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Best Workflow for Grading in FCPX?

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Alex James
Best Workflow for Grading in FCPX?
on Nov 20, 2018 at 12:06:04 pm

Hi All,

I just wanted to gather people thoughts on the best workflow for grading in FCPX, or maybe its just personal preference?

I currently Grade as follows:

1. White Balance
2. Exposures and Saturation
3. Add LUTs/Film Convert/Grain/Noise Reduction etc

This sometimes has mixed results and I end up having to go back over certain shots. Although I find if I add the LUT in at the beginning it doesn't always give me the desired look by the time I've corrected everything.

Would be great to hear peoples thoughts here.

Many thanks,

Alex

Alex James

TINY ARK
http://www.tinyark.com


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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Best Workflow for Grading in FCPX?
on Nov 21, 2018 at 6:56:51 am

Well, LUTs aren't meant for grading—even though I know they've mutated to that as of new 🙄—but rather for setting camera tone maps/color space first and foremost. So I don't get why they are LAST as opposed to FIRST.

- RK

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Mike Most
Re: Best Workflow for Grading in FCPX?
on Nov 23, 2018 at 1:58:40 am

In nearly all "professional" grading pipelines, the LUT is never applied first. Most of the time, it is applied last so that multiple deliverable targets can be accommodated more easily. In other cases, it is not necessarily last, but it is always after a preliminary grade so that the parameters of the source image can be manipulated to be what the LUT expects. In other words, if the photography is overexposed, the exposure can be brought down to "normalize" the image so that the LUT (which usually expects "normal" exposure) can yield the proper result. If it's underexposed, the same logic applies. In most cases the basic balance is also done prior to the LUT, for the same reason.


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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Best Workflow for Grading in FCPX?
on Nov 23, 2018 at 8:56:34 am
Last Edited By Robin S. Kurz on Nov 23, 2018 at 10:13:06 am

Aside from the fact that I know a slew of "professional" colorists that would quite vehemently disagree with you, you are not distinguishing the difference between a camera profile LUT (like a de-log LUT ) and and some internet bought stylistic color grading LUT, as I did. A very important distinction imho that I was purposely making.

Because "professionals" will nowadays shoot with either LOG profiles or very flat dynamic range profiles more often than not that need to be brought back into a standard linear gamma range before any corrections are applied. It would in fact be a pretty stupid mistake to mess around with an image before even knowing how it was MEANT to look like upon shooting if you ask me. Most certainly not "professional". At least in my book.

So my process might be something like this...
Step 1 : Apply camera profile LUT for correct sensor tone mapping etc.
Step 2 : Make corrections to footage
Step 3 : Apply color grading/stylistic LUT to footage
Step 4 : fiddle with step 2 if/as needed to adjust the effect of the stylistic LUT

Of course there are rare commercially available stylistic LUTs that take step 1 into account, but that's by far more the exception than a rule. In which case I suppose one could argue that if that's step 3 then you can ignore 1. So I guess the takeaway is that there is no one right way either way.

And if the footage isn't shot log/flat/with cam profile to begin with, then that's obviously a whole different ball-o-wax. Then you could (actually should) skip step 1 since it would be pretty nonsensical. In which case I'm completely with you, sure.

But sure, if the person shooting completely effed up on exposure or the likes, then one cold of course add a Step 0 correction to see what can be saved. But that's not the "standard" scenario I'm going off of, since we're talking "professional" here, right? 😏

- RK

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Mike Most
Re: Best Workflow for Grading in FCPX?
on Nov 23, 2018 at 11:27:04 pm
Last Edited By Mike Most on Nov 23, 2018 at 11:31:21 pm

