Tag Archives: Panavision

Evoking the beauty and power of Dunkirk with 65mm

FotoKem worked to keep Christopher Nolan’s 65mm source natively photochemical and to provide the truest-to-film digital cinema version possible

By Adrian Pennington

Tipped for Oscar glory, Christopher Nolan’s intense World War II masterpiece, Dunkirk, has pushed the boundaries further than any film before it. Having shot sequences of his previous films (including Interstellar) on IMAX, this time the director made the entire picture on 65mm negative. Approximately 75% of the film was captured on 65mm/15-perf IMAX (1.43:1) and the rest on 65mm/5-perf (2.2:1) on Panavision cameras.

Christopher Nolan on set.

Nolan’s vision and passion for the true film experience was carried out by Burbank-based FotoKem in what became the facility’s biggest and most complex large format project to date. In addition to the array of services that went into creating two 65mm master negatives and 70mm release prints in both 15p and 5p formats, FotoKem also provided the movie’s DCP deliverables based on in-house color science designed to match the film master. With the unique capability to project 70mm film (on a Century JJ projector) side by side with the digital projection of 65mm scans, FotoKem meticulously replicated the organic film look shot by Hoyte van Hoytema, ASC, NSC, FSF, and envisioned by Nolan.

In describing the large format film process, Andrew Oran, FotoKem’s VP of large format services, explains, “Hoyte was in contact with FotoKem’s Dan Muscarella (the movie’s color timer) throughout production, providing feedback on the 70mm contact and 35mm reduction dailies being screened on location. The pipeline was devised so that the IMAX (65mm/15p) footage was timed on a customized 65mm Colormaster by FotoKem color timer Kristen Zimmermann, under Muscarella’s supervision. Her timing lights were provided to IMAX Post, who used those for producing 35mm reduction prints. Those prints were screened in Los Angeles by IMAX, Muscarella and editorial, who in turn provided feedback to production on location. Prints and files travelled securely back and forth between FotoKem and IMAX throughout each day by in-house delivery personnel and via FotoKem’s proprietary globalDATA e-delivery platform.”

A similar route was taken for the Panavision (65mm/5p) footage — also under Muscarella’s keen eye — prior to FotoKem producing 70mm/5p contact daily prints. A set of both prints (35mm and 70mm) were transported for screening in a trailer on location 50,000 miles away in England, France (including shooting on Dunkirk beach itself) and The Netherlands. Traveling with editorial during principal photography was a 70mm projector on which editor Lee Smith, ACE, and Nolan could view dailies in 70mm/5 perf. A 35mm Arri LocPro was also used to watch reduction prints on location.

Oran adds, “Zimmermann also applied color timing lights to the 65mm/5p negatives for contact printing to 70mm at FotoKem. Ultimately, prints from every reel of film negative in both formats were screened by Dan at FotoKem before shipping to production. This way, Dan ensured that the color was as Nolan and Hoytema envisioned. Later, the goal for the DCP was to give the audience the same feel as if they were watching the film version.”

HD deliverables for editorial and studio viewing were created on a customized Millennium telecine. Warner Bros. and Nolan required the quality be high at this step of the process — which can be challenging for 65mm formats. To do this, FotoKem made improvements to the 65mm Millennium telecine machine’s optical and light path, and fed the scans through a custom keycode and metadata workflow in the company’s nextLAB media management platform. Scans for the film’s digital cinema mastering were done at 8K on FotoKem’s Imagica 65mm scanners.

 

Then, to produce the DCPs, FotoKem’s principal color scientist, Joseph Slomka, says, “We created color modeling tools using the negative, interpositive and print process to match the digital image to the film as precisely as technically possible. We sat down with film prints and verified that the modeling data matched a printed original negative in our DI suite with side by side projection.”

Walter Volpatto

This is where FotoKem colorist Walter Volpatto says he determined “how much” and “how close” to match the colors. “We did this by using a special machine — called a Harrahscope Minimax Comparator Projector, developed by Mark Harrah and on loan from the Walt Disney Studios — to project still IMAX frames on the screen,” Volpatto elaborates. “We did this for 400 images from the movie and looked at single frames of digital (projected from a Barco 4K DLP) versus film from Harrahscope, and compared, using the data created by the modeling tools.”

