Reconforming Media to Online Quality

If you’re using an offline/online workflow to work on your program, you need to replace the offline-quality media you used while editing with high-quality online media in preparation for finishing, mastering, and output. This is known as conforming or reconforming your media.

How exactly you accomplish this depends on the kind of source media you started out with and the overall workflow you’ve been pursuing. Ideally, your final media should be at least equal to the quality of the media that was initially shot, recorded, or otherwise captured in the field. In practice, it’s often acceptable to reconform to a high-quality compressed format that is visually indistinguishable from the source media, such as one of the Apple ProRes codecs. For overviews of the most common reconforming workflows, see:

Reconforming Offline Duplicates of Online Media

This workflow is appropriate for projects for which you originally ingested high-bandwidth media (such as 8- and 10-bit Uncompressed or Apple ProRes 4444 media) for eventual HD, 2K, or 4K mastering. It assumes that your offline edit was accomplished using offline-quality duplicates of the source media that were created with cloned timecode and reel numbers.

  1. Stage 1: Mounting the Volumes That Contain the Originally Archived Media

    You need to mount the volumes you used to store the original online media, in preparation for a Reconnect operation. To relink the original media, Final Cut Pro needs access to every piece of media used in your sequence.

  2. Stage 2: Either Relinking the Media Right Away, or Creating a New Offline Sequence for Relinking

    How you relink your project to the original online media depends on whether or not the frame size of your offline media matches that of the online media.

    • If the frame sizes of your offline and online media are the same: Select all of the clips in your sequence whose media you need to relink (except for clips like generators, embedded Motion projects, or audio), and then Control-click one of the selected clips and choose Reconnect Media from the shortcut menu. Use the Reconnect Files dialog to reconnect all of your clips to the original source media.
    • If the frame sizes of your offline and online media are not the same: Use the Media Manager to create an offline version of the final edited sequence, changing the sequence settings to match the resolution of your online media. Then Control-click the offline sequence and choose Reconnect Media from the shortcut menu. Use the Reconnect Files dialog to reconnect all of your media to the original source.

For more information, see the Final Cut Pro documentation.

Reconforming Tapeless Media

This workflow is appropriate for projects using tapeless media formats (also called file-based formats), including DVCPRO HD and AVC-Intra (if recorded to P2 media), as well as native REDCODE media. The tapeless reconforming process takes place entirely within Final Cut Pro.

Note: Some tapeless formats, such as XDCAM, XDCAM HD, XDCAM EX, IMX, and REDCODE require third-party utilities and software for ingest into Final Cut Pro. For more information, see the Professional Formats and Workflows document, available in Final Cut Pro Help.

  1. Stage 1: Preparing Your Sequence for Media Management

    In general, it’s a good idea to do a certain amount of preparation to your sequence before using the Media Manager, in order to avoid retransferring media you don’t really need. One easy thing you can do is to move all video clips that aren’t being superimposed as part of an effect or compositing operation down to track V1. This process overwrites any hidden video items that appear underneath clips on higher video tracks (either partially or completely) that aren’t really part of the edit. This process also nicely organizes the sequence for color correction later.

    To make sure that all video items in the topmost video tracks correctly overwrite the hidden parts of clips in lower video tracks, move clip items down one track at a time; for example, move any noncomposited items in track V4 down to V3, then move all noncomposited items in track V3 down to V2, and finally move all of the noncomposited items in track V2 to V1.

  2. Stage 2: Using the Media Manager to Create an Offline Version of Your Edited Sequence

    The safest way to reconform your project is to use the Media Manager to create an offline copy of your final sequence. Here are some recommended Media Manager settings. For more information, see the Final Cut Pro documentation.

    • Media pop-up menu: Create offline
    • “Include render files” checkbox: Off
    • “Set sequences to” pop-up menu: Typically, you should choose the sequence setting that corresponds to the format of the media you’ll be reingesting.
    • “Include master clips outside selection” checkbox: Off
    • “Delete unused media from duplicated items” checkbox: On
    • Use Handles checkbox: This setting is optional, although having 1-second or 2-second handles is always a good idea to prepare for last-minute adjustments.
    • “Include affiliate clips outside selection” checkbox: Off
    • “Base media file names on” pop-up menu: Existing file names
    • “Duplicate selected items and place into a new project” checkbox: This setting is also optional.
    • “Include nonactive multiclip angles” checkbox: Off
  3. Stage 3: Mounting the Volumes That Contain Your Archived Tapeless Media

    At this point, you need to mount whatever volumes you stored the archived tapeless media on, in preparation for ingest. Final Cut Pro needs access to every piece of media your sequence is linked to in order to successfully retransfer everything at once.