Robin, I don't know you, or what you do, or have done, so this isn't personal at all. What I stated is the way virtually every studio level digital intermediate is done. There is a pipeline required in high end work that goes way beyond a single editor/artist using Final Cut or Premiere. That pipeline needs to accommodate dailies, visual effects, and multiple final deliverables to different color spaces and monitoring targets. Nobody "looks" at the log image other than to make sure it's loaded. All viewing is done through the output LUT, but the corrections are done prior to the LUT so that all of the information on the original image is available and the exposure can be "normalized" so that the LUT can work properly. Using properly designed log grading controls (exposure/offset, contrast, shadows/midtones/highlights) allows grading adjustments to be made in a very controllable way. This is, in fact, the way the entire ACES pipeline is designed as well. What you described is a variation of what we used to call "tape to tape color correction," in which you're essentially taking a graded image and grading on top of it. This can and does significantly limit what you can do, as well as lead you to certain assumptions about the original photography that might be right and might be wrong. Just because colorists you know do that anyway doesn't make it right, good, or what high end projects do. There are broadcast colorists at major L.A. facilities that do that too, but they do it because they are creatures of habit and have "always" done it that way, going back to telecine days. But it's a different world now, and with log sources you really don't want to limit yourself when there is no need to do so. And, just FYI, nobody on major studio projects uses "look LUTs." There is normally one "show LUT," usually based on a specific camera color space and targeted to the "primary" deliverable. In the case of a DI, that would usually be DCI P3 space. In the case of a broadcast show, it would be Rec709. More often than not, that LUT is "generic," although at times a slightly modified version might be used to make the result either warmer, cooler, or whatever.

You can choose to read this and ignore it, or you can choose to accept it as something coming from someone who has spent about 35 years in the L.A. post business - about 30 of those years as a colorist - who is just trying to help you understand how things are done on major studio level projects, and why. It's up to you.


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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Best Workflow for Grading in FCPX?
on Nov 24, 2018 at 10:09:54 am

Mike… thanks for sharing. Though it reads as if you figure I should somehow be insulted or offended that you do things differently or that there are other opinions and approaches out there (all which I know of, yes). No worries. I'm not. 😄

But again, as I wrote before and as I think what your outline also demonstrates, there is no ONE "right" way. Especially considering the endless variables as far as the starting point alone is concerned. In other words I'm not suggesting that the workflow you describe is somehow WRONG or BAD per se by any means, just that we can agree to disagree on the one or other point, use all the given info and then go with suits our needs best and gets the results we (or in this case Alex) need(s)/want(s). One day maybe the one, the next the other approach.

And just for the record, for me personally, the popular "what the Hollywood/L.A. guys do" argument means little to nothing to me, since what a sub 1% of the entire editing/coloring population in an industry/city that I don't have anything to do with (anymore) does or doesn't do and is better known for stagnation than advancement or innovation, is not much of a yardstick for me. You could just as well reference Warsaw or Shanghai. 😄

Cheers

____________________________________________________
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Mike Most
Re: Best Workflow for Grading in FCPX?
on Nov 25, 2018 at 12:41:00 am

>> and is better known for stagnation than advancement or innovation....

It is also known for generating what are generally considered to be the highest quality images, and doing it consistently. We're not talking about content here, we're talking about how to get the most out of an image. What looks OK to you might not be anywhere near where the image can actually be, but if you use a properly designed pipeline at least you know you're looking at the captured image in the most optimal way. What you do with it after that is up to you. If you don't, you're limiting that ability. Once again, that's up to you.


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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Best Workflow for Grading in FCPX?
on Nov 25, 2018 at 9:36:04 am

[Mike Most] "It is also known for generating what are generally considered to be the highest quality images, and doing it consistently. "

Sure. Just that they're not by any means alone in that dept. and haven't been for a very long time.



[Mike Most] "We're not talking about content here…"

No. At least I'm not and haven't been. I was talking more along the lines of workflow, technical expertise, advancements, not holding on to known and comfortable conventions… stuff like that. Content is a whole different matter, yes.



[Mike Most] "What looks OK to you might not be anywhere near where the image can actually be"

Where BOTH are ultimately entirely subjective conditions. Kinda reminds me of the early Avid days when the Avid guys couldn't tell me "anything under 360KB/frame is total crap" often enough… and were cutting and praising DV/DVCam a year later at barely ⅓ that. The format I had been on for twice that long and had even originally inspired the repeated 360KB claim. Hence the "there's no one right way". It's all relative.

Whereby "looks great!" has yet to be a bad thing for me, no matter how I got there. 😏

- RK

____________________________________________________
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