We’ve previously gone on location with some of the artists who film our content, but the editors who take it to the next level have remained largely behind the curtain—until now.
Of the many unsung heroes behind our footage (independent cinematographers, directors, actors and actresses, drone and helicopter pilots, etc.), perhaps none play a larger role than our internal content team, who manually grade every single clip that ends up in our library. Here’s what that process looks like:
RAW versus Ready-to-Play
When we purchase the license for footage like this 4K mountain foliage clip, the actual footage comes in as a raw R3D file: the native format of RED digital cinema cameras that allows for lossless image quality and non-destructive editing.
These R3D files aren’t playable by most video players and in some ways are more akin to data files than typical “video” files. This is because they’re designed to store every bit of information recorded by your camera sensor, not just the information that ends up on screen.
Think of them as the “original negatives” of digital video. Like negatives, R3D files can be manipulated to produce an endless variety of results. Want to bring out the detail in the shadows or tone down the highlights in the snow and sky? An R3D file contains a wealth of “information” that audiences never end up seeing—which is why a fifteen-second clip can easily exceed 2 GB.
Members with premium subscriptions can download these original clips themselves and process them from scratch. For everyone else, we process the clips in advance and make them available in playable formats like MP4 and MOV. The resulting downloads are of the same quality and still highly editable, but are a fraction of the size and optimized for HD screens. (The native 4096 x 2160 resolution of raw R3D files would give you black bars on your screen if we didn’t convert them to 16:9 first.)
Color Grading 101
In addition to formatting the footage for a 16:9 ratio, our content team grades every piece of R3D footage in REDCINE-X software before it reaches our library as a 4K or HD download.
Their goal, essentially, is to enhance every clip by preserving its natural traits—leaving any stylized changes up to the individual user. Most often, this means synchronizing things like saturation, contrast, brightness, and white/black points to ensure a full dynamic range without any clipping.
Here’s the resulting before-and-after of the 4K mountain foliage clip referenced earlier:
The difference is dramatic—the result of bumping up the saturation and contrast to enhance natural colors, lowering the shadows to get a richer black point, and lowering the brightness and highlights to bring back detail in both the sky and shore.
Have a question for our content team? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we might just turn your question into a blog post.