Tag Archives: post production

Larry Chernoff to get 2017 HPA Lifetime Achievement Award

Post production industry veteran Larry Chernoff has been named the 2017 recipient of the HPA Lifetime Achievement Award by the HPA (Hollywood Professional Association). Chernoff will receive the award during the HPA Awards gala on November 16 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

The mission of the award is to give recognition to individuals who have, with great service, dedicated their careers to the betterment of the industry. The Lifetime Achievement Award is given at the discretion of the HPA Board and Awards Committee and it is not required to be bestowed every year.

As the recipient of the Los Angeles Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 1997, Chernoff is recognized as a successful entrepreneur, helping to found and lead several successful post production companies that, in turn, have launched hundreds of post production careers. He has built companies and impacted the industry by fostering innovation and by nurturing talented young people to develop their craft, believing that they are the key to a company’s, and the industry’s, future.

Chernoff grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and attended New York’s School of Visual Arts. Between high school and college, at the age of 18, he landed a job as a “can carrier” at a commercial production house. Once there, he learned to sync dailies. When an editor called in sick, he was asked to fill in, thus beginning his editing career. In 1974, Chernoff moved to Los Angeles and joined Filmcore, a recently formed commercial editing company. Within two years he became partner, going on to play a lead role in the founding of post houses Encore and Riot. He served as president of 4MC, later Ascent Media Creative Services, overseeing operations in Los Angeles, New York and London.

Chernoff joined MTI Film as a board member in 2003 and was elevated to CEO in 2005. Under his direction, the company has become a leading independent provider of post finishing and restoration services. Its software division has been the source of products, including DRS Nova, a tool for digital restoration, and Cortex, a family of solutions for dailies processing and workflow management.

In acknowledging the honor, Chernoff said, “I am, of course, honored to be recognized by my peers. I follow an illustrious list of previous honorees who, like me, have dedicated their professional lives to the advancement of post production and its standing in the industry. I share this award with many people who have consistently partnered with me to create outstanding contributions to the work and industry we love.”

In addition to The Lifetime Achievement Award, other special awards, including Engineering Excellence, The Judges Award for Creativity and Innovation, and honors in 12 creative categories (editing, visual effects, sound and color grading) will be given out at the gala.

Paris Can Wait director Eleanor Coppola

By Iain Blair

There are famous Hollywood dynasties, and then there’s the Coppolas, with such giant talents as Francis, Sofia, Roman, Nic Cage and the late Carmine.

While Eleanor, the matriarch of the clan and Francis’ wife, has long been recognized as a multi-talented artist in her own right, thanks to her acclaimed documentaries and books (Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, Notes on the Making of Apocalypse Now, Notes on a Life), it’s only recently — at the grand age of 81 — that she’s written, produced and directed her feature film debut, Paris Can Wait.

Eleanor Coppola on set in France.

It stars Oscar-nominee Diane Lane as a woman who unexpectedly takes a trip through France, which reawakens her sense of self and her joie de vivre. At a crossroads in her life, and long married to an inattentive movie producer (Alec Baldwin), she finds herself taking a car trip from Cannes to Paris with a garrulous business associate of her husband. What should be a seven-hour drive turns into a journey of discovery involving mouthwatering meals, spectacular wines and picturesque sights.

Maybe it’s something in the water — or the famed Coppola wine, or her genes — but like her many family members, Eleanor Coppola seems to have a natural gift for capturing visual magic, and the French road trip unfolds like a sun-drenched adventure that makes you want to pack your bags and join the couple immediately.

I recently spoke with Coppola about making the film.

You began directing feature films at an age when most directors have long since retired. What took you so long?
I made documentaries, and my nature is to be an observer, so I never thought about doing a fiction film. But I had this true story, this trip I took with a Frenchman, and it felt like a really good basis for a road movie — and I love road movies — so I began writing it and included all these wonderful, picturesque places we stopped at, and someone suggested that we break down. Then my son said, “You should fix it,” so I gradually added all these textures and colors and flavors that would make it as rich as possible.

I heard it took a long time to write?
I began writing, and once I had the script together I began looking for a director, but I couldn’t quite find the right person. Then one morning at breakfast (my husband) Francis said, “You should direct it.” I’d never thought of directing it myself, so I took classes in directing and acting to prepare, but it ended up taking six years to bring all the elements together.

I assume getting financing was hard?
It was, especially as I’m not only a first-time feature director, but my movie has no aliens, explosions, kidnappings, guns, train wrecks — and nobody dies. It doesn’t have any of the usual elements that bankers want to invest in, so it took a long time to patch together the money — a bit here, a bit there. That was probably the hardest part of the whole thing. You can’t get the actors until you have the financing, and you can’t get the financing until you have the actors. It’s like Catch-22, and you’re caught in this limbo between the two while you try and get it all lined up.

After Francis persuaded you to direct it, did he give you a lot of encouragement and advice?
I asked him a lot about working with actors. I’ve been on so many sets with him and watched him directing, and he was very helpful and supportive, especially when we ran into the usual problems every film has.

I heard that just two weeks into shooting, the actor originally set to play Michael was unable to get out of another project?
Yes, and I was desperate to find a replacement, and it was such short notice. But by some miracle, Alec Baldwin called Francis about something, and he was able to fly over to France at the last moment and fill in. And other things happened. We were going to shoot the opening at the Hotel Majestic in Cannes, but a Saudi Arabian prince arrived and took over the entire hotel, so we had to scramble to find another location.

