Category Archives: post production

Veteran Kitty Snyder joins Atlanta’s Artifact as EP

Atlanta-based creative studio Artifact Design has hired post production veteran Kitty Snyder as executive producer. In this new role, Snyder will use her expertise in developing brand and marketing strategies, developing client relationships and bidding and producing projects. Her strong ties within the agency and film community will complement the full range of production, design, VFX, animation and post capabilities of the Artifact.

Most recently, Snyder was the director of creative partnerships for the Atlanta branches of Beast, Company 3 and Method Studios, all part of Deluxe Creative Services. Her previous positions include producer at ad agency Huge, where she worked on campaigns for such clients as Airheads, Lowe’s, Mohawk and Coca-Cola. She also spent nearly decade as senior business manager, creative services, at Crawford Media Services.

A former singer-songwriter, Snyder has toured the country solo and with bands. She got her start in the television and film industry producing and writing for various network shows for HGTV and GPTV. Since then, she has collaborated with clients such as Tyler Perry Studios, Cartoon Network and CNN, as well as ad agencies BBDO, JWT and Ogilvy & Mather.

Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

The A-List: Hidden Figures director Ted Melfi

By Iain Blair

When writer/producer/director Ted Melfi (St. Vincent) first came across the true story behind his new film, Hidden Figures, he was amazed that it had never been told before. The drama recounts the history of an elite team of black female mathematicians at NASA who helped win the all-out space race against the Soviet Union and, at the same time, brought issues of race, equal rights, sexism and opportunity to the surface of 1960s society.

Focusing on a trio of women who crossed gender, race and professional lines, it stars Oscar-nominee Taraji P. Henson (Empire, Benjamin Button), Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station, The Help), singer Janelle Monáe (making her motion picture debut) and two-time Oscar winner Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams, Dances With Wolves).

Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

Ted Melfi

Based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, the film was written by Melfi and screenwriter Allison Schroeder, who reports that the subject matter was already embedded in her DNA. “I grew up a NASA baby in Florida,” she explains. “My grandparents and dad all worked there, and then I interned there for four years during high school and worked for a missile launch company after my freshman year at college.” She then channeled that family history and her own workplace experiences into a story about “what it was like to be a woman in science and mathematics back then.”

Not long ago, I spoke with Melfi about making the film and his workflow.

This is a very timely film, dealing as it does with racism, sexism and all the issues with Russia and the space race. Was that the appeal?
Absolutely. It’s a completely unknown true story for many reasons, the main one being that all the material was classified for so long because of the Cold War and our fear of Russia. So everyone on the space program was sworn to secrecy, and even the astronauts themselves didn’t know who’d be flying until days before a launch.

While we have parades celebrating astronauts, athletes and so on, we don’t have parades for mathematicians. So I wanted to make an American classic, a movie about this crossroads in America where you had the fight for civil rights and the space race. That’s how I saw it in my mind — how did all that collide?

Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.You got a great cast. How tough was it casting the women?
Taraji was my first thought for her role and she said yes right away on the phone after I just pitched her the storyline. Octavia was also on board right away. Janelle was the hard one, in that it was tough casting her role. We wanted someone fresh and different, and once she came in to audition, we knew she was perfect for it, and she just blew it away.

Did you get a lot of cooperation from NASA?
Not only did we get tons of help from them, but I’ve become good friends with some of the guys there. They pored through draft after draft, gave notes and really helped us craft all the math. So everything in the film is completely accurate from a scientific, mathematical and engineering standpoint, and they were so helpful. We also had a math scholar who helped us and Taraji with her math and all the equations, so we spent a lot of time on research.

What was the biggest production challenge?
How to pull off the space race, because we were essentially a low budget film — a $25 million movie — and we didn’t have the money or time to recreate all the launches and rocket stuff. So we had to find a very clever way of combining archival footage and VFX with all the live-action footage. You see those transitions throughout the film; we’ll have a piece of archival footage and then roll right into something we shot, with all the VFX incorporated into that.

Getting all that archival footage was both tricky and easy — easy as NASA has a huge archive, but they also have a lot of footage that they couldn’t find. So we had to send a film historian specialist to DC to dig through all of NASA’s film reel archives in this massive vault, and that was a lot of work, since they have thousands and thousands of them of every piece of footage ever shot of all the launches and landings and so on. We wanted the original negatives, and he was able to get almost all of them. Then we re-scanned them and blended them into our footage.

You shot on location in Atlanta. Was that tough?
Yes, in that we had just 43 days, which is very short for something of this scope.

Given that sexism is a main theme, and there’s so much talk now about Hollywood’s lack of diversity, was it intentional or coincidental that you hired a female DP, Mandy Walker?
It was a bit of both. I met with a bunch of DPs, and she was just great. It’s a shame that just three percent of the world’s DPs are women. So I try to approach my professional life with a very inclusive attitude, just in general, which means you have to work at it and be pro-active, and 35 percent of our crew were female, and extremely diverse.

