Category Archives: UHD

Designed for large file sizes, Facilis TerraBlock 7 ships

Facilis, makers of shared storage solutions for collaborative media production networks, is now shipping TerraBlock Version 7. The new Facilis Hub Server, a performance aggregator that can be added to new and existing TerraBlock systems, is also available now. Version 7 includes a new browser-based, mobile-compatible Web Console that delivers enhanced workflow and administration from any connected location.

With ever-increasing media file sizes and 4K, HDR and VR workflows continually putting pressure on facility infrastructure, the Facilis Hub Server is aimed at future-proofing customers’ current storage while offering new systems that can handle these types of files. The Facilis Hub Server uses a new architecture to optimize drive sets and increase the bandwidth available from standard TerraBlock storage systems. New customers will get customized Hub Server Stacks with enhanced system redundancy and data resiliency, plus near-linear scalability of bandwidth when expanding the network.

According to James McKenna, VP of marketing/pre-sales at Facilis, “The Facilis Hub Server gives current and new customers a way to take advantage of advanced bandwidth aggregation capabilities, without rendering their existing hardware obsolete.”

The company describes the Web Console as a modernized browser-based and mobile-compatible interface designed to increase the efficiency of administrative tasks and improve the end-user experience.

Easy client setup, upgraded remote volume management and a more integrated user database are among the additional improvements. The Web Console also supports Remote Volume Push to remotely mount volumes onto any client workstations.

Asset Tracking
As the number of files and storage continue to increase, organizations are realizing they need some type of asset tracking system to aid them in moving and finding files in their workflow. Many hesitate to invest in traditional MAM systems due to complexity, cost, and potential workflow impact.

McKenna describes the FastTracker asset tracking software as the “right balance for many customers. Many administrators tell us they are hesitant to invest in traditional asset management systems because they worry it will change the way their editors work. Our FastTracker is included with every TerraBlock system. It’s simple but comprehensive, and doesn’t require users to overhaul their workflow.”

V7 is available immediately for eligible TerraBlock servers.

Check out our interview with McKenna during NAB:

Pixelogic acquires Sony DADC NMS’ creative services unit

Pixelogic, a provider of localization and distribution services, has completed the acquisition of the creative services business unit of Sony DADC New Media Solutions, which specializes in 4K, UHD, HDR and IMF workflows for features and episodics. The move brings an expansion of Pixelogic’s significant services to the media and entertainment industry and provides additional capabilities, including experienced staff, proprietary technology and an extended footprint.

According to John Suh, co-president of Pixelogic, the acquisition “expands our team of expert media engineers and creative talent, extends our geographic reach by providing a fully established London operation and further adds to our capacity and capability within an expansive list of tools, technologies, formats and distribution solutions.”

Seth Hallen

Founded less than a year ago, Pixelogic currently employs over 240 worldwide and is led by industry veterans Suh and Rob Seidel. While the company is headquartered in Burbank, California, it has additional operations in Culver City, California, London and Cairo.

Sony DADC NMS Creative Services was under the direction of Seth Hallen, who joins Pixelogic as senior VP of business development and strategy. All Sony DADC NMS Creative Services staff, technology and operations are now part of Pixelogic. “Our business model is focused on the deep integration of localization and distribution services for movies and television products,” says Hallen. “This supply chain will require significant change in order to deliver global day and date releases with collapsed distribution windows, and by partnering closely with our customers we are setting out to innovate and help lead this change.”

Dell 6.15

The Path‘s post path to UHD

By Randi Altman

On a recent visit to the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of meeting the post team behind Hulu’s The Path, which stars Aaron Paul and Hugh Dancy. The show is about a cult — or as their members refer to it, a movement — that on the outside looks like do-gooders preaching peace and love, but on the inside there are some freaky goings-on.

The first time I watched The Path, I was taken with how gorgeous the picture looked, and when I heard the show was posted and delivered in UHD, I understood why.