How long was the shoot?
Just 28 days, so it was a mad dash all over France, especially as we had so many locations I wanted to fit in. Pretty much every day, the AD and the production manager would come over to me after lunch and say, “Okay, you had 20 shots scheduled for today, but we’re going to have to lose four or five of them. Which ones would you like to cut?” So you’re in a constant state of anxiety and wondering if the shots you are getting will even cut together.Since we had so little time and money, we knew that we could never come back to a location if we missed something and that we’d have to cut some stuff out altogether, and there’s the daily race to finish before you lose light, so it was very difficult at times.

Where did you do the post?
All back at our home in Napa Valley, where we have editing and post production facilities all set up at the winery.

You worked with editor Glen Scantlebury, whose credits include Godfather III and Bram Stoker’s Dracula for Francis, Michael Bay’s The Rock, Armageddon and Transformers, Conair, The General’s Daughter and Tomb Raider. What did he bring to the project?
What happened was, I had a French editor who assembled the film while we were there, but it didn’t make financial sense to then bring her back to Napa, so Francis put me together with Glen and we worked really well together. He’s so experienced, but not just cutting these huge films. He’s also cut a lot of indies and smaller films and documentaries, and he did Palo Alto for (my granddaughter) Gia, so he was perfect for this. He didn’t come to France.

What were the main editing challenges?As they say, there are three films you make: the one you wrote, the one you shot and the one you then edit and get onto the screen. It’s always the same challenge of finding the best way of telling the story, and then we screened versions for people to see where any weaknesses were, and then we would go back and try to correct them. Glen is very creative, and he’d come up with fresh ways of dealing with any problems. We ended up spending a couple of months working on it, after he spent an initial month at home doing his own assembly.

I must say, I really enjoyed the editing process more than anything, because you get to relax more and shape the material like clay and mold it in a way you just can’t see when you’re in the middle of shooting it. I love the way you can move scenes around and juxtapose things that suddenly work in a whole new way.

Can you talk about the importance of sound and music?
They’re so important, and can radically alter a scene and the emotions an audience feels. I had the great pleasure of working with sound designer Richard Beggs, who won the Oscar for Apocalypse Now, and who’s done the sound for so many great films, including Rain Man and Harry Potter, and he’s worked with (my daughter) Sofia on some of her films like Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette.

He’s a master of his craft and helped bring the film alive. Also, he recommended the composer Laura Karpman, who’s won several Emmys and worked with Spielberg and John Legend and all sorts of people. Music is really the weakest part for me, because I just don’t know what to do, and like Glen, Laura was just a perfect match for me. The first things she wrote were a little too dark, I felt, as I wanted this to be fun and light, and she totally got it, and also used all these great finger-snaps, and the score just really captures the feeling I wanted. We mixed everything up in Napa as well.

Eleanor Coppola and writer Iain Blair.

Do you want to direct another feature now, or was once enough?
I don’t have anything cooking that I want to make, but I’ve recently made two short story films, and I really enjoyed doing that since I didn’t have to wait for years to get the financing. I shot them in Northern California, and they were a joy to do.

There’s been a lot of talk about the lack of opportunity for women directors. What’s your advice to a woman who wants to direct?
Well, first off, it’s never too late! (Laughs) Look at me. I’m 81, and this is my first narrative film. Making any film is hard, finding the financing is even harder. Yes, it is a boy’s club, but if you have a story to tell never give up. Women should have a voice.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Audio post vet Rex Recker joins Digital Arts in NYC

Rex Recker has joined the team at New York City’s Digital Arts as a full-time audio post mixer and sound designer. Recker, who co-founded NYC’s AudioEngine after working as VP and audio post mixer at Photomag recording studios, is an award-winning mixer with a long list of credits. Over the span of his career he has worked on countless commercials with clients including McCann Erickson JWT, Ogilvy & Mather, BBDO, DDB, HBO and Warner Books.

Over the years, Recker has developed a following of clients who seek him out for his audio post mixer talents — they seek his expertise in surround sound audio mixing for commercials airing via broadcast, Web and cinemas. In addition to spots, Recker also mixes long-form projects, including broadcast specials and documentaries.

Since joining the Digital Arts team, Recker has already worked on several commercial campaigns, promos and trailers for such clients as Samsung, SlingTV, Ford, Culturelle, Orvitz, NYC Department of Health, and HBO Documentary Films.

Digital Arts, owned by Axel Ericson, is an end-to-end production, finishing and audio facility.

John Hughes, Helena Packer, Kevin Donovan open post collective

Three industry vets have combined to launch PHD, a Los Angeles-based full-service post collective. Led by John Hughes (founder of Rhythm & Hues), Helena Packer (VFX supervisor/producer) and Kevin Donovan (film/TV/commercials director), PHD works across the genres of VR/AR, independent films, documentaries, TV — including limited series and commercials. In addition to post production, including color grading, offline and online editorial, the visual effects and final delivery, they offer live-action production services. In addition to Los Angeles, PHD has locations in India, Malaysia and South Africa.

Hughes was the co-founder of the legendary VFX shop Rhythm & Hues (R&H) and led that studio for 26 years, earning three Academy Awards for “Best Visual Effects” (Babe, The Golden Compass, Life of Pi) as well as four scientific and engineering Academy Awards.

