Moving Projects from Final Cut Pro to Color

One of the easiest ways of importing a project is to send a Final Cut Pro sequence to Color using one of two XML-based workflows. This section discusses how to prepare your projects in Final Cut Pro and how to send them using XML. For more information, see:

Before You Export Your Final Cut Pro Project

Whether you’re working on your own project, or preparing a client’s project in advance of a Color grading session, you should take some time to prepare the Final Cut Pro sequence you’ll be sending in order to ensure the best results and smoothest workflow. Here are some recommended steps.

Move Clips That Aren’t Being Composited to Track V1 in the Timeline

Editors often use multiple tracks of video to assemble scenes, taking advantage of the track ordering rules in Final Cut Pro to determine which clips are currently visible. It’s generally much faster and easier to navigate and work on a project that has all its clips on a single video track. It’s recommended that you move all video clips that aren’t being superimposed as part of a compositing operation down to track V1.

Remove Unnecessary Video Filters

You aren’t required to remove video filters from a sequence you’re sending to Color. In fact, if there are one or more effects filters that you want to keep, then it’s perfectly fine to leave them in. However, it's not usually a good idea to allow filters that perform color correction operations (such as Brightness and Contrast, RGB Balance, or Desaturate) to remain in your sequence. Even though they have no effect as you work in Color, they’ll be redundant after you’ve made additional corrections, and their sudden reappearance when the project is sent back to Final Cut Pro may produce unexpected results.

Organize All Color Corrector 3-Way Filters

Color Corrector 3‑way filters applied to clips are handled differently; they’re automatically converted into Primary In room adjustments. However, if more than one filter has been applied to a clip, then only the last Color Corrector 3-way filter appearing in the Filters tab is converted; all others are ignored. Furthermore, any Color Corrector 3-way filter with Limit Effects turned on is also ignored.

Converted Color Corrector 3-way filters are removed from the XML data for that sequence, so that they do not appear in the sequence when it’s sent back to Final Cut Pro.

Note: Because Final Cut Pro is a Y′CBCR processing application, and Color is an RGB processing application, Color Corrector 3-way conversions are only approximations and will not precisely match the original corrections made in Final Cut Pro.

Divide Long Projects into Reels

To better organize rendering and output, and to maximize performance when you work with high-bandwidth formats (such as uncompressed high definition, RED, or DPX media), you should consider breaking long-form projects down into separate 15- to 23-minute sequences (referred to as reels) prior to sending them to Color. While reel length is arbitrary, film reels and broadcast shows often have standard lengths that fall within this range. (Twenty-two minutes is standard for a film reel.) If your project has an unusually large number of edits, you might consider dividing your program into even shorter reels.

Each reel should begin and end at a good cut point, such as the In point of the first shot of a scene, the Out point of the last shot of a scene, or the end of the last frame of a fade to black. As you’re creating your reels, make sure you don’t accidentally omit any frames in between each reel. This makes it easier to reassemble all of the color-corrected reels back into a single sequence when you’re finished working in Color.

Tip: Breaking a single program into reels is also the best way for multi-room facilities to manage simultaneous rendering of projects. If you have multiple systems with identical graphics cards and identical versions of Color in each room, you can open a reel in each room and render as many reels simultaneously as you have rooms. Each system must have identical graphics cards as the type of GPU and amount of VRAM may affect render quality. For more information, see The Graphics Card You’re Using Affects the Rendered Output.

Export Self-Contained QuickTime Files for Effects Clips You Need to Color Correct

Color is incapable of either displaying or working with the following types of clips:

  • Generators

  • Motion projects

If you want to grade such clips in Color, you need to export them as self-contained QuickTime files and reedit them into the Timeline of your Final Cut Pro sequence to replace the original effects before you send the sequence to Color.

If you don’t need to grade these effects in Color, then you can simply send the project with these clips as they are, and ignore any gaps that appear in Color. Even though these effects won’t appear in Color, they’re preserved within the XML of the Color project and they will reappear when you send that project back to Final Cut Pro.

Tip: Prior to exporting a project from Final Cut Pro, you can also export a single, self-contained QuickTime movie of the entire program and then reimport it into your project and superimpose it over all the other clips in your edited sequence. Then, when you export the project to Color, you can turn this “reference” version of the program on and off using track visibility whenever you want to have a look at the offline effects or color corrections that were created during the offline edit.

Use Uncompressed or Lightly Compressed Still Image Formats

If your Final Cut Pro project uses still image files, then Color supports every still format that Final Cut Pro supports. (Color supports far fewer image file formats for direct import; see Compatible Image Sequence Formats for more information.) For the best results, you should consider restricting stills in your project to uncompressed image formats such as .tiff, or if using .jpg stills, make sure they’re saved at high quality to avoid compression artifacts. If you’ve been using low-quality placeholders for still images in your program, now is the time to edit in the full-resolution versions.

It’s also important to make sure that the stills you use in your Final Cut Pro project aren’t any larger then 4096 x 2304, which is the maximum image size that Color supports. If you’re using larger resolution stills in your project, you may want to export them as self-contained QuickTime files with which to replace the original effects.

To optimize rendering time, Color only renders a single frame for each still image file. When your project is sent back to Final Cut Pro, that clip reappears as a still image clip in the Final Cut Pro Timeline.

Important: If any stills in your project are animated using Scale, Rotate, Center, or Aspect Ratio parameter keyframes from Final Cut Pro, these keyframes do not appear and are not editable in Color, but they are preserved and reappear when you send your project back to Final Cut Pro. For more information, see Exchanging Geometry Settings with Final Cut Pro.

