Avid Whitepaper: Digital Cinema Camera Workflows

By Avid

With the ability to track multiple sources and timecodes, combined with AMA and open standards such as MXF, AAF, and DNxHD, Media Composer and Symphony give you the most flexibility in the post-production pipeline. Finishing and mastering can all be done directly within Avid products, or easily transported to third-party systems—or a hybrid between the two. The editorial process may seem complicated at first when dealing with high-resolution formats, but careful planning heads off any of the issues that may arise. Consult with all parties involved in both the production and post-production process for picture and sound to ensure that everyone is on the same page before the cameras roll or, in the file-based world, before the production capture process begins.

The workflows described in this document will focus on three popular camera formats:

  1. RED Digital Cinema Cameras (EPIC and SCARLET)
  2. ARRI ALEXA
  3. Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Since the introduction of the Sony 24p HD camera in late 1999, the world of digital cinema has changed. Digital technologies have been chasing film—the gold standard—not only in imagery, but also in providing additional benefits such as reduced costs and immediate access to the dailies in post. With changes in technologies, the advantages and disadvantages of new formats and solutions need to be weighed in context of the overall goals and delivery of the program itself. Content producers need to take a holistic approach to what is right for the entire production.

While cameras, formats, codecs, and resolution seem to change on a monthly basis, there are only a handful of options for a post-production editorial solution. Producers need to make decisions based on how flexible and extendable the system can be to meet not only the creative needs of the project, but also the overall deliverables for today’s world of multichannel distribution.

Avid Media Composer is the industry-leading solution—both creatively and metadata-wise— enabling you to either finish projects "in system" for HD deliverables, or maintain all metadata and changes for conforming and finishing through third-party systems.

The migration from standard definition (SD) to high definition (HD) took almost 10 years, and is still an ongoing transition in many countries at the broadcast level. The move from HD to 2K to 4K happened in less than half that time, as cinematographers and filmmakers adopted higher resolution formats to meet their creative needs, or to future-proof their content for HD-and-beyond consumption.

Resolution is part of the equation, but color depth and color space must also be considered to allow as much creative control over the image as possible. Color correction is to the video workflow what the sound mix is to the audio workflow. Color correction can emphasize the mood or the moment of a scene beyond simply meeting broadcast standards. The quest for total image control and management in capture, editorial, and post will persist with the continued development of digital cinema-grade cameras.

High-resolution images allow for image extractions without quality loss when delivering 1920 x 1080 from a 2K+ image. For example, doing a slow push-in to emphasize a moment, adding a zoom in to remove a boom mic from the scene, or changing the composition from a two shot to a single. The additional resolution offers the flexibility to make creative or corrective decisions without losing image quality.

Many of the digital cinema cameras are hybrid cameras in the sense that they can record HD "proxies" in addition to their 2K+ formats. This gives you flexibility in your camera choice, as many jobs may not require a 2K+ capture. These cameras can record "editorial ready" media as Avid DNxHD or Apple ProRes. The advantage is you can instantly edit programs under tight schedules, and have perfectly captured images in an HD Rec. 709 color space. There are also several recorders that can attach to the HD-SDI or HDMI output of the camera and record HD media either as a higher quality format than the camera’s internal codec format, or as a proxy to the camera’s higher quality format; for example, the Sound Devices PIX when used in conjunction with a RED Digital Camera. Each of these solutions change the overall workflow of a production and need to be considered in addition to the primary and secondary deliverables of the program itself. You’ll find the current list of Avid DNxHD licensees here.

Typically, programs know what their primary delivery format is going to be. When producing a dramatic television series for a broadcaster, producers have access to the broadcaster’s specifications for program delivery. If working with a post facility, they have these specifications on file. For independent producers, they are available upon request. The matrix of input formats and deliverables will dictate the workflow used for any one production. In most cases, the workflows share a common set of recommendations, but each of the cameras may carry specific steps that are unique for format, codec, or color management. This whitepaper will concentrate on workflows that are associated with greater than HD size capture (2K+), with finishing at HD or greater.

Content producers have so many choices in today’s market for digital cinema-grade cameras, with various features, sizes, and prices to meet the needs of any production. What works as an "A" camera on a small budget film will also work as a "B" camera on a higher budget production. The common attributes are the quality of the images being captured and how they can be manipulated in post to achieve the desired look.

Click here for the full 32 page pdf document
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