Packer was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in 2008 for her creative contributions to filmmaking as an accomplished VFX artist, supervisor and producer. Her expertise extends beyond feature films to episodic TV, stereoscopic 3D and animation. Packer has been the VFX supervisor and Flame artist for hundreds of commercials and over 20 films, including 21 Jump Street and Charlie Wilson’s War.

Director Kevin Donovan is particularly well-versed in action and visual effects. He directed the feature film, The Tuxedo, and is currently producing the TV series What Would Trejo Do? He has shot over 700 commercials during the course of his career and is the winner of six Cannes Lions.

Since the company’s launch, PHD has worked on a number of projects — two PSAs for the Climate Change organization 5 To Do Today featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron called Don’t Buy It and Precipice
a PSA for the international animal advocacy group WildAid shot in Tanzania and Oregon called Talking Elephant, another for WildAid shot in Cape Town, South Africa called Talking Rhino, and two additional WildAid PSAs featuring actor Josh Duhamel called Souvenir and Situation.

“In a sense, our new company is a reconfigured version of R&H, but now we are much smarter, much more nimble and much more results driven,” says Hughes about PHD. “We have very little overhead to deal with. Our team has worked on hundreds of award-winning films and commercials…”

Main Photo: L-R:  John Hughes, Helena Packer and Kevin Donovan.

WWE adds iPads, iPhones to production workflow

By Nick Mattingly

Creating TV style productions is a big operation. Lots of equipment, lots of people and lots of time. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is an entertainment company and the largest professional wrestling organization in the world. Since its inception, it has amassed a global audience of over 36 million.

Each year, WWE televises over 100 events via its SmackDown, WWE Raw and Pay-Per-View events. That doesn’t include the hundreds of arena shows that the organization books in venues around the world.

“Putting this show on in one day is no small feat. Our shows begins to load-in typically around 4:00am and everything must be up and ready for production by 2:00pm,” explained Nick Smith, WWE’s director of remote IT and broadcast engineering. “We travel everything from the lighting, PA, screens, backstage sets, television production facilities, generators and satellite transmission facilities, down to catering. Everyone [on our team] knows precisely what to do and how to get it done.”

Now the WWE is experimenting with a new format for the some 300 events it hosts that are currently not captured on video. The goal? To see if using Switcher Studio with a few iPhones and iPads can achieve TV-style results. A key part of testing has been defining workflow using mobile devices while meeting WWE’s high standard of quality. One of the first requirements was moving beyond the four-camera setup. As a result, the Switcher Studio team produced a special version of Switcher that allows unlimited sources. The only limitation is network bandwidth.

Adding more cameras was an untested challenge. To help prevent bottlenecks over the local network, we lowered the resolution and bitrate on preview video feeds. We also hardwired the primary iPad used for switching using Apple dongles. Using the “Director Mode” function in Switcher Studio. WWE then triggered a recording on all devices.

For the first test using Switcher Studio, the WWE had a director and operator at the main iPad. The video from the iPad was output to an external TV monitor using Apple’s AirPlay. This workflow allowed the director to see a live video feed from all sources. They were also able to talk with the camera crew and “direct” the operator when to cut to each camera.

The WWE crew had three camera operators from their TV productions to run iPhones in and around the ring. To ensure the devices had enough power to make it through the four-hour-long event, iPhones were attached to batteries. Meanwhile, two camera operators captured wide shots of the ring. Another camera operator captured performer entrances and crowd reaction shots.

WWE setup a local WiFi network for the event to wirelessly sync cameras. The operator made edits in realtime to generate a line cut. After the event the line cut and a ISO from each angle was sent to the WWE post team in the United Kingdom.

Moving forward, we plan to make further improvements to the post workflow. This will be especially helpful for editors, using tools like Adobe Premiere or Avid Media Composer.

If future tests prove successful, WWE could use this new mobile setup to provide more content to their fans–building new revenue streams along the way.


Nick Mattingly is the CEO/co-founder of Switcher Studio. He has over 10 years of experience in video streaming, online monetization and new technologies. 

postPerspective Impact Award winners from NAB 2017

In early April, postPerspective announced the debut of our Impact Awards, celebrating innovative products and technologies for the post production and production industries that will influence the way people work. Our inaugural awards honor the best new or upgraded gear shown at NAB 2017.

Now that the show is over, and our panel of post pro judges has had time to decompress, dig out and think about what impressed them, we are happy to announce our honorees.

And the winners of the postPerspective Impact Award from NAB 2017 are:

• Adobe — Creative Cloud Suite
• Avid — Media Composer | Cloud Remote
• Blackmagic Design — DaVinci Resolve 14
• Dell — UltraSharp 27 4K HDR Monitor
• HP — DreamColor Z31x Studio Display

“The postPerspective Impact Award celebrates companies that have listened to users’ wants and needs and then produced tools designed to make their working lives easier and projects better,” said Randi Altman, postPerspective’s founder and editor-in-chief. “And all of our winners certainly fall into that category.

“Our awards are special because they are voted on by people who will be potentially using these tools in their day-to-day workflows. It’s real-world users who have determined our winners, and that is the way it should be. We feel awards for products targeting pros should be voted on by pros.”

Obviously, there were many new technologies and products at NAB this year, and while only five won an Impact Award, our judges felt there were other tools that it was important to let people know about as well.

Displays for high-resolution workflows were of special interest to many of our judges. In addition to our winners, they pointed to Sony’s CLEDIS, Bravia and XBR displays; SmallHD’s Focus monitor; Eizo’s Color Edge monitors; and Flanders Scientific’s OLED 55-inch HDR display.

