Category Archives: post production

Hollywood’s Digital Jungle moves to Santa Clarita

Digital Jungle, a long-time Hollywood-based post house, has moved its operations to a new facility in Santa Clarita, California, which has become a growing hub for production and post in the suburbs of Los Angeles. The new headquarters is now home to both Digital Jungle Post and its recent off-shoot Digital Jungle Pictures, a feature film development and production studio.

“I don’t mind saying, it was a bit of an experiment moving to Santa Clarita,” explains Digital Jungle president and chief creative Dennis Ho. “With so many filmmakers and productions working out here — including Disney/ABC Studios, Santa Clarita Studios and Universal Locations — this area has developed into a vast untapped market for post production professionals. I decided that now was a good time to tap into that opportunity.”

Digital Jungle’s new facility offers the full complement of digital workflow solutions for HD to 4K. The facility has multiple suites featuring Smoke, DaVinci Resolve, audio recording via Avid’s S6 console and Pro Tools, production offices, a conference area, a full kitchen and a client lounge.

Digital Jungle is well into the process of adding further capabilities with a new high-end luxury DI 4K theater and screening room, greenscreen stage, VFX bullpen, multiple edit bays and additional production offices as part of their phase two build-out.

Digital Jungle Post services include DI/color grading; VFX/motion graphics; audio recording/mixing and sound design; ADR and VO; HD to 4K deliverables for tape and data; DCI and DCDM; promo/bumper design and film/television title design.

Commenting on Digital Jungle Pictures, Ho says, “It was a natural step for me. I started my career by directing and producing promos and interstitials for network TV, studios and distributors. I think that our recent involvement in producing several independent films has enhanced our credibility on the post side. Filmmakers tend to feel more comfortable entrusting their post work to other filmmakers. One example is we recently completed audio post and DI for a new Hallmark film called Love at First Glance.”

In addition to Love at First Glance, Digital Jungle Productions’ recent projects include indie films Day of Days, A Better Place (available now on digital and DVD) and Broken Memories, which was screened at the Sedona Film Festival.

 

Review: Dell Precision 7910 tower workstation

By Mike McCarthy

While I started my career on Dell Precision workstations, I have spent the last 10 years with HP workstations under my desk. They have served me well, which is why I used them for five generations. At the beginning of 2016, I was given the opportunity to do a complete hardware refresh for director Scott Waugh’s post house, Vasquez Saloon, to gear up our capabilities to edit the first film shot for Barco Escape and edited fully in 6K. This time we ended up with Dell Precision 7910 workstations under our desks. After having a chance to use them for a year, I decided it was time to share some of my experiences with the top-end Precision workstation.

My 7910 has two Xeon E5-2687W V3 processors, each with 10 cores running at 3.1Ghz. Regardless of which CPU speed you select, always fill both sockets of a high-end workstation, as that doubles your memory bandwidth and enables the last two PCIe slots. Therefore, choose dual 4-core CPUs instead of a single 8-core CPU, if that is the performance level you are after. It has 128GB of DDR4 memory, divided across eight sticks that are 16GB each. Regardless of size, maximum performance is achieved with at least as many sticks of RAM since there are memory channels. This system has four memory channels per CPU, for a total of eight channels. I would recommend at least 64GB of RAM for most editing systems, with more for larger projects. Since we were cutting an entire feature with 6K source files, 128GB was a reasonable choice that served us well.

Both our systems are usually pretty quiet, which is impressive considering how powerful they are. They do generate heat, and I don’t recommend running them in a room without AC, but that was outside of our control. Air-cooled systems are only as effective as the environment they are in, and our situation wasn’t always optimal.

PCIe SSDs are a huge leap forward for storage throughput. This workstation came with a PCIe x16 Gen3 card that supports up to four M.2 NVMe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NVM_Express SSDs at full speed. This allows up to 2500MB/s from each of the four ports, which is enough bandwidth to play back 6K DPXs at 24p in Premiere without dropping frames.