Volpatto worked mainly with RGB offsets in Resolve after each single frame verification to maintain a similarity to traditional color timing. “We also modified the DLP white point settings of the projector for purposes of maintaining the closest match,” he says. “Then, once all the tweaks were made with the stills, we moved to motion picture film reels. Everything described in the printer lights at the film stage were translated to digital based on modeling data.”

In addition to working with Dan (Muscarella) on the film screenings to see the quality he would need to match, Volpatto says that working on Interstellar also helped inform him how to approach this process. “It’s about getting the look that Nolan wants — I just had to replicate it with tremendous accuracy on Dunkirk.”

Joseph Slomka

Aside from the standard DCP, two further digital masters were created for distribution including IMAX scans and digital IMAX distribution, and a Dolby Digital Cinema HDR Master from same source material.

“For the Dolby pass, we had to create another set of color science tools — that still represented Nolan’s vision — to exactly replicate the look of film to HDR,” says Slomka. “Because we had all the computer modeling tools used earlier in the process to identify how the film behaved, we were able to build on that for the HDR version.”

Adds Volpatto, “The whole pipeline was designed to preserve the original viewing experience of print film – everything had to integrate purely and unnoticeably. Having this film and color science knowledge here at FotoKem, it’s hard to see that anybody else could achieve what we did at this level.”

Millennium Digital XL camera: development to delivery

By Lance Holte and Daniel Restuccio

Panavision’s Millennium DXL 8K may be one of today’s best digital cinema cameras, but it might also be one of the most misunderstood. Conceived and crafted to the exacting tradition of the company whose cameras captured such films as Lawrence of Arabia and Inception, the Millennium DXL challenges expectations. We recently sat down with Panavision to examine the history, workflow, some new features and how that all fits into a 2017 moviemaking ecosystem.

Announced at Cine Gear 2016, and released for rent through Panavision in January 2017, the Millennium DXL stepped into the digital large format field as, at first impression, a competitor to the Arri Alexa 65. The DXL was the collaborative result of a partnership of three companies: Panavision developed the optics, accessories and some of the electronics; Red Digital Cinema designed the 8K VV (VistaVision) sensor; and Light Iron provided the features, color science and general workflow for the camera system.

The collaboration for the camera first began when Light Iron was acquired by Panavision in 2015. According to Michael Cioni, Light Iron president/Millennium DXL product manager, the increase in 4K and HDR television and theatrical formats like Dolby Vision and Barco Escape created the perfect environment for the three-company partnership. “When Panavision bought Light Iron, our idea was to create a way for Panavision to integrate a production ecosystem into the post world. The DXL rests atop Red’s best tenets, Panavision’s best tenets and Light Iron’s best tenets. We’re partners in this — information can flow freely between post, workflow, color, electronics and data management into cameras, color science, ergonomics, accessories and lenses.”

HDR OLED viewfinder

Now, one year after the first announcement, with projects like the Lionsgate feature adventure Robin Hood, the Fox Searchlight drama Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the CBS crime drama S.W.A.T. and a Samsung campaign shot by Oscar-winner Linus Sandgren under the DXL’s belt, the camera sports an array of new upgrades, features and advanced tools. They include an HDR OLED viewfinder (which they say is the first), wireless control software for iOS, and a new series of lenses. According to Panavision, the new DXL offers “unprecedented development in full production-to-post workflow.”

Preproduction Considerations
With so many high-resolution cameras on the market, why pick the DXL? According to Cioni, cinematographers and their camera crew are no longer the only people that directly interact with cameras. Panavision examined the impact a camera had on each production department — camera assistants, operators, data managers, DITs, editors, and visual effects supervisors. In response to this feedback, they designed DXL to offer custom toolsets for every department. In addition, Panavision wanted to leverage the benefits of their heritage lenses and enable the same glass that photographed ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ to be available for a wider range of today’s filmmakers on DXL.

When Arri first debuted the Alexa 65 in 2014, there were questions about whether such a high-resolution, data-heavy image was necessary or beneficial. But cinematographers jumped on it and have leaned on large format sensors and glass-to-lens pictures — ranging from Doctor Strange to Rogue One — to deliver greater immersiveness, detail and range. It seems that the large format trend is only accelerating, particularly among filmmakers who are interested in the optical magnification, depth of field and field-of-view characteristics that only large format photography offers.

