Types of Overall Workflows

The following sections offer some generalizations about the most typical workflows you may find yourself pursuing. Whether you’re creating a video for the web or finishing a feature destined for theatrical exhibition, one of these workflow templates probably applies to your program.

Each workflow focuses on the most common combinations of acquisition format and delivery medium. Although the steps between ingest and output may vary in their specifics, these workflows are meant to give you an overall look at how to organize your work for any particular program, before sending you to the other chapters in this guide for more information about particular ingest, editing, and finishing workflows.

The workflow overviews that are provided include:

How to Approach Workflow Design

Two of the most important decisions to make are how you want to ingest your media and how you’ll output it. These decisions are tightly linked and define everything that happens in between. In general, it’s wise to plan your post-production strategy with the end product in mind. What do you expect to deliver at the end of the process? There are far fewer steps involved when you output to videotape than when you output to film, so this decision is crucial.

When you know how you want to output your program, you can pick an editing-to-finishing workflow based on the acquisition format that was used. This will let you know if you need to use an offline-to-online workflow that involves reconforming the media, or an online-to-online workflow where you output the same media that you originally ingested for editing.

After these decisions have been made, you’re in a much better position to determine how best to preserve the quality of your media and all relevant clip metadata, as you edit, reconform, and do visual and audio effects work.

Acquired on Video for Output to the Web

This workflow refers to programs that are acquired via a consumer or professional video format such as DV-25, HDV, AVCHD, or DVCPRO HD and produced for delivery via the web. The results are typically highly compressed and are intended to be watched on a computer, on a portable device (such as iPhone), or on a television via a set-top box of some kind.

Types of Programs

Program types include video podcasts and blogs, web serials, educational programming, corporate communication videos, Internet-distributed features and TV programs, and music videos. Given the proliferation of video for the web, this category has rapidly expanded to include just about every type of program.

Typical Acquisition Formats and Means of Ingest

Acquisition formats include but are not limited to DV-25, DVCPRO 50, HDV, AVCHD, DVCPRO HD, and XDCAM, to name a few. What this means for ingest is:

  • Tape-based formats are ingested via the Log and Capture window in Final Cut Pro using an appropriate built-in interface (FireWire) or a third-party capture card.

  • Tapeless formats (also called file-based formats) are typically ingested by copying the native video data from the camera to your storage system and then transferring the video data to Final Cut Pro using the Log and Transfer window.

Quality-Control Guidelines

An absence of standardization and engineering oversight means that venues hosting web video usually have extremely permissive quality-control standards. Furthermore, computer display of video is simply more forgiving than that of traditional video playback devices. However, it’s to your advantage to use color correction to adjust the clips in your program in order to provide your audience with the best possible experience. What this means to you is:

  • Although you don’t have to legalize your program’s picture to exacting video standards, video compression for the web may still clip super-white luma (above 100 percent) and out-of-bounds chroma that go uncorrected, so it’s wise to at least adjust your clips to these minimum standards.

  • Color correction, even if applied simply inside Final Cut Pro, can dramatically improve the quality and legibility of your images.

Delivery Specifications

Overall, there are many possible delivery specifications for web video. Frame rates, frame sizes, and media formats vary widely depending on the intended playback platform and application. Common delivery platforms for Internet video include QuickTime, Flash (SWF), and Windows Media. Long-term archiving of the final master is typically accomplished via a high-quality QuickTime file backed up to a variety of media. What this means is:

  • You usually create a self-contained QuickTime master of your program.

  • You use Compressor, the Share command in Final Cut Pro or Motion, or another third-party video encoding application to prepare a version of your program for the web.

Workflow Summary

This is one of the most basic and straightforward workflows you can follow. Your video is ingested into Final Cut Pro using the Log and Capture or Log and Transfer window, as appropriate. During editing, you can use Motion and Soundtrack Pro, along with the video and audio effects tools that Final Cut Pro offers, to incorporate motion graphics, effects, and sound work into your program. After editing is complete, you can color correct your project inside Final Cut Pro or send your edited sequence to Color.