Other gear that caught our judges attention — AJA’s FS HDR with ColorFront; Telestream Wirecast with Cloud-Assist captioning; Avid Pro Tools with Dolby Atmos integration; IBM Watson for post production; Mettle’s 360 Degree/VR Depth plug-ins and Skybox Studio v2; G-Tech’s Thunderbolt 3 Shuttle XL; AJA’s KiPro Ultra Plus; and The Foundry’s Nuke 11 and Elara.

Stay tuned for future Impact Award winners in the coming months — voted on by users for users — from SIGGRAPH and IBC.

Tips for future NAB-goers

By Jesse Korosi

Depart from the traditional flashing lights of Las Vegas, the ringing of slot machines and the smell of stale cigarettes and you may find yourself at the NAB show. Boasting over 103,000, this year’s NAB brought together media, entertainment and technology experts from around the globe.

 

Sim Digital always attends NAB, where we get inspiration for how we will continue to move ahead with new technology and industry trends. We have been growing as a company at an incredible rate — from the small team we once were only about 10 years back to our current crew of 400 and taking on the biggest jobs the industry has to offer. To ensure we keep this momentum, we need to keep our eyes on the fads and determine what technology is actually going to stick and choose which of them to become a leader in.

The convention center is massive! Therefore, do not make the same mistake I did the first time I went and walk into any entrance not knowing the types of vendors are in each hall. You could find yourself lost within radio or live broadcast land for an hour before finding your way out. Without proper maps and documentation, it can be a little overwhelming!

Download the NAB Show App on the App Store
This app will allow you to type in the booth number for any booth you want to hit and will draw a line across the NAB floor to navigate you. Without this map you are looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, as it’s unfortunately not as simple as one might think to look at the booth number you’re standing at and figure out which way to go by counting. I tried that my first year and it was a nightmare.

Wear Comfortable Shoes and Book Meetings!
While there are a ton of booths and opportunities to just walk in and chat with anyone, it is very important to book your meetings well ahead of time! The first year I went, I did not book any meetings and I just showed up at booths. Because of this I often had random sales people greeting me. They were, of course, equipped to show me the new products they were showcasing. However, if I wanted to talk about the mechanics of how their hardware actually worked and the metadata management end of things, this was a no-go!

Rather than just looking at my meetings as an opportunity to see new products, I tend to look at this as an opportunity to jam-pack meetings into a few days of NAB that would otherwise take a month to schedule. As an example, this year I had meetings every 30 to 45 minutes all day, every day I was there! To prepare for this, my team and I from Bling — part of the Sim Group group of of companies —sent a simple e-mail to the vendor requesting the meeting. Within this e-mail, we explained why we wanted the meeting and requested a person who could answer our questions.

We also offered up sample material for the vendors to have on hand. An example of this would be our meeting with The Foundry (left) this year. I knew I wanted to go over VFX color science and pipelines so I forwarded on some sample media, including CDLs, LUTs, stills and anything else they would need to prepare for our meeting. This way, when we showed up, their artist had everything pre-loaded, they knew what we were there to talk about and within 30 minutes we had a super-productive meeting and were out the door.

For my team at Bling, we try not to think of this as only an opportunity to see new products, but to also get this one-on-one training. As a dailies lab, we are often supporting visual effects workflows, as any time a VFX vendor submits a shot back to editorial that does not properly match the original dailies color or framing, we are often the first call that the client makes. Considering this, it was great to get this one-on-one time at NAB with a company like The Foundry. Not only did our team get some hands-on time with Nuke, mirroring workflows our clients run, but we also came up with some very exciting concepts to elevate our VFX pull workflow to a new level.

Bring an iPad as a Visual Aid
I usually try to think about each meeting I have and ensure that if pictures of my office, gear, workflow diagrams, etc. may help as visual aids, I have them with me on a big enough screen to easily share.

Book Meetings Based on Hall Location
All of my South Upper hall meetings are together, etc. The last thing you want is to be running from one end of the massive facility to another, over and over. So this is something to keep in mind considering how much of an affect this will have on your ability to cram in as many meetings as possible.

The South Hall

With many members from the Sim team present at NAB, we were able to divide and concur the show floor. We certainly found many products that caught our attention and will be on our radar moving forward.

Aside from just new hardware and software, however, NAB this year has inspired a lot of workflow innovation that we are very excited to pursue. My team and I combined up our time at NAB with our annual planning session in a house off the Vegas strip. I feel it is very common for companies to have their technically minded crew buried in their daily routine, keeping up with the onslaught of work and never properly disengaging to reassess where the company has gone, what you are doing right and what could use some re-direction.

The executive-level staff may do this at other companies, but wouldn’t it be better if you had the technical creative minds who are dealing with the company’s challenges hands-on every day lead some of this charge? Or is this a task too heavy for this level position? That to me is what is very exciting about Sim — we do this every year and trust our people to make these calls. Combining this with the creative energy we were able to get from NAB brought our innovation concepts and technical strategies to a whole new level, which I am very excited to soon reveal!

The show wrapped at the end of last month. New products and road maps have been revealed and now the real question is: What will everyone do with this new information they gathered?

