Sending films to a colorist

The last sessions in the editing suite might be the most tense part of any post production process, but when everyone is happy, it’s time to pass the film on to the finishing specialists. While uncompressed audio can be embedded directly in the OMF or AAF files passed to the sound department, things are usually a bit more tricky when dealing with XML or EDL sequences in the visual domain.

The cut

I wont tell editors how to do their job, but here are a few things I expect:

  • Clip timings should be exact. A 30 second spot should be exactly 00:00:30:00 and any timing adjustment at a later point will be much more complicated when sound and picture is handled by different people in different departments.

Exporting

Your post house might have specific requirements for delivering sequences and material, but here is a basic routine:

  1. Export XML and/or AAF of the sequence at the time of picture lock. Include all effects, graphics etc. The online editor might not be able to use them directly, but it is nice to know where they are.
  2. Export a Quicktime file of the same as above. This will let the everyone involved know exactly what was agreed on in the edit. It is usually a good idea to include any descriptions of vfx, splitscreens etc as text in the picture.
    1. Good codecs for this would be ProRes LT/Proxy, or DnXHD 36/100. These give reasonably small files, but are good for scrubbing back and forth in an editing system.
    2. Bad codecs include H264, H265 and all MPEG variants as they are not made for anything else that simple playback at 1x speed. In worst case, they can drift out of sync while matching up the raw material.
  3. If there are markers or comments in the sequence relevant for the online editor, export those as a document if possible.
  4. Duplicate the sequence and strip away all graphics. Put all the clips on layer 1. Replace any transition with a cross dissolve to avoid compatibility issues. If multiple clips are displayed at once (other than during transitions), you need to use layer 2, but keep the number of layers to a minimum.
  5. Export the sequence as XML and/or AAF, and export each layer of picture as a separate EDL file. It is a good idea to export all formats (XML, AAF, EDL) supported by your system, as each has its strengths and weaknesses.
  6. If you need to deliver a clean master:
    1. If possible, relink the material to the highest quality possible. Make sure everything is still in sync!
    2. Extend all clips to account for transitions etc. Any clips on additional layers should be put in between on layer 1. This sequence WILL drift out of sync, but that is OK.
    3. Export EDL, XML and/or AAF of the sequence. This will make it much easier for the online department to split your clean master file into separate clips.
    4. Export the sequence as ProRes 4444, DnXHD 444 or similar. Set all export settings to High quality.

Delivery

You now have a number of neatly labeled files in neatly organized folders, right?

In addition to the files exported in the previous steps, you need to deliver the raw material. To make sure you have all the material, you can use software like Conformist, which helps you find all the material used in a given sequence.

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.
–Andrew Tanenbaum, 1981

In other words, if you have all the raw material on an external hard drive and the post house is nearby, Sneakernet is probably the fastest option.

If the distance outweighs the amount of data, the internet is more preferable. When sending raw material electronically, you want to reduce the amount to a minimum and Conformist lets you only the files in use onto Aspera, FTP-clients, WeTransfer or anything else that supports drag-and-drop.

Post houses often have in-house servers for file delivery. This can greatly reduce the transfer time, as the data goes directly from your computer to their system. It eliminates the need to download manually in the other end, which means you can start the transfer in the middle of the night, and the files might be ready when doors open the next day.

If your post house does not have a preferred way of receiving material, you could use any standard cloud storage. Avoid any service requiring special plugins or dedicated programs. The receiver should be able to download using only a web browser or an FTP client.

Some post houses will charge extra for receiving material through other channels than their preferred method.

Dictionary

Conform

The process of recreating the offline edit in the online system.

Offline edit

Cutting the story together is usually done on lower quality files to save storage space and work faster.

Online edit

Online edit is when everything comes together in full quality.