Workflow Round-up January 2013

I’ve been trying out a lot of different workflows over the past year, based on system specs, software version, firmware version, etc.

Some people probably still think I work with, what I called, the CineForm workflow. But I haven’t used it since last summer, to be honest.

When I started using a dII I was still on a Windows 32 bit system. After a couple of months of working with CinemaDNG footage I choose a Mac Mini with a Promise Pegasus 12 TB Thunderbolt raid 5 hooked up to it, to function as a media archive and was hoping that Apple would soon release a new Mac Pro with Thunderbolt capabilities. I also anticipated a Windows driver for the Ikonoskop ExpressCard Reader.

When I started testing the Mac Mini, I was somewhat amazed by the power that such a silent little block of computing ingenuity could hold. After a couple of weeks I completely switched to the OSX platform, but was still using the CineForm workflow (via Parallels), because of its speed and raw format.

When summer arrived it was quite clear that we wouldn’t be getting a new Mac Pro, nor a Windows driver for the ExpressCard Reader. So I asked a hardware/software savvy friend to build me an editing system, with support for Thunderbolt and running on OSX.

Meanwhile, Adobe had released CS6 with SpeedGrade and for the first time I was able to  play some CinemaDNG footage realtime on the Mac Mini and had insanely detailed control on grading. It made me forget about CineForm raw.

When the Hackintosh was ready in September my workflow got drastically changed for a second time.

Let’s look at a very personal assessment, on the 2 systems, of the three mainly used decoder/transcoder software for ‘developing’ and grading Ikonoskop footage:

I think it’s clear looking at the results above what, for me, at this time is the best tool to do the debayering, grading and transcoding of my CinemaDNG footage. But it’s also clear that it depends on the system you’re using. So on my main editing system I’m now working in DaVince Resolve 9 Lite (and that’s free folks!). When going mobile, I’d rather use SpeedGrade.

I haven’t integrated CineForm in the test because I don’t use it anymore and I didn’t get it to work in Parallels 8/Windows 8. But I tested the GoPro Cineform Studio Premium for Windows just before the summer and I was amazed by the new functionalities that were integrated to debayer raw footage. Dynamic range was much improved and of course it was no longer a command line tool. But sadly enough, no Mac version with the same raw functionalities.

But then there’s John Hable at I already wrote about his Ginger HDR in my last post, but in the mean time he has been working hard to improve his plug-in and I’m astonished by what he has accomplished in such a short time.

  1. You no longer have to create the .gnr wrappers - So via the plugin you can natively edit CinemaDNG in Premiere Pro!
  2. Ginger HDR supports the (outlandish) audio implementation in Ikonoskop’s CinemaDNG. So you immediately have image AND sound of your CinemaDNG footage in Premiere Pro. This is huge!
  3. It supports timecode!

This is honestly spectacular. There’s still room for improvement (f.i. better CUDA support) and John is working on this. But this is very promising.

"Native" editing of CinemaDNG in Premiere Pro?

There’s no way to directly import and edit a CinemaDNG sequence in PremierePro.
But this weekend I stumbled upon a promising tool developed by 19lights. It’s called Ginger HDR and it has a Merger functionality that creates wrappers for CinemaDNG sequences (batch). The creation of these .GNR files is lightning fast and the naming is just as it should be (name of the director containing the images of a take).

There’s a nice workflow tutorial on their site.

Without touching any settings (video effects) the footage looks, depending on your exposure, a bit washed out and of course with magenta in the shadows (please Ikonoskop,  change the black level back to 80 in the metadata as soon as possible). 

On my system (3,5 GHz Intel Core i7, 32 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670) playback isn’t smooth at full resolution. Setting it to 1/2 does the trick.  

If you’ve installed Ginger HDR as instructed, you’ll find a Ginger HDR folder in the Video Effects. There are 2 effects (Tonemapper basic and Tonemapper advanced) there that give you control on things like exposure, saturation, contrast, highlights, midtones, shadows, gamma, etc. What I’m missing though, is a colour temperature slider and a tint slider.

This is the result I get after playing around with the plug-in for a bit:

The footage is provided by Niels Faes (director) and Lennert De Taeye (cinematographer). I just grabbed 3 takes, no idea about script or dialogue (no audio). So I don’t know where the story is going, but I think it’s safe to believe our protagonist is facing trouble ;-)

So now you can import, edit and grade CinemaDNG in Premiere Pro. Further more the support by John Hable at 19lights is superb!

Is it all good? Well, it would be better, in my opinion with the above mentioned sliders for temperature and tint. And if in the near future there’d be support for timecode, I’d be even happier.

There’s one spectacular downside though: when you’ve finished editing and grading you still have to render your DNG edit to your export format of choice … with Adobe Premiere. How fast do you think this rendering goes? Ay caramba!