Do you like post?
I love it, until you get to the very end. (Laughs) For me, after the shoot, when I literally feel like collapsing because I’m so tired and exhausted. Then I get to this room with a couch, and can finally sit down. So it’s like a vacation in a way, where I get to enjoy and discover stuff every day. At times it’s depressing, when there are problems, but it’s mainly a time of exuberance and joy for me. But at the end, say the last month, it becomes the same as the shoot, with all the time and money constraints, and the pressure to get it done in time.

Where did you do the post?
All on the Fox lot. We did the editing and had our whole team in the same building — our sound team, music guys — and it was awesome, like a small family. The only problem was that we got a very truncated post schedule. Based off all the dailies, the studio decided they wanted to release it early in time for all the awards season stuff, so suddenly we had to deliver it in October instead of for Christmas. That meant we got eight to 10 weeks cut out of post. That left us with just 26 weeks all in, which isn’t very long for something of this scope. Most movies this size get way longer than that. So that was tough.

Tell us about working with editor Peter Teschner, who cut St. Vincent for you. Was he on the set?
Yes, he was in Atlanta with us, cutting from day one as we shot. Basically, I let him do his thing, he puts the movie together in a rough assembly, and we began with a cut at just over two and a half hours. Then we got down to two. Normally, that first rough cut is the most depressing day of your life, but this one wasn’t. There was a lot of work to do, but it was enjoyable work.

Obviously, all the VFX were very important, right?
Very. It’s a period piece, and with all the capsule and rocket scenes there was a lot of stuff to do. We used Cgfluids and ILP for all the VFX, and probably had 400 to 500 shots, and maybe half of those were clean-up, like removing any modern stuff, such as streetlights and cars and so on. But then we had around 100 shots of capsule stuff — the capsules in orbit, pieces of the rocket going up, and then John Glenn’s re-entry and fire scenes.

Can you talk about the importance of music and sound in the film?
It’s so crucial to every scene. People say it’s half your movie, but I think it’s often more. Just watch your movie without sound or music and you go, “This is so awful! It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” but then you start adding all those layers and it suddenly all comes alive. It’s all these little things that add up to huge things and how an audience feels emotionally and how they respond.

I had a great sound team — Andy Nelson was the re-recording mixer and Derek Vanderhorst was the sound designer, and those guys are brilliant. When you’re in space and in the capsule, you need to feel all that, the intensity of the rocket. Then musically we had a great team with Pharrell and Hans Zimmer and Ben Wallfisch. They came on board very early, before we even began proper production, to map out the musical plan. So we had music to shoot to. We shot Taraji’s running scenes to Pharrell’s track, which was a big benefit.

Where did you do the DI?
On the Fox lot with colorist Natasha Leonett from Efilm at their room there. She’s done a ton of films, including La La Land. She’s brilliant.

You’ve had a long and very successful career directing over 100 commercials, so I assume you’re very involved?
You’re right. I’ve been used to doing coloring for over 20 years, as my DP was never around, so Mandy came in for a few days and then I did my thing. It’s the final piece of the post workflow and I love it.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

G-Tech 6-15

China’s Wanda Studios expands in a big way

China’s The Wanda Group is adding a $8.2 billion dollar “movie metropolis” to the company’s existing entertainment hub. Wanda Studios Qingdoa spans over 400 acres in a northern region between Beijing and Shanghai.

The complex will offer a variety of facilities for film and television production, with a floor area of 58 million square feet, 30 soundstages — including one of the largest soundstages in the world at 107,600 square feet — 24 production workshops, tenant office space, backlots with permanently constructed sets and two large water tanks. The studio supports every facet of production for a rapidly growing base of global creative clients.

In order to keep things running smoothly across all departments, Wanda Studios is calling on Xytech’s MediaPulse to manage all operations from budget to execution through financial reconciliation for the soundstages, production workshops, office spaces and other services offered by the studio. The solution also includes the implementation of a MediaPulse Rental to manage the business and track equipment with integration to a RFID tagging system. The initial installation of MediaPulse is now live and full deployment is anticipated by the completion of the studio in the coming months.


Digging Deeper: Fraunhofer’s Dr. Siegfried Foessel

By Randi Altman

If you’ve been to NAB, IBC, AES or regional conferences involving media and entertainment technology, you have likely seen Fraunhofer exhibiting or heard one of their representatives speaking on a panel.

Fraunhofer first showed up on my radar years ago at an AES show in New York City when they were touting the new MP3 format, which they created. From that moment on, I’ve made it a point to keep up on what Fraunhofer has been doing in other areas of the industry, but for some, what Fraunhofer is and does is a mystery.

We decided to help with that mystery by throwing some questions at Dr. Siegfried Foessel, Fraunhofer IIS Department Moving Picture Technologies.

Can you describe Fraunhofer?
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is an organization for applied research that has 67 institutes and research units at locations throughout Germany. At present, there are around 24,000 people. The majority are qualified scientists and engineers who work with an annual research budget of more than 2.1 billion euros.

More than 70 percent of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s research revenue is derived from contracts with industry and from publicly financed research projects. Almost 30 percent is contributed by the German federal and Länder governments in the form of base funding. This enables the institutes to work ahead on solutions to problems that will become relevant to industry and society within the next five or ten years from now.

