September 23, 2016 at 1:02PM


Editing 4k Feature Doc, Need some help

What's up everyone. I just wrapped shooting a feature length doc that we shot for the most part in 4K with a few different cameras and we need to get an editorial system that can handle everything. Here's what we shot on-

Sony F5 (MXF files, 4K)
Sony A7ii (MP4 files, 4K and 1080)
Canon 5D mark ii (MOV files, 1080)

In total, we have about 12 TB of footage that is being stored on a 16 TB Thunderbolt RAID G-Drive (we have backups on two other drives). We will be cutting on Adobe Premiere. This is the first time I've worked on a project of this size and don't come from an editorial background, so I need some help with the following questions. We also have a super limited budget for post, so I'm trying to be as resourceful as possible. I would also like to on-line edit since it seems like if a system can handle it, it will make delivering easier and we can spend less time transcoding and making proxies of every bit of footage we shot. But honestly I have no idea since I've only been reading message boards and don't have any first hand experience.

Here's what I need help with-

1.) Is it crazy to want to on-line edit? Or do I need to suck it up and hire an assistant editor to make proxies of all our footage so I can edit off-line? If so how long will that process take, how much money will it cost me, and how long will the on-lining process be?

2.) IF I edit online, I definitely need a new computer set up. Right now I have a 2012 Mac Book Pro (2.7 Ghz, 8gb RAM) and it's obviously not cutting it and could never take on a project this size. The new Mac Pro trash cans are way above budget (with our budget we could spend $2k - 3k.) I found a guy who customizes older Mac Pros with the following specs:

Intel Xeon Processor 2.88 - 2 x Quad Core (Eight Cores Total)
32GB of Memory
4096MB (4GB) GTX 970 * 5K & 4K ready
1TB Hard Drive
256gb Solid State Drive
4 x USB 3.0
Mac Pro 3,1 - 2.88Ghz Eight Core
USB 7.0 Sound Card

He customizes these for clients who often shoot 4K and they love his systems (so he says). What do you think? Will this system be able to handle 4k footage editing online with a project that has 12 TBs of footy? It doesn't have thunderbolt so I'd have to use USB 3.0 to connect the drive. Would that work?

3.) Right now I only have one drive (16 TB Thunderbolt RAID G-Drive and we already have 12 TBs of footage on it. Do I need to daisy chain additional drives to make the drive run more efficiently? I have never done this so if this is an insanely stupid question, apologies.

Any help or guidance is MUCH appreciated!!!!!!


To answer your questions:

1.) Proxys are only necessary if you system cannot handle the files sizes of your footage. If you want to work online in PP I would recommend decode everything into the same codec. ProRes will work just fine because it's made for NLE software. Depending on the bitrates different versions of ProRes can be used. For the 5D and the A7s II I would use ProRes 422 LT and for the F5 footage I'd use ProRes 422 HQ (except it's 444 color coded footage then use ProRes 4444).
It's also depending on what resolution you want the film to be. If you have the project in 1080 it will work much smother than in 4K in smaller machines.
But especially decoding the footage into other codecs will make it easier.

2.) This setup seems to right to handle the footage. Just keep all app data on the SSD and have the rest of the harddrive space free.
Otherwise, if you have 3K $ Budget for a editing system I would recommend a 5K iMac and a 2nd monitor plus some RAM memory the install later on (it's cheaper then buy the RAM directly build-in from Apple).
This setup will give you a really nice display able to screen your footage natively and with very true color and it's also made for 4K video edit. But it has less hardware power than the configuration you got for your MacBook. I would say this depends on what you need. For longterm edit I think it's better having a nice big screen which makes it easy to overlook everything than a small 15" monitor. Also it depends if you want to edit & travel with your computer or not.
But from my own experience (hardwere wise) I can tell you that a 5K iMac just works fine handling that kind of files and footage.

3.) If you decode your footage you need to store your new files temporarely. If you have 12 TB of footage now count about 14-16 TB of footage in ProRes (yes, this is the downside of decoding). If you decode it stepp for stepp you will need 20 TB in total for your project. So I would say another 4 TB would do the job (considering that you will delete the old files from that same drive but keeping a backup of them on some other drive).

I hope, I could help you with your questions and good luck for edit!

September 24, 2016 at 7:36AM

Eric Halbherr
Director, DP, Editor, Creative Storyteller

What's the advantage of decoding all the footage if Adobe Premiere Pro is built to optimize the cores so you can edit with Native footage without having to make all the codecs the same?

