Post Alliance sessions

 

I moderated a series of podcasts for the New York Post Alliance in September, October and November 2014 concerning the intricacies of editorial turnover for feature film finishing, in three parts covering picture, sound and VFX turnover. These are hosted on the PNYA podcast, and can be found here.

These feature interviews with top professionals working in the field, including Ian Blume (The Bourne Legacy, Chocolat, Doubt) , Alexa Zimmerman (Lee Daniel’s The Butler, Boardwalk Empire, Midsummer Night’s Dream), Zana Bochar (The Bourne Legacy, Noah), Chris Healer (Beasts Of The Southern Wild, A Walk Among The Tombstones), Matthew Schneider (Workflow R&D Technicolor Postworks).

Each episode can be listened to standalone, or as part of the ongoing series and is an in-depth look at the current workflow and processes going on in both Hollywood and Independant films today.

Thanks to Technicolor Postworks for their sponsorship and hosting of these events.

Podcast theme by Ben Pedersen.

 

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AE/ DIT

I moderated a discussion between Assistant Editors and Digital Image Technicians recently for the Post New York Alliance.

You can hear it on the podcast here (Episode 1): https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/post-new-york-alliance-podcast/id898485210

A lot of interesting things came out of this discussion, and it certainly highlighted the need for both roles to reach out to each other during pre-production and early set up.

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#NABShow Day 03.02 @CodexDigital booth

An evolutionary year at NAB for the guys at Codex Digital, who were featuring two really interesting developments for the company.

Codex thunderbolt dock + Codex review + Vault

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Codex has completely revamped their UI which looks really nice, modern and streamlined and added an impressive suite of features. The demo we had showed metadata editing, CDL grading, QC review. The performance from the connected thunderbolt dock was really impressive (500 meg/sec from dock to vault), and the playback control from the little touchscreen on the vault was astonishing when we found out we were looking at 4k playing back. I can see this suite of tools being the first real competition for Colorfront OSD in years.

Codex Action Cam.

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This is really where you see that Codex is a company that has what a lot of other companies are only talking about on their roadmap- a technology platform that allows them to explore products that are outside their ‘core business’ but when you see them make so much sense and that also have that much-sought-after ‘cool’.

These little cameras that they’ve developed can be used as POV angle, witness cam, or to just give your VFX department a slightly offset element to extend plates. You could see how they could be applied for a 3d shoot as well. They are powered directly of an attached Codex Onboard and would give the DP an extra tool to maximize coverage on a shoot.

They look good and are just such a neat idea for the company.

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#NABShow 2014 Day 03.01 Black Magic booth

Although it was released last year, I’m still pretty blown away by this little 4k camera.

This year they had far more peripheral devices, stands, mounts etc for it, so it made more sense- you could see how it may work on a proper production.

The ‘talkshow’ galley that they set up to let people use the camera really showed it off well..

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#NABShow 2014 Day 02.02 Shooting and post for EDR/ HDR #edr @dolby

Panel was: Curtis Clark, ASC (Moderator) Matt Litwiller, Observatory Media Collin David, Observatory Media Travis LaBella, Observatory Media Rick Taylor, Dolby Laboratories

Panel was:
Curtis Clark, ASC (Moderator)
Matt Litwiller, Observatory Media
Collin David, Observatory Media
Travis LaBella, Observatory Media
Rick Taylor, Dolby Laboratories

 

 

 

 

EDR stands for Enhanced Dynamic Reproduction, which is Dolby’s High Dynamic Range (HDR) application. This discussion talked about EDR, in reference to one specific short film that was put through post as an EDR project, Telescope.


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Telescope was a short film that shot on the F65 and followed an ACES workflow color pipeline (more on ACES here), so was able to adapt during finish to an EDR color and mastering pipeline.

EDR has an extended contrast range, which is viewable on the Dolby Pulsar monitor, which has a 4000 nit response (a nit is a measure of luminance).

EDR mode on the F65 has a theoretical 19 stops of latitude, and is fine within an ACES colour pipeline, which can handle up to a 30 stop dynamic range. There are only a few cameras that can encapsulate this dynamic range- F65 and RED Dragon were chosen for this very specific task.

Both DPs on stage spoke about the fantastic dynamic range, which enables far superior detail in highlights and shadow areas, and both spoke about the fact that the descisions when mastering were about what to leave out, not what you could hope to include. The wide gamut and deep colour saturation gives a very different palette with which to tell the story, and allows a real finesse to the grading of the material shot.

The high latitude allowed for a high degree of practical lighting from the art direction- lighting that comes from the actual set, in this case from the LED buttons in the spaceship and ambient light from the lights that are part of the set. This style of shooting will give cinematographers a greater freedom because they will not need to fill light quite so much- they can rely on the latitude a lot more. This will be a gift to night and low-light shooting.