After you finish your program, you can use Compressor to export it to a format that’s suitable for web delivery and playback.

Tip: You can also use the Share command in Final Cut Pro or Motion to export programs directly to web-hosting services such as MobileMe and YouTube. See the Final Cut Pro documentation for more information.

Acquired on Video for Output to a Consumer Playback Format

This workflow refers to programs that are acquired via any consumer or professional video format and produced for delivery via DVD or Blu-ray for consumer playback.

Types of Programs

Program types commonly include direct-to-video programming, shorts and features intended for film festival exhibition, corporate communication videos, and educational programming.

Typical Acquisition Formats and Means of Ingest

Acquisition formats include but are not limited to DV-25, DVCPRO 50, HDV, AVCHD, DVCPRO HD, and XDCAM, to name just a few. What this means for ingest is:

  • Tape-based formats are ingested via the Log and Capture window in Final Cut Pro using an appropriate built-in interface (FireWire) or a third-party capture card.

  • Tapeless formats (also called file-based formats) are typically ingested by copying the native video data from the camera to your storage system and then transferring the video data to Final Cut Pro using the Log and Transfer window.

Quality-Control Guidelines

Unless programming is being delivered to a formal distributor, quality-control standards tend not to be tightly applied. However, because the exhibition is intended for televisions and video projectors, practical video and audio signal limitations apply if you want to ensure trouble-free playback in the widest variety of situations. What this means to you is:

  • You should use reasonable standards when color correcting your program, either in Final Cut Pro or in Color, to ensure consistent playback.

  • You don’t typically have to be as strict as a broadcaster might require, although it pays to use an appropriate broadcast monitor as you work.

Delivery Specifications

Delivery is typically in one of the common video formats, including NTSC and PAL frame sizes for standard definition (SD) and 720 or 1080 frame sizes for high definition (HD). Frame rates are usually limited to 23.98 fps (for DVD and Blu-ray authoring), 25 fps for PAL, or 29.97 fps for NTSC. Although the final product is often an authored DVD, it’s common to master to a high-quality tape format for long-term archiving. What this means is:

  • You usually output a QuickTime master of your program.

  • You will probably use Compressor and DVD Studio Pro to author a DVD of your program for direct delivery or replication.

  • You may optionally use your QuickTime master to create a Blu-ray version of your program.

  • Using Compressor, you can also create versions of your program suitable for high-end digital distribution, such as SD or HD playback on Apple TV or iPhone.

Workflow Summary

This is one of the most basic and straightforward workflows you can follow. Your video is ingested into Final Cut Pro using the Log and Capture or Log and Transfer window, as appropriate. During editing, you can use Motion and Soundtrack Pro, along with the video and audio effects tools that Final Cut Pro offers, to incorporate motion graphics, effects, and sound work into your program.

After editing, it’s a good idea to send your edited sequence to Color for grading, after which you send it back to Final Cut Pro in preparation for output.

When you finish your program, you can use Compressor to export its video and audio to formats that are suitable for DVD authoring using DVD Studio Pro, or to a format that’s suitable for Blu-ray authoring using other tools.

Tip: You can also use the Final Cut Pro Share command to quickly burn programs directly to DVD or to a Blu-ray disc. See the Final Cut Pro documentation for more information.

Acquired on Video for Broadcast Delivery

This workflow specifically refers to programs that are acquired via a professional video format and produced for delivery to a network for terrestrial, cable, or satellite broadcast.

Types of Programs

Program types include network news, daytime TV, music videos, commercial spots, infomercials, magazine shows, reality TV, game shows, and sitcoms. Increasingly, this category includes dramas produced using HD or digital cinema cameras.

Typical Acquisition Formats and Means of Ingest

Acquisition formats are typically limited to less-compressed formats, and some broadcasters specifically exclude or limit the amount of more highly compressed formats that can be used in a program. Commonly used formats include Digital Betacam, DV-25, DVCPRO 50, DVCPRO HD, XDCAM, HDCAM, and even some digital cinema formats such as REDCODE, to name just a few. Highly compressed formats such as HDV and AVCHD are sometimes specifically excluded or restricted in their use (some quality-control guidelines specify that no more than 25 percent of a program may include a restricted format). What this means for ingest is:

  • Tape-based formats are ingested via the Log and Capture window in Final Cut Pro using an appropriate built-in interface (FireWire) or a third-party capture card.