Kramer Morgenthau

“I think large format is the future of cinematography for the big screen,” says cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, who shot with the DXL in 2016. “[Large format cinematography] gives more of a feeling of the way human vision is. And so, it’s more cinematic. Same thing with anamorphic glass — anamorphic does a similar thing, and that’s one of the reasons why people love it. The most important thing is the glass, and then the support, and then the user-friendliness of the camera to move quickly. But these are all important.”

The DXL comes to market offering a myriad of creative choice for filmmakers. Among the large format cameras, the Millennium DXL aims to be the crème de la crème — it’s built around an 46mm 8192×4320 Red VV sensor, custom Panavision large format spherical and anamorphic lenses, wrapped in camera department-friendly electronics, using proprietary color science — all of which complements a mixed camera environment.

“The beauty of digital, and this camera in particular, is that DXL actually stands for ‘digital extra light.’ With a core body weight of only 10 pounds, and with its small form factor, I’ve seen DXL used in the back seat of a car as well as to capture the most incredible helicopter scenes,” Cioni notes.

With the help of Light Iron, Panavision developed a tool to match DXL footage to Panavised Red Weapon cameras. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 used Red Weapon 8K VV Cameras with Panavision Primo 70 lenses. “There are shows like Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why [Season Two] that combined this special matching of the DXL and the Red Helium sensor based on the workflow of the show,” Cioni notes. “They’re shooting [the second season] with two DXLs as their primary camera, and they have two 8K Red cameras with Helium sensors, and they match each other.”

If you are thinking the Millennium DXL will bust your budget, think again. Like many Panavision cameras, the DXL is exclusively leasable through Panavision, but Cioni says they’re happy to help filmmakers to build the right package and workflow. “A lot of budgetary expense can be avoided with a more efficient workflow. Once customers learn how DXL streamlines the entire imaging chain, a DXL package might not be out of reach. We always work with customers to build the right package at a competitive price,” he says.

Using the DXL in Production
The DXL could be perceived as a classic dolly Panavision camera, especially with the large format moniker. “Not true,” says Morgenthau, who shot test footage with the camera slung over his shoulder in the back seat of a car.

He continues, “I sat in the back of a car and handheld it — in the back of a convertible. It’s very ergonomic and user-friendly. I think what’s exciting about the Millennium: its size and integration with technology, and the choice of lenses that you get with the Panavision lens family.”

Panavision’s fleet of large format lenses, many of which date back to the 1950s, made the company uniquely equipped to begin development on the new series of large format optics. To be available by the end of 2017, the Primo Artiste lenses are a full series of T/1.8 Primes — the fastest optics available for large format cinematography — with a completely internalized motor and included metadata capture. Additionally, the Primo Artiste lenses can be outfitted with an anamorphic glass attachment that retains the spherical nature of the base lens, yet induces anamorphic artifacts like directional flares and distorted bokeh.

Another new addition to the DXL is the earlier mentioned Panavision’s HDR OLED Primo viewfinder. Offering 600-nit brightness, image smoothing and optics to limit eye fatigue, the viewfinder also boasts a theoretical contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. Like other elements on the camera, the Primo viewfinder was the result of extensive polling and camera operator feedback. “Spearheaded by Panavision’s Haluki Sadahiro and Dominick Aiello, we went to operators and asked them everything we could about what makes a good viewfinder,” notes Cioni. “Guiding an industry game-changing product meant we went through multiple iterations. We showed the first Primo HDR prototype version in November 2016, and after six months of field testing, the final version is both better and simpler, and it’s all thanks to user feedback.”

Michael Cioni

In response to the growing popularity of HDR delivery, Light Iron also provides a powerful on-set HDR viewing solution. The HDR Village cart is built with a 4K HDR Sony monitor with numerous video inputs. The system can simultaneously display A and B camera feeds in high dynamic range and standard dynamic range on four different split quadrants. This enables cinematographers to evaluate their images and better prepare for multi-format color grading in post, given that most HDR projects are also required to deliver in SDR.

Post Production
The camera captures R3D files, the same as any other Red camera, but does have metadata that is unique to the DXL, ranging from color science to lens information. It also uses Light Iron’s set of color matrices designed specifically for the DXL: Light Iron Color.

