Or, “I WENT TO GO SEE DEADPOOL THIS WEEKEND, AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS MUG.”
Adobe invited me to see DEADPOOL on the 20th Century Fox lot in the Zanuck Theater (Atmos sound system) on Saturday, February 13. Who am I to say no to a free movie on a studio lot? Oh, and by the way…DEADPOOL WAS EDITED WITH ADOBE PREMIERE CC!!
In case you didn’t know. Hard not to, it was all over the Twitter-sphere and post production groups and sites. and yes, many of you will say things like “Man, I could totally tell it was edited on Premiere Pro!” in a sarcastic way, just like we do when Avid goes “HEY! All the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture and Best Editing were all cut on Media Composer!” We editors…and I’m guilty of this…will say “It’s all about the story. It doesn’t matter what tool was used to tell the story, it’s all about the skill and storytelling ability of the editor. You can’t tell if a movie was cut with Avid, Premiere, FCX or Lightworks.” And no, you can’t tell. Just like you can’t tell what tools were used to build a house. BUT…having a tool that helps the editing process go smoother, that helps the editor tell the story the way they want to…that is important.
This is something that I’m realizing more and more as I look at the features that each editing application brings to the table. They all have their strengths and weaknesses…all have areas where they do things better than the competition. This is why you choose one editing app over the another. You need to look at the workflow you want to tackle, the features that you need to accomplish what you want, and then use the editing application that best addresses those needs. In the case of DEADPOOL, the post team did just this, and felt that Adobe Premiere Pro would be the best choice.
The main reason for this is that it was a very effects heavy show…with a lot of speed ramps. The director, first timer Tim Miller, was already familiar with Adobe products as he is a visual effects artist with many features under his belt, and he knew he would be involved in the post process doing many of the speed ramp effects himself. And the ability to send from the editing app to After Effects to do this work and send it right back was a huge bonus. Now, I’m not sure if the editor, Julian Clarke has also done a lot of temp VFX work on the films he’s cut, this wasn’t mentioned in the post-screening talk (and he wasn’t there). But he has cut a lot of VFX films…so, maybe. So to look into the possibilities for how to best accommodate his needs, the team decided to look at Adobe Premiere Pro, and hired post consultant Vashi Nedomansky, an editor himself, and an expert with Adobe apps. Being an editor and consultant, he knew the real world workflows that would work best for the production. He came in very early on to discuss what equipment they would need, and how to best deal with the multiple cameras and formats they would be shooting.
OK…so I watched DEADPOOL in the Zanuck Theater equipped with an ATMOS sound system, and it was GREAT! Yeah, I mean the sound, but I also mean the movie. Very violent, with sex and nudity added…it really deserves that “R” rating. But it is gloriously self aware, and broke the 4th wall all the time, and in very creative ways. Amazing movie, with some amazing effects…tons of fighting, lots of speed ramps from normal speed to slow motion, CGI…the whole bit. Over 1200 VFX shots. This is what I learned in the post screening talk, hosted by Michael Kanfer of Adobe (who has an impressive list of IMDB credits). On the panel was the post consultant I mentioned before, Vashi. As well as the First Assistant Editor, Matt Carson and post supervisor Joan Bierman.
OK, so the post super, editor and other editorial staff were convinced that Premiere Pro would be the best option for this movie, and with a little effort they were able to convince the studio as well. Yes, you do need to convince the studio about all the tools used on films. They are very budget conscious, and want to make sure things go smoothly. And Avid has a proven track record and well established workflow, so they feel comfortable with it. Deviate from that choice and you need to convince them why. They convinced the studio that this would be the best option given all VFX nature of the feature.
But convincing wasn’t the last step, the post staff also needed training. Again, they relied on Vashi. Not only did he help provide them with the post workflow, but he also provided training to the editor, director and post staff. Vashi said that there were about 9 basic keyboard command that any editor needs to edit, and he taught those to the crew. He also asked how they liked their keyboards mapped, and spent time mapping each station to the needs of the person at the controls…making sure that their muscle memory was able to go unchallenged. Anyway, by lunch time all of the edit staff was able to dive in and edit away without much issue.
Now for some technical details. The film was shot on a variety of cameras, from the main camera, an Alexa shooting 3.5K to a 6K Red and 4K Phantom. They converted all to a common container…ProRes LT, 2048×1152 center extraction. If they needed to reposition the shot, they could easily do that at any time by going back to the masters. The Assistant Editors would receive the dailies from Encore in Vancouver and would sync them with the audio and then turn them over to the editor. Normally, when they cut on Avid, they were used to getting ALE files that contained metadata they relied on, such as color information that could be passed onto the VFX teams. As a workaround for this, they received CDL files that were integrated into the footage. When it was onlined, E-Film conformed the cut with the RAW masters.
They had five edit bays (including the VFX editor), all Mac based, using MacPro Tubes. All of the footage was stored on an Open Drive Velocity…a RAID server 180TB in size, consisting of several SSD drives. This system was used on GONE GIRL the year before, and proved to serve the production well. This system was able to meet the demands of playing back multiple streams of ProRes on five edit stations, without any delays or skipping during playback. It also allowed the projects to open quickly. Each reel of the film was a separate project, and the larger they got, the slower they were to open, and the more VFX shots in a reel, the larger they got. At one point the final reel, the most VFX heavy, took 10 min to open. But, with help from the Open Drive tech people and tweaking, they got it down to 2 min.
