Tag Archives: post production

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.

Hollywood’s Digital Jungle moves to Santa Clarita

Digital Jungle, a long-time Hollywood-based post house, has moved its operations to a new facility in Santa Clarita, California, which has become a growing hub for production and post in the suburbs of Los Angeles. The new headquarters is now home to both Digital Jungle Post and its recent off-shoot Digital Jungle Pictures, a feature film development and production studio.

“I don’t mind saying, it was a bit of an experiment moving to Santa Clarita,” explains Digital Jungle president and chief creative Dennis Ho. “With so many filmmakers and productions working out here — including Disney/ABC Studios, Santa Clarita Studios and Universal Locations — this area has developed into a vast untapped market for post production professionals. I decided that now was a good time to tap into that opportunity.”

Digital Jungle’s new facility offers the full complement of digital workflow solutions for HD to 4K. The facility has multiple suites featuring Smoke, DaVinci Resolve, audio recording via Avid’s S6 console and Pro Tools, production offices, a conference area, a full kitchen and a client lounge.

Digital Jungle is well into the process of adding further capabilities with a new high-end luxury DI 4K theater and screening room, greenscreen stage, VFX bullpen, multiple edit bays and additional production offices as part of their phase two build-out.

Digital Jungle Post services include DI/color grading; VFX/motion graphics; audio recording/mixing and sound design; ADR and VO; HD to 4K deliverables for tape and data; DCI and DCDM; promo/bumper design and film/television title design.

Commenting on Digital Jungle Pictures, Ho says, “It was a natural step for me. I started my career by directing and producing promos and interstitials for network TV, studios and distributors. I think that our recent involvement in producing several independent films has enhanced our credibility on the post side. Filmmakers tend to feel more comfortable entrusting their post work to other filmmakers. One example is we recently completed audio post and DI for a new Hallmark film called Love at First Glance.”

In addition to Love at First Glance, Digital Jungle Productions’ recent projects include indie films Day of Days, A Better Place (available now on digital and DVD) and Broken Memories, which was screened at the Sedona Film Festival.

 

The A-list — Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts

By Iain Blair

Plucky explorers! Exotic locations! A giant ape! It can only mean one thing: King Kong is back… again. This time, the new Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ Kong: Skull Island re-imagines the origin of the mythic Kong in an original adventure from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer).

Jordan Vogt-Roberts

With an all-star cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Oscar-winner Brie Larson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly, it follows a diverse team of explorers as they venture deep into an uncharted island in the Pacific — as beautiful as it is treacherous — unaware that they’re crossing into the domain of the mythic Kong.

The legendary Kong was brought to life on a whole new scale by Industrial Light & Magic, with two-time Oscar-winner Stephen Rosenbaum (Avatar, Forrest Gump) serving as visual effects supervisor.

To fully immerse audiences in the mysterious Skull Island, Vogt-Roberts, his cast and filmmaking team shot across three continents over six months, capturing its primordial landscapes on Oahu, Hawaii — where shooting commenced on October 2015 — on Australia’s Gold Coast and, finally, in Vietnam, where production took place across multiple locations, some of which have never before been seen on film. Kong: Skull Island was released worldwide in 2D, 3D and IMAX beginning March 10.

I spoke with Vogt-Roberts about making the film and his love of post.

What’s the eternal appeal of doing a King Kong movie?
He’s King Kong! But the appeal is also this burden, as you’re playing with film history and this cinematic icon of pop culture. Obviously, the 1933 film is this impeccable genre story, and I’m a huge fan of creature features and people like Ray Harryhausen. I liked the idea of taking my love for all that and then giving it my own point of view, my sense of style and my voice.

With just one feature film credit, you certainly jumped in the deep end with this — pun intended — monster production, full of complex moving parts and cutting-edge VFX. How scary was it?
Every movie is scary because I throw myself totally into it. I vanish from the world. If you asked my friends, they would tell you I completely disappear. Whether it’s big or small, any film’s daunting in that sense. When I began doing shorts and my own stuff, I did shooting, the lighting, the editing and so on, and I thrived off all that new knowledge, so even all the complex VFX stuff wasn’t that scary to me. The truly daunting part is that a film like this is two and a half years of your life! It’s a big sacrifice, but I love a big challenge like this was.

What were the biggest challenges, and how did you prepare?
How do you make it special —and relevant in 2017? I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to a challenge, and when I made the jump to The Kings of Summer it really helped train me. But there are certain things that are the same as they always are, such as there’s never enough time or money or daylight. Then there are new things on a movie of this size, such as the sheer endurance you need and things you simply can’t prepare yourself for, like the politics involved, all the logistics and so on. The biggest thing for me was, how do I protect my voice and point of view and make sure my soul is present in the movie when there are so many competing demands? I’m proud of it, because I feel I was able to do that.

How early on did you start integrating post and all the VFX?
Very early on — even before we had the script ready. We had concept artists and began doing previs and discussing all the VFX.