Designed by Light Iron supervising colorist Ian Vertovec, Light Iron Color deviates from traditional digital color matrices by following in the footsteps of film stock philosophy instead of direct replication of how colors look in nature. Cioni likens Light Iron Color to Kodak’s approach to film. “Kodak tried to make different film stocks for different intentions. Since one film stock cannot satisfy every creative intention, DXL is designed to allow look transforms that users can choose, export and integrate into the post process. They come in the form of cube lookup tables and are all non-destructive.”

Light Iron Color can be adjusted and tweaked by the user or by Light Iron, which Cioni says has been done on many shows. The ability to adjust Light Iron Color to fit a particular project is also useful on shows that shoot with multiple camera types. Though Light Iron Color was designed specifically for the Millennium DXL, Light Iron has used it on other cameras — including the Sony A7, and Reds with Helium and Dragon sensors — to ensure that all the footage matches as closely as possible.

While it’s possible to cut with high-resolution media online with a blazing fast workstation and storage solution, it’s a lot trickier to edit online with 8K media in a post production environment that often requires multiple editors, assistants, VFX editors, post PAs and more. The good news is that the DXL records onboard low-bitrate proxy media (ProRes or DNx) for offline editorial while simultaneously recording R3Ds without requiring the use of an external recorder.

Cioni’s optimal camera recording setup for editorial is 5:1 compression for the R3Ds alongside 2K ProRes LT files. He explains, “My rule of thumb is to record super high and super low. And if I have high-res and low-res and I need to make something else, I can generate that somewhere in the middle from the R3Ds. But as long as I have the bottom and the top, I’m good.”

Storage is also a major post consideration. An hour of 8192×4320 R3Ds at 23.976fps runs in the 1TB/hour range — that number may vary, depending on the R3D compression, but when compared to an hour of 6560×3100 Arriraw footage, which lands at 2.6TB an hour, the Millennium DXL’s lighter R3D workflow can be very attractive.

Conform and Delivery
One significant aspect of the Millennium DXL workflow is that even though the camera’s sensor, body, glass and other pipeline tools are all recently developed, R3D conform and delivery workflows remain tried and true. The onboard proxy media exactly matches the R3Ds by name and timecode, and since Light Iron Color is non-destructive, the conform and color-prep process is simple and adjustable, whether the conform is done with Adobe, Blackmagic, Avid or other software.

Additionally, since Red media can be imported into almost all major visual effects applications, it’s possible to work with the raw R3Ds as VFX plates. This retains the lens and camera metadata for better camera tracking and optical effects, as well as providing the flexibility of working with Light Iron Color turned on or off, and the 8K R3Ds are still lighter than working with 4K (as is the VFX trend) DPX or EXR plates. The resolution also affords enormous space for opticals and stabilization in a 4K master.

4K is the increasingly common delivery resolution among studios, networks and over-the-top content distributors, but in a world of constant remastering and an exponential increase in television and display resolutions, the benefit in future-proofing a picture is easily apparent. Baselight, Resolve, Rio and other grading and finishing applications can handle 8K resolutions, and even if the final project is only rendered at 4K now, conforming and grading in 8K ensures the picture will be future-proofed for some time. It’s a simple task to re-export a 6K or 8K master when those resolutions become the standard years down the line.

After having played with DXL footage provided by Light Iron, it was surprising how straightforward the workflow seems. For a very small production, the trickiest part is the requirement of a powerful workstation — or sets of workstations — to conform and play 8K Red media, with a mix of (likely) 4K VFX shots, graphics and overlays. Michael Cioni notes, “[Everyone] already knows a RedCode workflow. They don’t have to learn it, I could show the DXL to anyone who has a Red Raven and in 30 seconds they’ll confidently say, ‘I got this.’”

Rick Anthony named GM of Light Iron New York

Post company Light Iron has named Rick Anthony to the newly created role of general manager in its New York facility. The addition comes after Light Iron added a second floor in 2016, tripling its inventory of editorial suites.

Anthony previously held GM roles at Pac Lab and New York Lab/Postworks/Moving Images, overseeing teams from lab through digital workflows. He began his career at New York film lab, DuArt, where he was a technical supervisor for many years.

