EP007: Conform, Bake, or Hybrid?

Episode 7
Duration 41:58

Moving From Editorial To Color

One of the most often discussed topics in postproduction is how to best move from editorial applications like Premiere Pro, Avid, and Final Cut Pro to a color grading and finishing application like DaVinci Resolve or Baselight.

While this move doesn’t always have to or need to take place – as you might do your color work in your editorial application e.g. more and more shows being cut in DaVinci Resolve. Moving from one place to another is a common occurrence and being able to properly analyze a project and move from one application to another is an essential skill to have.

In this installment of The Offset Podcast, Robbie & Joey look at the pros & cons of three workflows for moving projects to color: Conform, baked, and a hybrid of the two

The Conform Workflow

The simplest way to think of a conform workflow is a rebuild of the editorial timeline in your grading application using the highest quality available media. As we’ll discuss in the episode, this sounds simple but has some important considerations including:

  • Is the media already at its highest resolution and quality in the editorial timeline? If not, who will do that ‘onlining’ to the highest resolution/quality media? The editor? Colorist? Conform Artist?
  • Does all media have good timecode and reel names?
  • How heavily does the project utilize speed changes, reframing, and proprietary effects? What about text and graphics?
  • Does the project contain Raw media – ArriRaw, Red Raw etc?
  • How big is the project? Will it require trimming/media managing assets?

Generally speaking, a conform workflow is our preferred option, but it’s important to note that it can take time, it can have issues, and it definitely factors into the overall project cost.

The Baked Workflow

Also known as the ‘flat file’ workflow is a popular one to maximize simplicity in a hand-off from editorial to color.

Essentially the editor removes all LUTs, temp color correction, and non-full screen overlays (L3rds, overlays, etc) from the timeline and exports a single master quality file of the entire project.

Once this is done, on the color side of things, the file is cut back up into its constituent clips and grading can start.

However, there are a few things to consider:

  • You lose all clip metadata – most importantly means you lose access to Raw controls.  If a timeline contains Raw media you’ll want to provide editorial with a recipe for how you’d like that Raw media prepared. Clip names, camera metadata, etc will also be lost – there are some ways around these things but generally, this is the case.
  • This workflow doesn’t support rendering back to editorial with handles.
  • Speed changes, reframes and any effects on the timeline will be baked into the export – be sure these things are approved and accepted by stakeholders before the export.

We love baked workflows for spots, docs, and other projects where a conform workflow would simply add time, cost, and aggravation.

The Hybrid Workflow

One size rarely fits all. That’s where the hybrid workflow comes in.

A hybrid workflow is a perfect match for projects where there might be issues with either doing a full conform or a full bake.

For example: You might have a documentary that has interviews shot on a digital cinema camera as Raw, but a ton of stock footage that comes from various places some with timecode some without.

In a hybrid workflow, you could do a traditional conform for all the interviews and get a flat file for all the stock.  Of course, there are lots of variations on this but combining the two approaches is often where we end up.

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-Robbie & Joey


The Offset Podcast is sponsored by Flanders Scientific -leaders in color-accurate display solutions for professional video. Whether you are a colorist, editor, DIT, or broadcast engineer Flanders Scientific has a professional display solution to meet your needs. Learn more at FlandersScientific.com 

Video
Transcript

01:00:00:03 - 01:00:18:15
Robbie
Hey, I'm Robbie Carman, and welcome back to the Offset Podcast. This week we're taking a look at a common question that we often get from clients whether to do a conform, bake, or hybrid workflow. Stay tuned.

01:00:18:17 - 01:00:36:18
Joey
This podcast is sponsored by Flanders Scientific leaders in color accurate display solutions for professional video. Whether you're a colorist, an editor, a DIT, or a broadcast engineer, Flanders Scientific has a professional display solution to meet your needs. Learn more at FlandersScientific.Com.

01:00:36:20 - 01:00:58:04
Robbie
All right, Joey, so today we are talking a little bit about the best sort of, you know, kind of handoff workflow from a client to, you know, to finishing and to color correction. I suppose this could be germane to some audio workflows, too, but we're primarily talking about obviously, what's in our wheelhouse and color correction. And really, you know, we have this conversation.

01:00:58:04 - 01:01:25:14
Robbie
I mean, pretty much daily with clients about kind of the best way to hand off a project, from editorial from, you know, from their side over to us and to end to do, you know, final finishing and color correction. And I think this is, you know, this is a question that, or, you know, kind of a concept that hits home for a lot of people because some people have very kind of like firmly held beliefs about, like, the air quotes, right way to do this.

01:01:25:16 - 01:01:42:14
Robbie
and I think that, you know, we've obviously done all three of these workflows that we're about to talk about, but I want to just kind of riff and this podcast a little bit about the pros and cons of each, when we would suggest doing one or the other, any pitfalls that we experience with these workflows.

01:01:42:16 - 01:02:03:13
Robbie
So let's start off with the one that I think is, the traditional color correction workflow. One, and I'm saying traditional in the sense of modern color correction, because back when I was coming up on, you know, Da Vinci Days and tape machines, this was not the workflow. We'll get to that part in a second. But these days when everybody kind of considers the standard workflow and that is the conform workflow.

01:02:03:13 - 01:02:11:07
Robbie
So, walk us through a little bit what the conform workflow is, what it means. And some of you know, your pros and cons of it.

01:02:11:09 - 01:02:38:06
Joey
Yeah, absolutely. So when we talk about different kind of workflows, whether it's big conform, whatever, basically what we're talking about, like you mentioned, is how do we get from edit to final finishing, including the edit itself and all the elements the colorist needs to do the final finishing. So the image assets graphics. If the colorist is going to be marrying graphics, final mix is all of these things kind of come into the overall workflow equation.