  • Tapeless formats (also called file-based formats) are typically ingested by copying the native video data from the camera to your storage system and then transferring the video data to Final Cut Pro using the Log and Transfer window.

Quality-Control Guidelines

Because programs in this workflow are being delivered for broadcast, tight quality-control standards usually apply. (Some networks have more stringent standards than others.) Although video and audio standards vary by network, submitted programming is always closely scrutinized, and quality-control violations may result in tape masters being rejected by the network, incurring additional costs for the client. Always obtain the specific quality-control (QC) guidelines before finishing any program intended for broadcast. What this means is:

  • You’ll use Color, or another high-end grading system, to color correct and legalize your program using an appropriate broadcast monitor.

  • You should obtain and follow the quality-control guidelines provided by the network or your distributor as a guide in finishing the program.

Delivery Specifications

Each network typically has specific required delivery formats, which may include one or more SD and HD formats. Also, networks usually require separate versions of each program with and without titles (also called texted and textless versions). Inquire in advance about what deliverables are required. What this means to you is:

  • SD programs are usually output to Digital Betacam.

  • HD programs are typically output to HDCAM, HDCAM SR, or D-5, although some broadcasters use other specific formats for mastering.

Workflow Summary

Your video is ingested into Final Cut Pro using the Log and Capture or Log and Transfer window, as appropriate. During editing, you can use Motion and Soundtrack Pro, along with the video and audio effects tools that Final Cut Pro offers, to incorporate motion graphics, effects, and sound work into your program.

After editing, it’s a good idea to send your edited sequence to Color for grading according to the network’s standards, after which you send it back to Final Cut Pro in preparation for output. As part of the finishing process, you send all of your program’s audio either to Soundtrack Pro or to a third-party digital audio workstation (DAW) application for final sound design and mixing.

When you finish your program, you output it to one or more tape masters, in the network’s format of choice.

Acquired on Film for Broadcast Delivery

This workflow refers to programs shot on film but transferred to video with the intention of creating a video master for terrestrial, cable, or satellite broadcast. This workflow overlaps with the one specified for programs shot on film for direct-to-video release via a formal distributor.

Types of Programs

Program types include high-end commercial spots, high-end music videos, dramas, made-for-TV movies, and miniseries.

Typical Acquisition Formats and Means of Ingest

The acquisition format is typically 16mm or 35mm film (or their Super 16mm and Super 35mm counterparts) via any one of a number of cameras. Before you can ingest film into Final Cut Pro, it must be transferred to a video format, usually via a telecine (a machine that converts film to a video signal, in real time) run by an experienced operator. In general, there are three methods used to transfer film to tape: a one-light transfer, a best-light transfer, or a safety transfer. Each has tradeoffs, and the method you use depends on your budget. What this means for ingest is:

  • One-light transfers, though cheapest, usually require a retransfer from the original negative. You need to obtain a telecine log file with which to keep track of what source film negative corresponds to which video clips using Cinema Tools. You have the option to have the final color correction done by the telecine operator.

  • Best-light and safety transfers, though more expensive, usually eliminate the need to retransfer from the source negative. You have the option to grade your final program using Color, or another third-party color correction environment, as part of your finishing workflow.

  • Telecined film is typically transferred to a high-end, tape-based format at SD or HD resolutions.

  • Typical video formats used include Digital Betacam, HDCAM, D-5, and HDCAM SR, though you can specifically request other formats. You ingest using the Log and Capture window in Final Cut Pro.

