Sunday, 18 December 2011

What is Workflow?

If you've been involved in the video production world for a while you'll have heard the phrase "Workflow" without really understanding what it means. Don't worry you're not alone and with the advent of digital cinematography it was thought it would get easier, but with the multitude of formats, cameras and applications this has been far from the case.

Workflow is basically how you get the images captured, your editorial decisions, visual effects and colour decisions all the way through the process to delivery. Good workflow is doing that without losing quality and spending the time as sensibly as possible.

1. Capture video data on set.
2. Create Proxy files from the original video data.
3. Edit using proxies in an offline suite.
4. Export EDL to be used in an online suite and audio mix.
5. Online suite relinks to original video.
6. Online suite then finishes the video (Colour Grade, reframe, and redo mixes/fades)
7. Online suite exports finished piece as DPX or back to tape for distribution with audio mix.

A proxy file is a low resolution version of the original video data that has all the same
The reason for creating proxies and having seperate offline and online suites is to make the best use of the time and money.

Here's a basic example workflow for a simple shoot and production in this case a file based workflow using a Red Camera.

1. The video is recorded with the potential for basic colour processing on location by the Director of Photography (DP) and the Digital Imaging Technician (DIT).
2. The download technician puts all the recorded video from the shoot onto master and backup drives (possibly multiple backups).
3. The master drives and backups are sent to be verified and checked against each other.
4. The Backup drives are then stored separately and securely.
5. Master drives with the Red raw files are sent to a RedRocket station to create lower resolution proxies for offline editing (DNxHD files for Avid or Prores for Final Cut) with the option of using the look created by the DP and DIT.
6. The editor sits with the director in a darkened room for weeks on end creating an edit.
7. The EDL (Edit Decision List) is then exported from the offline edit suite and sent to an online suite and separately for the audio mix.
8. The online suite then links the EDL to the original Red files at the highest possible quality.
9. The online suite then Colour grades, reframes, recreates any fades/wipes and generally finesses the edit with the DP and Director.
10. The audio mix is then brought in and the finished piece is exported as DPX frames with a 5.1 audio track.

How to edit HD on a cheap machine

Most people I meet complain about how slow their machine is and how they can't edit HD video without their computer grinding to a halt. The professional production world has been wrestling with this problem for years and hidden away in pretty much all editing software is the tried and tested solution to this problem without spending a penny more.

The solution to this is to use proxies. A proxy is a lower resolution version of a video that has all the same properties of the original apart from it's much easier for the computer to process.
The basic workflow is:
- convert all the high resolution footage you want to low quality proxy files (with the same filename as the originals).
- pull the proxies into your editing programme and edit with relative ease. Reducing the time spent rendering.
- Make sure your edit is finished and everyone is happy with it (except for the low quality).
- Reconnect all the media in your bin/timeline to the orignal high resolution files.
- Now you can render out a finished piece while you go to the pub for a few hours.

The final steps depend on what you want to do with your final piece. It's generally the case that your edit is sent as an EDL (Edit Decision List) or project file into another piece of software for finishing and colour grading.