Making the Cut

To make sure that TV fans can get their daily dose of drama, German TV production firm UFA Serial Drama uses modern cloud technology and takes advantage of proxy workflows, real-time rendering, and Team Projects in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

Image courtesy of UFA.
Making the Cut
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UFA Serial Drama GmbH revolutionized the German TV market in 1992 with Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten (Good Times, Bad Times). Airing this award-winning format, the production company brought the very first daily series to German TV screens. Since then, UFA Serial Drama has created many successful show brands and produced over 25,000 episodes. The most well-known series include Unter uns (Among Us), Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love), Hinter Gittern (Behind Bars), Verliebt in Berlin (In Love in Berlin), and Alles was zählt (All That Matters).

UFA Serial Drama is also continually setting new standards behind the scenes. After all, the only way to produce multiple episodes and bring enjoyment to millions of viewers every single day is by using state-of-the-art, efficient production methods.

To make sure that UFA Serial Drama employees at the German production sites in Berlin, Potsdam, and Cologne, as well as in Budapest, Hungary, are able to collaborate seamlessly every day, the series specialists focus on the key element in the production chain — video editing. In fact, UFA Serial Drama GmbH has been using Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Creative Cloud for three years now. The cutting-edge workflows in Premiere Pro help the film crews to significantly reduce the amount of time spent shooting on set, automate non-creative work processes, and make the collaborative editing of video footage across sites much easier.

Adobe Premiere Pro works the way modern editors work

Adobe has tenaciously optimized Premiere Pro CC to support the way modern editors work, providing them with a broad range of editing features and much more creative control over the entire project with tools for color, graphics, and audio. Since Premiere Pro CC supports an exceptionally wide range of native media formats, editors can combine and cut footage from different cameras and in different resolutions and codecs in a single timeline. What’s more, powerful proxy workflows enable the use of lower-resolution working copies, making post-production at UFA Serial Drama less dependent on state-of-the-art computer hardware.

Fewer takes, more output help UFA Serial Drama fast-forward to the finale with Premiere Pro CC

Being able to combine video footage in different resolutions in a single timeline and edit high-resolution material using lower-resolution working copies (proxy workflow) is ideal for UFA Serial Drama’s production workflow. The series producer, a subsidiary of UFA, is increasingly shooting in 4K/UHD, although viewers will eventually only be able to watch the series in lower-quality Full HD. After all, 4K/UHD offers around four times as many pixels as Full HD, enabling cropping and virtual camera movements during post-production without any visible loss of quality.

For example, when filming dialog scenes in the past, the film crew would have to make many more adjustments to cameras, lighting, and sound for a long shot and close-ups on the actors speaking. Since up to 100 people, such as actors, extras, technicians, and assistants, may be involved in a shoot, this meant a lot of time wasted waiting around. Now, however, only one camera set-up is needed on location because post-production supports digital panning and zooming.

“Using the reframing approach, shooting now takes up to 20% less time on average,” says Philip Schlicht, Postproduction Supervisor at UFA Serial Drama GmbH. “However, that only works because we are then able to create the necessary zoom shots and camera movements easily in Premiere Pro CC.”

Because both the original 4K/UHD footage and the lower-resolution proxies can be imported directly from the camera and edited in Premiere Pro, the time-consuming process of transcoding is no longer required. Even offline/online relinking — the replacement of proxies with the source files — is no longer necessary. With Premiere Pro, editors can decide at any time whether they would prefer to work with the smaller proxies or the CPU-intensive original 4K/UHD files — depending on which is better for the relevant editing step.

If multiple cameras are used simultaneously for a shot, audio and video tracks no longer need to be aligned manually during post-production. Premiere Pro does this automatically based on the timecode — both for the high-resolution source files and the proxy files.

UFA Serial Drama plans to expand the Adobe based proxy workflow to entire program brands

UFA editors can edit 4K/UHD sequences in Premiere Pro as quickly as if it were Full HD material, without losing the qualitative benefits the better resolution standard offers. “We benefit hugely in our day-to-day work,” says Philip. “Switching to the Adobe proxy workflow was a giant leap for us. Premiere Pro CC is a real blessing for the entire production process.”

So far, the proxy workflow has been used on two long-running series productions. Since upgrading, Premiere Pro is all it takes to implement the process, and UFA Serial Drama plans to gradually expand it to all of its productions. “The fact that we don’t need to expand our server infrastructure for the proxy workflow is one of the biggest benefits overall,” says Philip. “We can just get started and it simply works.”

Video editing in the gigabit age: Team Projects facilitates cloud collaboration

While the Adobe proxy workflow speeds up work at one production site, UFA Serial Drama is also planning to further improve cooperation across sites with the aid of Adobe Creative Cloud. In spring 2018, the company launched a state-of-the-art data network that enables the teams at the German UFA sites to share video files at speeds of up to 10 Gbps.

The Team Projects cloud-based service is crucial to collaborative editing. Editors and effects specialists are able to share and jointly edit their projects via Creative Cloud. Team Projects takes care of versioning, helping to ensure that cooperation runs smoothly.

Utilizing Team Projects, UFA Serial Drama is once again pioneering a paradigm shift in modern production methods. This is because until now, editing projects have always been managed entirely in one location as transferring large amounts of data has been a challenge. If additional editors were required at short notice, they had to travel to the location where the material was waiting, which would impact tight schedules and production budgets.

This is no longer necessary in the age of the cloud. Using Team Projects, UFA editors in one location are able to support colleagues in another location and reduce the workload during peak production phases.

“Our talent management will benefit greatly from Team Projects,” says Philip. “Editors play a key role in production and often determine the quality of the creative end result. With Team Projects, we can better coordinate the workload across our sites and accommodate our employees’ personal lives more effectively because they are also able to work from home.

After all, despite the benefits of modern production technology, humans remain the most important creative element.

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