Tag Archives: SIM Group

Dailies and post for IFC’s Brockmire

By Randi Altman

When the name Brockmire first entered my vocabulary, it was thanks to a very naughty and extremely funny short video that I saw on YouTube, starring Hank Azaria. It made me laugh-cry.

Fast forward about seven years and the tale of the plaid-jacket-wearing, old-school baseball play-by-play man — who discovers his beloved wife’s infidelity and melts down in an incredibly dirty and curse-fueled way on air — is picked up by IFC, in the series aptly named Brockmire. It stars Azaria, Amanda Peet and features cameos from sportscasters like Joe Buck and Tim Kurkjian.

The Sim Group was called on to provide multiple services for Brockmire: Sim provided camera rentals, Bling Digital provided dailies and workflow services, and Chainsaw provided offline editorial facilities, post finishing services, and deliverables.

We reached out to Chainsaw’s VP of business development, Michael Levy, and Bling Digital’s workflow producer, James Koon, with some questions about workflow. First up is Levy.

Michael Levy

How early did you get involved on Brockmire?
Our role with Brockmire started from the very beginning stages of the project. This was through a working relationship I had with Elizabeth Baquet, who is a production executive at Funny or Die (which produces the show).

What challenges did you have to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges was related to scaling a short to a multi-episode series and having multiple episodes in both production and in post at the same time. However, all the companies that make up Sim Group have worked on many episodic series over the years, so we were in a really good position to offer advice in terms of how to plan a workflow strategy, how to document things properly and how to coordinate getting their camera and dailies offline media from Atlanta to Post Editorial in Los Angeles.

What tools did they need for post and how involved was Chainsaw?
Chainsaw worked very hard with our Sim Group colleagues in Atlanta to provide a level of coordination that I believe made life much simpler for the Brockmire production/editorial team.

Offline editing for the series was done on our Avid Media composer systems in cutting rooms here in the Chainsaw/SIM Group studio in Los Angeles at the Las Palmas Building.

The Avid dailies media created by Bling-Atlanta, our partner company in the SimGroup, was piped over the Internet each day to Chainsaw. When the Brockmire editorial crew walked into their cutting rooms, their offline dailies media was ready to edit with on their Avid Isis server workspace. Whenever needed, they were also able to access their Arri Alexa full-rez dailies media that had been shipped on Bling drives from Atlanta.

Bling-Atlanta’s workflow supervisor for Brockmire, James Koon, remained fully involved, and was able to supervise the pulling of any clips needed for VFX, or respond to any other dailies related needs.

Deb Wolfe, Funny or Die’s post producer for Brockmire, also had an office here at Chainsaw. She consulted regularly with Annalise Kurinsky (Chainsaw’s in-house producer for Brockmire) and I as they moved along locking cuts and getting ready for post finishing.

In preparation for the finishing work, we were able to set-up color tests with Chainsaw senior colorist Andy Lichtstein, who handled final color for the series in one of our FilmLight Baselight color suites. I should note that all of our Chainsaw finishing rooms were right downstairs on the second floor of the same Sim Group Las Palmas Building.

How closely did you work with Deb Wolfe?
Very closely, especially in dealing with an unexpected production problem. Co-star Amanda Peet was accidentally hit in the head by a thrown beer can (how Brockmire! as they would say in the series). We quickly called in Boyd Stepan, Chainsaw’s Senior VFX artist, and came up with a game plan to do Flame paint fixes on all of the affected Amanda Peet shots. We also provided additional VFX compositing for other planned VFX shots in several of their episodes.

What about the HD online finish?
That was done on Avid Symphony and Baselight by staff online editor Jon Pehlke, making full use of Chainsaw’s Avid/Baselight clip-based AAF workflow.

The last stop in the post process was the Chainsaw Deliverables Department, which took care of QC and requested videotape dubs and creation and digital upload of specified delivery files.

James Koon

Now for James Koon…

James, what challenges did you have to overcome if any?
I would say that the biggest challenge overall with Brockmire was the timeframe. Twenty-four days to shoot eight episodes is ambitious. While in general this doesn’t pose a specific problem in dailies, the tight shooting schedule meant that certain elements of the workflow were going to need more attention. The color workflow, in particular, was one that created a fair amount of discussion — with the tight schedules on set, the DP (Jeffrey Waldron) wanted to get his look, but wasn’t going to have much time, if any, on-set coloring. So we worked with the DP to set up looks before they started shooting that could be stored in the camera and monitored on set and would be applied and tweaked as needed back at the dailies lab with notes from the DP.

Episode information from set to editorial was also an important consideration as they were shooting material from all eight episodes at once. Making sure to cross reference and double check which episode a shot was for was important to make sure that editorial could quickly find what they needed.

