Post Production

Introduction to Post-Production with RED

digitally-acquired media

RED camera (or “R3D”) footage (and digital footage in general), is gradually replacing film and video as the format of choice for many filmmakers. It is both inexpensive (like video), and of high quality (like film). However, digitally-acquired media has its own set of disadvantages and pitfalls, and RED footage has additional idiosyncrasies that need to be appreciated, if not completely understood, in order to work with it smoothly.water slide for sale

First of all, there are options. Lots of them. With video you can pretty much load a tape and press record. With film you choose a stock and then go with it. Not so with RED. In terms of color alone, there are dozens of different settings for different color spaces, gamma curves, and ISO settings. Next there are different aspect ratios to control the picture shape, and different resolutions (which will increasingly eat away at resources such as disk space and processing time).

All of these assume prior understanding of how they interact with each other in order to make the right choices. Having said that, there are some “safe” choices you can make:

  • Use RED’s own gamma curve
  • Use RED’s own colour space
  • Set the ISO to 320
  • Use a 16:9 aspect ratio unless your footage is destined for the cinema (or you want a slightly more cinematic look)
  • Use 2k resolution (unless your output is digital cinema)

Red camera (R3D)

When you transfer your footage, you’ll typically end up with a bunch of folders with several files in each. Although you only really need the “R3D” files, it’s generally a bad idea to start renaming or deleting the others. The folders and filenames themselves provide clues as to what the footage is:

For instance, the folder: “A019_C002_080224” tells me that the contents were shot on camera “A”, reel “019”, and that this is the second clip (“C002”) on that reel, and even that it was shot in ‘08, on February 24. All that info without needing to even look at the files!

Inside the folders, there will usually be a number of QuickTime (.mov) files. It’s important to understand that these are not actually the video files, but just “wrappers” pointing to the actual red footage, allowing them to be viewed in any application that can read QuickTime files (you may need to get the free software from RED’s website to view them properly on your computer though).

RED footage

The reason there are several QuickTime files for each clip, is because they represent different levels of quality: (F)ull, (H)alf, (M)edium and (P)roxy. You should choose which one to use depending on what you are going to do with it. For working with the highest-quality footage, you should use the Full quality clips, but for quick previews, the Proxy quality should suffice.

Lots of data is stored inside the R3D file itself (as “metadata”). This includes things like the timecode, and the time and date of shooting, but also many of the camera settings used at the time of the shoot. Although these are not normally visible, you can view them using either the software on RED’s website, or 3rd-party software, such as Synaesthesia

For many, many reasons, you should try to work with copies of the original footage rather than the footage that came straight from the camera. Even if you duplicate the files using Windows Explorer or Mac Finder, you will not lose any image quality or lose any settings. But if you mess up or delete your only, original versions, then you’ll have to reshoot.

R3D footage is heavily compressed. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because it’s done in such a way that it doesn’t lose much in terms of image quality. But at some point, you may need to convert it into other formats. Even if these formats are themselves compressed, you may notice a significant increase in file size, and/or a decrease in image quality, because other formats are compressed in a different way. Therefore, always budget for more disk space than you think you’ll need, and try to convert to formats that don’t use high levels of compression (unless of course, you are intending for people to view the footage on the web, where less is definitely more).

Excerpted from Fix It In Post by Jack James,© 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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