Make Sure All Freeze Frame Effects Are on Track V1

All freeze frame effects need to be on track V1 for Color to correctly process them. After rendering, freeze frames continue to appear in the sequence that is sent back to Final Cut Pro as freeze frame clips.

Important: Freeze frame clips on any other video track will not be rendered, and will reappear after the sequence is sent to Final Cut Pro as the original, ungraded clip.

Make Sure All Clips Have the Same Frame Rate

It’s not recommended to send a sequence to Color that mixes clips with different frame rates, particularly when mixing 23.98 fps and 29.97 fps media. The resulting graded media rendered by Color may have incorrect timecode and in or out points that are off by a frame. If you have one or more clips in your sequence with a frame rate that doesn’t match the timebase of the sequence, you can use Compressor to do a standards conversion of the mismatched clips. For more information, see Rendering Mixed Format Sequences.

Media Manage Your Project, If Necessary

If you’re delivering a Final Cut Pro project to a Color suite at another facility, you may want to eliminate unused media to save disk space (especially if you’ll be recapturing uncompressed media), and consolidate all the source media used by your project into a single directory for easy transport and relinking. This is also a good step to take prior to recapturing your media, to avoid recapturing unnecessary media.

Recapture Offline Media at Online Quality, If Necessary

If the project was edited at offline quality, you need to recapture all the source media at the highest available quality before you send it to Color. Be sure you choose a high-quality codec, either using the native codec that the source footage was recorded with or using one of the supported uncompressed codecs. For more information on which codecs are supported by Color, see Compatible Media Formats.

Important: If you’re recapturing or transcoding video clips that were originally recorded with a Y′CBCR format, be sure that the codec you use to recapture, export, or transcode your media doesn’t clamp super-white and overly high chroma components from the original, uncorrected media. It’s usually better to correct out-of-gamut values within Color than it is to clamp these levels in advance, potentially losing valuable image data.

Check All Transitions and Effects If You Plan to Render 2K or 4K Image Sequences for Film Out

When rendering out 2K or 4K DPX or Cineon image sequences, all video transitions are rendered as linear dissolves when you use the Gather Rendered Media command to consolidate the finally rendered frames of your project in preparation for film output. This feature is only intended to support film out workflows. Any other type of transition (such as a wipe or iris) will be rendered as a dissolve instead, so it’s a good idea to go through your project and change the type and timing of your transitions as necessary before sending your project to Color.

Furthermore, effects that would ordinarily reappear in a sequence that is sent back to Final Cut Pro, such as speed effects, superimpositions, composites, video filters, motion settings that don’t translate into Pan & Scan parameters, generators, and Motion projects, will not be rendered if you render 2K or 4K DPX or Cineon image sequences for film output. In this case, it’s best to export all such clips as self-contained QuickTime files with which to replace the original effects, before you send the sequence to Color.

Using the Send To Color Command in Final Cut Pro

Once you’ve prepared your sequence, you can use the Send To Color command in Final Cut Pro to automatically move your sequence into Color (as long as Final Cut Pro and Color are installed on the same computer).

You can only send whole sequences to Color. It’s not possible to send individual clips or groups of clips from a sequence unless you first nest them inside a sequence.

To send a sequence from Final Cut Pro to Color
  1. Open the project in Final Cut Pro.

  2. Select a sequence in the Browser.

  3. Do one of the following:

    • Choose File > Send To > Color.

    • Control-click the selection, then choose Send To > Color from the shortcut menu.

  4. Choose a name for the project to be created in Color, then click OK.

    A new Color project is automatically created in the default project directory specified in User Preferences. The shots that appear in the Timeline should match the original Final Cut Pro sequence that was sent.

Don’t Reedit Projects in Color

By default, all the video tracks of projects sent from Final Cut Pro are locked. When you’re grading a project, it’s important to avoid unlocking them or making any editorial changes to the shots in the Color Timeline if you’re planning to send the project back to Final Cut Pro.

If you need to make an editorial change, reedit the original sequence in Final Cut Pro, export a new XML file, and use the Reconform command to update the Color Timeline to match the changes. For more information, see Reconforming Projects. For more information about Final Cut Pro XML files, see the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual.

Importing an XML File into Color

If you need to deliver a Final Cut Pro sequence and its media to another facility to be graded using Color, you can also use the Export XML command in Final Cut Pro to export the sequence. For more information about exporting XML from Final Cut Pro, see the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual.

In Color, you then use the Import XML command to turn the XML file into a Color project. To speed up this process, you can copy the XML file you want to import into the default project directory specified by Color.

To import an XML file into Color
  1. Do one of the following:

    • Open Color.

    • If Color is already open, choose File > Import > XML.

  2. Choose an XML file from the Projects dialog.

  3. Click Load.

    A new Color project is automatically created in the default project directory specified in User Preferences. The shots that appear in the Timeline should match the original Final Cut Pro sequence that was exported.

Don’t Reedit Imported XML Projects in Color

By default, all the video tracks of imported XML projects are locked. When you’re grading a project, it’s important to avoid unlocking them or making any editorial changes to the shots in the Color Timeline if you’re planning to send the project back to Final Cut Pro.

If you need to make an editorial change, reedit the original sequence in Final Cut Pro, export a new XML file (see the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual for more information), and use the Reconform command to update the Color Timeline to match the changes. For more information, see Reconforming Projects.