Tag Archives: post production

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.
——-
Nolan Jennings is an LA-based assistant editor currently working on Season 5 of The Fosters or Freeform.

BenQ launches color-critical monitor with USB-C connectivity

The new PD2710QC from BenQ America is a 100 percent sRGB and Rec. 709 monitor offering a range of features. The design monitor includes a USB-C docking station for MacBook and PC users, allowing designers to charge devices, transfer data, transmit audio and video, and connect to the internet, all via a single cable.

While delivering up to 61 watts of power to a laptop or mobile device, the 27-inch (2560×1440) IPS LED display’s single 5Gbps Super Speed USB-C connection powers the integrated hub and features multiple audio, video, network and USB ports, in addition to uncompressed 2K QHD video quality. Using the screen’s DisplayPort output and multi-stream transport technology (MST), users can expand their workspace across multiple monitors, and the included Display Pilot Software allows for a customized viewing experience by splitting a screen into multiple windows.

The PD2710QC is Technicolor Color-Certified, meeting the strict standards for color accuracy used throughout the media and entertainment industries. In order to ease eye strain, the display includes BenQ’s Eye-Care technology, including Zeroflicker and Low Blue Light, which eliminates flicker and filter out blue light that can cause eye fatigue and irritation, as well as an anti-glare screen.

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.

Post vet Katie Hinsen now head of operations at NZ’s Department of Post

Katie Hinsen, who many of you may know as co-founder of the Blue Collar Post Collective, has moved back to her native New Zealand and has been named head of operations at Aukland’s Department of Post.

Most recently at New York City’s Light Iron, Hinsen comes from a technical and operations background, with credits on over 80 major productions. Over a 20-year career she has worked as an engineer, editor, VFX artist, stereoscopic 3D artist, colorist and finishing artist on commercials, documentaries, television, music videos, shorts and feature films. In addition to Light Iron, she has had stints at New Zealand’s Park Road Post Production and Goldcrest in New York.

Hinsen has throughout her career been involved in both production and R&D of new digital acquisition and distribution formats, including stereoscopic/autostereoscopic 3D, Red, HFR, HDR, 4K+ and DCP. Her expertise includes HDR, 4K and 8K workflows.

“I was looking for a company that had the forward-thinking agility to be able to grow in a rapidly changing industry. New Zealand punches well above its weight in talent and innovation, and now is the time to use this to expand our wider post production ecosystem,” says Hinsen.

“Department of Post is a company that has shown rapid growth and great success by taking risks, thinking outside the box, and collaborating across town, across the country and across the world. That’s a model I can work with, to help bring and retain more high-end work to Auckland’s post community. We’ve got an increasing number of large-scale productions choosing to shoot here. I want to give them a competitive reason to stay here through Post.“

Department of Post was started by James Brookes and James Gardner in 2008. They provide offline, online, color, audio and deliverables services to film and television productions, both local and international.

Rick Pearson on cutting Kong: Skull Island

By Randi Altman

Who doesn’t love a good King Kong movie? And who says a good King Kong movie has to have the hairy giant climbing the Empire State Building, lady in hand?

The Jordan Vogt-Roberts-directed Kong: Skull Island, which had an incredible opening weekend at the box office — and is still going strong — tells the story of a 1973 military expedition to map out an island where in 1944 two downed pilots happened upon a huge monster. What could possibly go wrong?

Editor Rick Pearson, who was originally set to come on board for 10 weeks during the Director’s Cut process to help with digital effects turnovers, ended up seeing the project through to the end. Pearson came on during the last third of production, as the crew was heading off to Vietnam.

The process was already in place where rough cuts were shared on the PIX system for the director’s review. That seemed to be work well, he says.

To find out more about the process, I recently touched base with Pearson, who at the time of our interview was in Budapest editing a film about the origin of Robin Hood. He kindly took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his work and workflow on Kong: Skull Island, which in addition to Vietnam shot in Hawaii and Australia.

Would director Vogt-Roberts get you notes? Did he give you any direction in terms of the cut?
Yes, he would give very specific notes via PIX. He would drop the equivalent of locators or markers on sequences that I would send him and say, “Could you maybe try a close-up here?” Or “Could you try this or that?” They were very concise, so that was helpful. Eventually, though, you get to a point where you really need to be in a room together to explore options.

There are a lot of visual effects in the film. Can you talk about how that affected your edit and workflow?
Some of the sequences were quite evolved in terms of previsualization that had been done a year or more prior. Then there was a combination of previs, storyboards and some sequences, one in particular had kind of a loose set of storyboards and some previs, but then the set piece was evolving as we were working.

The production was headed to Vietnam and there was a lot of communication between myself, Jordan and the producers about trying to nail down the structure of this set piece so they would know what to shoot in terms of plates, because it was a battle that largely took place between Kong and one of the creatures of the island — it was a lot of plate work.