Quality-Control Guidelines

Because programs in this workflow are being delivered for broadcast, tight quality-control standards usually apply. (Some networks have more stringent standards than others.) Although video and audio standards vary by network, submitted programming is always closely scrutinized, and quality-control violations may result in tape masters being rejected by the network, incurring additional costs for the client. Always obtain the specific quality-control (QC) guidelines before finishing any program intended for broadcast. What this means is:

  • You’ll use Color, or another high-end grading system, to color correct and legalize your program using an appropriate broadcast monitor.

  • You should obtain and follow the quality-control guidelines provided by the network or your distributor as a guide in finishing the program.

Delivery Specifications

Each network typically has specific required delivery formats, which may include one or more SD and HD formats. Also, networks usually require separate versions of each program with and without titles (also called texted and textless versions). Inquire in advance about what deliverables are required. Programs intended for broadcast invariably are mastered to a high-end, tape-based format. What this means to you is:

  • SD programs are typically output to Digital Betacam.

  • HD programs may be mastered to HDCAM, HDCAM SR, or D-5.

Workflow Summary

First, the film negative is transferred to videotape. The facility that does the transfer will provide you with a telecine log in one of several formats. (FLEx and ALE are common formats that are compatible with Final Cut Pro and Cinema Tools.) You import this log into Final Cut Pro by choosing File > Import > Cinema Tools Telecine Log, which creates a Cinema Tools database of events that establishes the correspondence between the edge code that identifies each frame of film negative and the timecode that identifies each frame of transferred video. This is an optional step, but important if you plan to retransfer any of your edited selects later.

This process also automatically creates offline clips in the Browser. One clip is created for each event in the database. You then use these offline clips to automate the process of ingesting the transferred videotapes via the Log and Capture window. If necessary, you can use Cinema Tools to remove 3:2 pull-down from the imported media, so you can edit at a true 23.98 fps progressive frame rate. This last step is also optional, depending on the frame rate you prefer to work at and the frame rate of the master you’ll eventually be outputting.

Your video is ingested into Final Cut Pro using the Log and Capture window. During editing, you can use Motion and Soundtrack Pro, along with the video and audio effects tools that Final Cut Pro offers, to incorporate motion graphics, effects, and sound work into your program.

After editing, it’s a good idea to send your edited sequence to Color for grading according to the network’s standards, after which you send it back to Final Cut Pro in preparation for output. As part of the finishing process, you send all of your program’s audio either to Soundtrack Pro or to a third-party digital audio workstation (DAW) application for final sound design and mixing.

When you finish your program, you output it to one or more tape masters, in the network’s format of choice.

Acquired on Film for Theatrical Exhibition

This workflow refers to programs shot on film and then mastered and output for theatrical exhibition via film or digital projection. Color correction and film output may be accomplished either by conforming the negative and using optical printers or through a digital intermediate process and film printer.

Types of Programs

Program types include advertising spots, shorts, and features intended for theatrical exhibition.

Typical Acquisition Formats and Means of Ingest

The acquisition format is typically 16mm or 35mm film (or their Super 16mm and Super 35mm counterparts) via any one of a number of cameras. Before you can ingest film into Final Cut Pro, it must be transferred to a video or QuickTime format that Final Cut Pro can work with. How you choose to transfer your film depends on how you intend to finish the program.

  • If you intend to conform the negative and have your program optically color-timed and printed, you must first have the film telecined (transferred to video in real time). Afterward, you’re provided with the transferred media and an accompanying telecine log file, which you can use with Final Cut Pro and Cinema Tools to track the data that allows you to ingest and edit in Final Cut Pro. At the end of this process, you use this data to export a negative cut list with which to conform the camera negative to match your edited video.

  • If you intend to finish via a digital intermediate workflow using Color, you can have the film transferred using a datacine process, where each film frame is scanned into a high-bandwidth image sequence format such as DPX or Cineon. Each frame file’s number is converted to timecode and stored in the frame file’s metadata. You can then convert each image sequence to an offline- or online-quality QuickTime file for ingest into Final Cut Pro. At the end of the process, you can reconform your edited sequence to the original media using Color for grading and output.

  • You can also use a combination of these workflows to suit your particular purpose. For more information, see the Color documentation.