Now, I could go on and on about the post audio workflow issues and solutions, the change list challenges, the DI conform…but I don’t want to do that. Adobe will be posting the video of the event online soon, so you can watch that to see the issues and solutions. The main thing I want to talk about is primary reason they wanted to edit with Premiere Pro. What made them choose this over Avid or FCX, because that’s something I talk about all the time. There’s alway some flame war online about what editing app is THE BEST editing app out there. What is the BEST one to use for feature film cutting? For broadcast TV? What are the professionals using? And there will be shouting matching about this. “Avid all the way, baby!” “Come on, grandpa, look to the future! Tracks are for losers, FCX for the win!” Blah blah blah. The truth is they are ALL professional apps, it’s all about what’s best for the given situation. For this movie, the clear choice was Premiere Pro, because of it’s integration with After Effects. And I’ll explain why.
During the editing process, the director would send clips to After Effects for treatment…the most common of this was speed ramping, as I said before. Due to the tight integration of Premiere Pro and it’s ability to SEND TO After Effects, and have the clip link to the AE comp, it made this process very smooth. Vashi explained that one lesson they learned on Gone Girl was that simply linking to the AE comp caused the systems to really bog down. Especially when there were many instances of this. So Adobe came up with a way for After Effects and Premiere Pro to access the same render cache. That is, the same “render file.” So when the AE comp was finished, the editor could use a new feature called RENDER AND REPLACE. This would render the AE comp out to a Quicktime file, and Premiere Pro would link to that file, rather than the comp. But there would still be a dynamic link to the AE project. So if the AE artists would make a change to the comp (or in this case, the director), they would make the change, and back in Premiere all you’d have to do is again, RENDER AND REPLACE and the clip would render a new Quicktime clip from the comp and link to that. And this is a lot smoother, and a more simple, than rendering out of After Effects and importing into Premiere pro…and keeping track of the latest export and the export folder getting clogged with exports.
(Quick tech tidbit…the edit stations consisted of Mac Pro tubes…and during the production, they burned out TEN OF THEM! This was due to a hardware bug related to the D700 graphics cards that Apple eventually figured out. Several of the stations had external fans aimed down the tubes for additional cooling.)
So the director and editor could send a clip to After Effects, adjust the speed, go back to Premiere Pro and hit RENDER AND REPLACE and there it was. If it didn’t quite look right, they’d do it again until it was right. And then move on and continue cutting. And then they locked that VFX shot, they could take that After Effects project and relink it to the RAW camera file and redo the composition in 4K, full resolution. And then link that up in Premiere pro and reframe as needed.
If they used Avid, or FCX, they’d have to do the old fashioned way of exporting files and importing into the NLE and that would slow them down. And this movie was FULL of speed changes. Every fight scene had multiple speed ramps. So this really sped up the edit, and kept the post schedule short…and a shorter post schedule is good on the budget, which makes the studio happy. And this was a good thing as they didn’t actually lock picture until a few days before the premiere.
One favorite feature of Matt, the AE, was the idea of “Stacked Timelines.” Where in FCP you could have multiple timelines open at the same time, as TABS (and where in Avid you can only have one timeline, period…unless you open one in the Source monitor). What that is, is you can have two timeline windows open at once…and stack them like pancakes, one on top of the other. They used stacked timelines in a couple ways. One way was to have all the selects in one timeline, and then build the cut in another…dragging the footage from the top timeline do the bottom. This helped them track how far along the selects they were, and how much time they had remaining. The other benefit was in comparing new cuts and old cuts. One of Matt’s duties is to work on the temp mix…when the editor finishes a scene, he takes it and adds music and sound effects. And then when the editor goes back and does changes, Matt can stack the two timelines and compare them…see where the changes occurred, or new stuff was added, and address those areas. Often he’d be doing the temp mix while the scene was still being cut, so the editor wasn’t working with his temp mix, still just doing scene work. So when the scene work was complete, Matt could compare the scenes, drag over the work he had done and then continue work on the new areas. Coming from FCP, I’m a big fan of having access to multiple sequences at the same time.
So there you have it…one reason why Premiere Pro was the best option for editing DEADPOOL. It didn’t take long to train the editorial staff in using it…the editor wasn’t hindered by unfamiliarity, he was still able to focus on story and not really worry about the technical as much as he might with another NLE. A few hours training and he was off! Could you look at the movie and tell it was cut on Premiere Pro? No…and that’s the beauty. We aren’t supposed to be able to tell. Editing is best when it’s invisible, so that we, the audience, can concentrate on the enjoyment of the movie. Premiere Pro was the tool that enabled the editor and director to tell the story they way they wanted to.
Now, one tidbit that I wanted to mention, a story related tidbit. The fact that Deadpool had a full face mask enabled the filmmakers to retool dialog where needed. Make the jokes better, because he really could be saying anything under that mask. And they did that quite a bit. Ryan Reynolds would send them temp ADR all the time…and they’d cut it in and replace it with final ADR when they locked the scene dialog. This makes me hope that they release the alternate jokes as a special feature on the BluRay.
OK, enough chat. Go see the movie. The laughs start right away with the open credit scene, and continue after the credit roll ends. Typical of Marvel movies, this has a bonus scene at the end of the credit roll.
(For more on the workflow for this film, head on over to the ProVideo Coalition where Steve Hullfish interviews Vashi Nedomansky. And watch this video from a panel at this years Sundance festival, where they talk workflow for Hail Cesar and Deadpool)