01:02:38:06 - 01:02:57:10
Joey
What I usually tell people is there is no best way, right? It's kind of like asking how much is a boat? You know, that's kind of my general response to these. Well, what's the best way? Well, how much is a boat? The answer is always a resounding it depends. Yeah. So, like you said, conforms are very common.

01:02:57:10 - 01:03:26:13
Joey
And what a conform is conceptually is taking a metadata based set of information, which is your edit list, or an edit decision list, sometimes in an EDL file, sometimes in an XML file, sometimes in a project file, like a premiere project or a resolve project. But the point is, this piece of information has no actual image data with it, but it tells you what shots go at what times, and what cuts transition.

01:03:26:13 - 01:03:28:20
Joey
It's, it's an it's a set of recipe.

01:03:28:20 - 01:03:30:16
Robbie
It's a set of instructions. Right.

01:03:30:18 - 01:03:57:07
Joey
Exactly. And that sort of instructions can come in various formats. And then you have a set of actual images, whether they be individual frames and image sequences, whether they be individual QuickTime movies, whether they be graphics files, whatever. You have a big set of actual image media and the metadata to put it together. Now, this is sometimes lumped in with what we call online editing, sometimes not.

01:03:57:07 - 01:04:24:23
Joey
And this is where a lot of confusion can happen, because most big projects today are still done in some kind of offline way, right where the editor is working with lower res than the final resolution formats or the camera originals to make those edit decisions. And then before color, it needs to get to full res, right? So we can now split our conformed workflow into two conform workflows.

01:04:24:23 - 01:04:45:11
Joey
Right. Do you a up rez to get all of your full resources? Or if the editor was editing full res, you don't need to do that step and then you need to get it into your color correction application. Yep. So that's kind of where the conversation usually starts with me with a client talking about conform, who's doing the up rez where is it happening and where is the source media.

01:04:45:11 - 01:05:13:04
Joey
Right. Because if they were offline editing and they, send us the offline proxy media and the edit decision recipe, that gives us nothing, right? We can't just link to the proxy media and grade from that. We're going to get a bad result. So in that case, it's a conversation with the client, right. Do you want us to do the up rez or do you want to do have your editors do the up rez and then send us for example in XML and the camera original media?

01:05:13:07 - 01:05:38:15
Joey
Yeah. Or an XML and a consolidated version of your project that you already did. Yep. The upper rez on. And there's advantages and disadvantages to all of these. obviously in the case of having the client do the upper has the advantage on our side is it's less work for us. The disadvantage is and it also that can be an advantage on the client side too, because it can be a way for a client to save money because that's obviously billable time for us.

01:05:38:15 - 01:05:58:02
Joey
We're not going to throw in a full up rez of your film for free. It's usually a point that we can kind of talk about budget wise, but if a client wants to save money, that's a quick, easy way that we can get them a meaningful money saving immediately. When we're bidding the project of, well, why don't you do your own up rez and then send us a consolidated project?

01:05:58:04 - 01:06:22:17
Joey
but they might not be equipped to do that, whether it be computer issues or storage or where their editor is located or whatever. So that's kind of step one. Getting it all up. Rest. step two is then getting it all into your color correction system, DaVinci resolve in our case, now, if we're doing the opera's, we can do that in resolve or we can do that in the in LA.

01:06:22:18 - 01:06:28:20
Joey
It kind of depends on the layout of the project. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, I know that's a lot of word salad there.

01:06:28:20 - 01:06:51:02
Robbie
No no you. No. But it all makes sense. I just wanna give some context for people who might the first part of that conforme workflow. Because I think the offline online thing is a workflow and honestly, terminology that is kind of faded from fashion a little bit. you know, when we were coming up in the industry, you know, that conform thing was a big deal, right?

01:06:51:02 - 01:06:57:05
Robbie
People were cutting that. Not just like I wouldn't even call it what we consider proxies today. I would call like thumbnails basically.

01:06:57:06 - 01:07:05:02
Joey
Right. Avid AVR three very common. And it was single field 320 by 240. Right. You know. Right. Jpeg.

01:07:05:05 - 01:07:23:09
Robbie
Right. Exactly. So, you know, early in my career, I spent a lot of time running back and forth, which back to the tape room with a project that I was, you know, okay, here's the tape number. Okay, here's the batch list. Go into the tape room with that. With that tape, prop it in and the computer, you know, would go out and say, okay, I need time.

01:07:23:09 - 01:07:34:21
Robbie
Code x, y, z. You know, x, y, z. And it would pull those shots back to whatever your new capture resolution was. And that typically happened, in a more expensive room, a more. Yeah.

01:07:34:21 - 01:07:55:13
Joey
And that was, you know, in the case of linear or, sorry, nonlinear online. Yeah. When I started, we were doing linear linear online. We would have the tape decks assemble the final time codes from the EDL on a floppy disk. Yeah. but that's, that brings up an important point. When you're dealing with conform workflows, whether you are on lining and tape.

01:07:55:13 - 01:08:22:22
Joey
30 years ago. Yeah. Whether you're online from tape in a non-linear editor, whether you're online from proxies to full res camera originals on modern digital cinema cameras, because everything revolves around that metadata, you need absolutely good practices from the beginning of the project to maintain that information, right? So when you're offline, whether you're working with proxies or whatever or low res camera sources, some cameras record their own proxies.

01:08:23:00 - 01:08:42:21
Joey
You need to make sure that the metadata in your editor is staying in place. That means you have accurate timecode and you have accurate. We used to call them tape names. Now most software calls them real names, which is essentially the file name that it's coming from. And there's a lot of places where this can go wrong, right.