Now capacity is limited with this new expensive technology, topping out at 1TB per $700 card. My 512GB card can only store seven minutes of data at maximum throughput, but for smaller data sets, like VFX shots, this allows a system to cache meaningful quantities of data at very high speed without needing a large array of disks to sustain the required I/Os.

Once we open the tool-less case, one of the obvious visual differences between the Dell and HP solutions is that the Precision 7910 splits the PCIe slots, with two above the CPUs and five below. I assume the benefits to this are shorter circuit paths to the CPUs, and better cooling for hot cards. It hasn’t made a big difference to me, but it is worth noting. Like other dual-socket systems, two of the slots are disabled if the second CPU is not installed.

In my case, I have the SSD card in the top slot, and a Red Rocket-X in the next one down. The Thunderbolt 2 card has to be installed in the slot directly below the CPUs. Then I installed my SAS RAID card and the Intel X540 10GbE NIC, leaving space at the bottom for my Quadro GPU.

Another unique feature of the case layout is that the power supply is located behind the motherboard, instead of at the top or bottom of the system. This places the motherboard at the center of the chassis, with components and cards on one side, and power and storage bays on the other. There are a variety of integrated ports, with dual-Gigabit NICs, PS/2, audio, serial, and six USB ports. The only aspect I found limiting was the total of four USB 3.0 ports, one in front and three in back. I have on occasion been using all of them at once for my external drive transfers, but having a USB 3.0 hub in most of Dell’s monitors can help with this issue. Hopefully, we will see USB-C ports with double that bandwidth in the next generation, as well as integrated Thunderbolt 3 support to free up another PCIe slot.

Besides the slim DVD drive, there are four 3.5-inch hard drive bays with tool-less cages, and a 5.25-inch bay, which can be optionally reconfigured to hold four more 2.5-inch drives. The next model down, the Precision 7810, is similar, but without the top two PCIe slots and only two 3.5-inch drive bays. My drive bays are all empty because the PCIe SSD is my only internal storage, but that means that I could easily add four 8TB SAS drives for 32TB of internal storage with no other accessories required. And I may use the 5.25-inch bay for an LTO drive someday, if I don’t end up getting an external one.

If I do get an external SAS drive, it could be connected to one of the two SFF 8643 connectors on the motherboard. These new connectors each support four channels of 12Gb SAS, with one of them hooked to the 3.5-inch drive back plane by default. The integrated SAS controller supports up to eight channels of SAS or SATA data, capable of RAID-0 or -1. Using RAID-5 or -6 requires a separate dedicated card, in my case the Areca 1883x. At least one integrated M.2 slot would be great to see in the next refresh, as those SSDs become more affordable.

Dell also includes their system management software Dell Precision Optimizer to help you get the maximum performance from the system. It allows users to monitor and chart CPU and GPU use as well as memory and disk usage. It can configure system settings like Hyperthreading, Power Usage and V-Sync, using pre-built profiles for various industry applications. It won’t tune your system for video editing as well as an expert who knows what they are doing, but it is better than doing nothing right out of the box.

Real-World Use
Over the last year, we have run two of these workstations on a 6K feature film, taking them right to the limit on a regular basis. It was not uncommon to be encoding R3D dailies to H264 in AME, while rendering a VFX shot in AE, and playing back in Premiere, on both systems simultaneously, pulling data from each other’s local storage arrays over the network. And while I won’t say that they never crashed, stability was not an issue that seriously impacted our workflow or schedule. I have been quite impressed by what we were able to accomplish with them, with very little other infrastructure. The unique split chassis design makes room for a lot of internal storage, and they run reliably and quietly, even when chock full of powerful cards. I am looking forward to getting a couple more solid years of use out of them.


Mike McCarthy is an online editor and workflow consultant with 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been on the forefront of pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and now multiscreen and surround video experiences. If you want to see more specific details about performance numbers and benchmark tests for these Nvidia cards, check out techwithmikefirst.com.

G-Tech 6-15

Swedish post/VFX company Chimney opens in LA

Swedish post company Chimney has opened a Los Angeles facility, its first in the US, but one of their 12 offices in eight countries. Founded in Stockholm in 1995, Chimney produces over 6,000 pieces for more than 60 countries each year, averaging 1,000 projects and 10,000 VFX shots. The company, which is privately held by 50 of its artists, is able to offer 24-hour service thanks to its many locations around the world.

