More Assimilate Scratch Tutorials 

Below are seven more in-depth Scratch tutorials from Leandro and Andrew on the topics of output nodes, working with the tracker, RED meta data and more.

Using Dissolves to Animate Color Effects

In this tutorial, Leandro demonstrates how to use dissolves to animate color effects instead of traditional keyframing.  Working with a dissolve is often more flexible than keyframing and is ideal for scenes with scaffolds of complex animations. 

SCRATCH Tutorial: Using dissolves to animate color effects from ASSIMILATE on Vimeo.

Paint-out Visual Effects Using Texture Layers

Here Leandro demonstrates how to do paint-out VFX with texture layers by hiding a noticable flag that was left in the shot. By creating and softening a shape, the flag becomes indistinguishable from a nearby tree when blended together.  

SCRATCH Tutorial: Paint-out visual effects using texture layers from ASSIMILATE on Vimeo.

Using Scaffolds to Shape the Lighting of a Scene

In this video, Leandro demonstrates how to work with scaffolds in Scratch to carefully adjust the lighting of a scene.  The flexibility of Scratch allows Leandro to adjust the focus, intensity and shaping of light in the room. 

SCRATCH Tutorial: Using scaffolds to shape the lighting of a scene from ASSIMILATE on Vimeo.

Using Recursive Scaffolds for Creative Effects

In this tutorial, Leandro uses recusive scaffolds for tone mapping.  Recursive scaffolds sit on top of work already done, unlike unrecursive, which deal only with the base layer image.  With a recursive scaffold, Leandro is able to safely tonemap without affecting the highlights.


SCRATCH Tutorial: Using recursive scaffolds for creative effects from ASSIMILATE on Vimeo.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Tracker

Here, Leandro uses the tracker to change the color of our subject's dress as she runs behind and around a fountain.  By using both the tracker and manual keyframing, Leandro is able to turn a dark maroon into a brighter shade of red without affecting anything but the dress.

SCRATCH Tutorial: Tips for getting the most out of the tracker from ASSIMILATE on Vimeo.

RED Meta Data

In this tutorial, Andrew demonstrates how to adjust the meta data in RED files allowing changes to white balance, gamma curve, gains, color settings and more.  He also demonstrates how to change the meta data in multiple clips at a time in Scratch's Media Browser. 

SCRATCH Tutorial: RED Meta Data from ASSIMILATE on Vimeo.


Assimilate Scratch Tutorials

For an inside look at the Scratch system by Assimilate, check out six new tutorials that Leandro created covering some advanced techniques for color grading and compositing.  Local Hero is partnered with Assimilate, so we help each other out back and forth, which includes putting together the occasional tutorial.  There is some relighting, beauty work, VFX paint-outs and more.

Check them all out here:


SCRATCH Tutorial: Cleaning up human complexions from ASSIMILATE on Vimeo.


Camera Tussel on Varity

Matt Hurwitz of Variety did a great job summing up the current digital camera wars fighting for adoption in the indie film scene. It's RED vs. HDSLR vs. Alexa. Alexa continues to get glowing reviews, RED continues to have wide acceptance, with a loud faction of detractors, and HDSLR's are often seen as a fast and cheap miracle until you dig in and realize problems like line-skipping and rolling shutter.

A good read for where the industry generally is, but things could quickly change with the introduction of large sensor HD cameras like the Panasonic AF100 and the SONY PMW-F3.

Tech Tussle: Camera Contretemps on Variety



A film we finished recently, is available on video, VOD, Netflix, etc.. as of today.  The filmmakers call it "a comedy about drama" which is appropriate.  Rent it!  You'll enjoy...

The film was shot on RED and went through a traditional 2K DI at Local Hero.


Dailies from Alexa LogC ProRes

A question buzzing around right now is to figure out what the best way to create watchable dailies from the Arri Alexa when you shoot in LogC format with ProRes 4444.  I've done a lot of sniffing around, and there just isn't an easy desktop answer to applying a LUT when you do a mass transcode of your camera original files.

Compressor?  Nope.  Episode?  Looks like it had a RGB to YUV LUT function in previous versions, but not currently.  Gluetools?  Nope.  Silverstack? Looks like it will, but it isn't released yet.  Clipfinder?  Heard a rumor a LUT transcode is in the works, but no official word. Avid MetaFuze?  It has the option of applying a LUT when converting from DPX, but not for converting from Quicktimes.  Assimilate Scratch does a great job making dailies like this, but generally you only find that at a professional post house.

So for the DIY crowd, here are a couple of your desktop software options, first Final Cut Pro, then After Effects.

