Tag Archives: on-set 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.

NAB: Codex Production Suite 4.5 for ingest to post, VR camera rig

At NAB 2016 in Las Vegas, Codex introduced its Codex Production Suite 4.5, an all-in-one software package allowing the color grading, review, metadata management, transcoding, QC and archiving of media generated by the most widely used digital cinema cameras. Codex Production Suite 4.5 provides one workflow for multiple types of cameras — from Arri Alexa 65 to GoPro — from ingest to post.

Codex Production Suite is available on a variety of platforms, including Mac Pro and MacBook Pro as well as Codex’s own hardware: the S-Series and XL-Series Vault. Codex worked closely with their customers on this product, DITs in particular, providing them the tools they need to deliver color-accurate, on-set or near-set dailies and to securely archive camera-original material in one workflow.

The new features of Codex Production Suite 4.5 include non-destructive, CDL-based color grading, enabling the creation, modification and safe communication of looks from on set to editorial and the final DI color session, and import and processing of externally-created CDLs/LUTs, so looks can be applied overall or shot-by-shot. Looks can be baked into editorial dailies or appended in the metadata of deliverables, and dailies can be viewed as intended by the DP.There is seamless integration with Codex Live for a consistent color pipeline from camera through to deliverables and beyond, and also with Tangent panels for grading purposes. There is a full, end-to-end ACES-compliant color pipeline; audio sync toolset, enabling the import of WAV files, playback of shots in a proxy window. Finally, there is synchronization of audio files to shots, based on timecode.

Codex has also introduced a new pricing model: customers can purchase the software only, buy Codex Dock (Thunderbolt) with free software, and gain access to Codex’s workflow and technical support, with free upgrades, through Codex Connect.

Virtual Reality Camera Rig
Also on the Codex booth at NAB was a pretty cool VR camera rig built by LA-based Radiant Images, using 17 Codex Action Cams. Codex Action Cam is a tiny camera head shooting up to 60fps. It uses a 2/3-inch single-chip sensor, with a global shutter, capturing 12-bit RAW, 1920×1080 HD images, at a dynamic range of 11-stops. The camera head connects to the Codex Camera Control Recorder, and is capable of recording two HD streams via a coax cable of up to 50m.

“We quickly realized that Codex Action Cam could help us get to the absolute sweet spot in the equation of making a new, cinematic VR system,” says Radiant Images co-founder Michael Mansouri. “As it captures 12-bit uncompressed RAW, it has the necessary resolution, dynamic range and pixels-per-degree for future-proof VR, and the images are very clean. It has global shutter control too, and the cameras can be genlocked together. Out of all of the lenses we tested, we liked the Kowa 5mm PL Mount. This lens combination with the Codex Action Cam sensor is equivalent to a 14mm in Super 35mm. Although you cannot immediately fit filters, we quickly machined fittings to take ND and other filters. There were few compromises or limitations.”

The final design of the Headcase Cinema Quality VR 360 Rig was made by Radiant’s director of engineering, Sinclair Fleming. It was an iterative process, taking 27 revisions. The result uses 17 Codex Action Cams, in a spherical array, for 360-degree recording with nine recorders. The camera head measures 13 inches wide and 15 inches high, weighing 16 pounds.

Assimilate Scratch 8.4 targets DITs, post workflows

Assimilate’s latest version of Scratch is now available. Scratch 8.4 is offering new features such as ACES Log, support of the new 10-bit deep-color option in the latest version of OS X, bi-directional editing and improved online content review. According to company CEO Jeff Edson, their goal is “developing realtime tools and a workflow that DITs, post artists and all filmmakers need,” at an affordable price. Scratch 8.4 is available at a range of price points, from $60 per month to $650 per year. Site licenses are also available.

“We provide an extensive toolset for DITs so they can easily work with multiple formats,” says Edson. “They can also do everything, from simple jobs to expanding their skill set to color grade on set, collaborate on looks with DPs, do visual previews and create deliverables. And now with Scratch Web they can do cloud-based, realtime reviews as well.”