Would you say that that was the most difficult sequence to work on, or is there another more challenging sequence that you could point to?
I think they were all challenging. For me, that last sequence, which we called the “Final Battle” was challenging in there was not a lot that was nailed down. There were some beats we knew we wanted to try to play, but it sort of kept evolving. I enjoy working on these kinds of films with those types of sequences because they’re so malleable. It’s a fun sandbox to play in because, to an extent, you’re limited only by your imagination.

Still, you’re committing a lot of money, time and resources, so you need to look down field as far as you can to say, “This is the right direction and we’re all on the same page.” It’s a big, slow-moving, giant cargo ship that takes a long time to course-correct. You want to make sure that you’re heading in the right direction, or at least as close as you can be, when you start going down those roads.

Any other shots that stand out?
There was one thing that was kind of a novelty on this picture — and I know that it’s not the first time it’s been done, but it was the first time for me. We had some pretty extensive re-shoots, but our cast was kind of spread all over the globe. In one of the re-shoots, we needed a conversation to happen in a bar between three of the characters, Tom Hiddelston, John Goodman and Cory Hawkins. None of them were available at the same time or in the same city.

The scene was going to the three of them sitting down at a table having a conversation where John Goodman’s character offers Tom Hiddelston’s character a job as their guide to take them to Skull Island. I think it was Goodman’s character that was shot first. We show Goodman’s side of the table in New York with that side of the bar behind him and an empty chair beside him. Then we shot Hawkin’s character by himself in front of a greenscreen sitting in a chair reacting to Goodman and delivering his dialogue. Lastly, we shot Hiddelston in LA with that side of the bar and overs with doubles. It all came together, and I thought, “I don’t think anybody would have a clue that none of these people were in the same room at the same time.” It was kind of a Rubik’s Cube… an editorial bit of sleight of hand that worked in the end.


You worked with other editors on the film, correct?
Yes, editor Bob Murawski helped me tremendously; he ended up taking over my original role, which was during the Director’s Cut. Bob came on to help split up these really demanding visual effects sequence turnovers every two weeks. We had to keep on it to make the release date.

Murawski was a huge help, but so was the addition of Josh Schaeffer, who had worked with Jordan in the past. He was one of the additional editors on Jordan’s Kings of Summer (2013). Jordan had shot a lot of material — it wasn’t necessarily montage-based, but we weren’t entirely sure how it was going to work in the picture. We knew that he had a long-standing relationship with Josh and was comfortable with him. Bob said, “While we’re in the middle of a Director’s Cut and you and I are trying to feed this giant visual effects beast, there’s also this whole other aspect that Jordan and Josh could really focus on.” Josh was a really big help in getting us through the process. Both Bob and Josh were very big assets to me.

How do you work with your assistant editor?
I’ve had the same first assistant, Sean Thompson, for about 12 years. Unfortunately, he’s not with me here in Budapest. I took this film after the original editor dropped out for health reasons. Sean has a young family, and 15 weeks in Budapest and then another 12 weeks in London just wasn’t possible for him.

How did you work with Sean on Skull Island?
He’s a terrific manager of the cutting room in terms of discerning the needs of other departments, be it digital effects, music or sound. I lean on him to let me know what I absolutely need to know, and he takes care of the rest. That’s one of the roles he serves, and he’s bulletproof.

I also rely on him creatively. He’s tremendous with his sound work and very good at looking at cuts with me and giving his feedback. I throw him scenes to cut as much as I can, but sometimes on films like this there are so many other demands as a manager.

You use Avid Media Composer. Any special keyboard mappings, or other types of work you provide?
As a feature film editor my main objective is to make sure that the story and the characters are firing on all cylinders. I’m not particularly interested in how far I can push the box technically.

I’ve mapped the keyboard to what I’m comfortable with, but I don’t think it’s anything that’s particularly sophisticated. I try to do as much as I can on the keyboard so that I keep the
pointing and clicking to a minimum.

You edit a lot of action films. Is that just because people say, “He does action,” or is that your favorite kind of film to cut?
It’s interesting you should say that… the first Hollywood feature I cut was Bowfinger, which is comedy. I hadn’t cut any comedy before that and suddenly I was the comedy editor. I found it ironic because everything I had done prior was action-based television, music videos and commercials. I’ve always loved cutting action and juxtaposing images in a way that tells a story that’s not necessarily being told verbally. It’s not just like, “Wow, look at how much stuff is blowing up and that’s amazing how many cars are involved.” It’s actually character-based and story-driven.

I also really enjoy comedy. There is quite a lot of comedy in Kong, so it’s nice to flex that muscle too. I’ve tried very hard to not get pigeonholed.

So you are knee-deep in this Robin Hood film?
I sure am! I wasn’t planning on getting back on to another film quite so quickly, but I was very intrigued by both the director and script. As I mentioned earlier, they had an editor slated for the picture but unfortunately she fell ill just weeks prior to the start of production. So suddenly, here I am.

The added bonus is you get to play in Europe for a bit.
Yes, actually, I’m sitting here in my apartment. I have a laptop and an additional monitor and I’ve been cutting scenes. I have a lovely view of the parliament building, which is on the Danube. It’s a beautiful domed building that’s lit up every night until midnight. It’s really kind of cool.