The concept of offline and online editing goes back to the origins of film editing. Work print was cut by the film editor during the creative stage of the process and then original negative was conformed by the lab and married to the final mix for the release prints (with a few steps in between). The terms offline and online were lifted from early computer lingo and applied to edit systems when the post process shifted from film to video. Thus offline equates to the creative editorial stage, while conforming and finishing services are defined as online.
Digital nonlinear edit systems evolved to become capable of handling all of these stages of creative editorial and finishing at the highest quality level. However, both phases require different mindsets and skills, as well as more advanced hardware for finishing. And so, the offline/online split continues to this day.
If you are an editor cutting local market spots, YouTube videos, corporate marketing pieces, etc, then you are probably used to performing all of these tasks on your own. However, most major commercials, TV shows, and films definitely split them up. In feature films and high-end TV shows, the film editors are separate from the sound editing/mixing team and everything goes through the funnel of a post facility that handles the finishing services. The latter is often referred to as the DI (digital intermediate) process in feature film productions.
You may be cutting on Media Composer, Premiere Pro, or Final Cut Pro, but the final assembly, insertion of effects, and color correction will likely be done with a totally different system and/or application. The world of finishing offers many options, like SGO Mistika, Quantel Rio, and Filmlight Baselight. But the tools that pop up most often are Autodesk Flame, DaVinci Resolve, and Avid Symphony (the latter for unscripted shows). And of course, Pro Tools seemingly “owns” the audio post market.
Since offline/online still exists, how can you use modern tools to your advantage?
If Apple’s Final Cut Pro is your main axe, then you might be reading this and think that you can easily do this all within FCP. Likewise, if you’ve shifted to Resolve, you’re probably wondering, why not just do it all in Resolve? Both concepts are true in theory; however, I contend that most good editors aren’t the best finishers and vice versa. In addition, it’s my opinion that Final Cut is optimized for editing, whereas Resolve is optimized for finishing. That doesn’t make them mutually exclusive. In fact, the opposite is true. They work great in tandem and I would suggest that it’s good to know and use both.
Scenario 1: If you edit with FCP, but use outside services for color and sound, then you’ll need to exchange lists and media. Typically this means AAF for sound and FCPXML for Resolve color (or possibly XML or AAF if it’s a different system). If those systems don’t accept FCPXML lists, then normally you’d need to invest in tools from Intelligent Assistance and/or Marquis Broadcast. However, you can also use Resolve to convert the FCPXML list into other formats.
If they are using Resolve for color and you have your own copy of Resolve or Resolve Studio, then simply import the FCPXML from Final Cut. You can now perform a “preflight check” on your sequence to make sure everything translated correctly from Final Cut. Take this opportunity to correct any issues before it goes to the colorist. Resolve includes media management to copy and collect all original media used in your timeline. You have the option to trim files if these are long clips. Ideally, the DP recorded short takes without a lot of resets, which makes it easy to copy the full-length clip. Since you are not rendering/exporting color-corrected media, you aren’t affected by the UHD export limit of the free Resolve version.
After media management, export the Resolve timeline file. Both media and timeline file can go directly to the colorist without any interpretation required at the other end. Finally, Resolve also enables AAF exports for audio, if you need to send the audio files to a mixer using Pro Tools.
Scenario 2: What if you are doing everything on your own and not sending the project to a colorist or mixer for finishing? Well, if you have the skillset and understand the delivery criteria, then Resolve is absolutely your friend for finishing the project. For one thing, owning Resolve means you could skip purchasing Apple Motion, Compressor, and/or Logic Pro, if you want to. These are all good tools to have and a real deal from a cost standpoint; however, Resolve or Resolve Studio definitely covers most of what you would do with these applications.
Start the same way by sending your FCPXML into Resolve. Correct any editorial issues, flatten/collapse compound and multicam clips, etc. Insert effects and titles or build them in the Fusion page. Color correct. When it comes to sound, the Fairlight page is a full-fledged DAW. Assuming you have the mixing chops, then Fairlight is a solid stand-in for Logic Pro, Pro Tools, or other DAWs. Finally, export the various formats via the Deliver page.
Aside from the obvious color and mixing superiority of Resolve over Final Cut Pro, remember that you can media-manage, as well as render out trimmed clips – something that FCP won’t do without third-party applications. It’s also possible to develop proxy workflows that work between these two applications.
While both Final Cut Pro and DaVinci Resolve are capable of standing alone to cover the creative and finishing stages of editing, the combination of the two offers the best of all worlds – a fast editing tool and a world-class finishing application.
©2023 Oliver Peters
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