September 25, 2016 at 1:56AM

Joe Hes

> What's the advantage of decoding all the footage if Adobe Premiere Pro is built to optimize the cores so you can edit with Native footage without having to make all the codecs the same?

The advantage is that it will work faster, since this "just the same" is marketing bullshit from Adobe. There is, and always be a performance penalty on decoding demanding codecs on the fly, optimization or not.

September 26, 2016 at 7:37PM


I have a lot less powerful system and she edit mostly xdcam HD files with premiere. If i have to cut avchd files or h264 the playback and editing is really slow. But i would suggest you test this with your system if it works smooth with your files stick with it i would say. If you likte to collor grade in resolve or so you can still export your timeline in profess hq. The system you mention will definitely cut 4k. The problem sometimes with long gop files is that it asks a lot of math to code and decode the material so it makes it hard on your system. You can also transcode al of your material in proress proxy files edit it and relink with your original footage, create a consolidate transcode tis footage to profess hq for colour grading.

September 26, 2016 at 10:49AM, Edited September 26, 10:49AM


I wouldn't waste my time or storage space transcoding, this is not usually possible for documentaries because of the amount of footage.

I have edited three feature length documentaries off the native files, without any transcoding. In premiere just lower the resolution on the bottom of your source/record windows and you're good. For red footage I usually lower it to 1/8 or 1/16 and have edited alot of projects like that.

The only viable reason to transcoding would be to give you some more headroom in the color grade, as 10-bit files have a little more adjustability in their color space. As long as the footage was shot well (Exposure and white balance is correct) you do not need to transcode for color grading. If you are dealing with alot of bad footage that needs fixing, then prores could help a bit. Just transcode the timeline when you're done, this will save you from transcoding footage you'll never use.

I edit on a 2010 full spec'ed out imac and it still runs great, mostly because it still have a decent graphics card and processor. You're laptop could probably do it if you maxed out the ram and swapped in an ssd. Then hook it up to an external display and bam you should have what you need to get the work done. I edited my first features on a 5 year old 13 inch macbook pro and it was slow but got the work done. Rendering was no fun, but it got done.

September 26, 2016 at 11:10AM


>The only viable reason to transcoding would be to give you some more headroom in the color grade, as 10-bit files have a little more adjustability in their color space.

10-bit files will only have "more adjustability in their color space" if the camera has indeed captured 10-bit info before transcoding. Else, those would just be wasted bits (literally, 2 bits of the 10-bit transcoded file's color info will be either zero or junk values).

September 26, 2016 at 7:40PM


A prores file grades better than h.264, even if the original material is h.264

September 26, 2016 at 8:08PM


Jackie is right that the additional information is just zeros, but there are still some benefits.

From Atomos:

It's debatable how much difference you'll see in grading, and if that difference alone is worth the substantially larger file sizes.

In my experience, you'll see no difference in the quality of your grade.

However, there are other ways in which ProRes does help the grading process—it's much, much easier to render, and can play back better, which can speed up the process and can improve overall stability of the grading program. Counterintuitively, I've often chosen ProRes on weaker computers because it's so much easier on the processor to decode and play back vs. heavily compressed H.264.

ProRes will often "feel" better to grade because of this, and this can easily lead to a stronger grade.

And hard drives are cheap, so if you have the render time, go with ProRes!

September 27, 2016 at 3:13PM

David S.

If you're editing in PP and you're on the latest version, you can tell PP to automatically generate proxies for you. There are several tutorials about doing that, and it works really well. It's not transcoding to Prores (unless you want it to), but you can specify the transcode size and codec.

I just edited a 4k narrative project and I used the built-in transcoding to generate 720p proxies. PP uses Media Encoder to make the proxies while you're still able to edit, and it automatically links them for editing (hint: you do have to manually switch to the proxies when they're generated, but it's a one-button process), but it will automatically relink to the full-size files for exporting. Check it out - it's fantastic for my 2012 Macbook Pro laptop.

September 26, 2016 at 1:14PM

Michael Head
Director, DP

Like Michael said above me, PP has an integrated, mostly transparent proxy workflow now. If you notice the system bogging down, click a button and viola, you're working with lower res files and a simple toggle lets you switch back and forth for final rendering. Let it run overnight or work while its transcoding in the background. Depends on your system. Besides any bugs that invariably will crop up, it can't get any easier than that.

September 28, 2016 at 8:22AM

Motion Designer/Predator

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