Quality-Control Guidelines

Whether your program is intended for film or digital projection, quality-control standards are usually extremely specific in order to maintain color fidelity from the negative through to the final distribution prints or digital masters that are sent to theaters. Color and quality-control issues are typically worked out through the efforts of the facilities that do the grading, film output, and/or digital mastering. What this means is:

  • You’ll use Color, or another high-end grading system, to color correct your program.

  • You need to carefully calibrate an appropriately high-end monitor using LUT profiles.

  • It’s best if you coordinate your efforts with the facility that is printing or mastering the final project.

Delivery Specifications

A program’s distributor usually provides the exact delivery specifications that are required. Delivery specifications for film projection include 24 fps playback, specific aperture sizes and aspect ratios, and specific audio encoding methods. Delivery specifications for digital projection are defined by the Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) encoding specification, which includes specific color space encoding standards and 2K and 4K frame sizes. What this means to you is:

  • If you’re delivering 2K or 4K image data, you typically deliver a DPX image sequence.

  • In some instances, it might also be possible to provide your 2K or 4K program master as a QuickTime file using the Apple ProRes 4444 codec. (Check ahead first.)

  • If you’re delivering your program at 720p or 1080p resolution, you may be able to deliver an HDCAM SR or D-5 tape master.

Workflow Summary for Negative Conforming and Optical Printing

If you intend to go through a conventional negative conform and optical film–printing process to finish your film, you use Cinema Tools both prior to capture and after you’ve locked the edit.

First, you usually transfer the film negative to videotape for offline editing. The facility that does the transfer will provide you with a telecine log file in one of several formats. (FLEx and ALE are common formats that are compatible with Final Cut Pro and Cinema Tools.) You import this log into Final Cut Pro by choosing File > Import > Cinema Tools Telecine Log, which creates a Cinema Tools database of events that establishes the correspondence between the edge code that identifies each frame of film negative and the timecode that identifies each frame of transferred video.

Importing the telecine log also automatically creates offline clips in the Browser. One clip is created for each event in the database. You then use these offline clips to automate the process of ingesting the transferred videotapes via the Log and Capture window. If necessary, you can use Cinema Tools to remove 3:2 pull-down from the imported media, so you can edit at a true 23.98 fps progressive frame rate.

You use this ingested media to do the offline edit. After editing is complete, you can export a cut list directly from Final Cut Pro that you can give to a negative cutter to do the final negative conform. From the conform process through the optical grading and printing processes, you work with a lab to obtain the final film deliverables.

Workflow Summary for Digital Intermediate Finishing and Film Printing

If you intend to use a digital intermediate workflow to finish your program, there are several approaches you can take. The easiest, from a workflow perspective, is to transfer the camera negative via a datacine (a device that scans each frame of film as an uncompressed image file) to create DPX image sequences of all the shots you want to edit. These shots are organized into directories, named with the number of the film roll from which the shots originated. Also, each frame of every image sequence should have embedded timecode metadata that reflects its frame number.

You can then convert the DPX media to offline QuickTime media with matching reel numbers and timecode using Color, which clones the timecode and roll numbers from the DPX media as part of the process. These offline clips are then imported into Final Cut Pro and used to perform the offline edit.

After editing is complete, you export an EDL from Final Cut Pro for use by Color in conforming the original DPX media to your edited sequence. You then grade your program in Color. When grading is complete, the entire program is rendered and output from Color as a single DPX or Cineon image sequence, which is delivered to a film-printing facility.

Tip: Another possible workflow is to use Color to convert the scanned DPX image sequences to Apple ProRes 4444 media, and to then create offline QuickTime media from that. Although lightly compressed, Apple ProRes 4444 is a high-quality RGB 4:4:4 data format suitable for film mastering, and you may find the eventual reconform workflow to be simpler to manage using QuickTime media rather than image sequences. If you use Color to do this conversion, make sure to save and keep the project file that you used to do the conversion, in case you need to reconvert the original DPX media with the same filenames that Color automatically generated originally.