Can you walk us through the workflow, and how you worked with the producers?
They shot with the Arri’s Amira and Alexa Mini, monitoring with the LUTs created before production. This material was offloaded to an on-set back-up and a shuttle drive  — we generally use G-Tech G-RAID 4TB Thunderbolt or USB3 and  for local storage a Promise Pegasus drive and a back up on our Facilis Terrablock SAN — that was sent to the lab along with camera notes and any notes from the DP and/or the DIT regarding the look for the material. Once received at the lab we would offload the footage to our local storage and process the footage in the dailies software, syncing the material to the audio mixers recording and logging the episode, scene and take information for every take, using camera notes, script notes and audio logs to make sure that the information was correct and consistent.

We also applied the correct LUT based on camera reports and tweaked color as needed to match cameras and make any adjustments needed from the DPs notes. Once all of that was completed, we would render Avid materials for editorial, create Internet streaming files for IFC’s Box service, as well as creating DVDs.

We would bring in the Avid files and organize them into bins per the editorial specs, and upload the files and bins to the editorial location in LA. These files were delivered directly to a dailies partition on their Isis, so once editorial arrived in the morning, everything was waiting for them.

Once dailies were completed, LTO backups of the media and dailies were written as well as additional temporary backups of the source material as a safety. These final backups were completed and verified by the following morning, and editorial and production were both notified, allowing production to clear cards from the previous day if needed.

What tools did you use for dailies?
We used DaVinci Resolve to set original looks with the DP before the show began shooting, Colorfront Express Dailies for dailies processing, Media Composer for Avid editorial prep and bin organization and Imagine’s PreRoll Post for LTO writing and verification.

Post FactoryNY adds David Feldman as SVP for features, TV

David Feldman has joined Post FactoryNY as senior VP for features and television. Feldman, a 20-year post veteran, previously worked as director of feature sales for Company 3 and Deluxe in New York City.

At Post FactoryNY, a SIM Group company, he will lead sales and customer relations for newly expanded features and television finishing services. “Like most of our team, David was a filmmaker first, which is key to understanding the needs of clients in helping achieve their goals,” says company founder Alex Halpern.

Feldman will also work with other SIM Group companies to provide film and television producers with packaged services covering multiple aspects of production and post.

SIM Digital, Bling and Chainsaw under one roof

Earlier this month, SIM Group opened the doors to its newly completed West Coast headquarters, which houses SIM Digital, Bling Digital and Chainsaw. It’s located on the historic Eastman Kodak campus in Hollywood.

“We’ve got everything a production needs under one roof,” says SIM Group chief strategy officer James Martin. “You can prep and test cameras and lenses on the first floor, and the rest of the building can handle every aspect of post, from dailies and editorial offices all the way through final color and deliverables.”

This new space represents a big expansion of SIM’s camera rental business in Los Angeles. SIM Digital offers an extensive inventory of digital camera systems and related gear, internal space for camera testing and preparation, and multiple loading docks for streamlined fulfillment. All prep bays have fiber connectivity to the second and third floor where workflow specialist Bling Digital and post services provider Chainsaw live.

Resources include dailies processing, quality control, editorial finishing, color grading, visual effects, sound mixing and deliverables, as well as a new theatre that includes a 4K Christie projector. The first shows to prep in the new space include American Horror Story and Just Add Magic.

The new complex’s networking and storage infrastructure includes nearly one million feet of fiber and copper cabling and can accommodate productions of all sizes, including working in 4K, HDR and beyond. “We’ve built an open pipe that can handle the challenges of today and prepares us for the future. When new technology becomes available, we’ll be able to plug it right in. As the industry moves beyond 4K, we’ll be ready,” says SIM Group president of post and Chainsaw founder Bill DeRonde.

We recently followed up with DeRonde to find out more.

Can you talk about the thought process behind co-locating your three brands, and how you will keep them connected but separate as well?
Chainsaw, Bling and Sim Digital are independent companies. By combining the workforces into one location we are able to offer our clients control over their entire image chain and build a dynamic workflow amongst our groups.

SIM Digital’s camera prep bays are connected to both Bling’s dailies’ workstations and Chainsaw’s final color bays. This allows cinematographers to conduct tests, set looks and be immediately able to see the results in our facility. With the advent of new technologies, like HDR, it is more important than ever to understand how images flow from the camera all the way through final delivery.

Our concept-to-completion offering allows our three distinct teams the opportunity to collaborate yet maintain their professional identities and gives clients one point of contact all the way through their production. Although more and more shows are gravitating towards our complete cameras-through-post service offering, SIM Group will continue to offer the flexibility of a la carte services to satisfy client needs and respect and nurture those relationships.

