How to prepare the project for color grading. – Updated

Logos Guide Export to Color Alphabet Films Alphabet Films

So you have finally finished the project and are ready to hand it off to a colorist for color grading.

But now what? Should you just export it to a prores file or are there any other options as well?

That’s what we’re going to find out. This guide covers Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve.

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    Common guidelines:

    The rule of thumb is to always simplify your project before handing it over. What does it mean?

    dirty timeline Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Here is a timeline that you usually expect to see when the edit is ready to ship.
    clean timeline Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    This is a simplified version. Footage is ungraded, without transitions, effects, or titles. No graphics to avoid interference with grading. Focus is solely on grading the clips. All the footage is on one track.

    Convert H265/H264 footage first

    Having footages in these containers is known to create issues in the grade afterwards. Such as:

    1. Timecode shifts.

    2. Stuttering playback.

    3. Variable frame rate issues.

    It is advised to convert all such media to ProRes/DNxHR or other such All-I frame format to mitigate the problems. Just have to be certain to not lower the clip bit-debth.


    1. Delete unused files, remove color effects and unwanted plugins from clips.”

    dont forget to delete lefovers Alphabet Films Alphabet Films

    2. Export reference file for colorist to compare the XML for accurate conform.

    export premiere xml 2 reference file Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    1080p H264/H265 file with decent bitrate is acceptable, no need for 4K prores 😉

    1. Adobe Premiere Pro

    Now that your timeline is cleaned and ready to be handed over we can start with preparing the XML file. Select your timeline and head to File>Export>Final Cut Pro XML. Now just select an appropriate location and you should be good to go. Look out for any errors if there are any as well. It’s a .txt file next to your .xml

    1. XML Export.

    Head to File > Export > Final Cut Pro XML…

    export premiere xml Alphabet Films Alphabet Films

    2. ProRes file export.

    If you don’t have the option to ship the drive then ProRes 4444 usually works as well. All the same, rules apply here as well. No transitions, text, graphics, or effects are applied to the footage. Also, don’t forget to disable any lumetri color adjustments you may have. I have received a few fake ProRes files from Premiere Pro in the past so keep in mind to tick a few boxes.

    export premiere prores 1 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Select QuickTime preset.
    export premiere prores 2 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Make sure it’s Apple ProRes 4444 or (4444 XQ for HDR delivery)
    export premiere prores 3 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Select 16-bpc to make your colorist happy. Otherwise, we are gonna ask you to enable it anyways. It’s a fault of adobe for letting you even export a “fake” 12-bit prores file. If 16-bpc is not enabled then the colorist is going to run into significant banding issues down the line.
    export premiere prores 4 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Last but not least make sure you have ticked these boxes to export the real ProRes in all its glory. *Adobe pls fix!*

    And now you’re ready to hit that export button!

    Click here to download the (real) Apple ProRes 4444 preset.

    2. Final Cut Pro

    If you are the editor in Final Cut Pro then it’s a bit more of a simple process to handle. As the ProRes files out of Final Cut are the real deal by default.



    Final cut pro xml Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Head to File>Export XML…
    Final cut pro xml 2 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Now a window pops up. You can probably leave it as default. Select your location and done!

    2. Exporting a ProRes.

    Final cut pro prores Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Go to Export>Settings and select Apple ProRes 4444 or (4444 XQ for HDR delivery)

    3. DaVinci Resolve

    This one is my favorite as a colorist who is working with DaVinci as well. That’s because from here we have 4 different methods of exporting a delivery.

    1. Automatically cutting source files with all the data unchanged using Media Management.

    It’s the fastest and simplest file delivery method so far and it preserves all the original raw data. As of now, I have never experienced any significant issues when files are delivered using this method.

    DaVinci Resolve Media1 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Go to File>Media Managment…
    DaVinci Resolve Media2 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Next click on Timelines, select your timeline and click on the Copy tab. This copies only the necessary data used in the project. Also, click on used media and use trim with 1 second of the buffer. (25 frames for 25fps video.)
    Screenshot 2023 01 09 at 13.34.44 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Take note of the .drt file that is included in the folder you exported the files to. It's important to include it as well. It has all the media already linked and saves time down the line.

    I know that Adobe Premiere Pro has a similar function however I have yet to get it to constantly work so I’m not gonna include it in the guide.

    2. Exporting an XML / DRT

    DaVinci Resolve xml1 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Select your timeline, right click and follow the menu Timelines>Export>AAF / XML / EDT
    DaVinci Resolve xml2 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Now change the XML format to the latest one available (FCPXML 1.10 will do for now) If your colorist is using DaVinci Resolve use DaVinci Resolve Timeline Files.drt instead.

    3. ProRes export method 1/2.

    This is useful for colorists as every clip is already cut and ready to be imported into color grading software via automatically generated XML file alongside proper prores files. Take note of the Render (Individual Clips has been turned on)

    DaVinci Resolve prores cool1 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Click on Premiere XML. Select ProRes 4444, render at source resolution (or 2160p) Next make sure to tick Bypass re-encode, Force sizing, Force debayer, and Enable Flat Pass so that any color adjustments you did will be disabled by default.
    DaVinci Resolve prores cool2 Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    In File tab, select 'Use unique filenames' with suffix and 3-4 digits (999/9999) to prevent overwriting clips with the same name.

    ProRes export method 2/2 aka the regular single prores export.

    Head onto the export page. Select ProRes master preset and change it to ProRes 4444 or (4444 XQ for HDR delivery).

    DaVinci Resolve prores regular Alphabet Films Alphabet Films
    Now let’s change some additional settings as well. Bypass re-encode. Force sizing to the highest quality, Force debayer to the highest quality, and Enable Flat Pass to Always On. That’s it. Add to Render Queue and export that beast.

    Thank you for reading the guide! I hope you gained some new knowledge by reading it! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions and keep in mind it’s always a good practice to check the workflow with your colorist as well! 🤘🏻