When asked why Chimney decided to open an office in LA, founder Henric Larsson said, “It was not the palm trees and beaches that made us open up in LA. We’re film nerds and we want to work with the best talent in the world, and where do we find the top directors, DPs, ADs, CDs and producers if not in the US?”

The Chimney LA crew.

The Chimney LA team was busy from the start, working with Team One to produce two Lexus campaigns, including one that debuted during the Super Bowl. For the Lexus Man & Machine Super Bowl Spot, they took advantage of the talent at sister facilities in Poland and Sweden.

Chimney also reports that it has signed with Shortlist Mgmt, joining other companies like RSA, Caviar, Tool and No6 Editorial. Charlie McBrearty, founding partner of Shortlist Mgmt, says that Chimney has “been on our radar for quite some time, and we are very excited to be part of their US expansion. Shortlist is no stranger to managing director Jesper Palsson, and we are thrilled to be reunited with him after our past collaboration through Stopp USA.”

Tools used for VFX include Autodesk’s Flame and Maya, The Foundry’s Nukea and Adobe After Effects. Audio is via Avid Pro Tools. Color is done in Digital Vision’s Nucoda. For editing they call on Avid Media Composer, Apple Final Cut and Adobe Premiere


Nutmeg adds Broadway Video’s former design group

New York City-based Nutmeg, a creative marketing and post production house, has acquired Broadway Video’s design team formerly known as FAC5. Under the Nutmeg brand, they are now known as NTMG Design.

The team of four — executive creative producer Doug LeBow, executive creative director Fred Salkind, creative director David Rogers and art director Karolina Dawson — is an Emmy, Telly and PromaxBDA award-winning creative collective working on design across multiple media platforms. Existing clients that could benefit from the new services include broadcast networks, cable channels and brands.

With services that include main titles and show packaging, experiential and event design, promotions and image campaigns, the group has worked with a variety of clients on a wide range of projects, including Nickelodeon HALO Awards; Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards; The Emmys for Don Mischer Productions; Indy 500 100th Anniversary for ESPN; HBO’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for Line-by-Line Productions; Thursday Night Football and Sunday Night Football tune-in promo packaging for CBS Sports; AT&T Concert Series for iHeart Media; The Great Human Race for National Geographic Channel; The Peabody Awards for Den of Thieves and others.

“Nutmeg has always embraced growth,” says Nutmeg executive producer Laura Vick. “As our clients and the marketplace shift to engage end users, the addition of a full-service design team allows us to offer all aspects of content creation under one roof. We can now assist at the inception of an idea to help create complete visual experiences — show opens, trade shows, corporate interiors or digital billboards.”

“We look at these new design capabilities as both a new frontier unto itself, and as yet another component of what we’re already doing — telling compelling stories,” says Nutmeg executive creative director Dave Rogan. “Nothing at Nutmeg is created in a vacuum, so these new areas of design crossing over into an interactive web environment, for example, is natural.”

The new NTMG Design team will be working within Nutmeg’s midtown location. Their suite contains five workstations supported by a 10-box renderfarm, Maxon Cinema 4D, Adobe After Effects, one seat of Flame, Assimilate Scratch access for color and an insert stage for practical shooting. It is further supported by 28TBs of Infortrend storage. 

While acknowledging tools are important, executive creative director Fred Salkind says, “Sometimes when I’m asked what we work with, I say Scotch tape and scissors, because it’s the idea that puts the tools to work, not the other way around.”

Main Photo by Eljay Aguillo. L-R: Fred Salkind, David Rogers, Doug LeBow and Karolina Dawson.


Assimilate Scratch and Scratch VR Suite upgraded to V.8.6

Assimilate is now offering an open beta for Scratch 8.6 and the Scratch VR Suite 8.6, the latest versions of its realtime post tools and workflow — VR/360 and 2D/3D content, from dailies to conform grading, compositing and finishing. Expanded HDR functions are featured throughout the product line, including in Scratch VR, which now offers stitching capabilities.