01:08:42:21 - 01:09:02:22
Joey
You can have time codes that are wrong. You can have sources that the editor said, okay, well, you know, this was a 50 994 source. I'm going to interpret it this 20 398, that kind of stuff doesn't really go into the XML very correctly in most cases. So you have edit lists that are wrong with that. Or sometimes it doesn't bring in the file name correctly.

01:09:03:02 - 01:09:32:09
Joey
The big one that gets me often is that Adobe Premiere can read a timecode hint from a QuickTime file, which is basically the start timecode, right? Oh, sorry, not a QuickTime violent MP4 file. MP4 files can't have timecode tracks, so when premiere brings it in, if the camera recorded hey, my start time is 1401 2205 right? It will set that as the first frame and then extrapolate the timecode for the rest of the clip.

01:09:32:09 - 01:09:33:00
Robbie
Yep.

01:09:33:02 - 01:09:40:18
Joey
Most finishing software resolve baseline, etc. doesn't do that. It says, hey, you have no timecode track. This clip starts at zero.

01:09:40:19 - 01:10:02:09
Robbie
Totally. So I think that's, you know, that kind of like, you know, history about how that came about, I think is an important part, especially as, you know, people I think in general, people who are considering conform workflows. one of the major reasons that they're doing that is to get back to the highest quality possible source in general, right?

01:10:02:11 - 01:10:22:05
Robbie
Whether that be, you know, raw material, whether that be four, four, four, you know, ProRes or, you know, whatever it is. So that that is a step I after that step, regardless of whether we're handling it or our clients are handling it, you know, the other the other part of that step is the the in a conform workflow, as you said, is the collection part of things.

01:10:22:05 - 01:10:43:21
Robbie
Right. And I like to think about conforming as like a rebuilding process. I say it to clients all the time, right? That like, yeah, well what's a conform work. Well, well it's basically rebuilding your timeline over in our pieces of software. Right. Because you have to think about it like this, that the there's no unfortunately, there's no universal timeline.

01:10:43:23 - 01:10:46:22
Robbie
there are people who are working for it, like open timeline. I own a company.

01:10:47:01 - 01:11:12:23
Joey
Which, by the way, open timeline. I was now implemented in resolve is the first major NLE to implement open timeline. I o and I love that. I love open standards in the industry because when we say XML, we're acting like XML is some standard. No, XML is just a container format like QuickTime in there is application specific, and it usually goes back to programs like Premiere or Resolve emulating Final Cut seven examples.

01:11:12:23 - 01:11:14:09
Joey
There's no standards.

01:11:14:11 - 01:11:30:22
Robbie
So, you know, I think that because, you know, we're redoing this rebuilding process when we can form one thing that's important to understand is that, you know, you pointed out things like timecode, but also there's a lot of other things in a conform workflow that two applications don't do the same kind of thinking. They don't do the same kind of math.

01:11:30:22 - 01:11:52:21
Robbie
Right. So there are challenges even in let's just say you had a perfect conform, you know. Com perfect uprise in your and you're finally right. And you reconnected everything. Everything's great. Now it's time to hand off to say resolve that is still fit with a lot of problems because besides time code issues, there's things like speed changes, coordinates for frame sizing.

01:11:52:22 - 01:12:19:21
Robbie
you know, how effects are handled, how things of that nature. So until there is, as you said, sort of an open standard that everybody uses for timeline translation, we're going to have this challenge when we move from one piece of software to another piece of software in that rebuilding process where things think slightly different. Right? And I think the challenges that I always like to tell people about a conform workflow are, hey, look, speed changes can be challenging.

01:12:20:01 - 01:12:44:20
Robbie
Framing, changes can be challenging. Speed and turbulence. Motion can be a problem. Right? Like the difference between how one, piece of software does, you know, nearest or a frame blend versus how the other one does a frame blend. Coordinates are a big one that screws everybody up. Right? So there's a lot of challenges like that. Now we, you know, so that that we've kind of covered that basic idea of conforming, moving and rebuilding with an instruction set and a set of media.

01:12:44:20 - 01:13:03:22
Robbie
But we haven't covered is how to create that set of media. it's going to depend on your NLE, right? Like in most at there is a consolidate function or a media managed function. Right. So you have your final picture like timeline that, you know, maybe the editor did the upgrades themselves. but you need to hand that off.

01:13:03:22 - 01:13:25:14
Robbie
So you're handing off the instruction file that you spoke about. But there's two parts of this if everything is online upgrades, etc. in the NLE timeline, the offline timeline, then it's just consolidating, creating a folder of media that accompanies that instruction set. The part that's a little confusing to people is when we talk about, oh yeah, we'll do the uprights too.

01:13:25:14 - 01:13:45:09
Robbie
And they're like, well, how are you going to do the uprights? Well, in that case, what we have to do is we get the instruction file, but we also often get giant hard drives of media with everything on it for that project. And that can be I mean, I'm not joking. People walk in sometimes with like, here's my 25 terabyte, you know, drive and you're like, oh, well, we're not going to move 25TB.

01:13:45:11 - 01:14:04:06
Robbie
So part of that process for us to if we're if we're doing the upgrades back to the original cameras, is that we we do that conform by first loading the instruction set over and resolve right. And figuring out what's what, you know, real numbers, time, code, make sure that kind of stuff works. And then we're reconnecting to that high res media.

01:14:04:08 - 01:14:27:07
Robbie
But here's a little nuance about it. And I hear people trying to, you know, oh, I'd wait, you know, three days to transfer 30TB of media. I just want to say that people don't do that. Right. The best thing to do is load that instruction file, reconnect to that media on your external client. Big drive right. And then have your color correction software like resolve do the media management from there.

