Video Finishing Workflows Using Final Cut Pro

If a program has been edited using Final Cut Pro, the process of moving it into Color is fairly straightforward. After editing the program in Final Cut Pro, you must reconform the program, if necessary, to use the original source media at its highest available quality.

Once that task has been accomplished, you can send the project data and files into Color for color correction. Upon completion of the color correction pass, you need to render the result and send the project back to Final Cut Pro for final output, either to tape or as a QuickTime file.

Figure. Workflow illustration of video finishing.

Exactly how you conform your source media in Final Cut Pro depends on the type of media that's used. For more information, see:

A Tape-Based Workflow

For a traditional offline/online tape-based workflow, the video finishing process is simple. The tapes are captured into Final Cut Pro, possibly at a lower-quality offline resolution to ease the initial editing process by using media that takes less hard disk space and is easier to work with using a wider range of computers.

After the offline edit is complete, the media used by the edited program must be recaptured from the source tapes at maximum quality. The resulting online media is what will be used for the Final Cut Pro–to–Color roundtrip.

Figure. Tape-based video finishing workflow illustration.

The following steps break this process down more explicitly.

  1. Stage 1: Capturing the Source Media at Offline or Online Resolution

    How you decide to capture your media prior to editing depends on its format. Compressed formats, including DV, DVCPRO-50, DVCPRO HD, and HDV, can be captured at their highest quality without requiring enormous storage resources. If this is the case, then capturing and editing your media using its native resolution and codec lets you eliminate the time-consuming step of recapturing (sometimes called conforming or reconforming) your media later.

    Uncompressed video formats, or projects where there are many, many reels of source media, may benefit from being captured at a lower resolution or with a more highly compressed codec. This will save disk space and also enable you to edit using less expensive equipment. Later, you'll have to recapture the media prior to color correction.

  2. Stage 2: Editing the Program in Final Cut Pro

    Edit your program in Final Cut Pro, as you would any other project. If you're planning on an extensive use of effects in your program during editorial, familiarize yourself with the topics covered in Limitations in Color.

  3. Stage 3: Recapturing the Source Media at Online Resolution

    If you originally captured your source media using an offline format, you need to recapture the media used in your project at the highest available quality prior to sending it to Color.

    • If your media was originally recorded using a compressed format (such as DV, DVCPRO-50, DVCPRO HD, or HDV), then recapturing it using the original source codec and resolution is fine; Color can work with compressed media and automatically promotes the image data to higher uncompressed bit depths for higher quality imaging when monitoring and rendering.

    • If you're capturing a higher-bandwidth video format (such as Betacam SP, Digital Betacam, HDCAM, and HDCAM SR) and require high quality but need to use a compressed format to save hard disk space and increase performance on your particular computer, then you can recapture using the Apple ProRes 422 codec, or the higher quality Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) codec.

    • If you're capturing high-bandwidth video and require the highest-quality uncompressed video data available, regardless of the storage requirements, you should recapture your media using Apple Uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 or Apple Uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2.

    You may also want to take the opportunity to use the Final Cut Pro Media Manager to delete unused media prior to recapturing in order to save valuable disk space, especially when recapturing uncompressed media. For more information, see the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual.

    Note: Some codecs, such as HDV, can be more processor-intensive to work with than others. In this case, capturing or recompressing the media with a less processor-intensive codec, such as Apple ProRes 422 or Apple ProRes 422 (HQ), will improve your performance while you work in Color, while maintaining high quality and low storage requirements.

  4. Stage 4: Preparing Your Final Cut Pro Sequence

    To prepare your edited sequence for an efficient workflow in Color, follow the steps outlined in Before You Export Your Final Cut Pro Project.

  5. Stage 5: Sending the Sequence to Color or Exporting an XML File

    When you finish prepping your edited sequence, there are two ways you can send it to Color.

    • If Color is installed on the same computer as Final Cut Pro, you can use the Send To Color command to move an entire edited sequence to Color, automatically creating a new project file.

    • If you're handing the project off to another facility, you may want to export the edited sequence as an XML file for eventual import into Color. In this case, you'll also want to use the Final Cut Pro Media Manager to copy the project's media to a single, transportable hard drive volume for easy handoff.

  6. Stage 6: Grading Your Program in Color

    Use Color to grade your program. When working on a roundtrip from Final Cut Pro, it's crucial to avoid unlocking tracks or reediting shots in the Timeline. Doing so can compromise your ability to send the project back to Final Cut Pro.

    If the client needs a reedit after you've started grading, you should instead perform the edit back in Final Cut Pro, and export an XML version of the updated sequence which you can use to quickly update the Color project in progress using the Reconform command. For more information, see Reconforming Projects.

  7. Stage 7: Rendering New Source Media and Sending the Updated Project to Final Cut Pro

    When you finish grading, you use the Color Render Queue to render all the shots in the project as a new, separate set of graded media files.

    Afterward, you need to send the updated project to Final Cut Pro using one of the two following methods:

    • If Color is installed on the same computer as Final Cut Pro, you can use the Send To Final Cut Pro command.

    • If you're handing the color-corrected project back to the originating facility, you need to export the Color project as an XML file for later import into Final Cut Pro.

    Important: Some parameters in the Project Settings tab of the Setup room affect how the media is rendered by Color. These settings include the Deinterlace Renders, QuickTime Export Codec, Broadcast Safe, and Handles settings. Be sure to verify these and other settings prior to rendering your final output.