“At the time we began to prep season one — including the pilot — Hulu had decided they would like all of their original content shows to deliver in UHD,” explains The Path producer Devin Rich. “They were in the process of upgrading their streaming service to that format so the viewers at home, who had the capability, could view this show in its highest possible quality.”

For Rich (Parenthood, American Odyssey, Deception, Ironside), the difference that UHD made to the picture was significant. “There is a noticeable difference,” he says. “For lack of better words, the look is more crisp and the colors pop. There, of course, is a larger amount of information in a UHD file, which gives us a wider range to make it look how we want it to, or at least closer to how we want it to look.”

L-R: Tauzhan Kaiser, Craig Burdick (both standing), Jacqueline LeFranc and Joe Ralston.

While he acknowledges that as a storyteller UHD “doesn’t make much of a difference” because scripts won’t change, his personal opinion is that “most viewers like to feel as if they are living within the scene rather than being a third-party to the scene.” UHD helps get them there, as does the team at NBCUniversal StudioPost, which consists of editor Jacqueline LeFranc, who focuses on the finishing, adding titles, dropping in the visual effects and making the final file; colorist Craig Budrick; lead digital technical operations specialist Joe Ralston, who focuses on workflow; and post production manager Tauzhan Kaiser.

They were all kind enough to talk to us about The Path’s path to UHD.

Have you done an UHD workflow on any other shows?
Ralston: We have a lot of shows that shoot UHD or high resolution, but The Path was our first television show that finished UHD all the way through.

What is it shot on?
Ralston: They shoot Red 3840×2160, and they also shoot 4800×2700, so almost 5K. UHD is technically twice the height and twice the width of HD, so while it’s still 16×9, resolution-wise it’s double.

From an infrastructure perspective, were you guys prepared to deal with all that data?
Ralston: Yes. At the facility here at NBCUniversal StudioPost, not only do we do TV work, but there’s remastering work — all the centennial titles, for example.

Kaiser: We we’ve done Spartacus. All Quiet on the Western Front, The Birds, Buck Privates, Dracula (1931), Frankenstein, Out of Africa, Pillow Talk, The Sting, To Kill a Mockingbird, Touch of Evil, Double Indemnity, Holiday Inn and King of Jazz.

Ralston: The infrastructure as far as storage and monitoring were already in place here. We knew that this was coming. So slowly the facility has been preparing and gearing up for it. We had been ready, but this was really the first that requested end-to-end UHD. Usually, we do a show that maybe it’s shot UHD or 5K, but they finish in HD, so when we leave the editorial room, we’re then in an HD world. In this case, we were not.

LeFranc: Joe’s group, which is digital tech ops, doesn’t really exist in other places that I know of. They develop, train and work with everybody else in the facility to develop these kind of workflows in order to get ahead of it. So we are prepared, adequately trained and aware of all the pitfalls and any other concerns there might be. That’s a great thing for us, because it’s knowledge.

Other shows have gone UHD, but some in season two, and they were playing catch up in terms of workflow.
Ralston: We’d been thinking about it for a long time. Like I said, the difference with this show, versus some of the other ones who do it is that everyone else, when it got to color, went to HD. This one, when we got to color, we stayed UHD all the way through from there on out.

So, that was really the big difference for a show like this. The big challenges for this one were — and Jacqueline can go into it a little bit more — when you get into things like titling or creating electronic titles, there’s not a lot of gear out there that does that.

Jacqueline, can you elaborate on that?
LeFranc: There were obstacles that I encountered when trying to establish the initial workflow. So, for example, the character generator that is used to create the titles has an option for outputting 4K, but after testing it I realized it wasn’t 4K. It looked like it was just up-rezed.

So I came up with a workflow where, in the character generator, we would make the title larger than we needed it to be and then size it down in Flame. Then we needed a new UHD monitor, the Sony BVMX300. The broadcast monitor didn’t work anymore, because if you want to see UHD in RGB, it has to have a quad-link output.