01:14:27:09 - 01:14:35:15
Robbie
So you're only transferring or only media managing what's actually used on the timeline. Not that 30TB on your client's hard drive.

01:14:35:17 - 01:14:55:03
Joey
Yeah. And I usually do that from my assist station because I don't plug the client drive directly into the network or anything like that. I keep that kind of separate. But the idea is one, we don't want to copy every single thing off of a client drive. We want to copy just what we need. Yeah, but also we don't want to work directly off the client drive because that's that's a liability, right?

01:14:55:03 - 01:15:13:17
Joey
The drive could die. The drive could not have the same performance as our network attached storage. We're not going to be able to do a final archive at the end. If we're working right off the client drive, you know, we we like to get once we're past that conform process, get everything onto our storage that we need, and then just disconnect the client drive and keep it on the shelf until we're ready to give it back.

01:15:13:18 - 01:15:34:16
Robbie
Totally. So the, you know, people say, well, what's the advantage of doing a conform workflow? It sounds like a lot of work. It can be a lot of work. And there is a reason, by the way, that if you go to big facilities and big studios, there are people if you ever look, you know, ever stick around at the end of the movie and watch a bunch the credits of a movie, there are people that are, you know, they're either labeled finishing artist, finishing, editor, conform artist.

01:15:34:16 - 01:15:52:22
Robbie
Right. this can be a process, especially in the the multi delivery world that we now exist in, where you need 30 versions of things. It can happen, you know, it can happen most of time ahead of time before finishing. But it's sometimes there's, there's an after part of it too handling you know the various outputs and stuff.

01:15:53:01 - 01:16:14:04
Robbie
But to me why I would insist on a conform workflow mainly there's kind of like three, maybe four reasons that I insist on that one. Some people just have it in their head that this is the air quotes again, right way to do it. That's fine. I'm not going to change those people's minds, even if it's something simple and cut the cut and you know, it's not whatever, you know, crappy sources.

01:16:14:04 - 01:16:37:14
Robbie
They still want to do it that way. Fine. But for me, the big overriding reason. Do you have raw media in your timeline? Right. Do you have red or a black magic canon? Whatever. If you have a lot of raw media, that raw data can only be preserved, in a true conform workflow. We'll talk about breaks in a second, but if you make an intermediate file, you have lost that raw access to that raw data in the controls that it has.

01:16:37:14 - 01:16:59:19
Robbie
Right. And there are ways around that we'll talk about in a second. But that's that's number one. Number two I need handles. We're not locked. We're not we're not sure what we're you know this might this might move a little frame. We want some flexibility. maybe it's also flexibility and things like sizing. Right. I have AK footage and I put it on a 4K timeline, but I need some extra, you know, ability to pan.

01:16:59:19 - 01:17:31:15
Robbie
I'm not. Fine. All that stuff. If you need to do any sort of massaging of positioning, or massaging of, you know, things like speed changes, that kind of stuff, that is a real overriding reason to do a conform workflow. And then third, the reason I think a conform workflow is, is valid for a lot of a lot of projects is that it allows to kind of remove this, kind of goes with the number one thing, but this invisible shadow of we're not doing it at the highest quality, right.

01:17:31:16 - 01:17:46:20
Robbie
And I don't know how to fight that sometimes because we, you know, even colleagues of ours are like, oh, you're doing a big workflow or whatever. but you're not going to get better than the, the camera sources. Right? so it kind of removes okay, we're going back to the original kind of thing. So allow some flexibility there.

01:17:46:23 - 01:18:04:09
Robbie
If your timeline doesn't have raw media, doesn't have a lot of positions, resizing or speed changes that need a massage, you don't need handles. Right? There isn't an overwhelming reason, in my opinion, to do a true conform workflow. We'll get to the alternate for that in a second.

01:18:04:14 - 01:18:27:13
Joey
Can I add one more plus to the conform workflow? is you do have much more rich metadata to assess things with. So if you have a complicated color management situation where you have 17 different cameras and maybe you have lots of different locations and you need to be able to sort your edit list or your timeline by what the camera take is.

01:18:27:13 - 01:18:43:23
Joey
So basically, you can do what's called a code sort, where you sort by the source names and that'll give you all of your interviews in one big bunch. And you can look at the camera metadata and say, oh, this was a Sony. It was shot in S-log3. You know, it can make your color management tasks much, much, much.

01:18:43:23 - 01:19:01:19
Robbie
Even even something as simple as, like the file name, like it can be pretty easy to identify, like, you know, we were we were talking before we recorded this about like, color coding clips and resolve. Right. and like, that's really easy to do. Like, you could go, oh, I can see this is all red. I'm going to select them all, make those, you know, pardon the pun.

01:19:01:19 - 01:19:11:06
Robbie
I'm gonna make all those clips red or this is all canon. I'm going to make them like you're absolutely right about that. There's a lot more embedded metadata that comes along with clips rather than making the intermediate file.

01:19:11:07 - 01:19:25:04
Joey
And we do all our color management node based in general. So we do have to kind of manually assign input color spaces. But if you're set up for project based color management, the conform is great because guess what? It takes some metadata right from the clip and sets your input transform automatically.

01:19:25:04 - 01:19:51:16
Robbie
Now the downside is I think our implied here it's more time potentially rife with some difficulties in terms of translation between editorial and whatever. you know, I think there are certain types of projects that we're going to generally, you know, go for conform. Usually, you know, as the first step that's going to be feature narratives, right? because most of the time, feature narratives, they're actually shot on a single camera or maybe just a couple cameras.