  4. Stage 4: Changing the Ingest Options in the Log and Transfer Window

    Open the Log and Transfer window and choose Preferences from the Action pop-up menu (the menu with the gear icon). When the Import Preferences dialog appears, choose the appropriate option from the pop-up menu in the “Transcode to” column corresponding to your format. When you finish, close the Log and Transfer window to save the new settings.

  5. Stage 5: Retransferring the Media Used in the Sequence

    When you’re ready to retransfer the footage, Control-click the new offline sequence that’s been created, then choose Batch Capture from the shortcut menu. When the Log and Transfer window appears, reingest all necessary footage from your archived media directories.

For more information, see the Final Cut Pro documentation.

Reconforming Tape-Based Media

This workflow is intended for projects using SD and HD video recorded to tape. This workflow may also include film that was transferred to tape via a best-light or safety transfer. For this workflow to go smoothly, it is imperative that your timecode be reliable and that the reel number of each clip be accurate. Ideally, all of your clips should correspond to a clearly labeled set of tapes; this is especially important if you anticipate that another editor or facility may be doing the reconform.

  1. Stage 1: Preparing Your Sequence for Media Management

    In general, it’s a good idea to do a certain amount of preparation to your sequence before using the Media Manager, in order to avoid recapturing media you don’t really need. One easy thing you can do is to move all video clips that aren’t being superimposed as part of an effect or compositing operation down to track V1. This process overwrites any hidden video items that appear underneath clips on higher video tracks (either partially or completely) that aren’t really part of the edit. This process also nicely organizes the sequence for color correction later.

    To make sure that all video items in the topmost video tracks correctly overwrite the hidden parts of clips in lower video tracks, move clip items down one track at a time; for example, move any noncomposited items in track V4 down to V3, then move all noncomposited items in track V3 down to V2, and finally move all of the noncomposited items in track V2 to V1.

  2. Stage 2: Using the Media Manager to Create an Offline Version of Your Edited Sequence

    The safest way to recapture the media needed by your program is to use the Media Manager to create an offline copy of your final sequence. Here are some recommended Media Manager settings. For more information, see the Final Cut Pro documentation.

    • Media pop-up menu: Create Offline
    • “Include render files” checkbox: Off
    • “Set sequences to” pop-up menu: Typically, you should choose the sequence setting that corresponds to the format of the media you’ll be recapturing.
    • “Include master clips outside selection” checkbox: Off
    • “Delete unused media from duplicated items” checkbox: On
    • Use Handles checkbox: This setting is optional, although having 1-second or 2-second handles is always a good idea to prepare for possible last-minute adjustments.
    • “Include affiliate clips outside selection” checkbox: Off
    • “Base media file names on” pop-up menu: Existing file names
    • “Duplicate selected items and place into a new project” checkbox: This setting is also optional.
    • “Include nonactive multiclip angles” checkbox: Off
  3. Stage 3: Choosing Appropriate Capture Settings, Clip Settings, and Scratch Disks in the Log and Capture Window

    When you’re ready to recapture your media, Control-click the new offline sequence that’s been created, then choose Batch Capture from the shortcut menu. When the Log and Capture window appears, specify the appropriate settings in the Capture Settings and Clip Settings tabs to make sure that you capture your media appropriately. When you’re ready, proceed with the capture, inserting each tape reel as Final Cut Pro requests it.

For more information, see the Final Cut Pro documentation.

Reconforming via Telecine Retransfer

If the media you used for the offline edit was transferred at less than optimum quality via an inexpensive one-light transfer, you need to retransfer the clips used in your sequence at higher quality so you can create the final master. To do this, you use the Export Cinema Tools Film Lists command in Final Cut Pro to export the information that will be used to retransfer the shots used in the edit. When you give this information to the transfer facility, the telecine operator can do a best-light or safety transfer of your selects onto new tapes with matching timecode, which you then reingest for finishing.

Whenever you work with another facility, it’s best to discuss your workflow and the facility’s needs in advance, to make sure you’re able to provide everything that’s required.