Both open beta versions gives pros the opportunity to actively use the full suite of Scratch and Scratch VR tools, while evaluating and submitting requests and recommendations for additional features or updates.

Scratch Web for cloud-based, realtime review and collaboration, and Scratch Play for immediate review and playback, are also included in the ecosystem updates. Both products support VR/360 and 2D/3D content.

Current users of the Scratch VR Suite 8.5 and Scratch Finishing 8.5 can download the Scratch 8.6 open beta. Scratch 8.6 open beta and the Scratch VR Suite open beta are available now.

“V8.6 is a major update for both Scratch and the Scratch VR Suite with significant enhancements to the HDR and ACES workflows. We’ve added stitching to the VR toolset so that creators have a complete and streamlined end-to-end VR workflow,” says Jeff Edson, CEO at Assimilate. “The open Beta helps us to continue developing the best and most useful post production features and techniques all artists need to perfect their creativity in color grading and finishing. We act on all input, much of it immediately and some in regular updates.”

Here are some details of the update:

HDR
• PQ and HLG transfer functions are now an integral part of Scratch color management.
• Scopes automatically switch to HDR mode if needed and show levels in a nit-scale; highlights any reference level that you set.
• At the project level, define the HDR mastering metadata: color space, color primaries and white levels, luminance levels and more. The metadata is automatically included in the Video HDMI interface (AJA, BMD, Bluefish444) for display.
• Static metadata has the function to calculate dynamic luminance metadata like MaxCLL and MaxFall.
• HDR footage can be published directly to YouTube with HDR metadata.

VR/360 – Scratch VR Suite
• 360 stitching functionality: load all your source media from your 360 cameras into Scratch VR and combine it to a single equirectangular image. Support for camera stitch templates: AutoPano projects, Hugin and PTStitch scripts.
• Ambisonic Audio: Scratch VR can load, set and playback ambisonic audio files to complete the 360 immersive experience.
• Video with 360 sound can be published directly to YouTube 360.
• Additional overlay handles to the existing 2D-equirectangular feature for more easily positioning 2D elements in a 360 scene.

DIT Reporting Function
• Create a report of all clips of either a timeline, a project or just a selection of shots.
• Reports include metadata, such as a thumbnail, clip-name, timecode, scene, take, comments and any metadata attached to a clip.
• Choose from predefined templates or create your own.


Quick Chat: Xytech COO Greg Dolan

Greg Dolan has seen tremendous change in the industry during his career. After a tenure at New York City’s Post Perfect, where he was CIO, Dolan switched to the vendor side of the business, bringing his hands-on post house expertise to a facility management company. After a number of successful years and product rollout, he moved to Xytech, where he is now COO. Xytech offers facility management software for scheduling all resources, managing all operations and tracking all assets, while providing reporting and accounting tools.

MediaPulse offers over 35 modules to manage the complicated tasks that facilities deal with daily. This past year, Xytech added interoperability, transmission and mobility, and a broadcast services division.

We recently reached out to Dolan to talk about the need and evolution of facility management tools.

What are some of the most frequently asked questions you get from customers?
Every client wants to know how their unique business workflows are managed in a commercially available product. It’s an incredibly fair point, and skepticism is warranted. Lots of companies have made lots of promises, not always with the best results. Every client has a unique mixture of workflows, integration needs and accounting treatments, however at a granular level, many requirements are seen throughout the industry. Our continued investment in MediaPulse ensures we stay current with these requirements, and the design of MediaPulse allows us to configure to exactly the client’s needs. This takes discipline and more importantly total commitment. Surprises always occur and the real test of a company and its people is in the response to these surprises.

What are some questions customers should be asking when it comes to facility management software that they often don’t?
My father was fond of saying, “They put erasers on pencils for a reason.” As vendors, we are all very happy to give “happy talk” as though our clients can’t see straight through the marketing haze. I wish more clients asked us to talk about our biggest challenges — times where we made mistakes — and then engaged us in conversation around how it was remedied. On a more concrete front, questioning a vendor about the technical architecture of their products and getting a list of previous years’ new features is essential. Success demands technical acuity from vendors and these types of questions really separate the wheat from the chaff.