01:19:51:16 - 01:20:09:21
Robbie
They're easy to keep track of. They don't have a lot of, you know, a ton of speed changes, a ton of, you know, extra things that, that can make your life difficult. something that we're not going to do a conform on is like, oh, well, I shot, you know, this, you know, this ad, this 32nd ad on my iPhone, like, what's the point?

01:20:09:21 - 01:20:32:02
Robbie
Right? Like there's no you know, there's really no point to do that. So that brings me to the next step. Let's talk about the big workflow. Some people call it a bake. Some people call a flat file workflow. I'll just give some context to why I often go to this workflow, and why I think that I've become a little, a little well known as the the big workflow advocate.

01:20:32:03 - 01:20:47:07
Robbie
Right? Okay. So when I learned when I was coming up in the industry and starting to learn color, correct, it was as you just like you, it was tape based days and in a tape based workflow. Guess what? That's a flat file, right? You have you know, you have a file, it's coming off a tape, you're color correcting it.

01:20:47:09 - 01:21:04:19
Robbie
And you know, you're maybe recording it to the other side. Or maybe you get a master that's been laid back to tape, and then you just need to notch that master and then be able to, grade the whole thing. Right. So that's kind of the origins for me of the flat baked file workflow is kind of tape based days of either a master program.

01:21:04:19 - 01:21:25:23
Robbie
That's not what I mean, by the way. Just for those of you don't know what I mean by notch, same thing is cut up, slice up, make add edits right to where the clips are. So whether it was a master tape that I'm notching or cutting up or whether I'm doing color correction by source, right, I'm loading in a tape color, correcting those five shots late, you know, and then putting them back to tape or where they begin.

01:21:25:23 - 01:21:44:02
Robbie
Right? I think for a lot of projects, especially as we see budgets on a whole do this kind of thing, right? And we say to somebody, listen, it's going to take us three days to do a conform, right? you know, you got none of your sources have time code. So we have to I match all of it.

01:21:44:04 - 01:22:01:14
Robbie
All of your everything's been repositioned. So we like all the factors that we just spoke about that we can often turn to clients and say, hey, do you have raw material on your timeline? No, don't. Do you have, need for handles? No. No handles needed. okay. Are you happy more or less with the way that things are framed in size?

01:22:01:16 - 01:22:19:08
Robbie
Yeah. That's good. Right. We're making more work for ourselves in those situations. If we say let's do a conform, right. And we're charging them more money, which depending how you look at it, is a good thing or a bad thing. So in those situations, a flat file workflow or a baked workflow is a good thing. as far as I'm concerned.

01:22:19:08 - 01:22:27:03
Robbie
Now, why don't you just tell us a little bit about the particulars of what that means for the client and making a bake for like, what do they do to make that happen?

01:22:27:05 - 01:22:49:20
Joey
Yeah. So essentially they're handling an output from there in lieu of a full res, up res timeline with things like stabilization, sizing, speed warps all baked in. Yep. Now the first question that always comes up is, well, I have some dissolves. How does that work in general? Does all this work pretty good? In a baked workflow, we add a cut right where the dissolve is matched the length of dissolve.

01:22:49:20 - 01:23:13:00
Joey
So we're essentially dissolving one color. Correct to another color. Correct. In almost all cases that works really, really well. Where it gets a little hairy is if you're going from a log shot into a rec 7 or 9 shot. So you have a vast difference in source color space. Sometimes those dissolves don't work well. And that's one of those factors that we look at to go with a conform versus a bake.

01:23:13:00 - 01:23:40:11
Joey
But let's say it's a traditional show. Almost all cuts shot on rec 7 or 9 or even log sources, but not shot with red raw files or RC raw files or Sony Raw files. So they have in their timeline the highest quality we're ever going to get, right. Which in the case of most non raw digital cinema cameras is a ten bit log high resolution file right?

01:23:40:13 - 01:23:41:10
Robbie
Yep.

01:23:41:12 - 01:23:49:18
Joey
As long as we're exporting to a bigger container or equally sized container as they're their biggest source.

01:23:49:20 - 01:23:50:02
Robbie
We're not.

01:23:50:02 - 01:24:16:11
Joey
Losing. We're not losing any quality. So for example, they shot everything on Sony in X AVC with a particular bitrate at ten bit. Right. If we have the client export a ten bit ProRes 444, which is a higher bitrate than their camera source was. Yes, there's a little bit of encode and decode happening there, but it's at such a high level of quality, it's completely imperceptible.

01:24:16:13 - 01:24:42:20
Joey
the biggest thing to keep in mind is you got to maintain if you're dealing with log sources, especially you got to maintain color precision through this pipeline. So we say bit depth and bit rate, bit bitrate is how much information we're throwing at each frame. Bit depth is how much information we're throwing at each pixel. Yep. So if you have a log image as your source, you've got this entire dynamic range compressed into a small area.

01:24:42:21 - 01:25:11:04
Joey
Right? We have to expand that out in the color grading process. So if we don't have a lot of gradation from top to bottom, eight bit gives you 0 to 254 levels of precision between white and black. Right? Ten bit gives you 1020 1023. Which one would you rather have? So it's very important to maintain ten bit through that baked process because that's where you can that's where that low quality can come into play.

01:25:11:04 - 01:25:19:02
Joey
Right. The client could be like, well, hey, I've got all my high quality sources in here. I send it to you, you color rated it and now it looks crap. There's banding, there's problem.

01:25:19:07 - 01:25:37:10
Robbie
So I was gonna say the banding thing is. So I mean, I dealt with that this past week. We had a client that I'll put in a file and it was a lot of like close, close ups on people's faces. And you could see, like on the side of their cheeks. There were some, like, chroma banding with, like, little pink blocks and stuff like that.

