Pre-Production Workflow Considerations for Final Cut Pro

Spatial Resolution: Remember HD-SDI cards are designed for spatial resolution up to 1920x1080.  Unfortunately HD-SDI cannot play 2048x1152 at full frame rate.  There are a couple options to work around this that we’ll discuss below.  But here are our general recommendations for broadcast versus film workflows:

Broadcast: We recommend shooting up to HD resolution (1920x1080) for broadcast distribution, even if you’re shooting with the SI-3D rig (which supports 2K).  The reason is that you have a straightforward real-time 3D workflow at HD which becomes more cumbersome above HD.  Note: The limitations on resolutions above 1920x1080 are not imposed by Neo3D or First Light, but are instead imposed by i) FCP (which is optimized for workflows of HD and below); and ii) HD-SDI which is (also) optimized for HD resolutions. 

Film: First of all, read the comments above about HD versus 2K.  Film people may however opt for a 2K workflow – that’s okay, we can make it work, but there are a few steps to keep in mind.  Please see the 2K workflow notes below.

AVI versus MOV: On Mac you really want to edit using CineForm MOV files.  Yes Mac can read CineForm AVIs, but… a) they’re interpreted as 8 bit instead of 10/12 bit; b) The FCP “RT Enabler” mode will not use them in RT mode so there will be lots of rendering; and c) AVIs do not thread on Mac so performance is lower.  So on Mac, if your sources are CineForm AVIs you should first rewrap them to MOV using ReMaster before editing in FCP.

RT Enabler Mode: Using the RT Enabler mode for Neo3D gains access to the RT engine inside FCP.  The result is a high-performance real-time, multi-stream editing environment, even for a stereo workflow.  But there are a few things you need to be aware of for an optimized workflow:

a.  Dual-link editing.  Be aware that FCP does NOT support dual-link (either RGB or stereo) when using RT Enabler.  This means that RT performance in FCP when in dual-link stereo mode is limited to a cuts-only workflow.  All FCP transitions and effects must be rendered.  First Light adjustments are fine – they are not affected by RT Enabler in any way.

b.  Side-by-side editing.  Our recommendation for a stereo editing environment is to do as much RT editing as possible.  That means using the RT Enabler mode in FCP, and consequently editing in side-by-side (or any passive) mode.  Using RT Enabler allows most FCP transitions and effects to be applied to CineForm stereo files without the need for rendering.  Even if your final output is dual-link stereo we recommend editing in side-by-side mode with a final dual-link stereo render for output. Note: most all monitors support side-by-side input, including the new Panasonic BT-3DL2550 dual-link studio monitor.

c.  Turning RT Enabler ON or OFF.  Control of RT Enabler is in the CineForm panel within your Mac System Preferences.  Click on the Performance tab and turn RT Enabler ON or OFF.  This must be done while FCP is closed.

Stereo Rendering: If you use RT Enabler mode you will generally not need to render your stereo project until final output, or until the point when you need to view the project through dual-link HD-SDI (such as for projection using RealD, Dolby, or XpanD).   You can tell if you need to render in the following circumstances:

a.  If you turn RT Enabler OFF and you have render bars on the FCP timeline. 

b.  With RT Enabler OFF your CineForm clips with Active Metadata applied are not playing back without stuttering. Note: Applying Active Metadata takes additional CPU resources.  Especially on older Woodcrest-based dual-quad Macs you will run out of CPU resources pretty quickly when playing back dual-link stereo if much Active Metadata is applied.  In this case you may need a faster CPU!

c.  If you need to render to flatten effects, transitions, or Active Metadata, follow these steps: 

i.   set the CineForm stereo display mode to LEFT; then render the timeline (or the timeline segment) as a CineForm file;

ii.  set the CineForm stereo display mode to RIGHT; then render the timeline (or the timeline segment) as a CineForm file.

iii. you now have a full-resolution CineForm LEFT and RIGHT eye file; load both rendered files into First Light and mux them together into a new CineForm stereo file

iv. move the new full-res stereo file onto the FCP timeline.  If you rendered only a portion of the timeline then replace the segment you rendered in the timeline with the newly rendered and muxed clip.

Note: You can choose to render some, all, or no Active Metadata into your rendered segment by using the Global Controls underneath the playback window in First Light.

Dual-Link Stereo Playout: To playout dual-link stereo in FCP follow these steps:

i.    Turn RT Enabler OFF (see above for instructions)

ii.   In the Kona control panel turn ON the stereo mode

iii.  In the CineForm 3D controls select the 2D mode

Note: You can turn ON CineForm Active Metadata in dual-link output mode, but depending on your machine performance you may run into CPU limitations.  You’ll have to experiment as to how much AM you can apply in dual-link stereo mode based on the configuration of your machine. 

2K Workflow recommendations:  For film project many will prefer to shoot 2K instead of HD, so here’s what you can do:

a.   Turn RT Enabler ON. See above for instructions

b.   Setup Kona in 1920x1080 8-bit mode. In the Kona control panel select 1920x1080 8-bit, even though the source material is 2048x1152 at 12-bit.  The CineForm decoder will scale the material in RT to 1920x1080 for each channel in order to meet the spec for HD-SDI.  You’ll need a reasonably fast machine for this because two scales are being performed in RT plus whatever Active Metadata is being applied (dual-quad Nehalem or faster preferred).

c.   Edit in side-by-side mode not dual-link stereo.  This will allow you to use the RT Enabler setting (available in the CineForm System Preferences control panel) which eliminates the need to render for most any transitions or effects you apply in FCP.

d.  Dual-link viewing of 2K source.  If you want to view your 2K project in dual-link stereo on a projector, you’ll need to first render it to HD (not 2K) stereo.  The reason, as discussed above, is that HD-SDI cannot carry a 2048x1152 signal at full frame rate.  So…using the rendering instructions above, render the stereo timeline into a Left eye file and then a Right eye file at HD resolution, with your choice of metadata to be applied.  Then multiplex the files together into an HD stereo stream.  This will playback in RT through dual-link using the dual-link instructions above.

2K or HD Finishing: You can finish 3D at either 2K or HD resolution within FCP by rendering for file-based output. 

a.  CineForm HD or 2K Stereo Master File.  You can render your final project to a final CineForm stereo file using the rendering instructions above.  Pay attention to which Active Metadata you want burned into your final project.

b.  Broadcast Distribution.  Some broadcasters will want the full-resolution CineForm files.  But if you need to deliver a side-by-side format, you can: i) set the First Light 3D control to side-by-side; and ii) render into your preferred distribution format. 

c.  HDCAM stereo master.  If you want to record your project to HDCAM SR in stereo mode you should first render to a clean and flattened CineForm master stereo file (see render instructions above).  Then play the CineForm 3D master file as dual-link stereo using instructions above for dual-link stereo playout. 

2K or HD Finishing outside FCP: If you edited your CineForm 3D project in FCP as offline but intend to finish elsewhere (Smoke, Pablo, DS, etc) ReMaster will pull selects from your CineForm our Red source media from a Final Cut Pro XML file for finishing, including support for IN and OUT points with handles.   See the separate Tech Blog post on using ReMaster to pull selects for a conform.

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