Craig, did your color process change at all?
Budrick: No, there wasn’t really any change for me in color. The creative process is still the creative process. The color corrector supports a higher resolution file, so it wasn’t an issue of needing new equipment or anything like that.

What systems do you use?
Budrick: We are primarily an Autodesk facility, so we use Flame, Flame Premium and Lustre for color. We also have Avids.

Can you walk us through the workflow?
Ralston: We don’t do the dailies on this project here. It’s all done in New York at Bling. We receive all the camera master files. While they do use drones and a couple of other cameras, a large percent of the show is shot on Epic Red Dragon at 3840×2160.

We get all those camera master files and load them onto our server. Then we receive an Avid bin or sequence from the client and bring that into our Avid in here and we link to those camera master files on the SAN. Once they’re linked, we then have a high-res timeline we can play through. We take the low-res offline version that they gave us and we split it — our editor goes through it and makes sure that everything’s there and matched.

Once that part is complete, we transcode that out to the Avid codec DNX-HR444, which is basically 440Mb and a UHD file that the Avid is outputting. Once we get that UHD file out of the Avid, we flip that UHD DNX-MXF file into a DPX sequence that is a UHD 3840×2160 DPX sequence. That’s where Craig would pick up on color. He would take that DPX sequence and color from there.

Craig, in terms of the look of the show, what direction were you given?
Budrick: They shoot in New York, so the DP Yaron Orbach is in New York. Because of that distance, I had a phone conversation with them to start the look of the show. Then I do a first-day pass, and then he receives the file. Then, he just gives me notes via email on each scene. Then he gets the second file, and hopefully I’m there.

Can you give me an example of a note that he has given?
Budrick: It just might be, you know, let’s add some saturation, or let’s bring this scene down. Maybe make it more moody. Bring down the walls.

Overall, as the show has gone along and the stories have developed it’s gotten a little darker and more twisted, it’s leaned more toward a moody look and not a whole lot of happy.

Ralston: Because of the distance between us and the DP, we shipped a color-calibrated Sony HD monitor to New York. We wanted to make sure that what he was looking at was an exact representation of what Craig was doing.

Jacqueline, any challenges from your perspective other than the titles and stuff?
LeFranc: Just the differences that I noticed — the render time takes a little longer, obviously, because the files are a little bigger. We have to use certain SAN volumes, because some have larger bandwidths.

Ralston: We have 13 production volumes here, and for this particular show — like the feature mastering that we do — the volume is 156TB Quantum that is tuned for 4K. So, in other words, it performs better with these larger files on it.

Did you experiment at all at the beginning?
Ralston: For the first three episodes we had a parallel workflow. Everything we did in UHD, we did in HD as well — we didn’t want the producer showing up to a screening and running into a bandwidth issue. In doing this, we realized we weren’t experiencing bandwidth issues. We kind of underestimated what our SAN could do. So, we abandoned the HD.

Do you think finishing in UHD will be the norm soon?
Ralston: We were unofficially told that this time next year we should plan on doing network shows this way.


Netflix’s ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ gets crisper look via UHD

NYC’s Technicolor Postworks created a dedicated post workflow for the upgrade.

Having compiled seven Emmy Award nominations in its debut season, Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returned in mid-April with 13 new episodes in a form that is, quite literally, bigger and better.

The sitcom, from co-creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, features the ever-cheerful and ever-hopeful Kimmy Schmidt, whose spirit refuses to be broken, even after being held captive during her formative years. This season the series has boosted its delivery format from standard HD to the crisper, clearer, more detailed look of Ultra High Definition (UHD).

L-R: Pat Kelleher and Roger Doran

As with the show’s first season, post finishing was done at Technicolor PostWorks New York. Online editor Pat Kelleher and colorist Roger Doran once again served as the finishing team, working under the direction of series producer Dara Schnapper, post supervisor Valerie Landesberg and director of photography John Inwood. Almost everything else, however, was different.

