Quick Post-Production Workflow for the Phantom Flex4K
The Phantom Flex4K is an interesting beast - it was designed to sit precisely at the intersection of a true cinema camera and an absurdly fast high-speed camera. As such, it records in many formats - some familiar, like ProRes, and some a little less so such as their proprietary RAW format. Let’s look at what to do with the second one.
What Software do I Use?
Vision Systems’ .Cine format is an uncompressed RAW format saved as an image sequence. It is unfortunately not recognized by finder, quicktime, VLC media player, or in fact most playback applications without a $199 plugin. However, this does not mean you are out of luck. When renting a Phantom camera, you can almost guarantee that the owner will include a laptop with Seance, a program that reads and exports the .cine files. From there, BlackMagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve will let you edit, color, and transcode your .cine files - for free.
1 - Import into Seance
The very first step is to insert your CineMag IV into the Cinestation IV, and plug the CineStation IV into your computer by way of a 10g ethernet connection. And unless you're editing on the brand new iMac Pro, that will mean running it through a USB or Thunderbolt adapter. Open Seance and it will detect the CineMag, asking you to name it.
2 - Color and Trim in Seance
At this stage, you can adjust white balance, sharpness, saturation, and all the basic attributes of your clips. You can also set in and out points of the clips, sparing you from importing the whole thing if you only need a key moment from the middle. Especially when shooting quick actions, this has the potential to to save you a mountain of time and storage.
3 - Download to your Local Drive
Once all of that is done, then highlight the clips you want to keep and click the Download button on the bottom-left of Seance. It will ask you to confirm their names. If you are satisfied, then hit Save and let the process run its course. Once the clips are saved to your hard drive, then we will move into DaVinci Resolve
4 - Log In to DaVinci Resolve
If this is your first time opening Resolve, either set up a new user account or simply log in as ‘guest’ for now. This is not a terribly important step unless multiple people will be using this same workstation and you want to keep your work isolated.
5 - Import Clips
DaVinci has supported .cine files natively since version 11, so it’s as simple as dragging and dropping them into your media bin. Alternatively, you can navigate to them through the built-in media browser.
6 - Adjust Camera RAW Settings
Click the gear in the bottom-right corner of the Edit tab, and look for the menu called Camera RAW. This defines how the program will interpret your .cine clips. It controls everything from the color space to the same kind of sharpening, white balance, and adjustment sliders you saw in Seance. Choose the Phanom Cine RAW Profile, and then choose "Decode Using Project." From here you can choose a REC.709 look, or one of two log profiles, and adjust them to taste. The changes that you make here will define the baseline look of all your clips inside of Resolve.
7 - Edit Your Clips
In the editing tab, add your clips to the timeline. Here you can preview them, trim them if you like, or go all in and edit the film right in DaVinci Resolve. With every update, Resolve becomes a more and more capable editor - many people already swear by it as a cheap alternative to Premiere or FCPX.
8 - (Optional) Color Grade Your Clips
In the color tab, you can choose to grade your clips or apply a LUT to simplify the rest of your post-production. DaVinci uses “nodes” to organize your tweaks instead of the layer structure that is more common in other applications. This can take a minute to get used to, but in practice isn’t too difficult. To get started, all you need to know is that pressing Alt+S or Option+S to creates a new node after the one you were just working in. Think of it as a new layer on top, if you like.
9 - Export Your Clips
When you are done cutting and coloring the clips to your satisfaction, you can export them in a variety of formats by switching to the final tab. If you are not cutting and finishing right here in Resolve, you should choose a less-compressed codec family such as ProRes or DNxHD to preserve your footage for the final edit. In the right-hand column, also select “Individual clips” so that DaVinci Resolve will keep all of your clips separate. If you ARE finishing here, then a more streaming-friendly codec like h.264 is going to be your friend. Either way, once you are all set just hit “Start Render” to export your .cine clips in the format of your choice. Now you can take them anywhere!