Tag Archives: Digital Dailies

Building a workflow for The Great Wall

Bling Digital, which is part of the SIM Group, was called on to help establish the workflow on Legendary/Universal’s The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon as a European mercenary imprisoned within the wall. While being held he sees exactly why the Chinese built this massive barrier in the first place — and it’s otherworldly. This VFX-heavy mystery/fantasy was directed by Yimou Zhang.

We reached out to Bling’s director of workflow services, Jesse Korosi, to talk us through the process on the film, including working with data from the Arri 65, which at that point hadn’t yet been used on a full-length feature film. Bling Digital is a post technology and services provider that specializes in on-set data management, digital dailies, editorial system rentals and data archiving

Jesse Korosi

When did you first get involved on The Great Wall and in what capacity?
Bling received our first call from the unit production manager Kwame Parker about providing on-set data management, dailies, VFX and stereo pulls, Avid rentals and a customized process for the digital workflow for The Great Wall in December of 2014.

At this time the information was pretty vague, but outlined some of the bigger challenges, like the film being shot in multiple locations within China, and that the Arri 65 camera may be used, which had not yet been used on a full-length feature. From this point on I worked with our internal team to figure out exactly how we would tackle such a challenge. This also required a lot of communication with the software developers to ensure that they would be ready to provide updated builds that could support this new camera.

After talks with the DP Stuart Dryburgh, the studio and a few other members of production, a big part of my job and anyone on my workflow team is to get involved as early as possible. Therefore our role doesn’t necessarily start on day one of principal photography. We want to get in and start testing and communicating with the rest of the crew well ahead of time so that by the first day, the process runs like a well-oiled machine and the client never has to be concerned with “week-one kinks.”

Why did they opt for the Arri 65 camera and what were some of the challenges you encountered?
Many people who we work with love Arri. The cameras are known for recording beautiful images. For anyone who may not be a huge Arri fan, they might dislike the lower resolution in some of the cameras, but it is very uncommon that someone doesn’t like the final look of the recorded files. Enter the Arri 65, a new camera that can record 6.5K files (6560×3100) and every hour recorded is a whopping 2.8TB per hour.

When dealing with this kind of data consumption, you really need to re-evaluate your pipeline. The cards are not able to be downloaded by traditional card readers — you need to use vaults. Let’s say someone records three hours of footage in a day — that equals 8.7TB of data. If you’re sending that info to another facility even using a 500Mb/s Internet line, that would take 38 hours to send! LTO-ing this kind of media is also dreadfully slow. For The Great Wall we ended up setting up a dedicated LTO area that had eight decks running at any given time.

Aside from data consumption, we faced the challenge of having no dailies software that could even read the files. We worked with Colorfront to get a new build-out that could work, and luckily, after having been through this same ordeal recording Arri Open Gate on Warcraft, we knew how to make this happen and set the client at ease.

Were you on set? Near set? Remote?
Our lab was located in the production office, which also housed editorial. Considering all of the traveling this job entailed, from Beijing and Qingdao to Gansu, we were mostly working remotely. We wanted to be as close to production as possible, but still within a controlled environment.

The dailies set-up was right beside editor Craig Wood’s suite, making for a close-knit workflow with editorial, which was great. Craig would often pull our dailies team into his suite to view how the edit was coming along, which really helped when assessing how the dailies color was working and referencing scenes in the cut when timing pickup shots.

How did you work with the director and DP?
At the start of the show we established some looks with the DP Stuart Dryburgh, ASC. The idea was that we would handle all of the dailies color in the lab. The DIT/DMT would note as much valuable information on set about the conditions that day and we would use our best judgment to fulfill the intended look. During pre-production we used a theatre at the China Film Group studio to screen and review all the test materials and dial in this look.

With our team involved from the very beginning of these color talks, we were able to ensure that decisions made on color and data flow were going to track through each department, all the way to the end of the job. It’s very common for decisions to be made color wise at the start of a job that get lost in the shuffle once production has wrapped. Plus, sometimes there isn’t anyone available who recognizes why certain decisions were made up front when you‘re in the post stage.

Can you talk us through the workflow? 
In terms of workflow, the Arri 65 was recording media onto Codex cards, which were backed up onset with a VaultS. After this media was backed up, the Codex card would be forwarded onto the lab. Within the lab we had a VaultXL that would then be used to back this card up to the internal drive. Unfortunately, you can’t go directly from the card to your working drive, you need to do two separate passes on the card, a “Process” and a “Transfer.”