How did it all begin? Is it a think tank of sorts? Tell us about Fraunhofer’s business model.
The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft was founded in 1949 and is a recognized non-profit organization that takes its name from Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787–1826), the illustrious Munich researcher, inventor and entrepreneur. Its focus was clearly defined to do application-oriented research and to develop future-relevant key technologies. Through their research and development work, the Fraunhofer Institutes help to reinforce the competitive strength of the economy. They do so by promoting innovation, strengthening the technological base, improving the acceptance of new technologies and helping to train the urgently needed future generation of scientists and engineers.

What is Fraunhofer IIS?
The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS is an application-oriented research institution for microelectronic and IT system solutions and services. With the creation of MP3 and the co-development of AAC, Fraunhofer IIS has reached worldwide recognition. In close cooperation with partners and clients, the ISS institute provides research and development services in the following areas: audio and multimedia, imaging systems, energy management, IC design and design automation, communication systems, positioning, medical technology, sensor systems, safety and security technology, supply chain management and non-destructive testing. About 880 employees conduct contract research for industry, the service sector and public authorities.

Fraunhofer IIS partners with companies as well as public institutions?
We develop, implement and optimize processes, products and equipment until they are ready for use in the market. Flexible interlinking of expertise and capacities enables us to meet extremely broad project requirements and complex system solutions. We do contracted research for companies of all sizes. We license our technologies and developments. We work together with partners in publicly funded research projects or carry out commercial and technical feasibility studies.

IMF transcoding.

What is the focus of Fraunhofer IIS’ Department of Moving Picture Technologies?
For more than 15 years, our Department Moving Picture Technologies has driven developments for digital cinema and broadcast solutions focused on imaging systems, post production tools, formats and workflow solutions. The Department Moving Picture Technologies was chosen by the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) to develop and implement the first certification test plan for digital cinema as the main reference for all systems in this area. As a leader in the ISO standardization committee for digital cinema within JPEG, my team and I are driving standardization for JPEG 2000 and formats, such as DCP and the Interoperable Master Format (IMF.)

We also are working together with SMPTE and other standardization bodies worldwide. Renowned developments for the department that are highly respected are the Arri D20/D21 camera, the easyDCP post production suite for DCP and IMF creation and playback, as well as the latest developments and results of multi-camera/light-field technology.

What are some of the things you are working on and how does that work find its way to post houses and post pros?
The engineers and scientists of the Department Moving Picture Technologies are working on tools and workflow solutions for new media file formats like IMF to enable smooth integration and use in existing workflows and to optimize performance and quality. As an example, we always enhance and augment the features available through the post production easyDCP suite. The team discusses and collaborates with customers, industry partners and professionals in the post production and digital cinema industries to identify the “most wanted and needed” requirements.

easyDCP

We preview new technologies and present developments that meet these requirements or facilitate process steps. Examples of this include the acceleration process of IMF or DCP creation by using an approach based on a hybrid JPEG 2000 functionality or introducing a media asset management tool for DCP/IMF or dailies. We present our ideas, developments and results at exhibitions such as NAB, the HPA Tech Retreat and IBC, as well as SMPTE conferences and plugfests all around the world.

Together with distribution partners who are selling the products like easyDCP, Fraunhofer IIS licenses those developments and puts them into the market. Therefore, the team always looks for customer feedback for their developments that is supported by a very active community.

Who are some of your current customers and partners?
We have more than 1,500 post houses as customers, managed by our licensing partner easyDCP GmbH. Nearly all of the Hollywood studios and post houses on all continents are our customers. We also work together with integration partners like Blackmagic and Quantel. Most of the names of our partners in the contract research area are confidential, but to name some partners from the past and present: Arri, DCI, IHSE GmbH.

Which technologies are available for license now?
• Tools for creation and playback of DCPs and IMPs, as standalone tools and for integration into third party tools
• Tools for quality control of DCPs and IMPs
• Tools for media asset management of DCPs and IMPs
• Plug-ins for light-field-processing and depth map generation
• Codecs for mezzanine compression of images

Lightfield tech

What are you working on now that people should know about?
We are developing new tools and plug-ins for bringing lightfield technology to the movie industry to enhance creativity opportunities. This includes system aspects in combination with existing post tools. We are chairing and actively participating on adhoc groups for lightfield-related standardization efforts in the JPEG/MPEG Joint Adhoc Group for digital representations of light/sound fields for immersive media applications (see https://jpeg.org/items/20160603_pleno_report.html).

We are also working together with DIN on a proposal to standardize digital long-term archive formats for movies. Basic work is done with German archives and service providers at DIN NVBF3 and together with CST from France at SMPTE with IMF App#4. Furthermore, we are developing mezzanine image compression formats for the transmission of video over IP in professional broadcast environments and GPU accelerated tools for creation and playback of JPEG 2000 code streams.

How do you pick what you will work on?
The employees at Fraunhofer IIS are very creative people. By observation of the market, research in joint projects and cooperation with universities, ideas are created and evaluated. Employees and our student scientists are discussing with industry partners what might be possible in the near future and which ideas have the greatest potential. Selected ideas will then be evaluated with respect to the business opportunities and transformed into internal projects or proposed as research projects. Our employees are tasked with working much like our eponym Joseph von Fraunhofer, as researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs — all at the same time.

