Intermediate Codecs

Believing that I was not up the task of colour grading the film, I set out to find an experienced one from ShootingPeople. I agreed with my fellow producer that we would send in the trailer as a test to see if the applicant was up to the task. Now I needed to find out how to sent it to another person for post-production grading.

The whole point of an intermediate codec is to use it to compress the footage with no visual loss with a file size that is easily distributable for other post-processing, in this case, grading. The best codec for this is ProRes4444 but it is not available to export to it on a Windows machine which I found very upsetting. After some heavy research I found the alternatives were DNxHD and Cineform HD, both capable of outputting to 10bit 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 chroma subsampling. Typically gradists require the highest quality so 444/422 was essential. After extensive testing of both of these codecs I found out their negatives;

  • DNxHD
    • You are stuck with its resolution presets of 1080p/720p
    • Cannot output in a custom resolution or anything higher than 1080p
    • When imported back into Premiere one experiences a massive gamma shift
    • Set of codecs have to be installed on Windows/Mac
  • Cineform HD
    • I established that the codec was incompatible with the latest versions of Mac OS so I could not use this codec at all to pass onto Mac users
    • For some odd reason did not output to 444
    • Codec has to be installed

In conclusion it made me furious to find out that Windows users have to go into great lengths to output to a lossless codec when Mac users could simply output to ProRes4444 with a custom resolution – a format that even Windows machines can read and edit by having Quicktime installed. For this reason alone I think Mac editing is superior.

Two people applied to grade the trailer from ShootingPeople so I sent the trailer to them. The results were startling… they were simply bad and almost comparable to the work of first year students. I was let down but happy to know that I did not have to export the film just yet for grading. I would rather keep exports as minimal as possible to keep quality at 100% and do the job myself.

One of the test grades from ShootingPeople:

A poor effort and not what we were going for. It does not like filmlike and there is no style to it. I know it is a trailer but we were able to decide best on that draft.


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