SIM Group now has a presence across the US, as well as Canada. How do you walk that line between growing just enough but not too much? 
The SIM group teams work very hard to maintain extremely high levels of client services. As we work together and continue to grow, we will make every effort to maintain both our personal levels in client relationships and our boutique feel as vendors. Our “college campus” feel across all our locations promotes collaboration. Our staff across all cities and services love to feel connected, and it’s this enthusiasm and dedication that has allowed us to maintain the identity of a high-end boutique shop but with the ability to service shows no matter where they want to shoot or post.

Our plan is to continue our measured and organic growth.The industry is more nomadic than ever, and we’ve expanded our service line and geographic reach due mainly to our clients’ requests to provide our expertise across major production and post production centers throughout North America.

Main Image: The DI Theater.

Veteran colorist Todd Bochner joins Chainsaw

Todd Bochner has joined Chainsaw in Hollywood as supervising senior colorist. Bochner has more than 20 years of experience working on over 50 television series, as well as numerous features, commercials and music videos. His first project at Chainsaw will be the HBO series The Leftovers.

“The arrival of Todd Bochner is further indication of our commitment to being creative leaders in scripted television,” says Chainsaw co-founder Bill DeRonde. “Todd has been producing great work for many years and shares our commitment to customer service.”

Bochner was most recently at Modern VideoFilm, where he worked for more than 15 years. His recent credits there included Madam Secretary for CBS, Sleepy Hollow for Fox, Legends for TNT, Jane the Virgin for The CW and Tyrant for FX. He also graded the debut season of The Leftovers. He got his start in post at Pacific Ocean Post and later worked at Varitel Video and EDS Digital Studios.

At Chainsaw, a SIM Group Company, Bochner will operate a Da Vinci Resolve system in a newly-equipped grading suite.

Post Factory’s Alex Halpern on SIM Group merger

Post Factory NY, a long-time New York City post production staple, has merged with SIM Group. The move gives SIM Group an even larger East Coast presence — not long ago, the company’s Bling Digital opened an outpost in Brooklyn, offering dailies, offline editorial and finishing services.

Post Factory NY has two Manhattan facilities totaling 38,000-square-feet — an impressive amount of space for a New York post house — with more than 60 editing suites, two color grading suites, a DI theater and post sound. Future plans call for further development of finishing services, both for feature films and dramatic TV series.

Says SIM Group CTO Chris Parker, “Our companies share a common culture that is customer-centric and service-focused. It’s the people at Post Factory NY who set it apart and that was what really attracted us to them.”

“This addition will allow us to more effectively address the needs of clients on the East Coast and throughout North America,” adds SIM Group CEO Rob Sim. “It provides a great path for both companies to grow and to offer a more comprehensive mix of services.”

Post Factory, which will continue to operate under its current name and management, gains expanded resources and geographic reach through the ability to align with Bling and other SIM Group companies, including SIM Digital, PS Production Services, Chainsaw, Pixel Underground and Tattersall Sound & Picture.

Post Factory’s clientele includes HBO, Fox, ITV and Paramount, as well as many independent producers. It has a strong record for supporting filmmakers in New York and beyond.

In the wake of this news, we reached out to Post Factory founding partner/CEO Alex Halpern, who says this move made perfect sense for the studio. “I’m excited by the opportunities and the resources available to us and our clients: the intellectual capital at SIM, the culture at SIM, just like Post Factory NY, they’re filmmakers first. They understand what it takes to tell a great story, and all of us want to partner with our clients toward that end.”

Let’s find out more…

Why was this the right time for Post Factory in terms of merging? 
This is the perfect time for Post Factory NY to join forces with SIM because it’s going to allow us to provide a host of additional services for clients spread across the globe. We’re entering the next phase as a company in a market that requires agility and multiple verticals, and this is the kind of partner SIM and how they operate their existing business.

What does this merger allow you to do that you couldn’t have done previously?
It allows us to change the paradigm. We can now start working with clients from production all the way through to delivery. We can offer any part of the chain from cameras to final delivery and everything in-between or selective parts. We want to provide our clients with the best choices for their shows and partner with them to deliver the best content they can to audiences around the world.

What does this merger mean for existing clients of Post Factory
It means the post factory they’ve come to love and cherish will be able to provide them with a stable, comfortable work environment with the services they’ve become accustom to for years to come.

New York has seen increased production, especially with TV series, thanks to the tax incentives. Do you expect to see more of those productions staying in NY to post at Post Factory?
I think TV is staying in NY, and certainly Post Factory, like everyone in town, has benefited from the tax incentives and the additional work. I believe that aligning with SIM will allow us to grow our relationships with TV producers.