The new ACES log-grading option, they say, makes working in ACES as easy as working in any other log-space media. ACES Log gives the Scratch grading tools a more natural feel and response when working with ACES clips, and there’s no need to convert media or add steps to an ACES workflow. Users can just set the Scratch project to use ACES Log, and the Scratch color-space management will take care of any required transforms.

Scratch 8.4 also offers increased conform flexibility so users can now import a partial timeline from an EDL, AAF or XML project and use placeholders for any missing media, all while preserving all the metadata from the conform file. They can easily replace the placeholders at a later time, when the missing media becomes available.

There is an enhanced noise generator in this new version, which enables better blending of composite elements from different sources into the main scene. Another update includes a new video wall option, which allows users to quickly view and compare a series of versions of a single shot, or compare multiple shots within a timeline in one view. With the new right-view option, they can display all versions on a reference screen or projector for the client and update in realtime while continuing to work on the individual shots on their main UI display. Enhanced XML scripting options let users further extend and integrate Scratch with other tools to create an advanced and fully automated processing pipeline. Additional multilingual options are also available, so in addition to a simple switch from an English to Chinese UI, Scratch now has bidirectional editing capabilities for text in Arabic, Hebrew or other bidirectional languages. This feature is useful for entering any metadata in a Scratch project, as well as for rendering subtitles or adding burn-in text onto output.

The company also announced new features for Scratch Web, including:

– A quick-link option to create a direct link to a publication. Users can restrict that link with an expiration date or protect it with a password.
– The ability end links to clients for content review. The client does not need a Scratch Web account.
– Customizable subdomains that go beyond changing the background of the log-in screen and uploading a logo. Users can create a subdomain to brand a facility.

Colorfront demos UHD HDR workflows at SMPTE 2015

Colorfront used the SMPTE 2015 Conference in Hollywood to show off the capabilities of its upcoming 2016 products supporting UHD/HDR workflows. New products include the Transkoder 2016 and On-Set Dailies 2016. Upgrades allow for faster, more flexible processing of the latest UHD HDR camera, color, editorial and deliverables formats for digital cinema, high-end episodic TV and OTT Internet entertainment channels.

Colorfront’s Bruno Munger filled us in on some of the highlights:

More details:
·   Transkoder and On-Set Dailies feature Colorfront Engine, an ACES-compliant, HDR-managed color pipeline, enabling on-set look creation and ensuring color fidelity of UHD/HDR materials and metadata though the camera-to-post chain. Colorfront Engine supports the full dynamic range and color gamut of the latest digital camera formats and mapping into industry-standard deliverables such as the latest IMF specs, AS-11 DPP and HEVC, at a variety of brightness, contrast and color ranges in current display devices.
·   The mastering toolset for Transkoder 2016 is enhanced with new statistical analysis tools for immediate HDR data graphing. Highlights include MaxCLL and MaxFALL calculations, as well as HDR mastering tools with tone and gamut mapping for a variety of target color spaces, including Rec. 2020 and P3D65, as well as XYZ, PQ curve and BBC-NHK Hybrid Log Gamma.
·    New for Transkoder 2016 are tools to concurrently color grade HDR and SDR UHD versions, cutting down the complexity, time and cost of delivering multiple masters at once.
·    Transkoder 2016 will output simultaneous, realtime grades on 4K 60p material to dual Sony OLED BVM-X300 broadcast monitors — concurrently processing HDR 2084 PQ Rec. 2020 at 1000nits and SDR Rec. 709 at 100nits — while visually graphing MaxFALL/MaxCLL light values per frame.

Advanced dailies toolsets enhancements include:
·    Support for the latest camera formats, including full Panasonic Varicam35 VRAW, AVC Intra 444, 422 and LT support, Canon EOS C300 Mark II with new Canon Log2 Gamma, ARRI Alexa 65 and Alexa SXT, Red Weapon, Sony XAVC and the associated image metadata from all of these.
·    The new Multi-view Dailies capability for On-Set Dailies 2016, which allows concurrent, realtime playback and color grading of all cameras and camera views.
·    Transwrapping, which allows video essence data (the RAW, compressed audio/video and metadata inside a container such as MXF or MOV) to be passed through the transcoding process without re-encoding, enabling frame-accurate insert editing on closed digital deliverables. This workflow can be a great time saver in day-to-day production, allowing Transkoder users to quickly generate new masters based on changes and versioning of content in the major mastering formats, like IMF, DCI and ProRes, and efficient trimming of camera original media for VFX pulls and final conform from Arri, Red and Sony cameras.

