Let’s talk about workflow. Some consider it boring, some consider it vastly complicated, and unfortunately, not enough people pay as close attention as they should. I’m here to tell you that a healthy and advanced workflow is a lot easier (and even more exciting) than you might have thought in the past.
The goal of every workflow is to find the sweet spot between quality and efficiency. In essence, the definition of workflow is considering all of the equipment and methods available to the production (from photography through finishing) in order to determine the exact path of how all digital files are captured, transferred, copied, manipulated, and distributed.
In this post, we’re going to focus on the production/ photography side of your workflow. In future posts, we’ll delve into prep, testing, editing, and of course, color and finishing.
Often times, I see a lot of directors, cinematographers, and producers shooting in the largest resolution possible, with the most expensive camera they can find. There’s nothing wrong with that, and some of these cameras are capable of capturing phenomenal images. But remember, only a few short years ago, HD was the standard and 4K was a luxury. Now that 4K is here (and here to stay), everyone is suddenly shooting in 6K and even 8K!
Unless your project calls for massive amounts of cropping and re-scaling for a 4K deliverable, it’s not a crime to stick with good old-fashioned (can we even call it that yet?) 4K. You’ll save a lot of money on storage, and with a fast enough computer, you might even be able to completely avoid an offline/online workflow. I might as well mention HD while we’re at it. You’d be surprised how incredibly detailed and beautiful a well-exposed HD 12bit 4:4:4 image can look. Even classic 10bit 4:2:2. Don’t rule it out!
At the end of the day, if a shooting resolution or codec causes beads of sweat to fall down your forehead at the thought of the storage and computing power necessary for your pipeline to run smoothly, don’t use it. Shoot in formats that allow your digital image pipeline to run as creatively and as smooth as you are.
Log vs. Rec 709
If your camera is capable, you should always shoot log. Always, no matter what. If you (or more importantly, your clients) don’t like seeing a grey, washed out images on your monitors, then invest in one cable of displaying a LUT. Before anything else, anything you might want to buy or thing that you need to have, heed these words; If you don’t have the tools to competently shoot log images, then you are not taking advantage of the modern digital cinema workflows that you’re paying all of this money for. Baking in your look on set takes away so much potential and opportunity from your production.
Don’t be that guy (or gal). Don’t be that person. Shoot log, and make sure you have the tools you need to do it well.
DIT/On Set Color
I’m pretty sure this is a topic we will continually discuss in detail, but to get started, I highly recommend a DIT/on set colorist if you can budget for one. If you can’t, it helps a lot if your DP has some knowledge of color management and can scrape together a few primaries and LUTs at the end of a setup or during company moves. If the last sentence I said made you really angry, then you’re probably working with budgets where you don’t run into this problem. This is more or less for the folks that are shooting in log without actually knowing what they’re shooting. Remember, when digital cinema replaced film (for the most part) many analog jobs were converted to their digital counterparts. You wouldn’t ever shoot film without a loader. Try not to shoot digital cinema without an expert who can help the DP/Director/Producer with valuable insight on how the footage looks and what could be improved after putting together a few quick color grades.
In conclusion, the decisions you make on set will have a great deal to do with your workflow, as well as the final quality of your project. Make sure you shoot in formats and codecs that allow you to work comfortably. Take advantage of tools that have nothing to do with hard drive and computing limitations like shooting in log. Lastly, a good DIT will be the difference between a wonderfully coordinated image and “I can’t believe we were moving so fast that we didn’t realize the entire top of the car is clipped!”.
Until next time, check out our spawning social media sites, leave a comment if you’re inclined, and email us hello!
Jason Druss – Colorist and Owner at Good Grades