What Impressed
There were many updates that struck home for me, such as FilmLight making a Baselight student version; Blackmagic’s new panels; a new HP Dreamcolor and new HDR monitors from Sony and Flanders; AJA’s new KiPro Ultra Plus; Avids DNxIQ; Pro Tools native Dolby Atmos mixing and Nexis support; Blackmagic’s Resolve 14, Web Presenter, Ultra Studio HD Mini; and ColorFront HDR upgrades.

I figured that there would be a big focus on VR this year, as well as HDR, which was in fact the case. However, one thing that was very exciting to me was the focus on computer learning. This is an area I feel is going to continue to expand and gain more presence in the back-end architecture of software we use every day in post production. GrayMeta had a great demo of their new product. Check out what they do.


Jesse Korosi is director of workflow services at Bling Digital, is a member of the Sim Group family of companies, which supplies production equipment, workflow and post solutions.

The A-List: Director Ron Howard discusses National Geo’s Genius

By Iain Blair

Ron Howard has done it all in Hollywood. The former child star of The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days not only successfully made the tricky transition to adult actor (at 22 he starred opposite John Wayne in The Shootist and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar), but went on to establish himself as an Oscar-winning director and producer (A Beautiful Mind). He is also one of Hollywood’s most beloved and commercially successful and versatile helmers.

Since making his directorial debut in 1977 with Grand Theft Auto (when he was still on Happy Days), he’s made an eclectic group of films about boxers (Cinderella Man), astronauts (Apollo 13), mermaids (Splash), symbologists (The Da Vinci Code franchise), politicians (Frost/Nixon) firefighters (Backdraft), mathematicians (A Beautiful Mind), Formula One racing (Rush), whalers (In the Heart of the Sea) and the Fab Four (his first documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week).

Born in Oklahoma with showbiz in his DNA — his parents were both actors — Howard “always wanted to direct” and notes that “producing gives you control.” In 1986, he co-founded Imagine Entertainment with Brian Grazer, a powerhouse in film and TV (Empire, Arrested Development) production. His latest project is the new Genius series for National Geographic.

The 10-part global event series — the network’s first scripted series — is based on Walter Isaacson’s book “Einstein: His Life and Universe” and tracks Albert Einstein’s rise from humble origins as an imaginative and rebellious thinker through his struggles to be recognized by the establishment, to his global celebrity status as the man who unlocked the mysteries of the cosmos with his theory of relativity.

But if you’re expecting a dry, intellectual by-the-numbers look at his life and career, you’re in for a big surprise.

With an impressive cast that includes Geoffrey Rush as the celebrated scientist in his later years, Johnny Flynn as Einstein in the years before he rose to international acclaim and Emily Watson as his second wife — and first cousin — Elsa Einstein, the show is full of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

We’re mostly joking, but the series does balance the hard-to-grasp scientific theories with an entertaining exploration of a man with an often very messy private life as it follows Einstein’s alternately exhilarating emotions and heartlessness in dealing with his closest personal relationships, including his children, his two wives and the various women with whom he cheats on them.

Besides all the personal drama, there’s plenty of global drama as Genius is set against an era of international conflict over the course of two world wars. Faced with rising anti-Semitism in Europe, surveillance by spies and the potential for atomic annihilation, Einstein struggles as a husband and a father, not to mention as a man of principle, even as his own life is put in danger.

I talked recently with Ron Howard about directing the first episode and his love of production and post.

What was the appeal of doing this and making your scripted television directorial debut with the first episode?
I’ve become a big fan of all the great TV shows people are doing now, where you let a story unfold in a novelistic way, and I was envious of a lot of my peers getting into doing TV — and this was a great project that just really suits the TV format. Over the years, I had read various screenplays about Einstein but they just never worked as a movie, so when National Geographic wanted to reach out to their audience in a more ambitious way, suddenly there was this perfect platform to do this life justice and have the length it needed. It’s an ideal fit, and it was perfect to do it with National Geographic.

Given that you had considered making a film about him, how familiar were you with Einstein and his life? How do you find the drama in an academic’s life?
I thought I had some insight, but I was blown away by the book and Noah Pink’s screenplay, and everyone on the team brought their own research to the process, and it became more and more fascinating. There was this constant pressure on Einstein that I felt we could work with through the whole series, and that I never realized was there. And with that pressure, there’s drama. We came very close to not benefiting from his genius because of all the forces against him – sometimes from external forces, like governments and academic institutions, but often from his own foibles and flaws. He was even on a hit list. So I was really fascinated by his whole story.

What most surprised you about Einstein once you began delving deeper into his private life?
That he was such a Lothario! He had quite a complicated love life, but it was also that he had such a dogged commitment to his principles and logic and point-of-view. I was doing post on the Beatles documentary as we prepped, and it was the same thing with those young men. They often didn’t listen to outside influences and people telling them it couldn’t be done. They absolutely committed to their musical vision and principles with all their drive and focus, and it worked — and collectively I think you could say the band was genius.

Einstein also trusted his convictions, whether it was physics or math, and if the conventional answers didn’t satisfy his sense of logic, he’d just dig deeper. The same thing can be said for his personal life and relationships, and trying to find a balance between his career and life’s work, and family and friends. Look at his falling in love with his fellow physics student Mileva Maric, which causes all sorts of problems, especially when she unexpectedly gets pregnant. No one else thought she was particularly attractive, she was a bit of an outcast as the only female physics student, and yet his logic called him to her. The same thing with politics. He went his own way in everything. He was a true renaissance man, eternally curious about everything.