One of the guys on top of it all is Nick Shaw of Antler Post.  He made a Final Cut Pro plugin that simply adapts ARRI's very own LUTs that they made available to the public.  ARRI has currently taken them off their website, however they will be back soon as a LUT generator according to ARRI.

To get the plug-in (currently free), contact Nick Shaw using his website  I could make it available here, but I think he wants to know when people are using it.

Here is your workflow in Final Cut Pro (FCP from here out):

-Import all your camera original files (or import the XML files the Alexa makes with them).

-Drag all the clips end to end onto a Sequence timeline (make sure you say "yes' when FCP asks if you would like to match the sequence settings to the clips' settings).

-Start with the first shot, add the Alexa LUT effect to your clip.  Nick made versions for four different ISO settings.  800 is the standard, but each one basically just compensates a little for exposure.  Note it's not a perfect transformation if your shot isn't exposed exactly in the middle.  If it's underexposed or overexposed, it might seem more-so than it actually is in in the LogC file.  

-Tweak the settings to what you like-- there is the ability to burn in timecode or other chyrons.  There is also a saturation boost, set normally to 1.5 to bring the color up to normal.  (note:  it seems that Arri's 1D LUTs don't change the colors much, and their 3D LUTs change only the colors and not the gamma curve.)

-I experimented with adding a "gamma" adjustment effect before the Alexa LUT effect.  This seemed to quickly get me close to where I want to be with the exposure.

-Once you're happy with the effect settings, "Copy" the clip, select the rest of your clips in the sequence timeline, "Paste Attributes' and make sure "Effects" is checked.  Now all your clips should have the LUT applied.  You can feel free to tweak individual shots if you feel it's necessary, or even add other color correct effects yourself (maybe an exposure correction before you apply the lut).

-Now select all the clips in your sequence timeline, and drag them to the "Export Queue" (from the Window menu).

-The Export Queue will render all your individual clips using the Effects settings you just used, as well as keep your timecode and logging information intact to the new transcoded files.  In the Export Queue window you can set what format to transcode all the clips to (keep your clips selected), as well as what folder to export to, and even some naming options.  I recommend ProRes 422 HQ to stay in 10-bit colorspace, but honestly regular ProRes 422 (8-bit) is a great option as well, and will save a lot of drive space and work a little faster.

Suggestion: You would probably do yourself a favor down the line to keep the file names the same, and then pull your ProRes 4444 LogC footage onto a backup drive that you will later disconnect.  That way when you get to the finishing process (online), you can simply re-plug in your ProRes 4444 LogC footage drive (disconnect the ProRes Rec.709 footage), and do a "Reconnect Media" so that you will be back in LogC world before you (or your DI specialist) do the final color correction.  Don't keep your ProRes HQ dailies and ProRes 4444 dailies in the same place though, because then FCP might connect to the wrong media accidentally, since the names are the same.

Rendering time seemed to be about 1 to 1 (real time) using an 8-core MacPro.  Unfortunately FCP rendering is not multi-processor enabled (much, anyway).

You can also edit the LogC footage directly using Nick's plug-in.  It should work real time using the RT engine, but you should set the Frame rate to "Full" (usually Full) and the resolution to "Full" (usually Dynamic).  It played back fine in full frame rate and resolution with a yellow bar on an 8-core MacPro.  I don't recommend editing a long project this way, as it'll slow you down.  Better to get the transcode out of the way before you start.

Now a couple notes about it in After Effects CS5.

LogC is designed to work like a Cineon file (DPX) encoded in Log.  So therefore After Effects "Cineon Converter" effect works wonderfully, even at the default settings.

I was also pleased to see a new effect in CS5 that says "Apply Color LUT"  It uses 3d Luts (.3DL) ARRI's Fusion logC2film 3DL lut works just fine.  I applied that effect first, and then applied the Cineon Converter with the default settings.  It looks great even before tweaking, though you may want to adjust your black, white points and gamma, along with highlight roll-off.  The most effective way I could see how I was affecting the image was to lay a "levels" effect after it (no adjustments to it), and just using it to look at the histogram as I adjust the cineon settings.

Now how to automate this conversion?  That's another story.  Certainly you can quickly create a bunch of compositions and add them to the render queue (drag all your imported clips over the composition icon in the project window).  But then you would have to go into every composition to paste the effects settings onto every clip.  I'm sure there is a way to use AE's scripting engine to make this go much faster, but it would take some work putting that together.

The programming crowd is out the scrambling for a cleaner, automated system, and I can't wait until its ready.  Until then, I hope these suggestions are helpful.  If you've figured out your own system, please let me know below.

Andrew Wahlquist