An excellent Final Cut Pro X user story from Jonathan Gilbert at Anchour. He produces some cracking pictures from his Canon 5D MkIII using a Raw workflow which end up in FCPX.
We love reading about real life user stories and FCPX, this one has a twist. Jonathan shoots on a Canon 5D MkIII in Raw video and has perfected a workflow for getting those rushes into FCPX. Watch the Vimeo video on fullscreen to get the full benefit of the quality.
We will let Jonathan take up the story:
In September of 2013, a group of friends and I embarked on a journey to create an 'all in house' marketing firm. We would specialize in film production, web design, branding/marketing, and a full recording studio. In October of 2013 we opened our doors and Anchour was born. Anchour is based just outside of Portland, Maine.
When we first started this venture we always knew we wanted to do a company film. We obviously wanted it to stand out and the quality had to be stunning. We also wanted it to reflect our vision and our ideals. Being a Canon 5D Mark III owner, I knew right off that I wanted to shoot raw with Magic Lantern. I knew that when someone looked at our film I wanted them to see quality because this film is a direct reflection of our brand.
So the next steps were coming up with story concepts and getting a final storyline down. We came up with a great idea of having two artists’ worlds collide: one, a graphic designer (our very own Victoria Richland) and the other, a woodworker (our friend Chris Morrison). Both artists would be working on an anchor that would be hung up in our space, but the two characters wouldn’t meet until the end of the film.
Fast Forward to Production.
We shot in November of 2013 in a rural town in Maine. The location was inside a beautiful old New England barn. As you can see in our film, it was the perfect set for our woodworker as there is rough cut lumber stacked all around our character. For this shoot we had the following gear:
Canon 5D Mark III with Magic Lantern (shooting raw)
2X 64 GB Komputer Bay CF cards (for recording .raw files)
Macbook Pro Retina with external hard drive (to ingest .raw files)
Redrock Shoulder Rig
Redrock Rig (we used on the tripod)
Kessler Crane KC Lite 8.0
2X Arri 650s
2X 4’ 4Bank Kino Flos
2x3’ Flag Set
The shoot went great. A little cold, but other than that we got what we needed. Now we had to shoot our designer character’s scene. This was done right in our design studio at Anchour. We shot this scene in a day and I was very pleased with what we got.
First off, let me say that when you shoot raw with Magic Lantern you NEED a ton of hard drive space. Not only having a significant amount of space but also using fast drives helps immensely. We were using 4TB OWC RAID drives via eSata connection to my mid 2010 MacPro 8-Core. When using Magic Lantern raw film, the files that are stored on your CF card are .raw files and they need to be changed to .dng (digital negative) files.
I accomplished this by using the following workflow:
I took the .raw files from my external hard drive and used a program called Raw Magic (It's free! -Editor) to convert the .raw files to .dngs. Raw Magic can be found on the App Store.
After that process was finished, I went into DaVinci Resolve, found the files in the Library and added them to the Media Pool.
Next, I went to the edit tab and created a new timeline. I then added my clips to the timeline and went to the export tab. Here I changed the export settings to Apple ProRes 4444. For me, I wanted all the color information intact when I brought the footage into Final Cut Pro X. I then continued to export and save those files on my external RAID drive.
(Click for larger image)
I want to mention two challenges I met along the way when converting my footage. I hope this helps with those who are going through the same predicaments that crossed my path.
1. File Spanning
When you shoot over 4 GB clip with Magic Lantern raw film it creates two .raw files that need to combined back together. For this I did some research on the web and found this workflow.
2. Pink Frames
Pink Frames are when after you have converted your .raw files to .dngs by using Raw Magic (or another converter) your footage when played back, has pink distortion all over the images. Upon seeing this, my heart sank. I literally thought I had lost those takes! I was determined to get them back, so I did some more research on the web and found this article which helped me fix the footage. Pay attention to the posts from pedrosuarez and ifleeter. I followed their instructions and it worked!
After all the files were exported, I opened up Final Cut Pro X and ingested the footage.
Final Cut Pro X
What Apple has done with Final Cut Pro X and the support it has given since it’s infancy is amazing. I will admit when it first came out, I was frustrated along with most of the Final Cut community. I tried it, hated it and pretty much said “this is for the kids.” The UI got a much needed facelift and there was finally an editing program that didn’t have the archaic look that legacy versions of FCP, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Avid had. It was still missing many features.
So I started to look elsewhere. A lot of people started to jump ship to Premiere Pro. The interface is way too clunky for my personal taste. So I stuck with with Final Cut Pro 7 until the release of Final Cut Pro X 10.0.3.
The 10.0.3 release was when Apple added multi-clip editing back among other features. I gave it another shot. I continued to stick with it, and Apple kept updating FCPX rapidly. Since then, I haven’t looked back.
Is Final Cut Pro X perfect? No, but what NLE is? Though I’m really attached to the forward thinking of Apple, there have also been some frustrations that have come along with that same “forward thinking.” I expect the functionality and features to keep improving like they have been. I’m excited for the future and I know Final Cut Pro X will continue to get better and better with time.
Cutting the Project
Now it was time to cut the project. I got a rough cut, refined it, and finally got the final cut. From there I sent the project off to my colleague who composed a score for the film. As he was composing, I started to color correct. I was going for a warm, heartfelt feeling, and knew how I wanted to portray that with color correction. The film needed to be relatable for the viewer and it had to evoke a feeling of nostalgia.
First things first, I corrected the luma levels by using the color board and waveform monitor in Final Cut Pro X. I can’t say enough about the color board. I love how it functions compared to color wheels (especially on legacy version of FCP). I would still like to see some advancements to it because there are certain things that can still be improved upon.
After the luma levels were corrected throughout the film, I started correcting color. I used the vectorscope to match the color of the clips and get the color continuity between clips solid. Then I started the secondary color correction. I tried different looks but finally settled on correcting the black levels to a blue hue that matched the color in Anchour’s brand color palette. Next I tried to give an overall warm tone to the footage but couldn’t settle on something that I liked. So I decided to use Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Mojo. It worked fabulously. I added an adjustment layer which I created in Motion following this tutorial from Ripple Training that I found on FCP.co. I then added Mojo to the adjustment layer. I was able to give my footage an overall warm look and also give it more contrast by using Mojo. I then added sharpness to each clip. Lastly, I got the score and the voice over from my colleague and I incorporated those into the project and “voila!” our film was complete.
Looking back on the project, I was pleased for the most part with using Magic Lantern. It gave us that flexibility to go ProRes 4444 into Final Cut Pro X; which in turn gave us the color control we needed in post to achieve the look we were after. There were headaches and minor heart attacks during this project. Mostly, when I came across the problems of file spanning and pink DNGs, but looking back it was worth it. We did what we set out to do and that was to create a great promotional film for Anchour.
Jonathan Gilbert is a filmmaker based in Maine. He’s an Apple Certified Pro in Final Cut Pro X Levels I & II, and has been working with Final Cut Pro since version 4.
He works as Director of Film at Anchour, and works with a number of companies, musicians, and non-profits providing custom film services. Jonathan mostly enjoys shooting narratives, documentaries, and short films. He’s an avid Steven Spielberg fan and is moderately obsessed with professional hockey.