Basic Digital Intermediate Workflow Steps

The digital intermediate (DI) process generally refers to any workflow that involves source video of 2K resolution or higher, whether from a high-quality film scan or a digital camera, and that results in new output media being generated for distribution instead of relying on conforming the original camera negative. The output can be high-resolution digital files or a film print made from the files.

The primary goal of this workflow is to edit low-resolution versions of the source video clips in Final Cut Pro but have Color be able to color correct the original full-resolution source video clips and output the final movie. This is accomplished by exporting an Edit Decision List (EDL) from Final Cut Pro that Color uses to match to clip records in a Cinema Tools database.

There are two common approaches that you can take in a DI workflow:

A typical scan-based DI workflow is outlined below.

Figure. Diagram showing a digital intermediate workflow based on scanning all of the original film and using Color to create Apple ProRes video clips to edit in Final Cut Pro.
  1. Stage 1: Creating Apple ProRes Files for Final Cut Pro

    Final Cut Pro cannot work directly with the DPX image sequences that are typically used in this workflow. You can use Color to create QuickTime files (usually based on an Apple ProRes codec) from the DPX image sequences. Using Color ensures that the QuickTime files have the correct reel number (the folder name that contains the actual DPX files) and timecode (as embedded in the DPX files).

    You can create these downconverted files in Color by creating a new project with Render File Type set to QuickTime and Export Codec set to the codec you want to use. Then simply edit all the shots you want to convert into the Timeline, add them to the Render Queue, and click Start Render. See the Color documentation for more information.

  2. Stage 2: Creating the Cinema Tools Database

    A Cinema Tools database for a DI workflow is much simpler than a database for a typical film workflow because there is often no film information to track. You can create the database by simply dragging the folder that contains the original media files to the Cinema Tools application icon (it doesn’t matter whether Cinema Tools is already open or not). A dialog appears asking if you want to create a new database. The new database creates a record for each clip found in the folder and its subfolders.

    Note: If you create a Cinema Tools database by dragging a folder containing many DPX files to the Cinema Tools application icon, the process can take a long time and it might appear that Cinema Tools is not responding. Be sure to give Cinema Tools plenty of time to process the clips.

    Once you have created the database, you can easily add new clips to it as they become available by dragging them to the List View window.

  3. Stage 3: Editing the Clips in Final Cut Pro

    You edit the downconverted video clips in Final Cut Pro much as you would for any video project, but there are a few important things to keep in mind. See Editing with Final Cut Pro for descriptions of these considerations.

  4. Stage 4: Exporting an EDL File from Final Cut Pro

    After you have completed editing the downconverted video clips in Final Cut Pro, you export an EDL. This file contains a list of every edit, with the reel names of the source clips and their In and Out point timecode numbers.

  5. Stage 5: Importing the EDL into Color

    When you import an EDL into a Color project, you can choose the folder that contains the source clips the EDL refers to. You can choose the folder that contains the original DPX clips and have Color connect the EDL records to the clips, or you can choose the Cinema Tools database you created from the clips.

    The advantages of choosing the Cinema Tools database are:

    • You can easily correct any issues there might be between the EDL and the actual clips. For example, if a reel name does not match, you can change the reel name in the Cinema Tools database to match the name listed in the EDL.

    • Once you have created the Cinema Tools database, choosing it when importing an EDL into Color can be faster than choosing the folder with the clips. Choosing the database becomes especially useful if you end up importing the EDL into Color multiple times as additional clips become available.

    • If the EDL refers to clips on more than one volume, a Cinema Tools database can connect to all of the clips. Color can automatically connect to the clips on only one volume, and you must manually connect to the clips on the other volumes.

  6. Stage 6: Finishing the Project in Color

    Once you have imported the EDL into Color and matched it to the source clips, the clips are conformed to match the edits, and you can proceed with the usual color correction process. Color is then used to render the final output video.