Maintaining Quality - Dragonframe / Premiere / After Effects


I have been shooting some stop-motion in Dragonframe. I wanted to work with the RAW files to keep it as high quality as possible. I will need to do some rig removal in After Effects CS5, and I was planning to edit in premiere pro CS5.

I have been unable to import the Raw (CR2) image files into premiere pro CS5.

Do I need to convert somehow, and if so how can I maintain maximum quality whilst moving between all 3 programmes? Or would I need to use later versions of the same programmes?

Any help would be appreciated.

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OK, I asked the same sort of questions a year ago, so I'll try to pass on what I learned.

You can't import RAW files into PPro. You need to import Tiffs or Jpegs (or quite a lot of other things, but not RAW files). What I do is to select all the RAW frames I need, then open them in Photoshop, which brings up a Camera RAW dialog box with lots of image controls. I think you can do the same with After Effects, although I haven't tried it. The box allows you to crop to 16:9, fiddle about with exposure and color etc etc. You can synchronize the frames, so whatever applies to one applies to all. And you can set the export criteria. I export uncompressed Tiffs, at 2048 x XXXX (slightly bigger than HD) and put them in the file next to my originals. The really important thing is NOT to open them in Photoshop or AE, but just to save them to file. Then I can import the Tiffs into PPro for editing as an image sequence.

The thing that confused me back along was that I thought it was necessary to export clips into something like a QuickTime movie in order to shift it along to AE. I found that when I exported I lost image quality and color. Now I have learnt that it is best to avoid rendering for export until one has the final product.

One thing that makes life harder is that you might apply an effect in AE, then try to move the clip back into PPro. Unless the effect is supported by PPro, you can't do this. Therefore the workflow is to edit in PPro, ignoring all the rig removal and effects for now, then shunt the clips along to AE to do all that, then finally export. 

Have a look at some useful recent threads such as: Framerates, Exporting and Workflow, where I got some incredibly useful answers from the experts. Another is Colour Management. These are just a couple where I was asking questions. Have a look through several threads, then paste the useful replies into a document that you can use when you are working on the sequences.

That's how I learnt to do it! There's loads of useful advice on this website. You just have to look at where others have asked the same questions.

Wow. Thanks Simon.

That's brilliant! I did some research yesterday. I tried to get DC Raw for file conversion but couldn't get a copy that worked. Then I decided to work with the high res jpegs that I had in Dragonframe. What was confusing me was what file types are best quality, and whether the high res jpegs would be good enough, or if I should be converting these to something else anyway.

I am not going to make a great deal of changes and am also limited with time on this project.

I'll check out the other threads. Thanks again.

The idea of working with the RAW frames is that you have more controls when you process them than you would with Jpegs. If you're short of time, probably better to stick with Jpegs.

Bear in mind that if you shoot hi-res you have plenty of options to crop the frame without losing quality, i.e. dropping below 1920 x 1080. Make sure you set your Project Settings right in PPro when you set up. There is a list of available presets, and if you go for HDTV (as I did once foolishly) you end up with something that is the wrong size. Assuming you are working in HD, you need the appropriate DSLR setting.

One other thing. I have been recommended to work at 25 fps throughout the workflow, as I will be exporting at this rate. You can set it in Dragonframe, and then it carries over automatically into PPro. But if you animate at 24 fps in DF, then decide to edit at 25 fps, PPro will automatically interpolate frames, so you need to change the framerate using the Interpret Footage menu.

The other thing to say is that for best quality, you render out right at the end of the process, so the Adobe suite allows you to move the footage through without having to export/render.

Gosh, it sounds like I know what I'm doing now! It was only a year ago that I was struggling to get the footage into PPro myself! Good luck!

Thank you!

yes. AE allows you to import a raw image sequence just like a jpep image sequence and even prompts you to do so if you select a raw file...

Thank you. I am going to mainly use PPro for now as I am short of time and more familiar with it, then do some tutorials later, so that's good to know.

Do you know how to crop to 16:9 within PPro, and how to export without distortion? It seems like it should be really simple. I've been trying to do this and reading other sites but have not been able to make it work.

