Author Archives: Randi Altman

Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher on Elton John musical

By Iain Blair

The past year has been huge for British director Dexter Fletcher. He was instrumental in getting Bohemian Rhapsody across the finish line when he was brought in to direct the latter part of the production after Bryan Singer was fired. The result? A $903 million global smash that Hollywood never saw coming.

L-R: Dexter Fletcher and Iain Blair

Now he’s back with Rocketman, another film about another legendary performer and musician, Elton John. But while the Freddie Mercury film was more of a conventional, family-friendly biopic that opted for a PG-13 rating and approach that sidestepped a lot of the darker elements of the singer’s life, Rocketman fully embraces its R-rating and dives headfirst into the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll circus that was Elton’s life at the time — hardly surprisingly, the gay sex scenes have already been censored in Russia.

Conceived as an epic musical fantasy about Elton’s breakthrough years, the film follows the transformation of shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John. It’s set to Elton’s most beloved songs — performed by star Taron Egerton — and tells the story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture.

Rocketman also stars Jamie Bell as Elton’s longtime lyricist and writing partner, Bernie Taupin; Richard Madden as Elton’s first manager John Reid; and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother Sheila Farebrother.

Fletcher started as a child actor, appearing in such films as Bugsy Malone, The Elephant Man and The Bounty before graduating to adult roles in film (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and TV (Band of Brothers). He made his directing debut with 2012’s Wild Bill and has since made a diverse slate of films, including Eddie the Eagle.

I recently met up with him to talk about making the film and his workflow.

When you took this on, were you worried you’d now be seen as the go-to director for films about gay British glam rockers?
(Laughs) No, and I never set out to create this specific cinematic universe about gay British glam rockers. I don’t know how many more of them there are left that people want to see films about — maybe Marc Bolan. That would be the next obvious one.

Dexter Fletcher and Taron Egerton on the set of Rocketman.

What happened was that I was attached early on to direct Bohemian Rhapsody, but then Rocketman came up. While I was preparing that, Bohemian Rhapsody folks came back (after director Bryan Singer was fired during the shoot) and said they needed some help to get it done, so it was more of a coincidence, and Elton’s music is so different from Queen’s.

What sort of film did you set out to make?
Definitely an epic musical, and something that was different and imaginative. The first idea that came up was “based on a true fantasy,” and having done biopics before, like Eddie the Eagle, I know you can’t do them accurately. You simply can’t fit a life into two hours, and there’s always people who nitpick it and go, “He’s wearing the wrong shoes, and it missed this bit” and so on. A biopic isn’t a documentary, and you have to breathe creative life into it. The truth/fantasy element of this was far more important to me in telling Elton’s story than doing a by-the-numbers recreation of his career and life.

Casting was obviously crucial. What did Taron bring to the mix?
A great voice, a great performance, and Elton encouraged him to really make the performance his own. He kept saying, “Do your own thing, don’t just copy me. If they wanted just a copy of my music, they can just buy it. So make it original.”

Taron has this great innate ability of being vulnerable and confident at the same time, and that’s a great gift. He’s able to be very driven and focused and yet retain that inner vulnerability and able to show you both sides clashing, which I felt was very true of Elton.

So Elton gave you a pretty free hand?
Yeah, he did. He sat us down right at the start and said to Taron, “Don’t do an impression of me. No one wants that. Do you, honestly, and that’s what will convince an audience and draw them in.” He was right, and he was extremely giving and generous with us. He’s had this incredible life, and he’s putting it all out there on the big screen, which is pretty brave.

In Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami lipsynced, partly because Freddie Mercury famously had this amazing range that’s so hard to replicate. Taron sang all his vocals?
He did, every note. It was prerequisite for the role, and he wanted to anyway. A musical is very different from a biopic.

You took an imaginative visual approach to the story, especially with all the fantasy elements. How did you collaborate on the look with DP George Richmond, who has shot all your films, whose credits include Tomb Raider and the Kingsman franchise.
He’s got a great eye, and we looked at a lot of the great ‘70s musicals, like The Rose, All That Jazz and Stardust, and there’s this dusty, raw, grainy quality to them. I really wanted to get that feel and texture as this is a period piece and I didn’t want it to look too modern.

So we studied the camera moves and lighting, and it was the same with all the costumes by Julian Day. Elton’s outrageous outfits were the starting point, but we pushed it a little further. So it’s about emotion and how you felt more than just recreating a look or costume or a chronological retelling, and I elaborated as much as possible.

How tough was the shoot?
Fairly grueling. We shot mainly at Bray Studios, outside London, where they shot all the old Hammer Film Productions horror films, and then did some stuff in London.

Where did you post?
We did it at Hireworks in London, which is above this beautiful old cinema, right in the heart of London. It was really conducive for the editing and what we were creating. Then we did all the sound and the mixing round the corner at Goldcrest.

Do you like the post process?
I love it, and I love it more and more now. It’s this whole side of filmmaking that I never really appreciated as an actor, as I didn’t have much to do with it. But now I can’t wait to get in the edit, and I’m there every day, and I’m very involved with every aspect of post.

Talk about editing with Chris Dickens. What were the big editing challenges?
I’d never worked with him before, though we’d met for another project. He was on the set with us at Bray where he had edit rooms set up, so that was very convenient. He’d start assembling and I could just walk over and check on it all. We had a rough assembly just two weeks after we finished shooting, and as I said, I’m very involved.

