What is onlining?
Before color grading can begin, a film must be onlined.
Onlining is the process of moving the timeline from the editing software (in this case, FCP X) into the color grading software (DaVinci Resolve) while retaining your original media and cuts. Frame rate conversions, up-resing or a variety of other technical steps that may be needed are also handled during this phase.
Some of our clients choose to do the onlining of their film on their own, and some opt for an onlining session.
If you choose to do your own onlining, we can accept a color-ready DaVinci Resolve project that you have authored. We can begin the grade once we transfer and relink your media on our Linux workstation. We normally request 1 full business day to complete that process.
If you choose an onlining session, you can deliver a drive with your FCP X project and original media on it, and our technicians will take it from there.
On the estimate we initially send you, we will list a set amount of time that our technicians calculate it will take for your onlining session. If there are any unforeseen complications that would make onlining take longer than estimated, we reach out for approval before continuing. We make sure you won’t have any surprises on the bill.
How do I prepare for the online?
We find that clients who prepare their timelines in advance save valuable time (and money!) in their onlining and grading sessions. Here are our top 5 tips for preparing your timeline in FCP X.
- Join any through-edits.
A through-edit is when you use the blade tool to make a cut in a continuous clip. Each of these clips will be seen as unique in DaVinci Resolve. That can mean extra copy-pasting of grades, re-tracking movement, and other manual procedures that aren’t a good use of time.
In FCP X, a through-edit will look like a dotted line. You can perform a Roll Edit to the end of the clip to join your through-edit.
- De-nesting your Compound Clips
DaVinci Resolve sometimes has trouble reading Compound Clips correctly from FCP X. Therefore, we recommend separating them before the online.
Right-click your compound clip and choose “Break Apart Clip Items,” or press Shift+Command+G. The compound clip will separate into its original elements in the main storyline.
Make sure that your edit is still the same once you have done this, as it can sometimes alter the timing and position of your clips.
- Remove unseen footage.
As you edit, you may have many layers of footage, some of which are not visible in the cut. If you don’t see it in the final piece, it’s better not to have it on the timeline.
For example, perhaps you are making a documentary and you have some b-roll on top of the shot of your interviewee speaking. You do not see the speaker, but you’ve left their video underneath the b-roll since you hear their voice. Before your online, it’s a good idea to unlink those video clips from their audio and delete the video that is not seen.
DaVinci Resolve will see any cut in the timeline as a possible shot to be graded, so try to simplify as much of your cut as possible to the Primary Storyline before the online. This will prevent wasted time grading (or remembering not to grade) those clips which are not necessary.
- If you’ve been using proxy or optimized media, remember to reconnect your full-resolution files.
It’s important to color grade using your absolute best quality footage. Even if your proxies are high resolution, we still want the footage from the camera in its original format so we can achieve the best look in the grade.
To switch off your proxy files in your project, go to View in the top right corner of the viewer and choose Optimized/Original.
If you have created optimized clips and want to use your originals, you can delete the optimized material by going to File > Delete Generated Event Files > Delete Optimized Media
- Media Management
For the online and the grade, we only need the raw footage that is present in the cut. There may be hundreds of clips that were shot that didn’t make the final edit, so it’s faster and more efficient to make a smaller pool of resources to transfer over.
An easy way to transfer only the files you need is to make a new Library on your transport hard drive. Drag your finished Project to a new Event in your new Library. That will copy only the media needed for that Project, and that is the Library you can bring for the onlining session.
A bonus is that by deselecting the two boxes “Include: Optimized media” and “Include: Proxy media” you are also ensuring again that you are using your best quality original media.
Note: This step is only for projects who chose Copy to Library during the import phase. If you chose Leave files in place, you will have to manage your media by consolidating your project. For detailed instructions on how to do that, go to https://support.apple.com/kb/PH15838?locale=en_US
Most filmmakers opt to color grade a textless master, then add their text and graphics later on.
However, if you are planning to finish your project in the grading session, be aware that titles created in FCP X will not look the same in DaVinci Resolve after the transfer, so be sure to export them as high-resolution video clips that can be edited back in. We can recommend a codec to you based on your project.
Lower thirds, subtitles or any other text/graphics over picture will need a transparent background.
Many built-in effects and transitions in FCP X will not transfer to DaVinci Resolve. Basic crossfades and dissolves typically work fine, as do cropping/zooming and keyframed movement. If you need an effect that won’t transfer, you may want to consider round-tripping that segment back to FCP X or exporting a clip with the effect baked in. The onlining technician can work with you to achieve this.
If you are working with a VFX artist, make sure that their exports are in the correct color space and format to match the rest of your clips. This will make it easier to match the color of your other clips.
There are some visual effects that a colorist can achieve. However, it may not be the most cost-effective division of labor. A good rule of thumb is that if the colorist can fix it in under 10 minutes, go for it. If not, save it for your VFX team and let the colorist focus on color. Same goes for adding titles and making changes to the edit.
Is there something else you wish you had known before onlining from FCP X? Have a question that’s not answered here? Please let us know! We’re happy to help.
Best of luck with your film!