Many many times I find myself browsing the forums and blogs of the internets trying to find a simple, no crazyness explanation of some kind of workflow for this or that.  It seems like people just don't take the time to post a super-simple no-nonsense guide to doing something.  It's frustrating!  So, as a service to humanity, I'm going to be that guy.  I might even do a couple posts... hmm...

Anyhoo, one of the things I just couldn't find a good guide on was a RED workflow, you know, a workflow that wasn't based on using FCP7 back in 2009...  So I wanted to let you all in on our workflow on the trailer for Mark of the Ninja: Tetsjuji's Shadow,  which, thanks to a smokin' deal from HD Planet Camera Rentals, was shot on RED Scarlet X.  This is certainly not the only way to do it, but it worked pretty well for us, and it'll definitely get the job done.

So read, learn, enjoy...


Besides the normal script-writing, planning, scheduling, storyboards, and everything else that usually goes into a production, RED added a couple of additional considerations...

First of all, we needed to decide on our format.  The thing that's too bad about the Scarlet is that if you shoot lower resolutions, it crops the sensor.  That means if you're shooting 5K, you will have a wider FOV than say a 2K format.  (Click on the pic to the left for more info.) Something to consider when you're choosing your resolution.

Also, plan on getting some equipment that can support 10 lbs or so.  Although compared to a traditional betacam or XDcam, the Reds are light, we're used to using DSLRs..  REDS are pretty heavy compared to DSLRs, so make sure your equipment is beefy enough to handle it.


Production was actually really simple.  I've heard horror stories of dealing with the Red One, long startup times, and clunky interfaces, but honestly Scarlet is freaking awesome.

We're used to working with DSLR cameras.  Our main cams are a Canon 5D MkII and a couple of 7Ds.  We are used to racking focus, using camera rigs, and all the normal things that go with shooting DSLR.  Scarlet isn't much different other than you don't have to worry as much about white balance or ISO.  The rule we went by was "try to get the exposure in the middle of the histogram.  Try to clip as little of the highlights or shadows as possible.  That's basically it.  Because you can change everything except focus/iris in post, there's not a lot of need to worry about it!

The biggest hitch in our production was battery-life.  We only had the smaller "Hand Grip" style batteries, and had 8 of them.  And it's a good thing, because in a few hours we would burn through all 8 of them!  Our camera could drain a battery in around 15 mins.  So my recommendation:  if you're shooting Scarlet or Epic, try to get the bigger "Brick Style" batteries, or get lots and lots of little ones.


I guess here's where the actual technical workflow comes in, and it's probably the scariest part of the whole RED thing.  Here's how we handled post:

We had a Red Mag reader that used FW800 or eSata.  We couldn't get our stupid eSata interface to work, so we went with FW800, but the transfer speed was plenty fast.

We simply copied the .R3D files into a folder on our HDD.  No fancy conversions, no log and transfer, just strait copy.  This is the same way we handle DSLR footage as well.

We were pretty concerned about hard drive space, but honestly, for what you get from RED footage, it's super small.  Of course it's bigger than DSLR footage, it's also twice the resolution and it's RAW data.  If you're concerned about space check out this video space calculator.

After we had our .R3Ds, we opened them in RedCine-X to view the footage and play around with the colors and metadata.  We didn't do any conversions from RedCine X, but more on that in a bit...

I have heard rumors of REDs making proxy .mov files on the fly, maybe it's not available for Scarlet, or maybe we're just dumb, but we couldn't find out how to get the camera to make proxies as they were shot, so we didn't worry about it.

Although Adobe Premiere will open and edit .R3Ds natively, there was just no reason to make our machines do all that heavy-lifting.  We needed to lock our edit first, so we decided to render proxies of all the footage so we could edit it fast, then we could re-conform to the R3Ds when we were done.

Proxies were really simple, we just drag-and-dropped the .R3Ds into Adobe Media Encoder and batch converted the files to 1080p Cineform .MOVs.  We called these "proxies" which is nuts, because they actually looked better than any of our full-res DSLR footage.

I've heard of people doing proxy conversion out of RedCineX, but it just seemed easier to use AME and let it convert.  We didn't do any color grading to the footage, we just edited the flat, de-saturated images and used our imagination.  I could see why you might want to do some initial grading if you were working with a client, but for us, it didn't matter.

Editing was just like any other project because we were using proxies.  The only real difference was we shot 4K, so we kept in mind that we could punch in on a shot if we needed.  That was really helpful when you realize you didn't quite frame out that c-stand!

After our picture was locked, it was time to re-conform to the .R3D files.  It was just a matter of selecting the clips and hitting "reconnect media." Then we would navigate to the .R3D files and replace the footage.

Then, we made a new 4K sequence and copy/pasted the clips into the new timeline.  This sequence was a 2.35 aspect ratio, so we could grab the footage and move it around inside the window to re-frame.

Here's where the real beauty of shooting RED started to shine.  We had a few shots that were shot with the wrong white balance.  It's cool, we would just open the "Source Settings" in Premiere, which brings up an interface similar to the Camera Raw plug-in in AE/PS.  There we could change the white balance manually, or simply take the color picker and click something that we knew should be white.  Problem solved!  Not to mention that this adjustment didn't degrade the image because it was just choosing a different way of interpreting the raw data.

We went through our timeline changing all of the "Really bad" things about our footage, white balance, under/over exposure, that type of stuff.  After this step we had a timeline full of well-exposed, correctly balanced clips that all looked good, but not stylized yet.

Although sometimes a debate, people tend to use the term "Color correction" to describe fixing problems and making the image not look weird - pretty much adjusting the image to look normal.  "Grading" describes adding style or impact of your image by tweaking the colors.  Anyway, that's what I'm going with for now...

So for our grading, we used Magic Bullet Looks, which is a plugin for Premiere, After Effects, and lots of other things.  With MB Looks, you can pick from a plethora of stylistic presets to apply to your footage, or you can build your own.  On most of our shots, we started with a preset and tweaked it to our liking.

The great thing about using Looks was that it was right inside of Premiere.  We didn't have to round-trip our project or transcode our footage or anything, it was applied as a filter, leaving us a lot of wiggle room if we wanted to go back and tweak something.

Our render process was pretty much like every project, we just rendered out of the Premiere timeline to the desired format.


Our first RED shoot: not so scary.  Shooting was easy (except for battery life.) The footage looked awesome.  The files were big, but not that big.  We edited with proxies and switched them out.  Adjusting white balance after the fact is a breeze, and Premiere did a great job of handling all that 4K data. 

I hope all you RED n00bs got a good idea of what our first shoot was like with the Scarlet.  All in all, we loved it. 
Would we shoot RED again?  Absolutely.  Oh btw, we're doing an Indiegogo to make this project into a feature, so check out our trailer here.


Phillip Bloomed
03/15/2013 6:59pm

You should really take the time to understand the red workflow better. You are missing out on some valuable workflows by transcoding to Cineform and using magic bullet for grading raw.


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