In the woods (part 2)

In this post I’m going to describe the steps I take and the software I use to get to the footage you can see on Vimeo.

I’ve tried many workflows and this is the one that suits me most at this time. I know it would seem logical to use Adobe Products for handling CinemaDNG, as they are the initiators behind the whole DNG initiative, but in my opinion they’re just not there yet. But I’m really looking with a lot of anticipation at the acquisition of Iridas by Adobe. I’m still using CS4 by the way.
Anyhow, it’s clear that handling CinemaDNG footage is pioneer’s work at this moment.

Now, I’ll just describe the next steps in the workflow and go into more detail in next posts.

Step 2 - DNG to CineForm RAW file conversion

CineForm RAW is a 12 bit ‘visually lossless’ wavelet compression. I am in no way affiliated with CineForm, just a paying customer.

At this time, you can imagine that there’s not a really big client base for CinemaDNG conversions, so for now you can only do this by using a command line tool: DPX2CF.exe (Windows only).

With this command line tool you can convert 1 folder of DNG’s into 1 AVI or MOV file containing the CineForm RAW sequence. So to convert the files from a complete card, I’ve written a little batch file that converts all the folders (takes) with DNG’s to their respective AVI’s.

To convert the 74.1 GB from Memory Card 001 (see example in Part 1), which consisted of 42 takes (and thus folders) to CineForm RAW, it took about 30 minutes.

Reasons to do this:

  1. Ikonoskop’s DNGImporter is Mac only (for now);
  2. Rendering DNG’s to any other format out of AE takes ages on my machine and is not that stable;
  3. Maybe I’ve could’ve created intermediates with Iridas FrameCycler, but I never got to download it and now, with the acquisition by Adobe, it’s too late. 
  4. CineForm RAW looks absolutely stunning. If there’s compression, I honestly can’t see it.

Step 3 - Doing first light (and final grading) with FirstLight

Now if you buy CineForm Neo (or download the demo), it comes with a tool called FirstLight. And to me, it’s just amazing.

It’s the only tool I’ve seen thus far, that does an acceptable “out-of-the-box” debayering of dII footage. So no pink highlights or magenta in the shadows. At first sight it looks alot like what you see in the viewfinder or out of the HD-SDI albeit somewhat flatter, milkier. But then you have the usual sliders and options to really make it look like you intended it to look. You can use and create LUT’s, save and load snapshots.

But what’s really really great about this application is the fact that there’s nothing to render out, it’s online. It creates some sort of metadata that is read by your NLE’s and other software, so you just keep FirstLight open next to for example Adobe Premiere. So when you change a setting in FirstLight you can see the result in Premiere and you don’t have to render anything. Great stuff!

Step 4 - Start editing instead of fiddling with those colour settings already!

I used Adobe Premiere Pro. But the CineForm files work in practically any editing solution on the Mac or Win platforms.

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Now how about going back to the original DNG footage for rendering your final cut?

I honestly do not see the point at this time. Even if I want the result printed to film I can use the CF2DPX conversion tool to render to DPX.

By the way: if you watch Slumdog Millionaire (again the Slumdog reference?) or 127 Hours, you are actually looking at CineForm RAW based images. I really have to watch that movie one day soon.

So untill I can easily edit CinemaDNG without needing intermediates and with a good online grading solution, I’ll think I’ll just take the CineForm route. Unless I can actually see it’s limitations. 

In the mean while, I keep my CinemaDNG archive safe and backed up.

And there are already many other Ikonoskop workflows in use and being fine-tuned as we speak.

Danny Boyle winning an Oscar

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