01:25:37:12 - 01:25:50:03
Robbie
They're exporting from premiere didn't go through the pipeline steps to ensure a ten bit export. And I was getting banding. Asked them to re output ten bit with the various settings. and sure enough, that banding just disappeared.

01:25:50:05 - 01:26:18:11
Joey
Yeah. And that's where communication with the client is really paramount because this depends on your NLE. Right. Premiere has made it kind of difficult over the years to maintain ten bit. You need to set your timeline to, to a higher bit depth. Then you need to set your export to a higher bit depth. And you need to export to a format that allows for a higher bit avid similar problem, but since avid manages its own media, they need to make sure they up res everything to a higher bit depth format.

01:26:18:11 - 01:26:28:01
Joey
Now avid, it's easy because all the avid formats that are ten bit have an X at the end. 175 is eight bit. Do you next 175.

01:26:28:01 - 01:26:28:23
Robbie
X.

01:26:29:01 - 01:26:48:11
Joey
Is ten bit DNA nx hr HQ is eight bit. Do you an X are HQ, X is ten bit. Yeah. Whereas ProRes ProRes is always ten bit. But you can have eight bit data inside of it. So on an avid file on DMX you can look at the file metadata say oh this is eight bit this is ten bit quick.

01:26:48:17 - 01:26:53:15
Joey
pro res. You can look at a file, say, hey this is a 16 bit file. But guess what. All the pixels in there are just eight bit.

01:26:53:16 - 01:27:18:09
Robbie
Yeah totally. So in a conform the so as you said, one of the things is, you know, we're up to the editor to make those decisions. So one of the things I always stress doesn't matter if it's short form or long form, is that it is a requirement that the clients go through that timeline with, you know, a microscope to make sure that things are the way that they want them in, how they how they look, how they feel.

01:27:18:15 - 01:27:44:04
Robbie
And that can be a lot of things. you know, from transitions to composites, etc. like, we want that stuff to be right now. One of the things about a, baked workflow that I think is implied, but we should just state, to be clear here, is that in our baked workflow, we do not want any sort of color correction lookup table transform, any of that kind of thing baked into that file.

01:27:44:04 - 01:28:05:06
Robbie
Right? So like if you were, you know, you're editing the show and everything's log and you know, whatever EP the network goes, I can't look at this. It's all log. And so you put a base correction, you know, temp correction on it. you know, get through the approval process that needs to be stripped off the file before it goes to color, because we want to again, we're not going back to the camera originals, but you know, to your point about ten bit in best file possible.

01:28:05:11 - 01:28:23:23
Robbie
We don't want those things baked in because they limit what you can do in, in final color. Right. And that, you know, people are like, oh, well, it's just, you know, simple as going through and, you know, removing filters. That's true. But a lot of it, at least these days, are trying to be smart. And how they help you handle some of these formats.

01:28:23:23 - 01:28:44:18
Robbie
So for example, in Premiere Pro there are certain formats where it will basically apply an input LUT based on the folder structure and file name of that file. Right. And so people like, well, I'm looking at the effects panel in premiere. There's nothing on this in the timeline. That's because it applied that transform to the master clip in the project panel that you have to load the master clip.

01:28:44:18 - 01:29:05:22
Robbie
And sure enough, oh yeah, there's a transform. Premiere Pro also is kind of, ongoing development of their color management. And we've seen things where recently, especially with like Sony footage, for example, like a lot of people use Sony cameras for reality TV, where all of a sudden, like we're getting these files that like that looks like way oversaturated.

01:29:05:22 - 01:29:14:22
Robbie
What's going on there? And, you know, Premiere Pro is doing some sort of media management with saying, oh, I see this S-log I'm going to make that rec 2020 just because I'm trying to help you out. Right?

01:29:15:03 - 01:29:41:08
Joey
Yeah. Do you guys a favor? Yeah. And that's that. That is where one thing that we've done and we evolve it over the years because as these software changes, the menu settings change, we have a library of Screengrabs of where all these settings are. Because you, you know, when you're doing final color, you're going to meet with editors of an incredible wide range of technical skill levels.

01:29:41:12 - 01:30:05:07
Joey
And I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean, there are some editors who could care less about color, space, depth, file formats, whatever, and they are the best creative editors in the world, and they focus on the timing and the cuts and making that edit perfect, right? Right. They might not know that premiere is going to go and throw a color space transform on it, and when we ask them for a file, they'd be like, oh, this is how it was.

01:30:05:07 - 01:30:27:13
Joey
You know, they might not be used to going into those menus. And we want to make that process as easy and seamless to them as possible. And sometimes it can be really counterintuitive. Like like Robbie said, premiere will sometimes go and put a color space effect on the source side. How do you get rid of that? You take your s-log footage and you tell premiere that it's Rec 709.

01:30:27:17 - 01:30:46:08
Joey
Yeah. Now the most observant I will say that that s-log footage is not rec 709 what are you doing? But since you're setting the timeline to rec 7 or 9. Yeah. When you set the source direct 7 to 9, what you're essentially telling premiere to do is do nothing, right? Yeah, right. Take this input, put it to the output, which is exactly what we want.

01:30:46:10 - 01:30:57:05
Joey
I would love to have all these softwares have just a master bypass switch. You're exporting the color. Bypass it after effects. You should have it. All right. Still or should you be checkbox.

01:30:57:06 - 01:31:00:13
Robbie
There is a global mute in premiere. But yeah I hear you. It doesn't turn off.

01:31:00:13 - 01:31:18:22
Joey
It doesn't affect color space transforms. I don't believe now in avid the process is a little bit different because in premiere when you set that on the clip side, it's going to ripple to your timeline automatically. In avid, that color transform is applied. When you edit from a source clip to the timeline, it puts what's called a color adapter in the timeline.