Pixel Underground lastest company acquired by SIM Group

LA’s SIM Group has acquired Toronto-based post house Pixel Underground and its associated companies FINI Films and stationEX. Pixel Underground was founded by Marc Bachli and Marcus Valentin in 2009. It specializes in color grading, visual effects and online finishing, and serves a clientele that includes Canadian, US and European producers. FINI Films and StationEX, respectively, provide physical and file-based media fulfillment and distribution services.

Marc Bachli, partner/executive producer at Pixel Underground, says the move would help them shift further into scripted television and feature film post production. He notes that the company is currently building a DI-style color grading theater with true 4K monitoring and a pipeline to accommodate features.

L-R: Chris Parker, Marcus Valentin, Marc Bachli, Rob Sim.

L-R: Chris Parker, Marcus Valentin, Marc Bachli, Rob Sim.

Currently Pixel Underground provides of post services for television including for such unscripted shows as Mayday (National Geo), Motives & Murders: Cracking the Case (Discovery), Nowhere to Hide (Investigation Discovery US), Food Truck Face Off (Food Network) and American Pickers (History).

SIM has been in growth mode recently, expanding its service offerings and geographic reach, following its initial post acquisition of Bling Digital in 2009. Earlier this year, it entered the post market in Hollywood through its merger with Chainsaw, which services such shows as American Idol and the Academy Awards.

Last year, it acquired Canada-based PS Production Services, a supplier of grip and lighting equipment. The company has also grown its presence in Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, Atlanta, Beijing and other markets with a service offering that spans camera rentals, grip and lighting equipment, on-set workflow management, editorial systems and post production. Its operating units include SIM Digital, Bling Digital, PS Production Services, Chainsaw and now Pixel Underground.

“Our goal is to offer an array of services for the content creator to ensure that their project is what they envisioned. This includes control of the technical process from camera to data management, offline finishing and delivery,” says SIM Group president/CEO Rob Sim.

SIM Group CTO Chris Parker explains why Pixel Underground was a good choice for a post partner in Toronto. “Marc and Marcus are progressive thinkers who were the first to bring modern, file-based post production to Toronto. They bring a lot to the table in terms of knowledge, experience and culture.”

SIM Group and Chainsaw merge to expand post offerings

The SIM Group, a supplier of production equipment, is merging with and indie post house Chainsaw. Both are headquartered in Hollywood. The merger is expected to close next month. Chainsaw will operate under its current name as a unit of The SIM Group.

The SIM Group, which also has offices in Canada and China, has been in growth mode for the past several years, especially through its post division Bling Digital, which provides post-production services to a number of scripted television series.

Chainsaw, which specializes in unscripted and live event programming such as The Academy Awards and American Idol, will help expand SIM’s post resources and extend its reach.

“Chainsaw’s robust services and diverse client base are very complementary to the services and clientele of SIM,” says James Martin, chief strategy officer, The SIM Group. “Uniting these two companies enhances our ability to offer true, end-to-end service packages to film and television producers.”

“As the newest member of The SIM Group, we see many opportunities to further our growth and better serve our clients,” says Chainsaw founder Bill DeRonde. “We are very excited to embark on this new chapter that will continue to allow us to offer the best possible product to our clients.  We gain access to more resources and talent, as well as additional markets for our services.”

Founded in 1996 by DeRonde, with co-owner Mike Polito joining him in 2000, both with multiple Emmy Awards for editing under their belts, Chainsaw provides creative editorial, editorial finishing, color grading, visual effects and other services through fully-integrated, digital facilities in Hollywood. It also features a DI theater for feature film finishing and a large satellite facility with editorial systems and space available on a rental basis. Other credits for Chainsaw include So You Think You Can Dance, The Kennedy Center Honors, Teen Wolf, Real Husbands of Hollywood, Blackish, America’s Got Talent and The 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert.

The SIM Group, founded by Rob Sim in 1982, comprises three operating units: SIM Digital, Bling Digital and PS Production Services that, respectively, provide camera and production equipment, post-production technology and services, and lighting and grip gear. With offices in Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, Atlanta, Halifax and Beijing, it services such shows as Fargo, Suits, Pacific Rim, Hell on Wheels and The Vampire Diaries.

SIM Group CTO Chris Parker says that the company is eager to introduce Chainsaw clients to new, leading-edge services. “This merger bolsters our post-production offering, enabling us to keep pace with our growing demand,” he noted. “At the same time, we are very excited about the opportunity to introduce Chainsaw clients to a broader and more complete range of services.” Parker adds that this expansion is a direct response to demands from studios and other producers for comprehensive post-production offerings.

Rob Sim says that he expects the integration of the two companies to proceed smoothly, noting that they represent similar cultures and histories. “We share the same values in terms of servicing our customers,” Sim observed. “We look forward to working together toward our common goal of delivering excellence every day.”

Photo Caption Main Image (L-R): Bill DeRonde, Mike Polito, James Martin and Chris Parker.