  8. Stage 8: Adjusting Transitions, Superimpositions, and Titles in Final Cut Pro

    To output your project, you need to import the XML project data back into Final Cut Pro. This happens automatically if you use the Send To Final Cut Pro command. At this point, you can add or adjust other effects that you had applied previously in Final Cut Pro, before creating the program's final master. Things you may want to consider while prepping the program at this stage include:

    • Do you need to produce a "textless" master of the program, or one with the titles rendered along with the image?

    • Are there any remaining effects clips that you need to import and color correct within Final Cut Pro?

  9. Stage 9: Outputting the Final Video Master to Tape or Rendering a Master QuickTime File

    Once you complete any last adjustments in Final Cut Pro, you can use the Print to Video, Edit to Tape, or Export QuickTime Movie command to create the final version of your program.

Reconforming Online Media in a Tapeless Digital Video Workflow

If a program uses a tapeless video format, the steps are similar to those described in A Tape-Based Workflow; however, they likely involve multiple sets of QuickTime files: the original media at online resolution and perhaps a second set of media files that have been downconverted to an offline resolution for ease of editing. After the offline edit, the online conform involves relinking to the original source media, prior to going through the Final Cut Pro–to–Color roundtrip.

Figure. Tapeless video finishing workflow illustration.

Here's a more detailed explanation of the offline-to-online portion of this workflow.

  1. Stage 1: Shooting and Backing Up All Source Media

    Shoot the project using whichever tapeless format you've chosen. As you shoot, make sure that you're keeping backups of all your media, in case anything happens to your primary media storage device.

  2. Stage 2: Creating Offline Resolution Duplicates and Archiving Original-Resolution Media

    If necessary, create offline resolution duplicates of the source media in whatever format is most suitable for your system. Then, archive the original source media as safely as possible.

    Important: When you create offline duplicates of tapeless media, it's vital that you duplicate and maintain the original filenames and timecode with which the source files were created. This is critical to guaranteeing that you'll be able to easily relink to the original high-resolution source files once the offline edit is complete.

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

    Edit your program in Final Cut Pro, as you would any other project. If you're planning on an extensive use of effects in your program during editorial, familiarize yourself with the topics covered in Limitations in Color.

  4. Stage 4: Relinking Your Edited Sequence to the Original Source Media

    Once your offline edit is complete, you need to restore the original online-quality source media and relink to or retransfer the high-resolution files.

  5. Stage 5: Prerendering Effects, Sending the Sequence to Color, and Grading

    At this point, the workflow is identical to Stage 6: Grading Your Program in Color in A Tape-Based Workflow.

Reconforming Online Media in a Film-to-Tape Workflow

If you're working on a project that was shot on film but will be mastered on video, it must be transferred from film to tape using a telecine prior to being captured and edited in Final Cut Pro. At that point, the rest of the offline and online edit is identical to any other tape-based format.

Figure. Film-to-Tape video finishing workflow illustration.

Here's a more detailed explanation of the offline-to-online portion of this workflow.

  1. Stage 1: Shooting Your Film

    Shoot the project as you would any other film project.

  2. Stage 2: Telecining the Dailies

    After the film has been shot, process and telecine the dailies to a video format appropriate for your workflow.

    • Some productions prefer to save money up front by doing an inexpensive "one-light" transfer of all the footage to an inexpensive offline video format for the initial offline edit. (A one-light transfer refers to the process of using a single color correction setting to transfer whole scenes of footage.) This can save time and money up front, but may necessitate a second telecine session to retransfer only the footage used in the edit at a higher level of visual quality.

    • Other productions choose to transfer all the dailies (or at least the director's selected takes) via a "best-light" transfer, where the color correction settings are individually adjusted for every shot that's telecined, optimizing the color and exposure for each clip. The footage is transferred to a high-quality video format capable of preserving as much image data as possible. This can be significantly more expensive up front, but saves money later since a second telecine session is not necessary.

  3. Stage 3: Capturing the Source Media at Offline or Online Resolution

    How you capture your media prior to editing depends on your workflow. If you telecined offline-quality media, then you might as well capture using an offline-quality codec.

    If you instead telecined online-quality media, then you have the choice of either pursuing an "offline/online" workflow or capturing via an online codec and working at online quality throughout the entire program.

  4. Stage 4: Editing the Program in Final Cut Pro

    Edit your program in Final Cut Pro, as you would any other project. If you're planning on the extensive use of effects in your program during editorial, familiarize yourself with the topics covered in Limitations in Color.

  5. Stage 5: Recapturing or Retransferring the Media at Online Resolution

    The way you conform your offline project to online-quality media depends on how you handled the initial video transfer.

    • If you originally did a high-quality telecine pass to an online video format, but you captured your source media using an offline format for editing, you need to recapture the media from the original telecine source tapes using the highest-quality uncompressed QuickTime format that you can accommodate on your computer (such as Apple ProRes 4444, Apple ProRes 422 (HQ), or Apple Uncompressed) and relink the new media to your project.

    • If you did an inexpensive one-light telecine pass to an offline video format, you'll want to do another telecine pass where you transfer only the media you used in the program at high quality. Using Cinema Tools, you can generate a pull list, which you then use to carefully retransfer the necessary footage to an online-quality video format. Then, you need to recapture the new online transfer of this media using the highest-quality uncompressed QuickTime format that you can accommodate on your computer.

    Important: Do not use the Media Manager to either rename or delete unused media in your project when working with offline media that refers to the camera negative. If you do, you'll lose the ability to create accurate pull lists in Cinema Tools.

  6. Stage 6: Prerendering Effects, Sending the Sequence to Color, and Grading

    At this point, the workflow is identical to Stage 6: Grading Your Program in Color in A Tape-Based Workflow.