Acquired via Digital Cinema Camera for Theatrical Exhibition

This workflow refers to programs shot with digital cinema cameras, typically at HD through 4K resolutions, and then mastered and output for theatrical exhibition via film or digital projection.

Types of Programs

Program types include advertising spots, shorts, and features intended for theatrical exhibition.

Typical Acquisition Formats and Means of Ingest

The acquisition format is captured using a digital cinema camera such as the Thomson Viper FilmStream, Panavision Genesis, RED ONE, and Arriflex D-21, among others. There are several ways in which these cameras record images. What this means for ingest is:

  • Some digital cinema cameras record at HD resolutions using the HDCAM SR tape format, necessitating a tape-ingest workflow in Final Cut Pro.

  • Other digital cinema cameras, such as the RED ONE, record 2K and 4K resolution image data using a proprietary RAW format. The RED Digital Cinema Camera Company provides plug-ins for Final Cut Studio that enable specialized ingest and finishing workflows. Other manufacturers rely on proprietary image-processing utilities to convert their format to one useful to Final Cut Studio applications.

  • Still other digital cinema cameras record images as DPX image sequences. This workflow is similar to a film digital intermediate workflow; you can use Color to convert the source DPX image sequences to online or offline QuickTime media for ingest and editing in Final Cut Pro, and later, finishing (with the option to reconform to the original DPX image sequences in Color, if necessary).

Quality-Control Guidelines

Whether your program is intended for film or digital projection, quality-control standards are usually extremely specific in order to maintain color fidelity from the negative through to the final distribution prints or digital masters that are sent to theaters. Color and quality-control issues are usually worked out through the efforts of the facilities that do the grading, film output, and/or digital mastering. What this means is:

  • You’ll use Color, or another high-end grading system, to color correct your program.

  • You need to carefully calibrate an appropriately high-end display using LUT profiles.

  • It’s best if you coordinate your efforts with the facility that is printing or mastering the final project.

Delivery Specifications

A program’s distributor usually provides the exact delivery specifications that are required. Delivery specifications for film projection include 24 fps playback, specific aperture sizes and aspect ratios, and specific audio encoding methods. Delivery specifications for digital projection are defined by the Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) encoding specification, which includes specific color space encoding standards and 2K and 4K frame sizes. What this means to you is:

  • If you’re delivering 2K or 4K image data, you’ll typically deliver a DPX image sequence.

  • It might also be possible to provide your 2K or 4K program master as a QuickTime file using the Apple ProRes 4444 codec. (Check ahead first.)

  • If you’re delivering your program at 720p or 1080p resolution, you may be able to deliver an HDCAM SR or D-5 tape master.

Workflow Summary

Digital cinema cameras typically shoot tapeless media (although some filmmakers record to HDCAM SR), so the specific method of ingest depends on the exact type of media that was originally captured. Usually, this includes proprietary RAW formats (such as the RED ONE camera’s REDCODE format) or DPX image sequence capture. REDCODE media can be ingested into Final Cut Pro using third-party software, and other RAW formats can usually be converted to a suitable QuickTime file format for editing via proprietary software. DPX image sequences, on the other hand, can be converted to QuickTime media using Color for offline editing in Final Cut Pro.

After editing is complete, the edited sequence must be prepared, and all offline media must be reconformed to the original online source media using one of a variety of methods. REDCODE media can be reingested as native RED QuickTime files in preparation for grading in Color, and DPX source media can be conformed using an EDL exported from Final Cut Pro using Color. When grading in Color is complete, the entire program is rendered and output from Color as a single DPX or Cineon image sequence, which is then delivered to a film-printing facility.

Tip: If you’re working with media that was captured as DPX image sequences, you can use Color to convert the DPX media to Apple ProRes 4444 media and then use the Media Manager in Final Cut Pro to create offline QuickTime media from that. Although lightly compressed, Apple ProRes 4444 is a high-quality RGB 4:4:4 data format suitable for film mastering, and the eventual reconform process is simple to manage. If you use Color to do this conversion, make sure to save and keep the project file that you used to do the conversion, in case you need to reconvert the original DPX media with the same filenames that Color automatically generated originally.