The first season had been shot by Inwood with Arri Alexa, capturing in 1080p, and finished in ProRes 4444. The new episodes were shot with Red Dragon, capturing in 5K, and needed to be finished in UHD. That meant that the hardware and workflow used by Kelleher and Doran had to be retooled to efficiently manage UHD files four times larger than ProRes.

“It was an eye opener,” recalls Kelleher of the change. “Obviously, the amount of drive space needed for storage is huge. Everyone from our data manager through to the people who did the digital deliveries had to contend with the higher volume of data. The actual hands-on work is not that different from an HD show, but you need the horses to do it.”

Before post work began, engineers from Technicolor PostWorks’ in-house research unit, The Test Lab, analyzed the workflow requirements of UHD and began making changes. They built an entirely new hardware Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidtsystem for Kelleher to use, running Autodesk’s Flame Premium. It consisted of an HP Z820 workstation with Nvidia Quadro K6000 graphics, 64GB of RAM and dual Intel Xeon Processor E5-2687Ws (20M Cache, 3.10 GHz, 8.00 GT/s Intel QPI). Kelleher described its performance in handling UHD media as “flawless.”

Doran’s color grading suite got a similar overhaul. For him, engineers built a Linux-based workstation to run Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, V11, and set up a dual monitoring system. That included a Panasonic 300 series display to view media in 1080p and a Samsung 9500 series curved LED to view UHD. Doran could then review color decisions in both formats (while maintaining a UHD signal throughout) and spot details or noise issues in UHD that might not be apparent at lower resolution.

While the extra firepower enabled Kelleher and Doran to work with UHD as efficiently as HD, they faced new challenges. “We do a lot of visual effects for this show,” notes Kelleher. “And now that we’re working in UHD, everything has to be much more precise. My mattes have to be tight because you can see so much more.”

Doran’s work in the color suite similarly required greater finesse. “You have to be very, very aware,” he says. “Cosmetically, it’s different. The lighting is different. You have to pay close attention to how the stars look.”

Doran is quick to add that, while grading UHD might require closer scrutiny, it’s justified by the results. “I like the increased range and greater detail,” he says. “I enjoy the extra control. Once you move up, you never want to go back.”

Both Doran and Kelleher credited the Technicolor PostWorks engineering team of Eric Horwitz, Corey Stewart and Randy Main for their ability to “move up” with a minimum of strain. “The engineers were amazing,” Kelleher insists. “They got the workflow to where all I had to think about was editing and compositing. The transition was so smooth, you almost forgot you were working in UHD, except for the image quality. That was amazing.”


Quick Chat: New president/GM Deluxe TV post services Dom Rom

Domenic Rom, a fixture in the New York post community for 30 years, has been promoted to president and GM of Deluxe TV Post Production Services. Rom was most recently managing director of Deluxe’s New York studio, which incorporates Encore/Company 3/Method. He will now be leading Deluxe’s global services for television, specifically, the Encore and Level 3 branded companies. He will be making the move to Los Angeles.

Rom’s resume is long. He joined DuArt Film Labs in 1984 as a colorist, working his way up to EVP of the company, running both its digital and film lab divisions. In 2000, he joined stock footage/production company Sekani (acquired by Corbis), helping to build the first fully digital content distribution network. In 2002, he founded The Lab at Moving Images, the first motion picture lab to open in in New York in 25 years. It was acquired by PostWorks, which named Rom COO overseeing its Avid rentals, remote set-ups, audio mixing, color correction and editorial businesses. In 2010, Rom joined Technicolor NY as SVP post production. When PostWorks NY acquired Technicolor NY, Rom again became COO of the now-larger company. He joined Deluxe in 2013 as GM of its New York operations.

“I love what I’m seeing today in the industry,” he says. “It has been said many times, but we’re truly in a golden age of television. The best entertainment in the world is coming from the networks and a whole new generation of original content creators. It’s exciting to be in a position to service that work. There are few, if any, companies that have invested in the research, technology and talent to the degree Deluxe has, to help clients take advantage of the latest advancements — whether it’s HDR, 4K, or whatever comes next, to create amazing new experiences for viewers.”

postPerspective reached out to Rom, as he was making his transition to the West Coast, to find out more about his new role and his move.