What other “hats” do you wear in the industry?
As mentioned earlier, Fraunhofer is involved in standardization bodies and industry associations. For example, I chair the Systems Group within ISO SC29WG1 (JPEG) and the post production group within ISO TC36 (Cinematography). I am also a SMPTE governor (EMEA and Central and South America region) and a SMPTE fellow, along with supporting SMPTE conferences as a program committee member.

Currently, I am president of the German Society Fernseh- und Kinotechnische Gesellschaft (FKTG) and am involved in associations like EDCF and ISDCF. Additionally, I’m a speaker for the German VDE/ITG society in the area of media technology. Last, but not least, I chair the German standardization body at DIN for NVBF3 and consult the German federal film board in questions related to new technical challenges in the film industry.


Behind the Title: AlphaDogs colorist Sean Stack

NAME: Sean Stack

COMPANY: Burbank’s AlphaDogs

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are a post production facility focused on online finishing, including color correction and audio mixing. We also have graphic artists and complete duplication, format conversion and tape output capabilities.

AS A COLORIST, WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably the most surprising thing to the layman would be how much control I can have over the image and what that means for the production.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
Primarily, I work in DaVinci Resolve for color grading, and we have both Mac and PC systems capable of the same work. I also color correct in Avid Symphony. The choice of system is guided by the requirements of the project.

For example, if I am working on a documentary or feature I would most likely be using Resolve to re-link and conform the sequence to the camera source files for grading, allowing access to the full quality and resolution of the source file. In the event I am finishing an unscripted reality-style television series, the sequence in Avid would be upres’d to a high-resolution format (such as DNxHD175) and graded using the Avid Symphony color correction tools.

Sunset Strip

‘Sunset Strip’ is just one of many projects Sean Stack has worked on.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Nearly every project I work on has additional work other than color correction. It ranges — some are simple edit tasks that are required to create delivery files, such as adding the final audio mix stems and exporting them with picture in the correct layout following the delivery specifications.

For a more complicated project I may be exporting DPX image sequences from Resolve of pre-graded scenes that will go to graphic artists for visual effects work. Then, once the VFX are complete, I will be cutting the final effect shots back into the final graded sequence. I’ve never been asked to do a hula dance and I am thankful for that, however I have been asked for my critical review of the project and that can be very tricky terrain to tread on. I always try to find something in every project that I like, because filmmakers need emotional support.

ARE YOU BEING ASKED TO DO MINOR VFX WORK TOO?
I do a ton of minor VFX work. My favorite fix is when you can just push-in to remove a problem, such as a boom mic dropping into the frame. Arguably, that instance may not be VFX but if you are talking about painting it out and I fix it, then it’s fixed. Minor perhaps, but I just saved the client major time and money. Other minor VFX work may include stabilizing shots, blurring objects and compositing several images together. A compositing example for a recent project involved adding footage inside a cell phone that was making a FaceTime call and also adding computer desktop images to laptop screens that were not powered up.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
When the clients and I get on the same wavelength and we are seeing the color working the same way. It means I get it and I can go forward with confidence, and once that trust is built the project will sail.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Unlocking the cut. Do everything to avoid unlocking the cut once you are in color and sound mix.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Good question. Making ice cream or maybe a landscape designer.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION? HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I’ve always wanted to be part of filmmaking and spent some years acting in professional non-equity theatre before discovering editing was what really made me happy.

Tom Petty

‘Running Down a Dream’

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The most well-known project may be the Tom Petty documentary called Running Down a Dream, directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Other projects of note would be Sunset Strip, a documentary on the history of the famous boulevard in Los Angeles.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I would have to say a documentary called Dying to Know about Timothy Leary and Ram Das. I’m proud of the work on that film because the filmmakers set a very high bar for me to achieve, and I feel like I met the expectation, and in some cases, exceeded it. In that feature length documentary, there was nearly every possible video format used, from archival film transfers of a Congressional inquiry to standard definition video captured in the early 1980s. The director has a fantastic eye for color and the producer is a talented photographer, so the color grading was highly scrutinized by experienced people, and that pushed me into learning new solutions.

Timothy Leary

‘Dying to Know’

This was one of the few projects where every stone was turned over to get the best out of every shot — if it meant going to the Teranex to convert footage to the proper frame-rate then it was done. There was a long interview section where camera A was an analog video format, Betacam, and footage from camera B was Digi Beta, so the sources looked very different. I was able to balance the sources to look very similar and the distraction of varied formats was removed. Do average viewers notice? I have to say, subconsciously they probably do, and there’s a value added to a program when there’s no distraction from the story. Editing, color correction, VFX and even audio mix should not be something the viewer is thinking about or even aware of, so my best work probably goes completely unnoticed and that’s the best possible scenario for the audience. Enjoy the show.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
I first try to find it within the project and footage I’m working on. I get on board with the story and, if the director has ideas, listen to those as well. If that still doesn’t get me involved, I might look at some clips from movies that have a similar feel to what I’m working on. Then I choose some music to listen to and usually stick with the genre through the project to keep my head in that space.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Graphics tablet, external video scopes and fast Internet.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram and Facebook, but really only for personal stuff. I have a LinkedIn account as well but I’m not very active. I’m not suggesting this is the wisest choice. I also have listings on IMDB, of course.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I golf and work on restoring my vintage VW bus, then go camping or hit the beach and just relax.