Anthony notes several reasons why he joined Light Iron, a Panavision company. “From being at the forefront of color science and workflow to providing bi-coastal client support, this is a unique opportunity. Working together with Panavision, I look forward to serving the dailies, editorial, and finishing needs of any production, be it feature, episodic or commercial.”

Light Iron’s New York facility offers 20 premium editorial suites from its Soho location, as well as in-house and mobile dailies services, HDR-ready episodic timing bays and a 4K DI theater. The facility recently serviced Panavision’s first US-based feature shot on the new Millennium DXL camera.

Academy honors 18 Scientific and Technical achievements

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that 18 scientific and technical achievements represented by 34 individual award recipients, as well as five organizations, will be honored at its annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on February 11.

“This year we are particularly pleased to be able to honor not only a wide range of new technologies, but also the pioneering digital cinema cameras that helped facilitate the widespread conversion to electronic image capture for motion picture production,” says Ray Feeney, Academy Award recipient and chair of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. “With their outstanding, innovative work, these technologists, engineers and inventors have significantly expanded filmmakers’ creative choices for moving image storytelling.” 

Unlike other Academy Awards to be presented this year, achievements receiving Scientific and Technical Awards need not have been developed and introduced during 2016. Rather, the achievements must demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.

The Academy Awards for scientific and technical achievements are: 

 Technical Achievement Awards (Academy Certificates)

Thomson Grass Valley for the design and engineering of the pioneering Viper FilmStream digital camera system. The Viper camera enables frame-based logarithmic encoding, which provides uncompressed camera output suitable for importing into existing digital intermediate workflows.

Larry Gritz for the design, implementation and dissemination of Open Shading Language (OSL). OSL is a highly-optimized runtime architecture and language for programmable shading and texturing that has become a de facto industry standard. It enables artists at all levels of technical proficiency to create physically plausible materials for efficient production rendering.

Carl Ludwig, Eugene Troubetzkoy and Maurice van Swaaij for the pioneering development of the CGI Studio renderer at Blue Sky Studios. CGI Studio’s groundbreaking ray-tracing and adaptive sampling techniques, coupled with streamlined artist controls, demonstrated the feasibility of ray-traced rendering for feature film production.

Brian Whited for the design and development of the Meander drawing system at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Meander’s innovative curve-rendering method faithfully captures the artist’s intent, resulting in a significant improvement in creative communication throughout the production pipeline.

Mark Rappaport for the concept, design and development, Scott Oshita for the motion analysis and CAD design, Jeff Cruts for the development of the faux-hair finish techniques, and Todd Minobe for the character articulation and drive-train mechanisms of the Creature Effects Animatronic Horse Puppet. The Animatronic Horse Puppet provides increased actor safety, close integration with live action, and improved realism for filmmakers.

Glenn Sanders and Howard Stark for the design and engineering of the Zaxcom Digital Wireless Microphone System. The Zaxcom system has advanced the state of wireless microphone technology by creating a fully digital modulation system with a rich feature set, which includes local recording capability within the belt pack and a wireless control scheme providing realtime transmitter control and timecode distribution.

David Thomas, Lawrence E. Fisher and David Bundy for the design, development and engineering of the Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless Microphone System. The Lectrosonics system has advanced the state of wireless microphone technology by developing a method to digitally transmit full-range audio over a conventional analog FM radio link, reducing transmitter size, and increasing power efficiency.

Parag Havaldar for the development of expression-based facial performance-capture technology at Sony Pictures Imageworks. This pioneering system enables large-scale use of animation rig-based facial performance-capture for motion pictures, combining solutions for tracking, stabilization, solving and animator-controllable curve editing.

Nicholas Apostoloff and Geoff Wedig for the design and development of animation rig-based facial performance-capture systems at ImageMovers Digital and Digital Domain. These systems evolved through independent, then combined, efforts at two different studios, resulting in an artist-controllable, editable, scalable solution for the high-fidelity transfer of facial performances to convincing digital characters.

Kiran Bhat, Michael Koperwas, Brian Cantwell and Paige Warner for the design and development of the ILM facial performance-capture solving system. This system enables high-fidelity facial performance transfer from actors to digital characters in large-scale productions while retaining full artistic control, and integrates stable, rig-based solving and the resolution of secondary detail in a controllable pipeline.