The Transfer moves the media off the card and onto an internal drive on the Vault. The Process then converts all the native camera files into .ARI files. Once this media is processed and on the internal drive, we were able to move it onto our SAN. From there we were able to run this footage through OSD and make LTO back-ups. We also made additional back-ups to G-Tech GSpeed Studio drives that would be sent back to LA. However, for security purposes as well as efficiency, we encrypted and shipped the bare drives, rather than the entire chassis. This meant that when the drives were received in LA, we were able to mount them into our dock and work directly off of them, i.e no need to wait on any copies.

Another thing that required a lot of back and forth with the DI facility was ensuring that our color pipeline was following the same path they would take once they hit final color. We ended up having input LUTs for any camera that recorded a non-LogC color space. In regards to my involvement, during production in China I had a few members of my team on the ground and I was overseeing things remotely. Once things came back to LA and we were working out of Legendary, I became much more hands-on.

What kind of challenges did providing offline editorial services in China bring, and how did that transition back to LA?
We sent a tech to China to handle the set-up of the offline editorial suites and also had local contacts to assist during the run of the project. Our dailies technicians also helped with certain questions or concerns that came up.

Shipping gear for the Avids is one thing, however shipping consoles (desks) for the editors would have been far too heavy. Therefore this was probably one of the bigger challenges — ensuring the editors were working with the same caliber of workspace they were used to in Los Angeles.

The transition of editorial from China to LA required Dave French, director of post engineering, and his team to mirror the China set-up in LA and have both up and running at the same time to streamline the process. Essentially, the editors needed to stop cutting in China and have the ability to jump on a plane and resume cutting in LA immediately.

Once back in LA, you continued to support VFX, stereo and editorial, correct?
Within the Legendary office we played a major role in building out the technology and workflow behind what was referred to as the Post Hub. This Post Hub was made up of a few different systems all KVM’d into one desk that acted as the control center for VFX and stereo reviews, VFX and stereo pulls and final stereo tweaks. All of this work was controlled by Rachel McIntire, our dailies, VFX and stereo management tech. She was a jack-of-all-trades who played a huge role in making the post workflow so successful.

For the VFX reviews, Rachel and I worked closely with ILM to develop a workflow to ensure that all of the original on set/dailies color metadata would carry into the offline edit from the VFX vendors. It was imperative that during this editing session we could add or remove the color, make adjustments and match exactly what they saw on set, in dailies and in the offline edit. Automating this process through values from the VFX Editors EDL was key.

Looking back on the work provided, what would you have done differently knowing what you know now?
I think the area I would focus on next time around would be upgrading the jobs database. With any job we manage at Bling, we always ensure we keep a log of every file recorded and any metadata that we track. At the time, this was a little weak. Since then, I have been working on overhauling this database and allowing creative to access all camera metadata, script metadata, location data, lens data, etc. in one centralized location. We have just used this on our first job in a client-facing capacity and I think it would have done wonders for our VFX and stereo crews on The Great Wall. It is all too often that people are digging around for information already captured by someone else. I want to make sure there is a central repository for that data.

Behind the Title: Harbor Picture’s head of dailies Jamie Payne

COMPANY: Harbor Picture Company (@HarborPicture)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
A NYC-based post house offering a mix of artists and technical specialists collaborating to a common goal.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Head of Dailies

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
In the dailies department there are many bases that need to be covered, and each is of equal importance. Guaranteeing the integrity of the acquired digital material, while maintaining the vision of the cinematographer is key. An in-depth knowledge of color and workflow helps to understand the technical and artistic language that occurs between the lab, the cinematographer and the production as a whole.

Our day-to-day tasks include initial acquisition, color timing, archival, asset management and tracking, and old-fashioned human interaction. “Guardian of the image” may be an esoteric title, but one I feel that encompasses what we aim for and deliver.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
A skilled team of operators now have ownership of an awfully large amount of digital material. Digital acquisition has always been about flexibility, speed and convenience (not to mention ongoing technological advancement). And not necessarily artistic vision and longevity, which we aim to help provide.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
The responsibility for the camera original material, a camera card or hard drive is treated with the same respect as an unexposed reel of film. I enjoy the demands of being answerable to all the various departments within production and post production.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Installing yet another daily Adobe Acrobat Reader update.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Either looking at the material for the first time or Saturday mornings.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I studied photography in college and would have almost certainly continued on that path if I hadn’t watched A Matter of Life and Death (1946).

I worked as a photographer’s assistant for still life/food photography working on medium 5×4 and 10×8 formats, which paid for my entry into reportage photography. How many people can say that they have shot 10×8-inch polaroids for exposure tests?!

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
See above. A Matter of Life and Death (starring David Niven) watched on a heavily used VHS opened my eyes to things that were possible. It was quite startling.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I started as most people do in our industry, as an intern (or a runner in the UK) making tea, etc. As soon as I stepped into a telecine suite I knew immediately I had to color time. That was almost 18 years ago. I was simply in the right place at the right time when asked to create a dailies department many years ago in London. It was a fortuitous meeting that let to a position that has continued to this day.