Did you do a lot of previs?
I’m not a huge fan of it. Third Floor did it and it’s a great tool for communicating what’s happening and how you’re going to execute it, but there’s also that danger of feeling like you’re already making the movie before you start shooting it. Think of all the great films like Blade Runner and the early Star Wars films, all shot before they even had previs, whereas now it’s very easy to become too reliant on it; you can see a movie sequence where it just feels like you’re watching previs come to life. It’s lost that sense of life and spontaneity. We only did three previs sequences — some only partially — and I really stressed with the crew that it was only a guide.

Where did you do the post?
It was all done at Pivotal in Burbank, and we began cutting as we shot. The sound mix was done at Skywalker and we did our score in London.

Do you like the post process?
I love post. I love all aspects of production, but post is where you write the film again and where it ceases being what was on the page and what you wanted it to be. Instead you have to embrace what it wants to be and what it needs to be. I love repurposing things and changing things around and having those 3am breakthroughs! If we moved this and use that shot instead, then we can cut all that.

You had three editors — Richard Pearson, Bob Murawski and Josh Schaeffer. How did that work?
Rick and Bob ran point, and Rick was the lead. Josh was the editor who had done The Kings of Summer with me, and my shorts. He really understands my montages and comedy. It was so great that Rick and Bob were willing to bring him on, and they’re all very different editors with different skills — and all masters of their craft. They weren’t on set, except for Hawaii. Once we were really globe-trotting, they were in LA cutting.

VFX play a big role. Can you talk about working on them with VFX supervisor Jeff White and ILM, who did the majority of the effects work?
He ran the team there, and they’re all amazing. It was a dream come true for me. They’re so good at taking kernels of ideas and turning them into reality. I was able to do revisions as I got new ideas. Creating Kong was the big one, and it was very tricky because the way he moves isn’t totally realistic. It’s very stylized, and Jeff really tapped into my animé and videogame sensibility for all that. We also used Hybride and Rodeo for some shots.

What was the hardest VFX sequence to do?
The helicopter sequence was really very difficult, juggling the geography of that, with this 100-foot creature and people spread all over the island, and also the final battle sequence. The VFX team and I constantly asked ourselves, “Have we seen this before? Is it derivative? Is it redundant?” The goal was to always keep it fresh and exciting.

Where did you do the DI?
At Fotokem with colorist Dave Cole who worked on The Lord of the Rings and so many others. I love color, and we did a lot of very unusual stuff for a movie like this, with a lot of saturation.

Did the film turn out the way you hoped?
A movie never quite turns out the way you hope or think it will, but I love the end result and I feel it represents my voice. I’m very proud of what we did.


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.

Swedish post/VFX company Chimney opens in LA

Swedish post company Chimney has opened a Los Angeles facility, its first in the US, but one of their 12 offices in eight countries. Founded in Stockholm in 1995, Chimney produces over 6,000 pieces for more than 60 countries each year, averaging 1,000 projects and 10,000 VFX shots. The company, which is privately held by 50 of its artists, is able to offer 24-hour service thanks to its many locations around the world.

When asked why Chimney decided to open an office in LA, founder Henric Larsson said, “It was not the palm trees and beaches that made us open up in LA. We’re film nerds and we want to work with the best talent in the world, and where do we find the top directors, DPs, ADs, CDs and producers if not in the US?”

The Chimney LA crew.

The Chimney LA team was busy from the start, working with Team One to produce two Lexus campaigns, including one that debuted during the Super Bowl. For the Lexus Man & Machine Super Bowl Spot, they took advantage of the talent at sister facilities in Poland and Sweden.

Chimney also reports that it has signed with Shortlist Mgmt, joining other companies like RSA, Caviar, Tool and No6 Editorial. Charlie McBrearty, founding partner of Shortlist Mgmt, says that Chimney has “been on our radar for quite some time, and we are very excited to be part of their US expansion. Shortlist is no stranger to managing director Jesper Palsson, and we are thrilled to be reunited with him after our past collaboration through Stopp USA.”

Tools used for VFX include Autodesk’s Flame and Maya, The Foundry’s Nukea and Adobe After Effects. Audio is via Avid Pro Tools. Color is done in Digital Vision’s Nucoda. For editing they call on Avid Media Composer, Apple Final Cut and Adobe Premiere

Hush adds Eloise Murphy as senior producer

Design agency Hush has expanded its creative production team with the addition of senior producer Eloise Murphy. In her new position at Hush, Murphy will oversee all project phases and develop relationships with new and existing vendors.

During her career, Murphy has worked in the UK and North America for companies such as the BBC, TED and Moment Factory. Her resume is diverse, working on projects that range from content production for Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour to experiential production for TED Talks in Rio de Janeiro. Her experience spans digital design, content production and experiential activations for brands including Samsung, Intel and BBC Radio 1.

“Having worked with a variety of brands, artists and companies, I have a solid understanding of how to manage projects optimally within different settings, parameters and environments,” says Murphy. “It has enabled me to be highly adaptable, flexible and develop a strong knack for pre-empting, identifying and resolving issues promptly and successfully. I believe my international experience has made me well-versed in managing complex projects and I’m looking forward to bringing new ideas to the table at Hush.”