What has not caught up yet is the on-set monitoring and scopes available, so while it was shot, the film was only monitored down to REC709 color space, discarding a lot of the detail.  In fact, quite a few of the participants said that they did not realize the wide detail and color range available on the EDR shots until they got into the DI and mastering.

This goes right into the politics of workflow- how do you manage expectations and get consensus on the ‘look’ of the film when you can’t view even an approximation of the final product while you’re on set? Dolby is showing a prototype at this NAB show to address this- an onset monitor that displays 2000 nits, and would be priced to be an effective onset monitor. The VFX unit on Telescope was taking 16 bit linear EXR files anyway, so they were aware of the maximum latitude available, even though they do not have the monitoring or compositing techniques to take advantage of this at the moment.

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Dolby uses the Dolby Vision system in order to create the various format deliverables, and this system was able to land onto the many different colour spaces required for a full deliverable list.  The grade was still done in P3 colour space, and regulated by ACES. In fact, during this process, the ACES RRT (Reference Rendering Transform) needed to be adjusted, as it rolled off dramatically at 14 fL (foot Lamberts), but the EDR had a nmuch higher latitude, beyond this point. Now because of this process, the new RRT gives an extended head room within the RRT to allow for EDR images.

“The beauty of aces is that it allows for these issues with new formats to be resolved, so it is a constantly evolving workflow tool”– Curtis Clarke

 

The promise of this style of shooting is only just being exploited. The panelists imagined, for example, a horror film shot completely in the low end, deep blacks of an image, and what this could do for storytelling. This was a major thread of the talk from every panelist- that these techniques need to support the storytelling. This is just the start, and you can imagine just how a new generation of filmmakers will take advantage of the new latitude- a generation that had never known that 9 or 12 stops in image latitude was the limit anyway.

 

#NABshow 2014 Day 2.01- Distributive Creativity

Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love ‘the cloud’..

Speakers: Josh Rizzo, Hula Post (Moderator) Joe Beirne, Technicolor/ Postworks NY Ramy Katrib, Digital Film Tree Matt Schneider, Technicolor/ Postworks NY

Speakers:
Josh Rizzo, Hula Post (Moderator)
Joe Beirne, Technicolor/ Postworks NY
Ramy Katrib, Digital Film Tree
Matt Schneider, Technicolor/ Postworks NY

A great session, that spoke to a lot that’s going on in post production and computing at the moment.

 

We’ve had 100 years of filmmaking, 30 years of computing and a 10 year timeframe to integrate them together, with some successes and some failures. The inevitable total merge of these processes is, that catch-all concept, ‘the cloud’. But in this context, the cloud just really means centralized networked storage, combined with the ability to bring creative and technical processes to that storage.

In this environment, Post Production is facing extreme competition from clients that can and will hire commodity machines to get work done at lower prices. The post facility needs to be smarter than just a place of for-hire rental, and needs better technology than the client can source for themselves.

OpenStack

OpenStack

Ramy Katrib from Digital Film Tree took up this theme by talking about OpenStack, an open source cloud project initiated by Nasa and Rackspace. Openstack gives the ability to set up an open cloud environment, that is “like Amazon & Azure, but way cooler”. It gives the ability to set up storage and networking in the same place, is highly scalable and avoids vendor lock-in. And because it is open source it engenders what Ramy called “Co-opetition”: a platform that is used among highly competitive entities, who develop individually and share common technology at the same time.

In Openstack, you can have many ‘stacks’ that are geographically distributed but appear as one storage block. It has intelligence to distribute and sync files to all parts of the stack- in this case, Production Office, Studio Archive, VFX, Editorial may all be separate stacks, and OpenStack works out what files are needed where.

Simple stack

 

Each stack in the whole can have all data, or a security-restricted part of the whole relevant to the work being done at that location.

Metadata is replicated through all parts of the OpenStack, and then heavier data is drip-fed based on bandwidth and delivery time. The files are allowed to form relationships with each other through the many users and applications interacting with the files, to build a ‘community of data’. The data is managed by rules and algorithm- applications still need to be developed to support decision making on large data sets. An archive information management client that I’ve been working with refers to the principle of ‘disposition’- determining what’s valuable in a near archive, what gets moved into deeper, longer-term archive, and what gets deleted and disposed of- this process will be managed by humans presiding over smart algorithms in the future.

Joe Beirne finished by speaking about a principle that is coming through education now with astonishing results- the Flip Classroom. The students do the homework with teachers during the day, and then go home to listen to the lectures online. This same principle is now being applied most to the post facility- it’s only the really intensive data-crunching work and work that required calibrated environments that needs to be done indoors, at the facility. Everything else can be done away from the facility- distributed processed brought to storage.

But even these calibrated environments can now be built wherever a client wants. Once the data is everywhere, school is out.