In terms of dealing with very complex ideas that aren’t necessarily very cinematic, it must have helped that you’d made A Beautiful Mind?
Yes, we saw a lot of similarities between the two. It really helped that both men were essentially visualists — Einstein even more so than John Nash. That gave us a big advantage and gave me the chance to show audiences some of his famous thought experiments in cinematic ways, and he described them very vividly and they’re a fantastic jumping-off point — it was his visualizations that helped him wrap his head around the physics. He began with something he could grasp physically and then went back to prove it with the math. Those principles gave him the amazing insights about the nature of the universe, and time and space, that we’ve all benefitted from.

I assume you began integrating post and all the VFX very early on?
Right away, in preproduction meetings in Prague, in the Czech Republic, where Einstein lived and taught early in his career. We had our whole team there on location, including our VFX supervisor Eric Durst and his team, DP Mathias Herndl, our production designers and art directors and so on. With all the VFX, we stayed pretty close to how Einstein described his thought experiments. The one that starts off this first episode is very vivid, whereas the first one he has as a 17-year-old boy is done in a more chalk-board kind of way, where he faints and can barely hang on mentally to the image. All the dailies and visual effects were done by UPP.

Where did you do the post?
We did all the editing and sound back in LA.

Do you like the post process?
I love it. I love the edit and slowly pulling it all together after the stress of the shoot.

It was edited by James Wilcox, who’s done CSI: Miami and Hawaii Five-O, along with Debby Germino and J. Kathleen Gibson. How early was James involved and was he on set?
Dan and Mike weren’t available. It’s the first time I’d worked with James and he’s very creative and did a great job. He wasn’t on the set, but we were constantly in communication and we’d send him material back to LA and then when I got back, we sat down together.

The show constantly cuts back and forth in time.
Yes, I was fascinated by all those transitions and I worked very closely with my team to make sure we had all that down, and that it all flowed smoothly in the edit. For instance, Johnny Flynn plays violin and he trained classically, so he actually plays in all those scenes. But Geoffrey doesn’t play violin, but he practiced for several months, and we had a teacher on set too. Geoffrey was so dedicated to creating this character.They both looked at tons of footage of Einstein as an older man, so Johnny could develop aspects of Einstein’s manner and behavior as the younger one, which Geoffrey could work with later, so we had a real continuity to the character. That’s a big reason why I wanted to be so hands-on with the first episode, as we were defining so many key aspects of the man and the aesthetics and the way we’d be telling the whole story.

Can you talk about working on the sound and music?
It’s always huge to me and adds so much to every scene. Lorne Balfe wrote a fantastic score and we had a great sound team: production sound mixer Peter Forejt, supervising sound editor Daniel Pagan, music editor Del Spiva and re-recording mixers Mark Hensley and Bob Bronow. For post production audio we used Smart Post Sound.

The DI must have been important?
It was very important since we were trying to do stuff with the concept of time in very subtle ways using the camera work, the palette and the lighting style. This all changed subtly depending on whether it was an Einstein memory, or a flashback to his younger, brasher self, or looking ahead to the iconic older man where it was all a little more formal. So we went for different looks to match the different energies and, of course, the editing style had to embody all of that as well. The colorist was Pankaj Bajpai, and he did a great job.

What’s next?
I plan to do more TV. Remember, I came out of TV and it’s so exciting now. I’m also developing several movie projects, including Seveneves, a sci-fi film, and Under the Banner of Heaven which is based on the Jon Krakauer bestseller. So whatever comes together first.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

A glimpse at what was new at NAB

By Lance Holte

I made the trek out to Las Vegas last week for the annual NAB show to take in the latest in post production technology, discuss new trends and products and get lost in a sea of exhibits. With over 1,700 exhibitors, it’s impossible to see everything (especially in the two days I was there), but here are a handful of notable things that caught my eye.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Studio 14: While the “non-studio” version is still free, it’s hard to beat the $299 license for the full version of Resolve. As 4K and 3D media becomes increasingly prevalent, and with the release of their micro and mini panels, Resolve can be a very affordable solution for editors, mobile colorists and DITs.

The new editorial and audio tools are particularly appealing to someone like me, who is often more hands-on on the editorial side than the grading side of post. To that regard, the new tracking features look to provide extra ease of use for quick and simple grades. I also love that Blackmagic has gotten rid of the dongles, which removes the hassle of tracking numerous dongles in a post environment where systems and rooms are swapped regularly. Oh, and there’s bin, clip and timeline locking for collaborative workflows, which easily pushes Resolve into the competition for an end-to-end post solution.

Adobe Premiere CC 2017 with After Effects and Audition Adobe Premiere is typically my editorial application of choice, and the increased integration of AE and Audition promise to make an end-to-end Creative Cloud workflow even smoother. I’ve been hoping for a revamp of Premiere’s title tool for a while, and the Essential Graphics panel/new Title Tool appears to greatly increase and streamline Premiere’s motion graphics capabilities — especially as someone who does almost all my graphics work in After Effects and Photoshop. The more integrated the various applications can be, the better; and Adobe has been pushing that aspect for some time now.

On the audio side, Premiere’s Essential Sound Panel tools for volume matching, organization, cleanup and other effects without going directly into Audition (or exporting for ProTools, etc.) will be really helpful, especially for smaller projects and offline mixes. And as a last note, the new Camera Shake Deblur effect in After Effects is fantastic.

