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VFX first or Grade first?

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David Roberts
VFX first or Grade first?
on Feb 5, 2013 at 5:13:16 am

Hi guys

This may be a dumb question. I feel like I should probably know this by now haha!

I'm an editor (7 years MC and Symphony) and I'm looking to take a project to a higher level than my usual work (broadcast Kids TV). I generally do everything in Symphony in terms of colour and when I need some After Effects work done, it's then usually the final step - so I feed AE my graded picture from Symphony.

I'm handling a project with the following attributes:

Shot on: Arri Alexa
Format:1920:1080 Pro Res 4444
Edit: Symphony 6
Working res: DNxHD 185
VFX: light flares and particle stuff using Particular in AE CS6

I plan to relink in the Avid to the original PR 4444 files (either in Avid's 444 codec or working natively in PR 4444 in Avid (I'm on a Mac workstation) before I send the picture to AE via AAF.

My basic question:

Do I get the grades to pretty much final in Avid and then export a AAF to AE or do I feed AE the ungraded AAF, export from AE with all VFX added but the effects adjusted super flat to match the Alexa PR 4444 footage and Grade that final flat picture in Avid? I want to avoid introducing banding and messing up the flares and effects.

I guess - grade first or add VFX first? I also have the option of adding Resolve Lite to the workflow but I'm unsure where it would fit in..

Any input would be welcome!


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Bill Stephan
Re: VFX first or Grade first?
on Feb 5, 2013 at 6:26:58 pm


Generally, but this depends on the specifics of your workflow, you want to grade your footage first before compositing. If you have shot A needing one grade and shot B needing another grade, you can only apply one grade to the composited effect.

If you composite an effect with flat Alexa footage, your grade will affect both shots and any effects created externally, which might affect the look of the light flares or particles in an undesired manner.

If you are compositing and color correcting an effect inside Avid, you have the option of going back later to change the grades. Just rerender your final effect.

If you are using a smoke/flame/shake workflow, the grades can be applied wherever needed during efx creation.

Bill Stephan
Senior Editor/DVD Author
USA Studios
New York City

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