01:31:18:22 - 01:31:23:05
Joey
So if you go back to the source side and avid remove the color effects it.

01:31:23:05 - 01:31:23:14
Robbie
Doesn't affect.

01:31:23:14 - 01:31:41:12
Joey
Your timeline will not change until you right click on that timeline and say update Timeline. Update all color adapters. So if you're in this situation, we're like, okay, yeah, I got to get rid of all these off line color transforms. I got rid of them all in the bin. But my timelines on upload updating in avid is just because you need to refresh the timeline and it'll go in and get the right metadata.

01:31:41:13 - 01:32:01:11
Robbie
So there is there is one special thing about conforms. I'm sorry about baked workflows that some people make, some, you know, kind of lean towards a conform. But there is a way of doing bakes with complicated projects is like one of the six. The situation we often see is people go, well, listen, I got 17 layer composite in this show.

01:32:01:13 - 01:32:22:09
Robbie
and I how do I deal with that? Right? Or I have a bajillion cameras. It would be great to separate out those cameras, you know, so you can you can use them and quickly identify them, over in color. So there's a couple of ways that we can handle that. Number one, you are not limited to just exporting a single big of a timeline.

01:32:22:09 - 01:32:39:19
Robbie
Right. So it could be that you have a bake for each layer in a timeline. Right. You're exporting individual bakes. Doesn't even have to be the whole timeline. It could be a section of the timeline where you're doing it in and out and go, hey, I'm going to export each one of these layers, you know, with an alpha channel or something.

01:32:39:19 - 01:32:57:19
Robbie
And then you kind of combine them together. so we have we've done that before also just by the, by the, by with projects that for various reasons, we chose not to conform, but they separated cameras out onto different tracks. So everything on track one was this camera, everything on track two was that camera. That's that's the way to do it.

01:32:57:20 - 01:33:20:22
Robbie
but when composites are involved, that leaves us kind of the third part of this, right. And that is sort of the hybrid workflow. Right? It the combining the conform and combining, the big. So I'll give you a perfect situation there is a, there's we'll use the composite again. There is a situation where 99% of the show is cut to cut.

01:33:21:00 - 01:33:41:21
Robbie
not raw material. Nobody needs handles. So it's a candidate for, in our opinion, it's a candidate for a baked workflow. Right. But then there is a section where there's a lot of floating boxes on screen. there's some weird transition things going on or whatever, right? We don't have to have that as part of a big oftentimes when we look at those situations.

01:33:41:21 - 01:34:03:02
Robbie
And this is part of the project evaluation at the very, you know, start when we talk to a client is we'll say, hey, look, just mute those layers or mute that section, make your bake, then go back in and let's do, a consolidate or media manage on just that section. Right. And then we'll conform just that section back into the resolve timeline.

01:34:03:02 - 01:34:18:19
Robbie
So we have the original bake that we've cut up. And everything's going swimmingly with that. And now we'll take this complex section. We'll do a true conform on it. And the same is true, you know, with things like raw, you know, people will ask the question, well, I've had I have raw material, my baked timeline. How do I handle that?

01:34:18:21 - 01:34:37:08
Robbie
Generally speaking, we give clients, recipes, how to develop their raw material if they're making a bake. But if we get to a situation in a bake and we're looking at it and saying, you know, classic case of this is like something like a window that's blown out or overexposed and we're going, man, I can't restore that detail from this bake.

01:34:37:08 - 01:34:48:09
Robbie
We can say to them, hey, we just need to do a conform. you know, this one clip or this section of clips that's raw and conform back to the raw so you can combine those things as needed.

01:34:48:11 - 01:35:07:08
Joey
Yeah. And like you said, this is all part of the project evaluation stage, right? You want to take a detailed look with your client of what the sources are and where you're going and come up with a plan before you start headlong into any workflow. Best example for the hybrid workflow that I've had is a lot of documentaries, right?

01:35:07:08 - 01:35:28:05
Joey
Because we do a lot of docs that have tons and tons of just archive video footage and crap pulled from the internet or various other sources that you're never going to want to do a conform on. It's got crazy time. Code sizing is all messed up. Half of it's MP4 files, you know, absolute nightmare, low quality stuff that we can only do so much for, right?

01:35:28:05 - 01:35:37:19
Joey
It's documentary. It's archival. That's to be expected. Conforming that stuff is just throwing time into the toilet and flushing it to never be inclined.

01:35:37:19 - 01:35:39:08
Robbie
Plane doesn't have budget for that either.

01:35:39:10 - 01:36:05:00
Joey
Right. But the client has also all of these beautifully shot either recreations or interviews that they shot on digital cinema cameras. It's all new footage. It's all raw. Well, guess what sort those in there in lie. Put them on another track. We'll do an XML in the form of just the camera raw files. Yep. Camera Raw files are easy to conform because they always have good timecode, and they always have good metadata because they came right out of the camera with it.

01:36:05:05 - 01:36:35:13
Joey
Right. We'll bake the base layer of all of the archival stuff. The MP4 is everything else. And then we'll put the the XML layer of the conformed cameras on top. So we get the best of both worlds. We save time where we can save time with no loss of quality. Yep. And we take less time where we can get high quality by going to the raw, because those can forms of just the camera stuff is an easier conform than it can form of the whole film with all of those mishmash of archive sources.

01:36:35:18 - 01:37:01:17
Robbie
And so, I mean, this really just nails on the point about why it's so important as a colorist and as a finisher to evaluate and watch a project, a sample of a project, before you say yes and decide in which way you're going to go right. I think, you know, in the the various places, forums and various communities, I've kind of got like this rap as like, oh yeah, Rob's just talking about bacon out again, right?