  1. Stage 1: Preparing Your Sequence to Export a Pull List

    There are a few things you can do to better organize your sequence in preparation for exporting a film list for retransferring and reconforming your program.

    • Manually remove unused clips from your sequence: Time is money during a film-to-tape transfer session, and the fewer shots you have to transfer, the faster the transfer will go. One easy way you can facilitate this process is to move all video clips that aren’t being superimposed as part of an effect or compositing operation down to track V1. This action overwrites any hidden video items that appear underneath clips on higher video tracks (either partially or completely) that aren’t really part of the edit. To make sure that all video items in the topmost video tracks correctly overwrite the hidden parts of clips in lower video tracks, move them down one track at a time; for example, move any noncomposited items in track V4 down to V3, then move all noncomposited items in track V3 down to V2, and finally move all of the noncomposited items in track V2 to V1. This process also nicely organizes the sequence for color correction later.
    • Do not use the Media Manager to rename or remove unused media: Although it’s a good idea to manually remove unused media from the Timeline, do not use the Media Manager to either rename or delete unused media in your project. If you do, you’ll lose the ability to export accurate pull lists from Final Cut Pro or Cinema Tools.
    • Organize clips that aren’t deliberately superimposed using the fewest possible tracks: The various film lists that you can export can consist of only one track. This is another reason to move all clips that aren’t being superimposed as part of an effect or compositing operation down to track V1. Don’t worry if your sequence has many superimposed clips; each track can be exported as a separate list. Organizing all superimposed clips in as few video tracks as possible minimizes the number of lists you need to export.
    • Move all video clips that didn’t originally come from film to a separate video track: To keep your exported film lists tidy, it’s best to move all clips that didn’t originate from film to another video track so that they remain in the Timeline but are excluded from the exported list. This includes generators, still images, and imported motion graphics and animation clips that were created in other applications like Motion. This also includes clips that were transferred from film that are embedded inside Motion project clips (with the file extension .motn), because these won’t show up in exported film lists.

      If you used transferred film clips inside Motion projects and the clips need to be retransferred, you should also provide a separate list of these clips. You’ll use this list to retransfer those clips so the composites can be re-created with higher-quality media.

  2. Stage 2: Exporting a Pull List to Give to the Transfer Facility

    After you organize your edited sequence, use the Export Cinema Tools Film Lists command to create a pull list to provide to the facility doing the film transfer. Make sure to ask in advance what information the facility requires in order to accurately retransfer the shots you need to match the clips that made the final cut.

  3. Stage 3: Having the Film Retransferred

    The actual retransfer is fairly simple. This workflow assumes that each camera roll of film was originally transferred to a separate reel of videotape, with a marker frame assigned to each roll of film at a point before the first shot begins and a hole punch permanently identifying that frame. The telecine operator assigns a timecode value of XX:00:00:00 to each marker frame (where XX is an hour value that is incremented for each subsequent camera roll being transferred). The marker frame creates an absolute film frame–to–timecode reference for each roll of camera negative.

    Using the pull list, the telecine operator loads each camera roll and cues up each needed section of camera negative for retransfer to tape, recording timecode for each shot that matches the same timecode that was originally transferred relative to that roll’s marker frame. This makes it easy for each clip to be recaptured and relinked to your original Final Cut Pro sequence. During this second transfer, the operator makes careful adjustments to the color and contrast of each individual shot to ensure the highest-quality result.

    Important: When retransferring film, it’s important that the telecine operator maintain the same 3:2 pull-down pattern that was used during the original transfer. Otherwise, you may have problems when the fields of your online media don’t line up with those of the originally edited offline media after the reconform process is finished.

  4. Stage 4: Reingesting and Relinking the Transferred Media

    After stage 3, you’ll have a series of tapes, one for each camera roll, containing only the shots specified on the pull list. Because the retransferred shots are only a subset of each camera roll, there will likely be timecode breaks between each shot. This is fine, because it’s critical that the timecode for each retransferred clip match the timecode of the original offline media. Using these tapes, it’s a simple matter to reingest the new high-quality media and relink it to your sequence.

For more information, see the Final Cut Pro and Cinema Tools documentation.