Billions

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The last five projects that I have worked on The Wizard of Lies, Beat-Up Little Seagull, Billions, Limitless and Paterson. It’s a nice balance of episodics and features, with some great performances and spectacular photography.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT (OR PROJECTS) THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Most projects I have worked on have featured a little surprise that made me smile, whether technically or aesthetically. I once had an Oscar-winning DP express gratitude after they flew 2,000 miles round trip to check the dailies due to an issue I raised and caught.

I once used a trick an assistant editor taught me that mightily impressed a senior editor.

Each moment in its own way is very rewarding, but I must say that color timing the IMAX negative for The Dark Knight Rises was pretty special.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
The internal combustion engine, modern plumbing and the Internet.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
A smidgen of Instagram.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
Not anymore now I’m immersed in dailies. When I color-timed for finishing, clients and I always listened to music.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I honestly don’t think that work is stressful. It’s stressful if the technology or client expectation is misunderstood or misinterpreted, which isn’t an option in a digital lab. I become stressed when I’m not busy, and that’s the truth.

In my spare time I hike and appreciate immensely this wonderfully beautiful country.

 

NAB: MTI Film at NAB with new Cortex CarryOn, portable dailies solution

Las Vegas — At NAB, MTI Film is introducing Cortex CarryOn, its new, portable, all-in-one, on-set dailies solution. Capable of processing dailies at resolutions up to 4K from all of the most popular digital cinema cameras (including Arri, Sony, Canon and Red), Cortex CarryOn comes with MTI Film’s Cortex Dailies Enterprise Edition software on an optimized platform. It features a liquid-cooled Intel i7 processor for ultra-quiet operation, a 12TB SSD RAID, GPU-accelerated rendering and both Thunderbolt 2 and USB3.0 technology for fast transfers. It’s compact, lightweight and rugged, and features a price tag of $35,000.

Cortex CarryOn is backed by MTI Film’s worldwide service and support. “We designed Cortex CarryOn for producers and rental houses seeking a plug-and-play dailies appliance Continue reading

Prime Focus Technologies to acquire DAX

Mumbai and Los Angeles — Prime Focus Technologies (PFT), the technology subsidiary of Prime Focus, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire DAX , a provider of cloud-based production workflow and media asset management applications to the entertainment industry for a base consideration of US$ 9.1 million in a uniquely structured performance linked transaction.

PFT through its US subsidiary will acquire all the assets of DAX for an upfront payment with balance payable over three years such that cash flows from the North American operations will support the payment.

Details include:
·         PFT secures ownership of  Emmy award-winning digital dailies solution
·         The PFT-DAX combination offers a dynamic stack of enterprise-class Media ERP solutions to broadcasters and studios
·         This accelerates PFT’s strategic expansion in North America and the vision to virtualize the content supply chain before, during and after the production phase
·         Patrick Macdonald-King (current CEO of DAX) to be president responsible for North America. All DAX related tech support, client services, product design and account management to remain in Los Angeles
·         Significant potential to monetize marquee customer base , which includes Warner Bros. Television Studios, CBS Television Studios, 20th Century Fox Television Studios, Relativity Media, Legendary Pictures, Fox Television Studios, A&E, Showtime, Starz Media and Lionsgate.

Ramki Sankaranarayanan CEO PFTsmall

PFT CEO Ramki Sankaranarayanan.

“Our vision is to build the best enterprise platform for production on the cloud by taking a fresh look at media workflows through the lens of a studio that wants to efficiently collaborate across divisions with its entertainment content before, during and after the production phase,” said Ramki Sankaranarayanan, founder and CEO, PFT. “Digital dailies is one of the first significant entry points to production on the cloud. PFT’s Clear Media ERP platform combined with DAX’s team and products will accelerate the realization of this vision.”

“PFT has tremendous resources at its disposal,” said Patrick Macdonald-King. “Beginning with its 250-person strong R&D and product development team dedicated to a single platform with rare media-centric IT skills. This marriage allows DAX to fulfill its vision and extends DAX’s support of file-based workflows across the enterprise. PFT’s arsenal of media-centric technology tools will drive the DAX product offering to a new level. For DAX customers, it’s important to note that all tech support, client services, product design and account management will remain in Los Angeles, but also expand to the PFT offices in New York and London to better service the East Coast and Europe.”

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the coming weeks. PFT and DAX will be exhibiting together at the upcoming NAB Show 2014, and will showcase a number of Clear and DAX product releases.

Main photo caption: DAX is used as a dailies solution on AMC’s Mad Men