What does this position mean to you?
This position is the biggest honor and challenge of my career. I have always considered Encore and Level 3 to be the premier television facilities in the world, and to be responsible for them is amazing and daunting all at the same time. I am so looking forward to working with the facilities in Vancouver, Toronto, New York and London.

What do you expect/hope to accomplish in this new role?
To bring our worldwide teams even closer and grow the client relationships even stronger than they already are, because at the end of the day this is a total relationship business and probably my favorite part of the job.

How have you seen post and television change over the years?
I was talking about this with the staff out here the other day. I have seen the business go from film to 2-inch tape to 1-inch to D2 to D5 to HDCAM (more formats than I can remember) to nonlinear editing and digital acquisition — I could go on and on. Right now the quality and sheer amount of content coming from the studios, networks, cablenets and many, many new creators is both exciting and challenging. The fact that this business is constantly changing helps to keep me young.

How is today’s production and post technology helping make TV an even better experience for audiences?
In New York we just completed the first Dolby Vision project for an entire episodic television season (which I can’t name yet), and it looks beautiful. HDR opens up a whole new visual world to the artists and the audience.

Are you looking forward to living in Los Angeles?
I have always danced with the idea of living in LA throughout my career, and to do so this far in is interesting timing. My family and, most importantly, my brand new grandson are all on the east coast so I will maintain my roots there while spreading them out west as well.


BenQ offering 4K UHD monitor for editing pros

For video editors looking for a new monitor, BenQ America has made available the PV3200PT IPS, which is purpose-built for post workflows. The 32-inch 4K Ultra HD display offers color precision via 10-bit, 100 percent sRGB color, which follows the Rec. 709 standard. Available now, the unit sells for $1,499.

The PV3200PT reproduces color tones with a Delta-E value of less than or equal to two and features a 14-bit 3D LUT to display an accurate color mixture for improved RGB color blending. By balancing brightness to a deviation and chromaticity less than 10 percent, the monitor offers a more consistent viewing experience. The monitor also features simple hardware and software calibration by allowing users to adjust the unit’s image processing chip without altering graphics card data.

An OSD controller provides preset custom modes so users can easily switch between Rec. 709, EBU and SMPTE-C modes. The PV3200PT is part of BenQ’s Eye-Care models, which are designed to increase visual comfort while performing common computer tasks. While conventional screens flicker at a rate of 200 times per second, BenQ’s ZeroFlicker technology eliminates flickering at all brightness levels, which reduces eye fatigue and provides a more comfortable viewing experience during prolonged sessions of computer use. Further capabilities include ergonomic customization such as height, tilt, pivot and swivel adjustments.

Watch this space in coming weeks for a review of the product via video editor Brady Betzel.


UHD Alliance’s Victor Matsuda: updates from NAB 2016

Victor Matsuda from the UHD Alliance was at NAB 2016. The Alliance was formed about 15 months ago as 4K UHD products began exploding into the market. The goal of the Alliance was to establish certifications for these new products and for content. All of this is to ensure a quality experience for consumers, who will ultimately drive 4K/UHD adoption throughout the market.

Watch our video with Matsuda to find out more.


NAB 2016 from an EP’s perspective

By Tara Holmes

Almost two weeks ago, I found myself at NAB for the first time. I am the executive producer of color and finishing at Nice Shoes, a post production studio in New York City. I am not an engineer and I am not an artist, so why would an EP go to NAB? I went because one of my main goals for 2016 is to make sure the studio remains at the forefront of technology. While I feel that our engineering team and artists represent us well in that respect, I wanted to make sure that I, along with our producers, were fully educated on these emerging technologies.

One of our first priorities for NAB was to meet with top monitor manufacturers to hopefully land on what UHD HDR monitors we would find to meet our standards for professional client viewing. We came to the conclusion that the industry is not there yet and we have more research to do before we upgrade our studio viewing environments.

