lost viewers, as an on-screen clock counted down the minutes until the return of V.” – Michael Schneider, Variety

Counterpoint: Here’s one more excerpt demonstrating James Cameron’s pursuit of excellence:

Creative decisions involving light levels also led to additional versions. 3D projection and glasses cut down the light the viewer sees, so “Avatar” also had separate color grades at different light levels…

“If we had just sent out one version of the movie, it would have been very dark (in the larger theaters),” Barnett says.

As network and cable companies attempt to compete more effectively with the Internet and video games, their willingness to accept mediocrity is their single greatest challenge.

Here’s a new mantra for Network Execs making these bone-headed decisions:

What would James Cameron do?

- pi

 

NAB 2010 – Initial Thoughts

What are the big items that have caught my eye watching Twitter feeds and reading Press Releases on Day 1 of NAB? Here are my (purely selfish) top three:

DaVinci Resolve on Mac

DaVinci Resolve Control Surface

When BlackMagic bought DaVinci last year here’s what I wished for this NAB:

  • DaVinci Resolve.
  • For Mac.
  • Under $15k.

I figured that BlackMagic would price the Resolve near Smoke on a Mac. I underestimated Grant Petty, CEO of BlackMagic. Grant has built his company by pursuing disruptive technologies that are  priced aggressively.

Man, he got disruptive big-time.

Here’s what Grant delivered to me this NAB:

  • DaVinci Resolve.
  • For Mac.
  • Under $1k.

Even better, Resolve on Mac (unlike Smoke) when compared to its full-blown Linux counterpart doesn’t hobble the software. It doesn’t hold back features. It doesn’t require a Support Contract. It’s only restriction – 1 GPU; according to the Press Release, the GPU limitation is due to lack of support for InfiniBand for Mac.

Fini, my color correction company, has a 9-month roadmap that I’m executing as I re-tool the company and better position it to compete in the market I’ve targeted (more on that as The Plan moves forward). Resolve on a Mac couldn’t fit in more perfectly. I’m beyond stoked.

The only question I haven’t gotten an answer to: Will Resolve on Mac support RED natively in 2K and HD workflows? It really needs to.

Avid Buys Euphonix

The other news that grabbed my attention was Avid’s announcement of their intention to buy Euphonix – maker of outboard control surfaces.

I’m not yet sure if this is a good thing or not.

I’ve read a few people opine on this topic – but I think most are missing the point of this acquisition. The Euphonix secret sauce is their EuCon protocol. It’s the protocol that controls the interaction between the hardware control surface and the software being controlled. Their product that most interests me, MC Color, is buttery smooth… and it’s EuCon that’s responsible for the feeling that the software, via their hardware, is an extension of your brain. The immediacy of even the most subtle inputs is fantastic.

In the past, an acquisition by Avid was where great products went to wither away. Avid over the last two years seems to have turned over a new leaf and this year has had a great new release.

So now? What is the future of EuCon? I’m nervous. I just don’t know.

I can only hope that Avid decides to continue offering the amazing value that Euphonix seems to be built around.

Me -> Apple: In ProApps, Silence Is Not Golden

Apple doesn’t get it. I don’t build my business based on if I want to operate a Linux-based business or a Mac-based business. I don’t really care what new features the next version of the Mac OS is going to offer. Or when. On this count, Apple can be as secretive as they want.

I build my business with software products designed to allow me to provide amazing value to my clients. If I’m going to plan the direction of my business, I need an understanding of where I think the software I use is going to go. Currently, my software happens to be owned by Apple.

Apple, extending it’s corporate Cone Of Silence around the Pro Apps division, offers me nothing but a blank expression and puckered lips.

And a frustratingly long 2 year development cycle.

So what am I to make of Apple’s silence concerning their ProApps products?

Is it because they’re ready to leap-frog the competition?

Or does de-coupling Final Cut Studio from big events like NAB go counter to Steve Job’s excellent quote: “Real Artists Ship”? With no more external target dates, is shipping Final Cut Studio becoming internally de-valued?

Here’s what’s so surprising to me after Day 1 of NAB 2010:

More and more I’m caring less and less about those answers.

- pi

 

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Meet Your Colorist: Patrick talks Color Grading, Finishing, Workflows, Final Cut Color
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Fini

verb
  1. to end, to finish
    From Latin, Italian finire; French finir
French m. (plural finis) - noun
  1. Aspect or texture of what has been completed.
    Un fini lisse: A smooth finish
French adjective
  1. Completed or done.
  2. Which has come to an end.
  3. (technical or philosophical) Which has an end, limited, finite.