01:37:01:19 - 01:37:15:21
Robbie
and I'm. Yeah, it might be true, but I got to be honest with you. Like, the reason I'm kind of like that is because 99% of the time I just see people making, as you just said, making their lives ten times more difficult for zero return on things. Right?

01:37:15:21 - 01:37:17:20
Joey
And no client wants to throw money away. Right?

01:37:17:20 - 01:37:36:03
Robbie
Exactly, exactly. So you know, those three, those three, those are the three main workflows. Which one you're going to use is going to largely be dependent on the project. The beautiful thing is that it's not one or the other or whatever. You can use all three of these these kind of workflows, depending on the project and depending on the need.

01:37:36:05 - 01:37:57:15
Robbie
I would just say the most important thing is for you as a finisher in the colorist, to understand how the project is being put together to make the best recommendations possible, given the timing and schedule of the project, given the budget of the work, you know the project, but also the general knowledge base of the of the, the client, the editor, etc..

01:37:57:17 - 01:38:14:20
Robbie
You know, I've seen so many editors over the years just gloss over and just go, wait, what? Right. you know, those types of editors, we want to make it easy on them. Our job is not to like, make our clients lives difficult. Right? So if we have an editor that goes, dude, I don't I've never done that before.

01:38:14:20 - 01:38:43:01
Robbie
I have no idea what you're talking about. Try to make it as simple as possible for them to get the best results possible. Right. and in reality, I think what most clients want these days is get me to grading as fast as I possibly can. Right. and often what that means. And becoming more and more increasingly often, we are suggesting the clients that they hire dedicated online editors in-house.

01:38:43:03 - 01:39:05:17
Robbie
Why we suggest that also is because they have better budgetary control over that person rather than charging, you know, high hourly rate that will charge them to their in-house. So there's not data being uploaded, downloaded, moved over on drives, only figure out later that there's a problem. And then three often that person being in-house has access to things that we as finishers wouldn't have access to.

01:39:05:17 - 01:39:25:12
Robbie
Right. Like, oh, you know what this clip is screwed up. Let's go back to the source, source drive or the source transfer and pull it from there. Right. There's overriding reasons for that to happen. The important thing, Joey, here is that there's no right or wrong with any of these workflows. It's just deciding what the best thing is and best match for your client.

01:39:25:14 - 01:39:46:20
Joey
Yeah, and that's the thing. Like the way I like to frame this with clients and even with other colorists is we're here to kind of guide the client through this process in the way that's the most economical and painless to them. So just be careful about some of the the really overly technical stuff and you know, the back and forth, especially when you're dealing with their editors.

01:39:46:20 - 01:40:03:23
Joey
Like I said, there's a wide range of technical ability and editors, you don't want to be sending out email saying, hey, you sent me this wrong thing. I thought I told you this and throw their editor under the bus when he doesn't know. You know what the Premier is doing to the color management, right? He wasn't worried about that.

01:40:04:01 - 01:40:18:16
Joey
So it's just one of those things where it just goes back to client communication is let's try to shepherd the client through this process in the way that is the most comfortable to them and gets them to the best, product and the best experience possible.

01:40:18:18 - 01:40:50:17
Robbie
Absolutely. I forgot one more. We'll put this as a postscript to this episode that I forgot to mention. And that's just handling graphics and overlays, because that's an important part of the equation. Obviously, if you're doing final, final packaging and final delivery, in either case, in a conform workflow, those graphics may come may not come with the consolidate if they were generated in the NLE, chances are they will not come with that consolidate because they were generated by a, title generator in, you know, premiere, avid or whatever.

01:40:50:19 - 01:41:16:13
Robbie
if they were rendered out from a motion graphics program, like after Effects in their individual clips, well, guess what? They're just like any other clip. They can be conformed just like any other clip, to the timeline and a baked workflow. When handling graphics. What we often ask for is a bake of the entire show. That's all effects removed and text lists, and then we'll handle the graphics whether we're conforming them or they're making us another bake with an alpha channel, just a layer on top.

01:41:16:18 - 01:41:18:14
Robbie
We'll handle that as a separate file. And I know.

01:41:18:14 - 01:41:29:03
Joey
That the graphics is the same conversation as a show. Do you want to do a bake? Do you want to do a consolidate and conform, you know, and all of the same caveat bots and pros and cons apply there as well.

01:41:29:08 - 01:41:46:11
Robbie
Well, hopefully you better understand now what we mean by can form baked or flat file and hybrid workflows. Again, the choice is not a right or wrong issue. It's about aligning, creating the best match for your client and for your project. So hope this helps. for The Offset Podcast. Robbie Carman

01:41:46:14 - 01:41:47:07
Joey
I'm Joey D’Anna

01:41:47:12 - 01:41:48:01
Robbie
Thanks for watching.


Robbie Carman
Robbie Carman

Robbie is the managing colorist and CEO of DC Color. A guitar aficionado who’s never met a piece of gear he didn’t like.

Joey D'Anna
Joey D'Anna

Joey is lead colorist and CTO of DC Color. When he’s not in the color suite you’ll usually find him with a wrench in hand working on one of his classic cars or bikes


Stella Yrigoyen - Editor
Stella Yrigoyen

Stella Yrigoyen is an Austin, TX-based video editor specializing in documentary filmmaking. With a B.S. in Radio-Television-Film from UT Austin and over 7 years of editing experience, Stella possesses an in-depth understanding of the post-production pipeline. In the past year, she worked on Austin PBS series like 'Taco Mafia' and 'Chasing the Tide,' served as a Production Assistant on 'Austin City Limits,' and contributed to various post-production roles on other creatively and technically demanding projects.


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