NAB 1/17
TrumpLand

TrumpLand gets quick turnaround via Technicolor Postworks

Michael Moore in TrumpLand is a 73-minute film that documents a one-man show performed by Moore over two nights in October to a mostly Republican crowd at a theater in Ohio. It made its premiere just 11 days later at New York’s IFC Center.

The very short timeframe between live show and theatrical debut included a brisk five days at Technicolor PostWorks New York, where sound and picture were finalized. [Editor’s note: The following isn’t any sort of political statement. It’s just a story about a very quick post turnaround and the workflow involved. Enjoy!]

TrumplandMichael Kurihara was supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer on the project. He was provided with the live feeds from more than a dozen microphones used to record the event. “Michael had a hand-held mic and a podium mic, and there were boom mics throughout the crowd,” Kurihara recalls. “They set it up like they were recording an orchestra with mics everywhere. I was able to use those boom mics and some on stage to push sound into the surrounds to really give you the feeling that you are sitting in the theater.”

Kurihara’s main objectives, naturally, were to ensure that the dialogue was clear and that the soundtrack, which included elements from both nights, was consistent, but he also worked to capture the flavor of the event. He notes, for example, that Moore wanted to preserve the way that he used his microphone to produce comic effects. “He did a funny bit about the Clinton Foundation, and used the mic the way stand-up comics do, holding it closer or further a way to underscore the joke,” Kurihara says. “By holding the mic at different angles, he makes the sound warmer or punchier.”

Kurihara adds that the mix sessions did not follow a conventional, linear path as creative editorial was still ongoing. “That made it a particularly exciting project,” he notes. “We were never just mixing. Editorial changes continued to arrive right up to the point of print.”

Focusing on Picture
Colorist Allie Ames handled the film’s picture finishing. Similar to Kurihara, her task was to cement visual consistency while maintaining the immediacy of the live event. She worked from a conformed version of the film, supplied by the editing team.

According to Ames, “It already had a beautiful look from the way it was staged and shot, therefore, my goal was to embrace and enhance the intimacy of the location and create a consistent look that would draw the film audience into the world of the theatrical audience without distracting from Michael’s stage performance.”

Moore and his producers attended most of the sound mixing and picture grading sessions. “It was an unusual and exciting process,” says Ames. “Usually, you have weeks to finish a film, but in this case we had to get it out quickly. It was an honor to contribute to this project.”

Technicolor PostWorks has provided post services for several of Moore’s documentaries, including Where to Invade Next, which debuted earlier this year. For TrumpLand the facility created deliverables for the premiere at IFC, and subsequent theatrical and Netflix releases.

Says Moore, “Simply put, there would have been no TrumpLand movie without Technicolor PostWorks. They have a dedicated team of artists who are passionate about filmmaking, and especially about documentaries. In this instance, they went above and beyond what was asked of them to ensure we were ready in record time for our premiere — and they did so without compromising quality or creativity. I did my previous film with them a year ago and in just 14 months they were already using technology so new it made our 2015 experience feel so… 2015.”

NAB 1/17

New version of VideoStitch software for 360 video post

VideoStitch is offering a new version of its 360 video post software VideoStitch Studio, including support of ProRes and the H.265 codec, rig presets and feathering.

“With the new version of VideoStitch Studio we give professional 360 video content creators a great new tool that will save them a lot of valuable time during the post production process without compromising the quality of their output,” says Nicolas Burtey, CEO of VideoStitch.

VR pros are already using VideoStitch’s interactive high-resolution live preview as well as its rapid processing. With various new features, VideoStitch Studio 2.2 promises an easier and faster workflow. Support of ProRes ensures a high quality and interoperability with third parties. Support of the H.265 codec widens the range of cameras that can be used with the software. Newly added rig presets allow for quick and automatic stitching with optimal calibration results. Feathering provides for improved blending of the input videos. Also, audio and motion synchronization has been enhanced so that various inputs can be integrated flawlessly. Lastly, the software supports the latest Nvidia graphics card, GTX-10 series.

VideoStitch Studio 2.2 is available for trial download at www.video-stitch.com. The full license costs $295.


Utopic editor talks post for David Lynch tribute Psychogenic Fugue

Director Sandro Miller called on Utopic partner and editorCraig Lewandowski to collaborate on Psychogenic Fugue, a 20-minute film starring John Malkovich in which the actor plays seven characters in scenes recreated from some of filmmaker David Lynch’s films and TV shows. These characters include The Log Lady, Special Agent Dale Cooper, and even Lynch himself as narrator of the film.