"sequence settings" the first item in the drop down list under "Sequence" on the top of the workspace. You can determine the aspect ratio 16:9 and other stuff there.

Thanks Stephen,

I have set to this. Hope you don't mind if I run through what I have done and where the issue is.

I set up the project with the settings HDV 1080p25, 16:9 and Capture HDV.

I have changed scale width of clips to 45%, so that the footage is as wide as the frame allows, so I believe that this means it will now be 16:9 if I export correctly?

When I go to export, every option I try seems to stretch it and actually make it quite tall. If I try to set the frame width to 1080x1442 it will not allow this as it says that it is too large (Invalid framesize/framrate for this level. Please lower the Frame Dimensions, Frame Rate or Increase the Profile and Level and try again)

I am planning to export for film festivals and another export for DVD.


I'm on set today so can't give you a complete answer... I would highly recommend a tried and true After Effects workflow:

1- Open new project ( "custom" 1920x1080, 23.976 fps, square pixel )

2- "import", "import file", select first still image in folder, select "jpeg image sequence" ( or Raw image sequence, depending on how you shot it in camera ), select "force alphabetical order", "ok"

3- that sequence appears in AE bin, drag it to your timeline

4- Open that layer to "transform" options ( or command t ) "scale" it down to 35% ( if you shoot on a full frame camera ( Canon 5dmk3 for example ). Otherwise manually scale it to fit 1920x 1080 composition

5- You loose a bit on the top and bottom. Drag image to crop as you like.

6- Click "Composition" tab, then "add to render queue..."

7- Select the render queue tab, click "Output module" tab and choose "Custom, apple prores HQ, 1920 x 1080, square pixel, 23.976 fps, click "ok"

8- click "Output to" tab and name and determine where you want to save the video, click "render"

9- After it renders, you will have a large, standard, pro format video clip in 16x9 aspect ratio to just drag into Premiere, Final Cut, whatever....

Hope this helps!!!! Back to set for me.....

Thank you - so much.

I've just tried this now. I don't have those options in the 'Output Module' tab so  tried exporting as jpegs but I can see that it probably wasn't square pixels as it is stretched a bit horizontally. I will look up what those settings you gave me mean, and see whether it is an option in my version (CS5).

Oh, and is there any reason why I should do this at 23.976fps, when I have shot at 25?

You should have an output tab.... ( I'm running AE CS6, but I remember it was also on CS5... )

I think the prob might be in using the hdv preset ( not sure ), but you might want to avoid all presets and select "custom" 1920x1080, 23.976fps. You set the codec to prores422 HQ on outputting it ( in render queue ). Several of the presets lock in other aspect ratios ( 1080x720 for example ) or interlaced instead of progressive ( 1080i vs 1080p ), other frame rates 25, 30, etc. I recommend prores422 HQ as it's not too compressed, not too huge ( like "animation" codec ), is an ok colour space ( 422 ), FCP and AE handle it well and is very common format for most production pipelines/ workflows.

I don't know what camera you shot the stills on, but a full frame sensor ( 5d for example ) is sized to 35% to fill a 1920x1080 ( from left to right with a little bit cropped off the top and bottom ).

Some codecs interpret rectilinear pixels instead of square pixels ( and you get that strange aspect distortion when exporting ).

To keep it simple I attached the two main menus I referred to; composition settings and ouptut in the render queue. Hope this helps...


I’ve found it. Thank you. All seems to work now! I'm very happy.

I use a Canon 450D, which does not have a full frame sensor. I worked out that I need to scale to 45%. The jpegs are 4272x2848. 1920 is pretty much 45% of 4272. It looks right. I don’t get why the mov file is really wide with black lines down the sides but when I import into PPro it looks fine. I would have thought that the window in AE would be 16:9 so you’d just be able to scale your image to fit into it by eye.

Just to clarify, are you saying that using the frame rate of 25fps could affect the aspect ratio? I didn’t quite understand why I would set up the AE project and export at 23.976 if I have animated at 25fps. And is it okay to import back into a PPro project of 25fps?

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