Tag Archives: AlphaDogs

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.

AlphaDogs employs roundtripping workflow for surfing film ‘Gone’

The AlphaDogs post house in Burbank color graded the film Gone, from producer/director Mark Kronemeyer of Pargo Media. Gone takes audiences on a journey through Mexican deserts and jungles, from Baja to Oaxaca, on the search for the soul of surfing in Mexico.

Edited in Final Cut Pro X by Kronemeyer, Gone required a roundtrip workflow through DaVinci Resolve before the color grading process could begin in order to match mixed frame rates between FCP X and Resolve. Roundtripping often causes playback judder if not done properly. To avoid this problem, AlphaDogs colorist Sean Stack, who was in charge of creating the look for the film, rendered the footage outside of Resolve using the original source frame rate, then allowed for adjustment in playback quality once the footage was back in the editing application.

GONEImage2

Non-native frame rates can sometimes appear jittery, which is especially problematic with action footage. The post house used Cinema Tools on short clips to simply convert the playback rate to match the timeline. Although there is a slight speed ramp applied when using this technique, it is typically not noticeable on shorter clips.

Gone was shot in various locations throughout Mexico, so it encompasses a wide variety of beach terrain. To give each location its own personality and character, Stack made specific creative color decisions, such as making southern beaches more teal and green in color while adding more blue and purple/red into the shadows of the surf on northern beaches. Kronemeyer specifically wanted the sections of larger waves to appear even more dangerous and menacing. Stack achieved this look by punching up the blue in the surf, making the water appear darker and in turn giving the waves a deeper and more hazardous look.

While FCP X and Resolve workflows are mostly reliable when it comes to roundtrip accuracy, Stack remains diligent in making sure he always has a QuickTime reference movie with time code delivered to the color session before any conforming begins.

GONEmovieposter

“Without that roadmap, commonly known as a ‘chase reference,’ I cannot guarantee sync with the original offline locked cut,” explains Stack. “The audio mixer should use the same chase reference as the colorist, as this will further guarantee that the mix stems will sync up perfectly with the color graded final sequence.”

Round-trip workflows also present unique challenges when it comes to audio. Because FCP X cannot export proper materials for a pro mix, specific steps are required so as to not slow down the audio process in post. AlphaDogs audio engineer Curtis Fritsch used workaround methods, such as applying Assisted Editing’s Xto7 app and streamlining the audio tracks to ease the transition from FCP X to Pro Tools. Fritsch then added extra EQ to the low and high ends of each song to help elevate the drive of the music to better match the fast pace and lush visuals of the beaches in Mexico.

AlphaDogs audio pros offer their Top 5 tips for success

Curtis Fritsch, Erik Valenzuela and Marcus Pardo are part of the audio post team at Burbank-based AlphaDogs. They all agree that one of the best parts of the job is the collaborative process — working with clients to realize their audio vision to the fullest potential.

Projects taking place at AlphaDogs include everything from indie feature sound design to documentary clean-up to promo sweetening and audio for reality TV, which is a big part of their work.

AlphaDogs’ suite of tools includes Izotope RX for audio cleanup and restoration; Waves Diamond Bundle for EQs, compression and limiting; Cedar DNS One for dialog noise suppression; Dolby Media Meter and the LM-100 for the CALM Act TV Dialog standard; the Surcode for surround Continue reading

AlphaDogs provides finishing for indie film The Dark Places

Burbank — Director Jody Wheeler recently turned to AlphaDogs to finish his feature film The Dark Place about a series of mysterious events in the life of Keegan Dark, who has the ability to remember everything that happens to him in videographic detail.

AlphaDogs colorist Sean Stack completed color correction for the film in DaVinci Resolve.  A round-trip workflow was required to conform files from FCP X into Resolve.  Stack took extra care in scrutinizing the clips for any potential problem areas before meeting with the client to set the tone and style for the film. “This was the first time we’ve delivered a project at this level with this many requirements, across both visual and sound,” said Wheeler. “AlphaDogs experience served as a wonderful touchstone. They identified some areas we hadn’t seen and, even better, already had fixes in place that were easy to implement, keeping us on track and within our budget.”

new gun

Audio for the film included balancing the sound effects and dialog, along with sound design on key scenes. Curtis Fritsch was the audio mixer for AlphaDogs. “With a 5.1 surround mix alone that’s six different audio files just for the full mix.  This doesn’t include other deliverables, such as separate music, special effects, and dialog, which gives you quite a few tracks by the end, especially if you are delivering in stereo as well.”

The Dark Place was written, directed and produced by Jody Wheeler at Blue Seraph Productions with producers, J.T. Tepnapa and Carlos Pedraza and distributed by Shoreline Entertainment.

AlphaDogs posts ‘Bigfoot’ reality series

Burbank — In the new one-hour reality competition series Ten Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty, nine teams of lifelong Bigfoot bounty hunters — or “sqautchers” as they like to be called — use their skills, and modern-day technology, to track and hopefully capture this elusive giant, with one team receiving a chance at 10 million dollars in cash. The series, hosted by actor Dean Cain, airs on Spike TV.

The shoot presented its own daunting challenge, spanning four states with multiple indoor and outdoor locations. In addition, a wide variety of videotape and card-based formats from 124 cameras including thermal imaging, timelapse, quad copters and IR cameras were used. The producers called on Burbank’s AlphaDogs for post production services.

“This is the most complex array of gear I’ve come across and I knew we needed a post-house with a colorist and online editor who could handle it,” said consulting producer Scott Templeton.  Terence Curren and the team and AlphaDogs were my first choice. I’ve worked with them on other projects and knew it would be the right decision.”

Typical reality television programming time constraints and hefty technical challenges made color grading especially daunting. Curren, veteran colorist and CEO of AlphaDogs (http://www.alphadogs.tv), explains, “We weren’t given extra time to complete the finish just because the production was “gear heavy,” making the color grading process more demanding than other reality series we have worked on. You find a way to make it work without sacrificing quality while still meeting critical deadlines. Remaining flexible and thinking on your feet is key, especially when you’re looking at tight turnaround time.”

Curren’s experience as a colorist for over 25 years, combined with his skilled knowledge and use of color scopes made certain the overall look of the picture not only looked good on the surface, but went a step further by certifying the range of colors allowed for a video signal are also up to standard for broadcast television.

Executive producer Jon Kroll commented, “We really wanted to give 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty an epic look, and AlphaDogs stepped up in a big way to elevate each episode one shot at a time. The difference was amazing.”

Co- executive producer Kerry Schmidt added, “We shot 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty from more than 100 source cameras, and thought we’d never be able to give the show a unified look. With Alpha Dog’s support, we were able to pull it off.”

The series required multiple deliverable formats. AlphaDogs’ stringent quality control process made certain that broadcast and quality standards were met while delivering each episode on time, and ready-to-air.

10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty is produced by Charlie Corwin’s Original Media (Swamp People, Ink Master) with Corwin, Mike Riley and Jon Kroll (The Amazing Race, Big Brother) as executive producers, Kerry Schmidt as co- executive producer, and Scott Templeton as consulting producer.

“It’s not just that we got a great looking show, or that it’s done efficiently, it’s also the comfort of knowing that the AlphaDogs team was watching out in the same way that I’d watch out for the show,” said Templeton. “It’s a great feeling when you’ve got a tough project like this knowing that there is a team that has your back.”

AlphaDogs called on Avid Symphony Nitris, an Avid Artist color panel, Waveform color scopes, Tektronix scopes, and Sony OLED monitors.