Reconforming to DPX or Cineon Film Scans

This method assumes that you’re using a digital intermediate (DI) workflow in order to color correct and finish your program digitally, at high resolution, in preparation for printing to film. There are many ways you can do this, but the procedures described in this section are recommended for digital intermediate workflows using Color. No matter what kind of media you use during the offline edit, in the end you’ll be reconforming your project to high-quality DPX or Cineon image sequences that were scanned from the original camera negative during the finishing stage, using a datacine.

For detailed information about this workflow, see the Color documentation.

  1. Stage 1: Preparing Your Final Cut Pro Sequence

    To ensure reliability when it comes time to reconform the offline edit of your project in Final Cut Pro to the source DPX media in Color, you need to be careful not to alter the timecode or reel numbers of the offline source media in any way.

    Because you’ll be exporting an Edit Decision List (EDL) to Color in order to relink your project to the original DPX image sequences, it’s prudent to be extremely conservative and eliminate any and all transitions and effects that are not supported by the CMX EDL format, or by Color itself. You can’t have superimposed clips of any kind, and you should eliminate any media not originated on film, like generators, still images, freeze frames, Motion project clips, or other effects. All of these effects need to be created separately and integrated into the final image sequence that will be printed to film later. There are two exceptions:

    • Color can render cross dissolve transitions. Any other type of transition is automatically replaced with a cross dissolve of the same length as the original transition, and then rendered.

    • Color can also render Pan & Scan adjustments to clip geometry.

    Note: If you plan to export a pull list in order to retransfer the clips used in the offline edit of your project in Final Cut Pro, do not use the Media Manager to either rename or delete unused media in your project. If you do, you’ll lose the ability to create accurate pull lists using the Cinema Tools database.

  2. Stage 2: Organizing the DPX Media to Which You’ll Be Conforming Your Project

    How you obtain the DPX media you’ll use for finishing depends on how you proceeded with the offline edit. Up to this point, there are two general workflows you may have followed:

    • You used offline QuickTime conversions of prescanned DPX media: This assumes that you created offline-resolution duplicates of the source DPX media in the format most suitable for your editing system. You’ll be in good shape as long as you ensured that all the image sequence frames from each film roll were placed in directories that were named after the roll number, and that the reel number of each converted QuickTime clip matched the corresponding roll number of the source DPX image sequence. You also need to make sure that the timecode values stored in the header of each DPX file were used as each QuickTime file’s timecode. Lastly, the names of the original image sequence frames should have taken the following form: SequenceName_0123456.dpx.
    • You used telecined media for the offline edit : If you used telecined media for the offline edit, you need to follow a workflow similar to the workflow described in Reconforming via Telecine Retransfer. Assuming you used a Cinema Tools database to track the correspondence between the original camera negative and the transferred offline video, you can export a pull list to give to the transfer facility. The facility uses this list to retransfer the shots in your offline edit as new DPX media using a datacine.

      To ensure a smooth reconform in Color, you need to request that the timecode that identifies each frame of negative (relative to the marker frame at the beginning of the roll) be converted to frames and used to generate the filenames for each scanned DPX file, and that the timecode also be written into the DPX header of each shot. The names of the resulting image sequence frames should take the following form: SequenceName_0123456.dpx.

      Lastly, each image sequence from a particular film roll should be placed into a directory that is named with the number of that roll. There should be a separate directory for each roll of camera negative that is scanned.

  3. Stage 3: Exporting an EDL

    When you finish preparing your sequence and getting the DPX media ready, you need to generate an EDL in the CMX 340, CMX 3600, or GVG 4 Plus format that you can use in Color. You cannot use the Send To Color command to move projects to Color that are being reconformed to DPX or Cineon media.

  4. Stage 4: Importing the EDL into Color and Relinking to the High-Quality DPX Media

    Use the Import EDL command in Color to import the EDL. In the Import EDL dialog, you also specify the directory where the original high-resolution source media is located, so that the EDL is imported and the source media is relinked in one step.

  5. Stage 5: Grading and Outputting from Color, or Sending Back to Final Cut Pro

    At this point, you’re ready to grade your program in Color. When you finish, you have two options:

    • Render DPX media for film printing: You can render DPX media, in which case you’ll later follow the procedures for gathering the rendered media in order to assemble a single, continuous image sequence that can be printed to film.
    • Render QuickTime media for video output: You can render QuickTime files, in which case you have the option of sending your project back to Final Cut Pro for further finishing and output to video.