Scientific and Engineering Awards (Academy Plaques)

Arri for the pioneering design and engineering of the Super 35 format Alexa digital camera system. With an intuitive design and appealing image reproduction achieved through close collaboration with filmmakers, Arri’s Alexa cameras were among the first digital cameras widely adopted by cinematographers.

Red Digital Cinema for the pioneering design and evolution of the Red Epic digital cinema cameras with upgradeable full-frame image sensors. Red’s design and innovative manufacturing process have helped facilitate the wide adoption of digital image capture in the motion picture industry.

Sony for the development of the F65 CineAlta camera with its pioneering high-resolution imaging sensor, excellent dynamic range and full 4K output. Sony’s photosite orientation and true RAW recording deliver exceptional image quality.             

Panavision and Sony for the conception and development of the Genesis digital motion picture camera. Using a familiar form factor and accessories, the design features of the Genesis allowed it to become one of the first digital cameras to be adopted by cinematographers.

Marcos Fajardo for the creative vision and original implementation of the Arnold Renderer, and to Chris Kulla, Alan King, Thiago Ize and Clifford Stein for their highly-optimized geometry engine and novel ray-tracing algorithms which unify the rendering of curves, surfaces, volumetrics and subsurface scattering as developed at Sony Pictures Imageworks and Solid Angle SL. Arnold’s scalable and memory-efficient single-pass architecture for path tracing, its authors’ publication of the underlying techniques, and its broad industry acceptance were instrumental in leading a widespread adoption of fully raytraced rendering for motion pictures.

Vladimir Koylazov for the original concept, design and implementation of V-Ray from Chaos Group. V-Ray’s efficient production-ready approach to raytracing and global illumination, its support for a wide variety of workflows, and its broad industry acceptance were instrumental in the widespread adoption of fully ray-traced rendering for motion pictures.

Luca Fascione, J.P. Lewis and Iain Matthews for the design, engineering and development of the FACETS facial performance capture and solving system at Weta Digital. FACETS was one of the first reliable systems to demonstrate accurate facial tracking from an actor-mounted camera, combined with rig-based solving, in large-scale productions. This system enables animators to bring the nuance of the original live performances to a new level of fidelity for animated characters.

Steven Rosenbluth, Joshua Barratt, Robert Nolty and Archie Te for the engineering and development of the Concept Overdrive motion control system. This user-friendly hardware and software system creates and controls complex interactions of real and virtual motion in hard realtime, while safely adapting to the needs of on-set filmmakers. 

Quick Chat: Josh Haynie Light Iron’s VP of US operations

Post services company Light Iron has named veteran post pro Josh Haynie to VP of US operations, a newly created position. Based in Light Iron’s Hollywood facility, Haynie will be responsible for leveraging the company’s resources across Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans and future locations.

Haynie joins Light Iron after 13 years at Efilm, where, as managing director, he maintained direct responsibility for all aspects of the company’s operations, including EC3 (on-location services), facility dailies, trailers, digital intermediate, home video and restoration. He managed a team of 100-plus employees. Previously, Haynie held positions at Sunset Digital, Octane/Lightning Dubs and other production and post companies. Haynie is an associate member of the ASC and is also actively involved in the HPA, SMPTE, and VES.

“From the expansion of Light Iron’s episodic services and New York facilities to the development of the color science in the new Millennium DXL camera, it is clear that the integration of Panavision and Light Iron brings significant benefits to clients,” says Haynie.

He was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to answer some of our questions…

Your title hints Light Iron opening up in new territories. Can you talk about this ? What is happening in the industry that this makes sense?
We want to be strategically located near the multiple Panavision locations. Productions and filmmakers need the expertise and familiarity of Light Iron resources in the region with the security and stability of a solid infrastructure. Projects often have splinter and multiple units in various locations, and they demand a workflow continuity in these disparate locations. We can help facilitate projects working in those various regions and offer unparalleled support and guidance.

What do you hope to accomplish in your first 6 to 12 months? What are your goals for Light Iron?
I want to learn from this very agile team of professionals and bring in operational and workflow options to the rapidly changing production/post production convergence we are all encountering. We have a very solid footing in LA, NY and NOLA. I want to ensure that each unit is working together using effective skills and technology to collaborate and allow filmmakers creative freedom. My goal is to help navigate this team though the traditional growth patterns as well as the unpredictable challenges that lie ahead in the emerging market.