It is part of a charity project called Playing Lynch that will benefit the David Lynch Foundation, which seeks to introduce at-risk populations affected by trauma to transcendental meditation.

craigChicago-based Utopic handled all the post, including editing, graphics, VFX and sound design. The film is part of a multimedia fundraiser hosted by Squarespace and executed by Austin-based agency, Preacher. The seven vignettes were released one at a time on Playinglynch,com.

To find out more about Utopic’s work on the film, we reached out to Lewandowski with some questions.

How early were you brought in on the film?
We were brought in before the project was even finalized. There were a couple other ideas that were kicked around before this one rose to the top.

We cut together a timing board using all the pieces we would later be recreating. We also pulled some hallway scenes from an old Playstation commercial that he directed, and we then scratched in all the “Lynch” lines for timing.

You were on set. Can you talk about why and what the benefits were for the director and you as an editor?
My job on the set was to have our reference movie at the ready and make sure we were matching timing, framing, lighting, etc. Sandro would often check the reference to make sure we were on track.

For scenes like the particles in Eraserhead, I had the DP shoot it at various frame rates and at the highest possible resolution, so we could shoot it vertical and use the particles falling. I also worked with the Steadicam operator to get a variety of shots in the hallway since I knew we’d need to create some jarring cutaways.

How big of a challenge was it dealing with all those different iconic characters, especially in a 20-minute film?
Sandro was adamant that we not try to “improve” on anything that David Lynch originally shot. Having had a lot of experience with homages, Sandro knew that we couldn’t take liberties. So the sets and action were designed to be as close as possible to the original characters.

In shots where it was only one character originally (The Lady in the Radiator, Special Agent Dale Cooper, Elephant Man) it was easier, but in scenes where there were originally more characters and now it was just Malkovich, we had to be a little more creative (Frank Booth, Mystery Man). Ultimately, with the recreations, my job was to line up as closely as possible with what was originally done, and then with the audio do my best to stay true to the original.

Can you talk about your process and how you went about matching the original scenes? Did you feel much pressure?
Sandro and I have worked together before, so I didn’t feel a lot of pressure from him, but I think I probably put a fair amount on myself because I knew how important this project was for so many people. And, as is the case with anything I edit, I don’t take it lightly that all of that effort that went into preproduction and production now sits on my shoulders.

Again, with the recreations it was actually fairly straightforward. It was the corridor shots where Malkovich plays Lynch and recites lines taken from various interviews that offered the biggest opportunity, and challenge. Because there was no visual reference for this, I could have some more fun with it. Most of the recreations are fairly slow and ominous, so I really wanted these corridor shots to offset the vignettes, kind of jar you out of the trance you were just put in, make you uneasy and perhaps squirm a bit, before being thrust into the next recreation.

What about the VFX? Can you talk about how they fit in and how you worked with them?
Many of the VFX were either in-camera or achieved through editorial, but there were spots — like where he’s in the corridor and snaps from the front to the back — that I needed something more than I could accomplish on my own, so I used our team at Utopic. However, when cutting the trailer, I relied heavily on our motion graphics team for support.

Psychogenic Fugue is such an odd title, so the writer/creative director, Stephen Sayadin, came up with the idea of using the dictionary definition. We took it a step further, beginning the piece with the phonetic spelling and then seamlessly transitioning the whole thing. They then tried different options for titling the characters. I knew I wanted to use the hallway shot, close-ups of the characters and ending on Lynch/Malkovich in the chair. They gave me several great options.

What was the film shot on, and what editing system did you use?
The film was shot on Red at 6K. I worked in Adobe Premiere, using the native Red files. All of our edit machines at Utopic are custom-built, high-performance PCs assembled by the editors themselves.

What about tools for the visual effects?
Our compositor/creative finisher used an Autodesk Flame, and our motion graphics team used Adobe After Effects.

Can you talk about the sound design?
I absolutely love working on sound design and music, so this was a dream come true for me. With both the film and the trailer, our composer Eric Alexandrakis provided me with long, odd, disturbing tracks, complete with stems. So I spent a lot of time just taking his music and sound effects and manipulating them. I then had our sound designer at Brian Lietner jump in and go crazy.

Is there a scene that you are most proud of, or that was most challenging, or both?
I really like the snap into the flame/cigarette at the very beginning. I spent a long time just playing with that shot, compositing a bunch of shots together, manipulating them, adjusting timing, coming back in the next morning and changing it all up again. I guess that and Eraserhead. We had so many passes of particles and layered so many throughout the piece. That shot was originally done with him speaking to camera, but we had this pass of him just looking around, and realized it was way more powerful to have the lines delivered as though they were internal monologue. It also allowed us to play with the timings in a way that we wouldn’t be able to with a one-take shot.

As far as what I’m most proud of, it’s the trailer. We worked really hard to get the recreations and full film done. Then I was able to take some time away from it all and come back fresh. I knew that there was a ton of great footage to work with and we had to do something that wasn’t just a cutdown. It was important to me that the trailer feel every bit as demented as the film itself, if not more. I think we accomplished that.