Dell UltraSharp 4K HDR Monitor — There were a lot of great looking HDR monitors at the show, but I liked that this one fell in the middle of the pack in terms of price point ($2K), with solid specs (1000 nits, 97.7% of P3, and 76.9% of Rec. 2020) and a reasonable size (27 inches). Seems like a good editorial or VFX display solution, though the price might be pushing budgetary constraints for smaller post houses. I wish it was DCI 4K instead of UHD and a little more affordable, but that will hopefully come with time.

On that note, I really like HP’s DreamColor Z31x Studio Display. It’s not HDR, but it’s 99% of the P3 colorspace, and it’s DCI 4K — as well as 2K, by multiplying every pixel at 2K resolution into exactly 4 pixels — so there’s no odd-numbered scaling and sharpening required. Also, I like working with large monitors, especially at high resolutions. It offers automated (and schedulable) color calibration, though I’d love to see a non-automated display in the future if it could bring the price down. I could see the HP monitor as a great alternative to using more expensive HDR displays for the majority of workstations at many post houses.

As another side note, Flanders Scientific’s OLED 55-inch HDR display was among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, but with numerous built-in interfaces and scaling capabilities, it’s likely to come at a higher price.

Canon 4K600STZ 4K HDR laser projector — This looks to be a great projection solution for small screening rooms or large editorial bays. It offers huge 4096×2400 resolution, is fairly small and compact, and apparently has very few restraints when it comes to projection angle, which would be nice for a theatrical edit bay (or a really nice home theater). The laser light source is also attractive because it will be low maintenance. At $63K, it’s at the more affordable end of 4K projector pricing.

Mettle 360 Degree/VR Depth plug-ins: I haven’t worked with a ton of 360-degree media, but I have dealt with the challenges of doing depth-related effects in a traditional single-camera space, so the fact that Mettle is doing depth-of-field effects, dolly effects and depth volumetric effects with 360-degree/VR content is pretty incredible. Plus, their plug-ins are designed to integrate with Premiere and After Effects, which is good news for an Adobe power user. I believe they’re still going to be in beta for a while, but I’m very curious to see how their plug-ins play out.

Finally, in terms of purely interesting tech, Sony’s Bravia 4K acoustic surface TVs are pretty wild. Their displays are OLED, so they look great, and the fact that the screen vibrates to create sound instead of having separate speakers or an attached speaker bar is awfully cool. Even at very close viewing, the screen doesn’t appear to move, though it can clearly be felt vibrating when touched. A vibrating acoustic surface raises some questions about mounting, so it may not be perfect for every environment, but interesting nonetheless.


Lance Holte is an LA-based post production supervisor and producer. He has spoken and taught at such events as NAB, SMPTE, SIGGRAPH and Createasphere. You can email him at lance@lanceholte.com.

A virgin’s view of NAB

By Nolan Jennings

I have a confession: I am 28 years old, have lived in Los Angeles for over six years and had not been to Las Vegas until this past week. My naiveté concerning Las Vegas is generally a well-kept secret among my millennial peers, who seem to consider a debaucherous Las Vegas weekend a requisite validation of 21st century American life.

In addition, this was my first experience attending the National Association of Broadcasters convention (NAB). The simultaneous exposure to these two monolithic experiences was almost too great to bear, but I can happily report that I am safely back in Los Angeles, giddily recalling all of the incredible experiences I had over the course of the past four days.

Below, I’d love to share with you some background on how I arrived at NAB, and a few of the cool things I witnessed there.

How I Got There: An Introduction to Blue Collar Post Collective
I would not have been able to attend NAB without the wonderful generosity of the Blue Collar Post Collective (BCPC). For those not aware, BCPC is an organization of post production artists. Initially founded in New York City, BCPC has branched out to Los Angeles in recent years, and now boasts a bi-coastal membership representing every facet of the post industry.

Here I am (center) with the two other BCPC members who were sent to NAB: Eugene Vernikov and Tara Pennington.

BCPC hosts networking events as well as educational seminars, connecting various arms of the industry in order to promote awareness across all the various spectrums of the post industry including editorial, motion graphics, VFX, colorists, etc. If you haven’t been to one of these events, do yourself a favor and go to their website or sign up on the BCPC Facebook page to learn more and find their next one.

In addition to educational seminars, they are now offering the Professional Development Accessibility Program (PDAP), which assists folks like me who would not otherwise be able to take advantage of opportunities like NAB. Through this program, myself and two other talented post pros were able to travel to Las Vegas, stay there for four days and take advantage of quite literally every opportunity available.

PART 1: Arrival
We touched down at McCarran International Airport. I exited the gate and was immediately confronted with slot machines. Slot Machines! In the terminal! Any illusions I had about my peers’ exaggerations of Vegas were immediately decimated. Thus initiated, I hired a cab to take me to the front steps of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The car pulled up, and I was struck again by Vegas bravado. A giant window wrap advertising DaVinci Resolve 14 covered the entire face of the South Hall. Hoards of attendees streamed toward the entrance sporting their NAB badges. I emerged from the cab and trepidly joined them, holding my backpack close and clutching my pre-registered badge.

Once inside the South Hall I headed for a talk hosted by Rob Legato, the three-time Oscar-winning VFX supervisor whose most recent win was for John Favreau’s adaption of The Jungle Book. Say what you will about the movie in a narrative construct, but I dare anyone to challenge its visual sophistication. Legato talked candidly about the process required to bring the movie to life and showed extensive clips that revealed the extent of previs that preceded actual production, which was completed entirely on sound stages in downtown Los Angeles.