You have a wealth of DI experience and knowledge. How has DI changed over the years?
The change depends on the elevation. From a very high level, it was the same simple process for many years: shoot, edit, scan, VFX, color — and our hero was always a film print. Flying lower, we have seen massive shifts in technology that have re-written the play books. The DI really starts in the camera testing phase and begins to mature during the production photography stage. The importance of look setting, dailies and VFX collaboration take on a whole new meaning with each day of shooting.

The image data that is captured needs to be available for near set cutting while VFX elements are being pulled within a few short days of photography. This image data needs to be light and nimble, albeit massive in file size and run time. The turnarounds are shrinking in the feature space exponentially. We are experiencing international collaboration on the finish and color of each project, and the final render dates are increasingly close to worldwide release dates. We are now seeing a tipping point like we encountered a few years back when we asked ourselves, “Is the hero a print or DCP?” Today, we are at the next hero question, DCP or HDR?

Do you have any advice for younger DI artists based on your history?
I think it is always good to learn from the past and understand how we got here. I would say younger artists need to aggressively educate themselves on workflow, technology, and collaboration. Each craft in the journey has experienced rapid evolvement in the last few years. There are many outlets to learn about the latest capture, edit, VFX, sound and distribution techniques being offered, and that research time needs to be on everyone’s daily task list. Seeking out new emerging creative talent is critical learning at this stage as well. Everyday a filmmaker is formulating a vision that is new to the world. We are fortunate here at Light Iron to work with these emerging filmmakers who share the same passion for taking that bold next step in storytelling.

New large-format digital camera from Panavision

Panavision will be showing three working prototypes and a demo reel of its new Millennium DXL large-format digital camera at this weekend’s Cine Gear Expo in Los Angeles. Three companies came together to share their technology in the creation of the DXL — Panavision supplied large format optics and modular accessories, Red Digital Cinema brought an 8K sensor, and a new color science and optimized workflow came from Light Iron. They are clear that this isn’t just a “Panavised” Red camera. The sensor is a Red sensor, but the body is all Panavision.

While at Cine Gear, Panavision will be collecting feedback from the community, and that will continue through the development process. For those of you not on the West Coast, keep an eye out for shows on the East Coast and internationally this fall.

According to Kim Snyder, president/CEO of Panavision, DXL is offered in response to heightened demand for large-format cinematography. “Our fleet of large format and anamorphic lenses has been extremely popular in this resurgence of large format capture, and with the Millennium DXL, cinematographers now can capture more than 20 megapixels of true 4K anamorphic pictures.”

At the core of DXL is a proprietary image mapping process called Light Iron Color, which provides a cinematic look directly out of the camera. The camera body was designed with ergonomics and temperature management in mind: its mid-size form factor is extra lightweight, yet allows for an airflow system that dissipates heat quietly. DXL also has built-in, crew-friendly, modular accessories to improve versatility and quick changeovers during production.

“Our streamlined workflow includes simultaneous recording of 4K proxy files — ProRes or DNx —alongside the 8K RAW files,” explains Michael Cioni, DXL product director and president of Light Iron, a Panavision company. “This creates a direct-to-edit workflow with the NLE of your choice. Using efficient SSD media, the cost of capturing 8K files with DXL is more economical than using third-party recorders on lower resolution cameras. Light Iron Color and our Panavised Outpost Systems provide a workflow for DXL that can be easily adopted for shooting large format photography.”

Cioni says that cinematographers will notice how 8K acquisition creates images that are smoother, not sharper. “With a full frame 35-megapixel imager, DXL provides a super-sampled image, much like large format still photography, so that its smoothness is retained whether you finish in 4K, 2K, or HD.”

The Millennium DXL will be rented exclusively through Panavision and will be available in early 2017.

Quick Chat: Light Iron New York supervising colorist Steven Bodner

By Randi Altman

Turn your TV to any network or streaming channel any evening and you will immediately be reminded just how much television production is currently going on in New York City. This boon is directly related to New York’s inviting production tax incentives. And thanks to the state’s post production tax incentives, many of these shows are now staying in New York for finishing.

