Posting Red

When the RED footage arrives at the facility, it enters an assembly-line process of concurrent services: the R3D source files are split into A and B takes and are color-corrected scene to scene while being synched with production audio. The material then is converted to Avid files and bins, and authored to DVD and the studio and network’s Windows Media requirement. Most important is the speed of the dailies process.

"From the time we receive the files to the start of color-correcting is usually 30 minutes," reveals Waters. "All dailies media are easily delivered by 8 a.m. each morning."

"We’ve proven that you can get through a large amount of dailies data and get it done on time… There have been no issues because it’s RED."
—David Waters, President, Hollywood Intermediate

Final color is performed via the Nucoda Film Master, which natively reads RED’s R3D files. The dailies’ color grades aren’t baked in, so if the producer/DP doesn’t like the grades, they can delete the file and call up the originals.

"We’ve proven that you can get through a large amount of dailies data and get it done on time," says Waters. "And we’ve kept as close as possible to a traditional film workflow. There have been no issues because it’s RED. The only thing missing is the key code."

Ascent Media Group’s Level 3 and Company 3 developed a RED workflow system in which they perform a DPX conform in Autodesk’s Smoke. Once the picture is locked and the RED files are extracted and uncompressed from the original RED files, the project is output to a D-5 tape.

Ascent Media Group’s Level 3 and Company 3 (www.ascentmedia.com) did the post on ER when the popular TV series switched to the RED camera for its last seven episodes. Up until that point, for all of its 15 seasons, ER was shot on film and had an old-school postproduction. But executive producer John Wells had a taste for new technology, and a conversation with director Steven Soderbergh about his experiences shooting Che with the RED ONE led Wells to give it a try.

Since Level 3 colorist Fred Eldridge had been with the show since the beginning, and Company 3 had prior RED experience, it was a no-brainer to rely on them for the RED-acquired ER. But finding the perfect workflow took some time.

The initial plan was to rely on Avid Technology’s DNxHD 36 for off-line editing and its higher-res DNxHD 175 for the final color correction and mastering. But the producers quickly saw a problem: In about 10 percent of the shots (50 out of 500 cuts), there was visible compression banding (in which the image shows bands of color rather than a natural falling off of light). The team hurriedly went back to the original RED files and rendered out uncompressed HD DPX files to replace those 50 shots.

Level 3 and Company 3 creatives came up with another workflow: a DPX conform in Autodesk’s Smoke. Although the dailies still relied on the DNxHD 36 material, they eliminated DNxHD 175 from the process. When the picture was locked, ER sent Company 3 a RED EDL, which they used to extract the shots, uncompressed, from the original RED files. After the conform in Smoke, they output a D-5 tape.

"Eldridge—along with everyone else—was happy with the look he could get with the RED footage, especially for skin tones."

At Level 3, colorist Eldridge, who works on a da Vinci 2K, had the task of maintaining the urban, gritty look that cinematographer Arthur Albert had created for 163 episodes. Eldridge—along with everyone else—was happy with the look he could get with the RED footage, especially for skin tones. "It’s a natural tone that didn’t take a lot of work for me to refine," he says.