Everyone with me was in agreement. They aren’t where they need to be. Most are only outputting around 400-800 nits and are experiencing luminance and contrast issues. None of this should stop the process of coloring for HDR. For the master monitor for the colorist, the Sony BVM-X300 OLED master monitor, which we are currently using, seems to be the ideal choice as you can still work in traditional Rec 709 as well as Rec 2020 for HDR.

After checking out some monitors, we headed to the FilmLight booth to go over the 5.0 upgrades to Baselight. Our colorist Ron Sudul, along with Nice Shoes Creative Studio VFX supervisor Adrian Winter, sat with myself and the FilmLight reps to discuss the upgrades, which included incredible new isolation tracking capabilities.  These upgrades will reinvent what can be achieved in the color suite: from realtime comps to retouch being done in color. The possibilities are exciting.

I also spent time learning about the upgrades to Filmlight’s Flip, which is their on-set color hardware. The Flip can allow you to develop your color look on set, apply it during your edit process (with the Baselight plug-in for Avid) and refine it in final color, all without affecting your RAW files. In addition to the Flip, they developed a software that supports on-set look development and grading called Prelight. I asked if these new technologies could enable us to even do high-end things like sky replacements on set and was told that the hardware within the Flip very well could.

We also visited our friends at DFT, the manufacturers of the Scanity film scanner, to catch up and discuss the business of archiving. With Scanity, Nice Shoes can scan 4K when other scanners only scan up to 2K resolution. This is a vital tool in not only preserving past materials, but in future proofing for emerging formats when archiving scans from film.

VR
On Sunday evening before the exhibits opened, we attended a panel on VR that was hosted by the Foundry. At this event we got to experience a few of the most talked about VR projects including Defrost, one of the first narrative VR films, from the director of Grease, Randal Kleiser, who was on the panel along with moderator Morris May (CEO/founder, Specular Theory), Bryn Mooser (co-founder, RYOT), Tim Dillon (executive producer, MPC) and Jake Black (head of VR, Create Advertising).

The Foundry’s VR panel.

The panel inspired me to delve deeper into the VR world, and on Wednesday I spent most of my last day exploring the Virtual & Augmented Reality Pavilion. In addition to seeing the newest VR camera rig offerings and experiencing a live VR feed, as well as demo-ing the Samsung Gear, I explored viewing options for the color workflow. Some people I spoke to mentioned that multiple Oculus set-ups all attached to a single feed was the way to go for color workflow, but another option that we did a very preliminary exploration of was the “dome” possibility, which offers a focused 180-degree view for everyone involved to comment on the same section of a VR scene. This would enable all involved to be sure they are experiencing and viewing the same thing at the same time.

HDR Workflow
Another panel we attended was about HDR workflows. Nice Shoes has already had the opportunity to work on HDR material and have begun to develop workflows for this emerging medium. Most HDR deliverables are for episodic and long form for such companies as Netflix, Hulu and the like. It may be some time before commercial clients are requesting an HDR deliverable, but the workflows will be much the same so the development being performed now is extremely valuable.

My biggest take away was that there are still no set standards. There’s Dolby Vision vs. HDR 10 vs. PQ vs. others. But it appears that everyone agrees that standards are not needed right now. We need to get tools into the hands of the artists and figure out what works best. Standards will come out of that. The good news is that we appear to be future-proofed for the standard to change. Meaning for the most part, every camera we are shooting on is shooting for HDR and should standards change — say from 1000 nits to 10,000 nits — the footage and process is still there to go back in and color for the new request.

Summing Up
I truly believe my time spent at NAB has prepared me for the myriad of questions that will be put forth throughout the year and will help us develop our workflows to evolve the creative process of post. I’ll be sure to be there again next year in order to prepare myself for the questions of 2017 and beyond.

Our Main Image: The view walking into the South Hall Lower at the LVCC.