Bruno Munger joins Colorfront to head up biz dev

Colorfront, makers of on-set dailies and transcoding systems for films, episodic television and commercials, has named Bruno Munger director of business development. He brings 25 years of experience to his new position, including expertise in workflow design for file-based 2D/3D image capture, file-based delivery, VFX and DI color grading.

The LA-based Munger will work directly with Colorfront CTO Bill Feightner to further develop the company’s services and consulting business. Additionally, he will focus on the continuing roll-out of Transkoder, the company’s standalone file-conversion and mastering system for digital cinema and high-end UHDTV production. He will also oversee sales expansion of Colorfront’s Express Dailies and On-Set Dailies systems.

Previously, Munger worked at Colorfront reseller ALT Systems — the LA-based, full-service, systems integrator and workflow solutions provider for the entertainment industry — where he was CTO and company VP.

During a four-and-a-half year stint at ALT Systems, Munger managed the expansion of business services, especially in the area of on-set dailies solutions, and oversaw sales and implementations of Colorfront systems at film and high-end television post studios, including Technicolor, HBO, Bling Digital, Deluxe and 21st Century Fox. Colorfront will continue to work closely with ALT Systems as its main US distributor and reseller.

Prior to working at ALT Systems, Munger was involved in product management, product design, business development and customer training for Digital Vision, Autodesk, MTI Film and Snell & Wilcox.

Light Iron extends Live Play experience to the cloud with Live Play 3

Based on user feedback from its TV and feature clients, NYC- and LA-based Light Iron has launched Live Play 3, an iPad app designed to be what they describe as “an all-encompassing VTR and dailies review system.” The new Live Play 3, which Light Iron calls a reimagining of its existing Live Play (now called Live Play Classic), features an intuitive interface, metadata sorting and cloud distribution of dailies. Live Play Classic will remain for sale on the App Store.

According to Light Iron (@light_iron) CEO Michael Cioni, “The new app meets the need for a seamlessly integrated system for both on-set review and cloud distribution of colored and synced dailies. Live Play 3 is also designed to be a creative asset management platform, empowering customers to maintain a centralized resource of media during the entire production and post process.”

Live Play 3 - Filtersmaller

The design of Live Play 3 features fast navigation through a media pool of thumbnail frame grabs. Users can choose among automatically-tagged scenes and shoot days, quickly filtering thousands of clips to find specific media. An active tagging feature applies metadata tags to multiple clips at a time, enabling search by an unlimited number of fields including circle, camera, actor and location, as well as custom tags. You can watch a preview video here.

Live Play 3 also uses 256-bit TLS encryption, so released dailies and associated metadata are stored securely in a cloud-based hub that can be accessed by the production team, editorial, VFX and other creative collaborators.

Live Play 3 also enables realtime streaming of camera feeds from remote locations.

“The advent of digital technologies and workflows has caused the market to become very fragmented,” says Cioni. “Multiple vendors each supporting a specific component of the pipeline — without understanding their impact on others downstream — may lead to a breakdown in the workflow. With the addition of Live Play 3, Light Iron is positioned to offer the community a vertically integrated system for creating, managing and delivering creative assets from the set through final delivery. Our Outpost system for on-set dailies creation, the new Live Play 3 and our digital intermediate services work in tandem to enhance collaboration and ensure efficiency throughout the entire creative process.”

Pricing for Live Play 3 will be offered in tiers based on data usage and whether productions want just set review or set review and cloud dailies. It’s sold differently from the Live Play Classic in that it will be sold directly to a production or business. Once installed and configured for that client’s needs, they’ll authorize their own users who will download the app for free from the app store and use their authorized login to access.

A beta testing period begins this summer.