Can you talk about the most important benefits of facility management tools for today’s facilities?
Facilities are challenged more than ever to get more done in narrower and narrower windows. There simply isn’t any room for inefficacies, and individual departments can’t operate as a silo. Facility management systems tie all the disparate operations, automate workflows and seamlessly exchange metadata with all systems in the facility. This eliminates redundancy and allows staff to manage by exception, with most activities automated.

What are some misconceptions about facility management tools?
These are not just scheduling systems. In fact, the idea of a standalone scheduling system having any relevance today is wildly anachronistic. Certainly, you still must schedule people and equipment to be in a place to do a thing, but this is a subset of the larger vision. To move the needle — all operations with their associated accounting and automation needs should be included in the system portfolio. Media manufacturing automation, federated asset and metadata management and transmission management are vital to the overall operational picture regardless of a facility’s size.

It’s obvious that bigger facilities could benefit from facility management tools, but can you tell the smaller studios why it’s important as well?
We think it’s more important for smaller facilities as there is a lower margin of error. For a modest investment, smaller facilities get a vital holistic view of all operations while having their billing and accounting totally automated. Facility management systems make sure all staff members are engaged in moving the business forward instead of burning unrecoverable hours fixing mistakes. Time is a key restriction for all of us. We find time where none exists.

How has this type of software evolved over the years, and how do you see it evolving again in the future?
Let me be very clear — it’s essential for clients to ensure their vendor understands the concept of the question. The game is incredibly different now and the tools of the past are woefully unprepared for today’s marketplace. To quote Lincoln, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.”

The simple answer is interoperability. It is a critical requirement for today’s systems. A lot of noise is made around interoperability, but it doesn’t take too long to separate point-to-point integrations from truly modern architectures. As for the future, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do know we are committed to delivering technology capable of evolving and quickly responding to the changes. You simply must have the entire organization on a constant change footing.


Corey Stewart joins Harbor Picture Company as CTO 

New York-based full-service post house Harbor Picture Company has hired Corey Stewart as chief technology officer. He brings 20 years of industry experience to his role.

Stewart joins Harbor from Technicolor PostWorks New York, where he had served as chief engineer since 2008. During that time he designed and managed integration of a large-scale routing control system, created a KVM switching infrastructure to increase room flexibility and production, and managed engineering teams during acquisitions and management changes.

Prior to that role, Stewart held a number of jobs at the company, including online editor, Avid support technician and lead engineer. Earlier on in his career, Stewart attended the School of Visual Arts in New York where he studied film and video with an editorial concentration, taught film production classes and worked as an Adobe After Effects designer/assistant editor at Harvey’s Place. He has been credited as DI engineer on a variety of feature films and television shows. He is also a member of the HPA, SMPTE, Digital Cinema Technology and more.

“The reality of our new landscape of anywhere, anytime, any artist, has demanded that we continue to seek out new technologies and technologists to facilitate the type of unlimited access to creativity that clients are in search of,” says founder/president Zak Tucker. “Corey was the perfect candidate for this new position because he shares our vision and holistic approach to post — providing omnipresent support to clients, everywhere from on set to the point of delivery. The creative benefit of this type of seamless workflow is the collaboration fostered between picture and sound, and it’s only made possible by the types of technological advancements and workflows industry vets like Corey are implementing and innovating.”

Recent Harbor projects include work on Arrival, Beauty and the Beast and Showtime’s Billions.


Quick Chat: Freefolk US executive producer Celia Williams

By Randi Altman

A few months back, UK-based post house Finish purchased VFX studio Realise and renamed the company Freefolk. They also expanded into the US with a New York City-based studio. Industry vet Celia Williams, who was most recently head of production at agency Arnold NY, is heading up Freefolk US. To find out more about the recently rebranded entity, we reached out to Williams.