Check out the trailer here:


Review: The HP Z1G3 All-in-One workstation

By Brady Betzel

I’ll admit it. I’ve always been impressed with HP’s All-in-One workstations — from their z840 to their zBook mobile workstation and now their HP Z1G3. Yes, I know, the HP line of workstations are not cheap. In fact, you can save quite a bit of money building your own system, but you will probably have tons of headaches unless you are very confident in your computer-building skills. And if you don’t mind standing in the return line at the Fry’s Electronics.

HP spends tons of time and money on ISV certifications for their workstations. ISV certification stands for Independent Software Vendor certification. In plain English it means that HP spends a lot of time and money making sure the hardware inside of your workstation works with the software you use. For an industry pro that means apps like Adobe’s Premiere Pro and After Effects, Avid Media Composer, Autodesk products like 3DS Max and many others.

For this review,  I tested apps like Avid Media Composer, FilmLight’s Baselight for Media Composer color correction plug-in, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Media Encoder and Adobe After Effects, as well as Blackmagic’s Resolve 12.5.2, which chewed through basic color correction. In terms of testing time, I typically keep a review computer system for a couple of months, but with this workstation I really wanted to test it as thoroughly as possible — I’ve had the workstation for three months and counting, and I’ve been running the system through all the appropriate paces.

I always love to review workstations like the HP Z1G3 because of the raw power they possess. While HP sent me one of the top-of-the-line Z1G3 configurations, which retails for a list price of $3,486, they have a pretty reasonable starting price at $1,349. From Intel i3, i5 and i7 configurations all the way up to the all mighty Intel Xeon — the HP Z1G3 can be customized to fit into your workflow whether you just need to check your email or color correct video from your GoPro.

Here are the specs that make up the HP Z1G3 All-in-One workstation I received:

● 23.6-inch UHD/4K non-glare and non-touch display (3840×2160)
● Intel Xeon E3-1270 v5 CPU, 3.6GHz (4 Cores / 8 Threads)
● 64GB DDR4 SODIMM 2133 GHz (4 x 16GB)
● Nvidia Quadro M2000M graphics (4GB)
● Two Z Turbo drives (512GB, PCIe M.2)
● Wireless keyboard and mouse
● Two Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1 ports
● USB charging port
● Media card reader
● DisplayPort out

As I mentioned earlier, I tested the Z1G3 with many different apps, but recently I’ve been diving deeper into color correction, and luckily for my testing this fits right in. A few of the most strenuous real-world tests for computer systems is running 3D modeling apps like Maxon Cinema 4D and color correction suites like Resolve. Of course, apps like After Effects are great tests as well, but adding nodes on nodes on nodes in Resolve will really tax your CPU, as well as your GPU.

One thing that can really set apart high-end systems like the Z1G3 is the delay when using a precision color correction panel like Tangent’s Elements or Ripple. Sometimes you will move one of the color wheel balls and a half a second later the color wheel moves on screen. I tried adding a few clips and nodes on the timeline and when using the panels, I noticed no discernible delay (at least more than what I would expect). While this isn’t a scientific test, it is crucial for folks looking to plug in external devices.

For more scientific tests I stuck to apps like Cinebench from Maxon, AJA’s System Test and Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test. In Cinebench, the Z1G3 ranked at the top of the list when compared to similar systems. In AJA’s System Test I tested the read/write speed of the hp-z1g3-aja-system-test-copynon-OS drive (basically the editing or cache drive). It sustained around 1520MB/s read and 1490MB/s write. I say around because I couldn’t get the AJA app to display the entire read/write numbers because of the high-resolution/zoom in Windows, I tried scaling it down to 1920×1080 but no luck. In Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test, I was running at 1560MB/s read and 1497.3MB/s write. The drive that I ran this test on is HP’s version of the M.2 PCIe SSD powered by Samsung, more affectionately known by HP as a Z-Turbo drive. The only thing better at the moment would be a bunch of these drives arranged in a RAID-0 configuration. Luckily, you can do that through the Thunderbolt 3 port with some spare SSDs you have lying around.

Almost daily I ran Premiere Pro CC, Media Encoder and Resolve Studio 12.5.2. I was really happy with the performance in Premiere. When working with QuickTimes in inter-frame codecs like H.264 and AVC-HD (non-edit friendly codecs), I was able to work without too much stuttering in the timeline. When I used intra-frame codecs like ProRes HQ from a Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera, Premiere worked great. I even jumped into Adobe’s Lumetri color tools while using Tangent’s Ripple external color correction panel and it worked with little discernable delay. I did notice that Premiere had a little more delay when using the external color correction panel than Media Composer and Resolve, but that seemed to be more of a software problem rather than a workstation problem.

One of my favorite parts about using a system with an Nvidia graphics card, especially a Quadro card like the M2000M, is the ability to encode multiple versions of a file at once. Once I was done editing some timelapses in Premiere, I exported using Media Encoder. I would apply three presets I made: one square 600×600 H.264 for Instagram, one 3840×2160 H.264 for YouTube and an Animated GIF at 480×360 for Twitter. Once I told Media Encoder to encode, it ran all three exports concurrently — a really awesome feature. With the Nvidia Quadro card installed, it really sped along the export.