In response to this increase in work, Panavision’s Light Iron in New York has been growing its episodic division, most recently with the addition of supervising colorist Steven Bodner, who joins after eight years at Deluxe in New York.

Bodner’s extensive television resume includes Girls, Blue Bloods, Treme, True Detective and the new HBO series Vinyl. Bodner also works on features, including the recent Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba.

Considering his history and his new position, we figured there was no better time to reach out and learn more about Bodner and how he works.

Why was now the right time to make a move, and why was Light Iron the right choice?  
I was with Deluxe for the past eight years and felt I needed a change. I was approached by Light Iron and was impressed right off the bat with their technological know-how and advancements. The Panavision connection also influenced my decision. I love the fact that I can be involved from the early stages of choosing the camera and lenses to the final delivery.

What do you hope to accomplish in your new position at Light Iron? Your title says supervising colorist, but you will you be hands-on for shows as well?
I am 100 percent hands-on with all the projects I work on. I feel like I can connect more with the filmmakers and creatives by touching every frame of the show or film. My title is more for building a strong team and department. I want to help our new colorists polish their skills so that we can all grow together and collaborate. I have a lot of knowledge I can spread through our new department, and the title allows me to do that.

What is your color grading tool of choice?
I feel like we as artists use many tools to mold a picture. A great colorist can shape pretty pictures with whatever platform we are given — it’s more about the creative vision. That being said, I am currently using the latest version of Resolve from Blackmagic. (Light Iron’s New York facility just installed a Quantum StorNext 5 SAN (700 TB) and a Sony X300 for HDR monitoring.)

What is your ideal way of working on a TV show, and does that differ from how you work on a feature?
What I like to do, whether it be TV or a film, is get involved as early as possible. I like to get into the head of the DP and/or director and see what his or her visions are for the show. Then, during testing, I like to find time to sit and play around a bit and get some “look-book” stills done for reference going forward. When a delivery actually comes in, I like to do a quick pass unsupervised and get everything in a ballpark with my look-book stills and then go from there with the clients.

Do you prefer getting visual examples of looks or talking about the look and feel?
It’s always nice to get visual examples of what the DP or creative wants. However, there are situations when time doesn’t allow for that and a quick conversation is all you get. That’s why, for me, it’s important to be involved from the start and to communicate as often as possible or needed.

As a New York post veteran, it must be fun watching all this episodic work come to New York, and stay in NY for post. 
It’s been great watching the amount of NY work grow. I remember years ago only doing the dailies and hoping for a day when we could keep the finishing here as well. It’s a dream come true.

What changes/trends have you noticed over the past few years relating to color grading?
The biggest changes or trends I’ve noticed are related to speed and capabilities. With most projects being digital now, there is an expectation for speed. We have to be fast and precise while retaining the look and the feel of the show. I also feel like we are doing a fair amount of beauty work in color due to the stronger color tools and better trackers.

Finally, where do you find inspiration for looks? Photography? Museums? The streets of New York?
I get my inspiration from everyday life, photography and other shows or films. I also like to sit in my color suite and just try things that I normally wouldn’t do, when a client is present, to see what comes out of it.

Worlds collide: Panavision buys Light Iron

So the news broke this morning that Panavision has purchased Light Iron. Yes, Panavision, with its incredibly long history in filmmaking, has bought Light Iron, a post house that is aggressive in terms of finding efficient digital paths from set to post. They most recently worked on David Fincher’s Gone Girl, with its 6K workflow (see our story here).

In addition to its post houses in Hollywood and New York, Light Iron also rents mobile post systems called Outpost to productions. These systems will now be available at Panavision rental facilities worldwide. Light Iron, now operating as a wholly owned subsidiary of Panavision, will retain its name and branding.

Michael Cioni

According to the press release Michael Cioni, CEO of Light Iron, believes that partnering with Panavision will extend Light Iron’s international reach. “The fusion of our two companies, and the creation of new optimized tools, will mark the beginning of a new era in digital acquisition and delivery on a global scale.”

Says Panavision president Kim Snyder, “Together, we are poised to offer creative clients a deeper and more progressive level of support and services across all market segments.  This union uniquely positions us both to serve the industry through collaboration, advanced engineering and optimized services all over the world.”