Can you describe Freefolk? What kind of services do you offer?
Freefolk is a team of creative artists, technicians and problem solvers who use post production as their tool box. We offer services including high-end FilmLight Baselight color grading, remote grading, 2D and 3D visual effects, final conform, shoot supervision, animation, data management and direction of special projects. We work across the mediums of advertising, film, TV and digital content.

L-R: Celia Williams, Paul Harrison and Jason Watts.

What spurred on Freefolk’s expansion to the US?
Having carved out a reputation in London over the last 13 years as a commercials post house, the expansion to the US seemed like a natural progression for the founders, allowing them to export a boutique service and high-quality work rather than becoming another large machine in London.

Will you be offering the same services in both locations?
The services we offer in London will all be represented in New York. Color grading plays such an important role in the process these days, so we are spearheading with a Baselight suite driven by Paul Harrison and 2D VFX department being set up by Jason Watts.

Will you share staff between New York and the UK?
Yes, there will be a sharing of resources and, obviously, experience across the offices. A great thing about opening in New York is being able to offer our staff the experience of working in a foreign city. It also gives clients who are increasingly working across multiple markets a seamless global service.

Why the rebrand from Finish to Freefolk?
The rebrand from Finish to Freefolk came about as part of the expansion into the US and the acquisition of Realise. It was also a timely opportunity to express one of the core values of the company, and the way it values its staff and clients — Freefolk is about the people involved in the process.

What does the acquisition of Realise mean to the company?
Realise has brought a wealth of experience and talent to the table. They combine creative skill and technical understanding in equal measure. They are known in both commercials and now film and TV for offering very specialized capabilities with Side Effects Houdini and customized software.

We have just completed VFX work on 400 shots over 10 episodes of NBC’s Emerald City TV series (due to be released early 2017) and have just embarked on our next long-form project. It’s really exciting to be expanding into other mediums such as TV, film, installation work, projection mapping and other experimental and experiential arenas.

You have an ad agency background. From your own experience how important is that to clients?
It’s extremely important and comforting, actually. Understanding what the producers and creatives are challenged with on a daily basis gives me the ability to offer workable solutions to their problems in a very collaborative way. They don’t have to wonder if I “get” where they’re coming from. Frankly, I do.

I think that it’s emotionally helpful as well. To know someone can be an understanding shoulder to lean on and is taking their concerns seriously is beyond important. Everyone is working at breakneck speed in our industry, which can lead to a lack of humanity in our interactions. One of the main reasons I was attracted to working with Freefolk is that they are deeply dedicated to keeping that humanity and personal touch in the way they do business.

The way that post companies service agencies has changed due to the way that products are now being marketed — online ads, social media, VR. Can you talk about that?
To be well informed and prepped as early on in the process as you can be is key. And to truly partner with the producers and creatives, as much as they need or want, is critical. What might work in one medium may be less impactful in another, so from the get-go, how do we plan to ensure all deliverables are strong, and to offer insights into new technology that might impact the outcome? It’s all about sharing and collaboration.

I may be one of the few people who’ve never really panicked about the different ways we deliver final work — our industry has always been about change, which is what keeps it interesting. At the end of the day, it’s always been about delivering content, in one form or another. So you need to know your final deliverables list and plan accordingly.


Steve Holyhead

AJA brings on Steve Holyhead from Fox Broadcasting

Steve Holyhead has joined AJA as senior product manager for desktop products. He joins AJA from Fox Broadcasting Company where he was director of technical operations.

Holyhead recently moved to Grass Valley, where AJA is headquartered, from Los Angeles. In addition to working at Fox, his 20-plus years of industry experience includes developing professional digital video workflows with BloomCast, managing post operations at Discovery Communications and working as a technology evangelist, producer and technical marketing manager for both Discreet (now Autodesk) and Avid. He has also developed Avid and Adobe training courses for multiple partners, including Lynda.com.

“Steve brings a blend of real-world production and technology developer experience to AJA. His understanding of production, broadcast and post, together with his experience both designing enterprise scale workflows and as a master trainer for Adobe, Apple and Avid products, will make powerful contributions to the success of our customers,” says Nick Rashby, president of AJA.

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.