By Randi Altman
When I first happened upon Spanish company SGO, they were giving demos of their Mistika system on a small stand in the back of the post production hall at IBC. That was about eight years ago. Since then, the company has grown its Mistika DI finishing system, added a new product called Mamba FX, and brought them both to the US and beyond.
With NAB fast approaching, I thought I would check in with SGO CEO Miguel Angel Doncel to find out how the company began, where they are now and where they are going. I also checked in about some industry trends.
Can you talk about the genesis of your company and the Mistika product?
SGO was born out of a technically oriented mentality to find the best ways to use open architectures and systems to improve media content creation processes. That is not a challenging concept today, but it was an innovative view in 1993 when most of the equipment used in the industry was proprietary hardware. The idea of using computers to replace proprietary solutions was the reason SGO was founded.
It seems you guys were ahead of the curve in terms of one product that could do many things. Was that your goal from the outset?
Ten years ago, most of the manufacturers approached the industry with a set of different solutions to address different parts of the workflow; this gave us an opportunity to capitalize on improving the workflow, as disjointed solutions imply inefficient workflows due to their linearity/sequentiality.
We always thought that by improving the workflow, our technology would be able to play in all those arenas without having to change the tools. Making the workflow parallel and saving time when a problem is detected avoids going backwards in the pipeline, and we can focus moving forward.
I think after so many years, the industry is saying we were right, and all are going in that direction.
How is SGO addressing HDR?
We are excited about HDR, as it really improves the visual experience, but at the same time it is a big challenge to define a workflow that can work in both HDR and SDR in a smooth way. Our solution to that challenge is the four-dimensional grading that is implemented with our 4th ball. This allows the colorist to work not only in the three traditional dimensions — R, G and B — but also to work in the highlights as a parallel dimension.
What about VR?
VR pieces together all the requirements of the most demanding 3D with the requirements of 360. Considering what SGO already offers in stereo 3D production, we feel we are well positioned to provide a 360/VR solution. For that reason, we want to introduce a specific workflow for VR that helps customers to work on VR projects, addressing the most difficult requirements, such as discontinuities in the poles, or dealing with shapes.
The new VR mode we are preparing for Mistika 8.7 will be much more than a VR visualization tool. It will allow users to work in VR environments the same way they would work in a normal production. Not having to worry about circles ending up being highly distorted ellipses and so forth.
What do you see as the most important trends happening in post and production currently?
The industry is evolving in many different directions at the moment — 8K realtime, 4K/UHD, HDR, HFR, dual-stream stereo/VR. These innovations improve and enhance the audience’s experience in many different ways. They are all interesting individually, but the most vital aspect for us is that all of them actually have something in common — they all require a very smart way of how to deal with increasing bandwidths. We believe that a variety of content will use different types of innovation relevant to the genre.
Where do you see things moving in the future?
I personally envision a lot more UHD, HDR and VR material in the near future. The technology is evolving in a direction that can really make the entertainment experience very special for audiences, leaving a lot of room to still evolve. An example is the Quantum Break game from Remedy Studios/Microsoft, where the actual users’ experience is part of the story. This is where things are headed.
I think the immersive aspect is the challenge and goal. The reason why we all exist in this industry is to make people enjoy what they see, and all these tools and formulas combined together form a great foundation on which to build realistic experiences.