Finish Once, Delivery Many: Editing a Stunning Documentary in HDR with Resolve
The filmmakers behind the upcoming "The River and the Wall" wanted a visually stunning documentary in HDR with Dolby Atmos audio. Here's how they pulled it off.
There are many perks of NAB: meeting the people behind the tools you use every day, seeing the latest and greatest new tools you might use next year, and running into old friends. On top of all that are presentations, often by working filmmakers who are achieving projects with new workflows and tighter schedules than ever before.
LumaForge, makers of the popular Jellyfish shared storage device, put on the "Faster Together" series of talks which feature filmmakers and entrepreneurs presenting precisely how they are working right now and how they think things are going to go in the future.
One talk that stuck out to us was the team of the visually striking documentary The River and the Wall, talking about how they pushed a 4K HDR documentary through post.
Shot with two RED cameras, a Panasonic EVA1, and the Inspire 2 drone from DJI, the trailer shows an obvious focus on crafting imagery that can transport an audience immersively into the actual land and water that makes up the majority of the US border with Mexico. Of course, that's a wide array of media types, including RED Raw, Cinema DNG raw from the Inspire 2, and 10-bit HEVC files from the EVA1. One discovery they made was that the process of ingesting for Premiere, their original planned editing platform, was too slow to enable them to make their post calendar work, so after starting out the project in Premiere, they made the game-time decision to switch to Resolve.
The perks of Resolve on this project boiled down to the ability to have three people, a lead editor, an assistant editor, and an additional editor, working on the 400 hours of footage at the same time in the same project, which was, of course, enabled by having the media all on the shared Jellyfish storage. This, combined with the ability of Resolve to use all the GPU power you throw at it to play high bandwidth media in real-time, made Resolve the right editing platform.
Once you add in the desire for a 4K HDR finish, which would be executed in Resolve, and the decreased need for a handover created by working in Resolve throughout, it seems like they made the right decision for their project and timeline.
Another perk of the transition was the power of metadata and search, which, when dealing with massive amounts of documentary data, is a huge timesaver. At the end, the ability to do a fully Dolby Vision PQ final finish grade in the same platform you edited is also a timesaver. They managed to finish in Dolby Atmos as well, though there was no discussion of Fairlight, we can reasonably assume this wasn't done in Resolve. Fairlight is improving, but getting audio mixers to switch is even harder than getting editors to switch and it's likely the mixer wanted to stay in ProTools.
They are also honest about some of the limitations of working in Resolve, including the long load time on big shared projects, and some hiccupy behavior when playing render cached media.