In particular, he emphasized the advent of virtual previsualization, and the benefits this process can provide to not only big-budget productions, but also micro projects due to the ease of use and rapidly sinking costs of HD cameras and previs software. The chance to witness those evolutions in Legato’s talk was a quantum leap forward in my understanding of the current state of affairs in post.

Following Legato’s presentation, I attended talks and classes with experts in various fields, such as motion graphics, virtual and augmented reality, and machine learning before finally checking into my hotel and attending a BCPC meet-up.

Part 2: NAB’s Show Floor
On the morning of day two I returned to the convention center and began to truly acquaint myself with the show. NAB is roughly divided into three types of experiences.

You could arguably spend your entire time walking the show floor (and accumulating thousands of Fit-bit steps). The variety of technology was absolutely astounding, and experts from each company was on hand to answer any questions you might have. The VR and AR demonstrations were some of the most fun to play with. Studios such as Digital Domain and companies like Nokia with its Ozo camera are making some terrific advances in the field, particularly in the realm of live-event VR broadcasting.

Another stand out was Adobe and its Character Animator, an animation application that uses facial recognition technology to animate an illustration based on the acting you perform in front of your computer’s camera. If you have a creative cloud subscription, this comes bundled with After Effects, and I highly recommend playing around with it. You don’t need any experience with animation in order to have a blast playing with Character Animator.

The Classes
There were also many classes taught during NAB, covering everything from HTML 5 animations to motion graphics to assistant editing in TV/film and beyond. The classes were taught by experts in their respective fields who were all very happy to answer questions and talk after the sessions were done.

I spent much of my time learning the various tools used in documentary editing, After Effects tricks and how video can be creatively and interactively incorporated into HTML 5 using cinemagraphs and other techniques. I knew many of the instructors from online tutorials and sites such as School of Motion. It was a very nerdy sort of star-struck feeling.

The Panels
Earlier I mentioned Rob Legato’s talk on The Jungle Book. His presentation was extraordinary, but it was only one of many amazing panels. Stand-outs included the editorial team from the new movie Logan, who spoke at length about their experience working on the movie. From pre-production to dailies ingest to test screenings to final delivery, their insights into the art of editing were enthralling. They showed several clips and discussed the various stages of the cut, as well as the discussions and even arguments that occurred over certain choices made in the edit. For an assistant editor such as myself who aspires to work on a project like Logan, this was a very special experience.

Other panels covered the emerging distribution landscape in VR entertainment, the cinematic innovations required to bring Ghost in the Shell to life, and a presentation of Big Little Lies hosted by Avid. These talks were indispensable elements of my NAB experience, and I’ll be going over the notes I took for months to come.

Part 3: Vendors
Through the auspices of Blue Collar Post Collective as well as postPerspective, I was able to meet with a few particular vendors who gave me a comprehensive tour of their new products.

One of these was Christie, In the world of post, there is always a heavy focus on the tools that allow us to create wonderful content, but there is often little attention paid to the tools that shepherd that content into the eyes of audiences around the world. What good is a finely crafted story if it never reaches an audience, or reaches an audience in the wrong way? Christie offers an impressive line-up of industry leading projectors. If you have doubts as to the quality of their product, look no further than James Cameron’s endorsement. He’s using their RGB laser projection series to ensure his images are up to snuff.

JMR have been creating storage solutions for years, and their innovations continue to push the boundaries of speed and mobility for post pros. As an example, their Lightning LTNG-XD-8-MMDT uses a Mac mini integration to power an extremely fast and portable system that can provide up to 64TB of native disk storage capacity for your DI cart or other on-site production workflows.

I was lucky enough to attend Canon’s NAB 2017 dinner, where Canon showed its guests their new Compact-Servo lenses — 4K Super 35mm lenses that deliver the quality of cinema lenses at a fraction of the price and with all the ease of use that you typically associate with photography lenses. Additionally, they showed footage of the aurora borealis shot in Alaska, and the images they were able to get in an incredibly low-light environment were astounding, with extremely little noise in the image. I personally have been using Canon DSLRs for years, and this presentation convinced me that my love for Canon won’t be ending anytime soon.

Part 3: Au Revoir
The finale in my NAB experience was the 16th Annual Las Vegas SuperMeet, with presentations by Blackmagic, Adobe, HP and many others. These presentations were punctuated by raucous raffle announcements, with winners running up to the stage with their ticket in hand, jumping and screaming in delight as they walked away with some seriously valuable prizes, including a full DaVinci Resolve system.

These events were impressive, but the highlight for me was an interview with Dody Dorn, ACE, editor of many of my favorite films, including Memento. Her insights into the craft of editing were extraordinary. She focused entirely on character and storytelling, answering questions with a sense of humor and humility that belied her extreme talents and accomplishments.

I walked away from the SuperMeet wishing I could stay at NAB for the entire week. Unfortunately, duty called. I was on my way to the airport, back to Los Angeles where a list of director notes sat in my editing bay, ready to be addressed. I can’t emphasize enough how impactful the NAB experience was. My perspective on our industry shifted radically, and my knowledge base expanded more in four days than over the past year. I look forward to returning next year, the year after that, and so on. Au revoir NAB — see you next time.
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Nolan Jennings is an LA-based assistant editor currently working on Season 5 of The Fosters or Freeform.