By Nicholas Restuccio
Director Tim Miller’s Deadpool is action-packed, vulgar (in a good way) and a ton of fun. It’s also one of the few Hollywood blockbusters to be edited entirely on Adobe’s Premiere Pro.
On the Saturday following the film’s release, Adobe hosted a panel on the Fox Studios lot that included Deadpool’s post supervisor Joan Bierman, first assistant editor Matt Carson and Adobe consultants Vashi Nedomansky and Mike Kanfer. Here are some takeaways…
Why Premiere Pro?
According to Bierman, much of the credit for choosing Premiere Pro for the edit goes to Tim Miller. “Even before we had a crew, Tim knew he wanted to do this,” she said. Miller, a first-time feature director is no stranger to technology — he is co-founder of Culver City’s Blur Studio, which specializes in visual effects and animation.
Miller’s friend, director David Fincher, is a big advocate of Adobe Premiere. It’s likely his using it to edit Gone Girl — the first feature cut with the product — inspired Miller. The rest of the credit goes to Ted Gagliano, president of post production at Fox, for giving the go ahead for the road less taken.
Training and Storage
The first step in this undertaking was getting all the editors and assistants — who were used to editing on Media Composer and Final Cut — trained on Premiere. So they brought in editor Vashi Nedomansky — a Premiere Pro workflow consultant — who spent an initial three weeks training all five editors and established the workflow. He then returned for at least 12 days during the next nine months to further refine the workflow and answer questions both technical and editorial.
Additionally, he showed them features that are unique to Premiere, such as Dynamic Linking to After Effects projects and tapping the tilde (~) key to “full screen” the workspace section. “In our shared editing environment, because the editors were all coming from an Avid workflow, we treated Premiere Pro sequences as Avid bins,” explained Nedomansky. “Because Premiere Pro only allows one open project at a time… we shared sequences like you would share bins in Avid to allow all the editors access to the latest cuts.”
The next step was to get the multi-user editorial environment set up. They wanted to have several users, assistant editors and editors, get in and start working on the film simultaneously, without crashing into each other and corrupting files.
Jeff Brue’s Open Drives provided storage for the film via its product Velocity, which delivered 180TB of solid-state storage. With 5GB/s of “normal” throughput, the team had projects that would open in less than two minutes.
The solution to the multi-user access problem was much simpler and lower tech. When someone was working on a project file, they would move it to their named directory so nobody opened it mid-edit. Then, once they were done, they moved it back. So a little discipline went a long way in making sure that sharing media in a multi-user environment was stress-free.
When they needed a sequence in a project, they were able to link to it from another Premiere project without harming the source project. All of this allowed them to keep everything, as Nedomansky put it, “contained, safe and sharable.”
Re-Framing and Multi-Format Shooting
With all this in place, the team was ready to start cutting the wide array of footage the crew was producing. The film was shot primarily on the Arri Alexa at 3.2K RAW, but footage was also captured on 5K and 6K Red cameras and at least one Phantom. All of the footage was downsized to the common container format of 2048×1152 for the offline in Premiere and encoded in ProRes LT. This allowed them to do a center extraction, which gave the director and editor the ability to re-frame when they wanted to.
For the online, they went back to the Arri RAW, or other RAW formats, depending on their needs. The center extraction gave them a lot of creative freedom, so much so that they reframed the entire movie in the online. “If I had it to do over again I would have done it [the reframing] in a cheaper room” said Bierman.
Throughout the edit, the post team was burning its way through Mac Pros — the Macs were having an issue with the ATI D700 cards in OS X. In all the team burned through 10 of the cards, which would occasionally melt down on renders.
“There were some incredibly complex reels on Deadpool,” says Kanfer. “At one point midway through the production real five was taking over 10 minutes to load. Our engineers quickly regrouped and within a week were able to optimize the situation and the same reel took only 2 1/2 minutes to load once the fix was made. Other less complex reels in the film loaded in a minute or less.”
The sound team had to create a slight workaround for audio turnovers. In a traditional Avid workflow, the hand off to Avid Pro Tools is relatively seamless — as you would expect since they are made by the same company — but going from Premiere required a little more effort. The package was the same as a normal sound turnover, including QuickTimes, guide tracks and EDLs, along with the AIFs. The trouble occurred when the conform wasn’t always in sync with what had been turned over.
Adobe looks at all of this as an opportunity to make their product even stronger. They said their engineers on the Adobe team “love to tackle problems and there is no better place to tackle those problem than live on an edit.”
Final Take Away
Even with training the editorial team to use a new program, working through audio conform hiccups and a pile of dead Mac towers, the team produced a polished film that had the best opening weekend for an R-rated film in history.
With improved sound turnover options hinted at for future versions of Premiere, we will very likely see more “Edited with Adobe Premiere Pro” logos in future film end credits.