Media Composer
Another app I wanted to test was Media Composer 8.6.3. Overall Media Composer ran great except for the high-resolution display. As I’ve said in previous reviews, this isn’t really the fault of HP, but more of the software manufacturers who haven’t updated their interfaces to adapt to the latest UHD displays. I had filmed a little hike I took with my five-year-old. I gave him a GoPro while I had my own. Once we got the footage back home, I imported it into Media Composer, grouped the footage and edited it using the multi-cam edit workflow.

Simply put, the multi-camera split was on the left and the clip I had in the sequence was playing simultaneously on the right. Before I grouped the footage into a multi-group, I transcoded the H.264s into DNxHD 175 an intra-frame, edit-friendly codec. The transcode was nearly realtime, so it took 60 minutes to transcode a 60-minute H.264 — which is not bad. In the end, I was able to edit the two-camera multi-group at 1920×1080 resolution with only minor hiccups. Occasionally, I would get caught in fast forward for a few extra seconds when J-K-L editing, but nothing that made me want to throw my keyboard or mouse against the wall.

Once done editing, I installed the FilmLight color correction plug-in for Media Composer. I had a really awesome experience coloring using Baselight in Media Composer on the Z1G3. I didn’t have any slowdowns, and the relationship between using the color correction panel and Baselight was smooth.

Resolve
The last app I tested with HP’s Z1G3 All-in-One Workstation was Blackmagic’s Resolve 12.5.2. Much like my other tests, I concentrated on color correction with the Tangent Ripple and Element-Vs iOS app. I had four or five nodes going in the color correction page before I started to see a slow down. I was using the native H.264 and ProRes HQ files from the cameras, so I didn’t make it easy for Resolve, but it still worked. Once I added a little sharpening to my clips, the HP Z1G3 really started to kick into gear. I heard the faint hum of fans, which up until this point hadn’t kicked in. This is also where the system started to slow down and become sluggish.

Summing Up
The Z1G3 is one of my favorite workstations, period. A while ago, I reviewed the previous All-in-One workstation from HP, the Z1G2, and at the time it was my favorite. One of my few complaints was that, while it was easy to fix, it was very heavy and bulky. When I opened the Z1G3 box, I immediately noticed how much lighter and streamlined the design was. It almost felt like they took away 50 percent of the bulk, which is something I really appreciate. I can tell that one of the main focuses with the Z1G3 was minimizing its footprint and weight, while increasing the power. HP really knocked it out of the park.

One of the only things that I wish was different on the Z1G3 I tested was the graphics card. While the Nvidia Quadro M2000M is a great graphics card, it is a “mobile” version of a Quadro, which has 128 fewer CUDA cores and 26GB/s less bandwidth than its desktop equivalent the M2000. I would love the option of a full-sized Quadro and instead of the mobile version but I also understand the power consumption will go up as well as the form factor, so maybe I give HP a pass here.

In the end, I know everyone reading this review is saying to themselves, “I love my iMac so why would I want the HP Z1G3?” If you are a die-hard Apple user, or you just saw the new Microsoft Surface Studio announcement, then it might be a hard sell, but I love both Windows- and Mac OS-based systems, and the Z1G3 is awesome. What’s even more awesome is that it is easily upgradeable. I took off the back cover, and with simple switch I could have added a 2.5-inch hard drive or two in under a minute. If you are looking for a new powerful workstation and want one that not only stands up to Resolve and Premiere Pro CC, the HP Z1G3 is for you.


Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Earlier this year, Brady was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.

MPC LA moves to Culver City location, expands MPC Film

After eight years in Santa Monica, MPC LA has moved to a 25,000-square-foot digital studio in Culver City at 8921 Lindblade Street.

MPC Advertising now has more space dedicated to VFX, color and finishing. The new space also plays host to a purpose-built VR/AR infrastructure and its content production arm, MPC Creative.

MPC Film LA has a greatly expanded footprint in the new facility, offering filmmakers the opportunity to collaborate with MPC’s artists to support the pre-production phase of development. Creative services include concept and production design, previs and visual development, and preliminary bidding and budgeting.

Julian Levi, the newly promoted GM at MPC Film LA, says, “We are excited to be able to continue collaborating with filmmakers in the very early stages of production. Having all of our front-end resources consolidated in the new studio means our clients can take advantage of MPC LA’s creative services all in one space.”

The space features an MPAA approved previs artist workspace and a screening room with 3D stereo, HD and 2K/4K projection, offering 2K synced reviews, TV-IPS video feed and video conferencing.

VFX industry veteran Joanna Capitano (right) has also joined the team at MPC Film LA, overseeing and representing the studio’s VFX supervisor talent, including Richard Stammers, Erik Nash and Guillaume Rocheron. Capitano was most recently VP of features at Digital Domain.

In discussing the move, MPC’s global CEO, Mark Benson, explains, “Culver City presented a unique opportunity to build out our custom-designed, integrated studio in a 25,000-square-foot space. It is a great fit because Culver City is fast becoming Los Angeles’ hotbed of emerging technology, and it’s located off the 10 freeway and Metro Expo line, making it convenient for our clients.”

MPC Film previs/postvis teams are currently working on Ghost in the Shell, Fantastic Beasts, Alien Covenant and The Dark Tower.