We’d discuss stuff, especially all the big musical numbers. Those were the big challenges, as you have to make the music and visuals all work together, and you’re working to a playback track. You’re also very exposed when it comes to changing the tempo or rhythm of a scene. You can’t just cut a few words, as you’re locked into the track. And everyone knows the songs. Songs like “Your Song” and “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” were done totally live, so it was pretty complicated. But Chris is very experienced with all that, as he cut Slumdog Millionaire. That end musical number there is a total triumph of editing.

Talk about the importance of sound and music. I assume Elton was quite involved and listened to everything?
He was very interested, of course, but he let us all do our own thing. Giles Martin, son of Beatles’ producer George Martin, was in charge of the music. He’s an amazing producer in his own right, and he also has a long history with Elton, who stayed at his house when Giles was young. So there’s a very strong relationship there, and that was key in terms of dealing with Elton’s music legacy.

Giles was the custodian of all that and was instrumental in re-imagining all of Elton’s songs in the most interesting ways, and Elton would listen to them and love it. For instance, at first we thought “Crocodile Rock” wouldn’t fit, but we re-did it in this elevated, really hard rock way, and it worked out so well. We recorded at various places, including Abbey Road and Air Studios and, of course, we spent a lot of time and detail on all the music and sound. Just like with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ if you don’t get that right, the film’s not going to work.

Visual effects play a big role. What was involved?
Cinesite in Montreal did them all, with a few by Atomic Arts, and we had a lot of artists and VFX guys working on them. We had so many, from fireworks to scenes with people floating and all the crowd scenes at stadiums, where we had to recreate fans in the ‘70s. So some of that stuff was fairly standard, but they did a brilliant job. I quite like working with VFX, as it allows you to do so much more with a period piece like this.

Where did you do the DI, and how important is it to you?
We did it at Goldcrest with colorist Rob Pizzey, and it’s very important to myself and my DP George Richmond. As I said, we wanted to get a very particular look and texture to it, and George and I worked closely on that from the very outset. Then in the DI, Rob and George worked very closely on it. In fact, George was shooting in Boston at the time, but he flew back to do it and finalize the look. I’m learning so much from him about the DI, and I give my notes and they make all the changes and adjustments. I love the DI.

Did the film turn out the way you hoped?
Absolutely. I’m really happy with it. In fact, it’s turned out better than I hoped.

What’s next?
I don’t have anything lined up. I’m out of work!


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.

Behind the Title: Live Nation Entertainment Editor Hillary Lewis

This Indiana-based editor uses Avid Media Composer at work, Adobe Premiere for personal projects and After Effects for both.

NAME: Indianapolis-based Hillary Lewis

COMPANY: TourDesign Creative/Live Nation Entertainment

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are the post house for all Live Nation artists creating their broadcast, online, print, radio and advertising for concert tours, nationally and internationally.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Editor

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Using the approved ad materials from our art department and approved radio materials from our audio department, we create TV and online commercials using concert footage and/or music videos, adding motion graphics, transitions, color grading, etc. With the approved commercial, we localize and deliver for each market (city) where the tour will perform.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
The editors here are jacks-of-all-trades. We don’t have colorists, assistant editors or other post positions that you’d normally find in TV/film post houses. We truly do it all from start to finish.

One of the things that still surprises me is working with artist management teams that give you unusable footage. Whether it be terrible camera work, aspect ratio differences, low resolution, baked-in logos, etc.

A good majority of artist management teams don’t keep a sufficient archive of raw, uncompressed footage of their artist performances. This inevitably backs us into a corner and we’re tasked with finding and ripping usable footage off of YouTube. The humanity!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
When I have the most possible time to be creative on a new spot. When I can work on one of my favorite artists or bands. And when I can learn new things and put them in my bag of tricks.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Having to put my name on something I’ve created that I’m not proud of, but that was completely out of my control. For example, a commercial spot that I artistically and creatively didn’t call the shots on.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
For me, there’s a difference between when I’m most productive and when I’m the busiest. We tend to be busiest in the afternoons — from 3pm to 6pm — because we cater to our smaller office on the West Coast. This means the majority of my work is done right before I leave for the day, which often means staying late. But I’m truly more productive in the mornings when the office is less chaotic and when there’s time to be most creative, rather than sacrificing creativity to push a product out in the late afternoon.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Two things. I’m obsessed with Vox’s explainer videos and would be making similar highly designed, motion-graphics-based content on broad topics such as film/TV, music, FAQs, food, travel, etc.

Or, I’d be a phenomenal post production coordinator/supervisor in film/TV.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I entered college as a business major and knew pretty early on it wasn’t going to be a fulfilling career path for me. I happened to take a new media course to fill elective requirements, and it resonated with me so much I switched my major to new media arts and sciences and have been on the post production path ever since. It hasn’t been easy making a name in this industry, but I’ve never once looked back or had any regrets.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The most recent artist tours created by TourDesign: Cardi B, Madonna, Khalid, Live Nation $20 National Concert Week, Lewis Black, MasterChef Junior Live!, Mary J. Blige/NAS, Dave Matthews Band, The Head and the Heart… I could go on.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Not a specific work project, but several accomplishments through my side hustles. I’ve also been a panelist at recent conferences speaking on topics like the gender pay gap, post workflow and new trends in AI and machine learning.

Being an integral part of the media production industry and building a vast network of pros through my travels is something I’m extremely proud of.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Our Avid Nexis server at work, my stand-up desk and my AirPods.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
The Blue Collar Post Collective on Facebook. I’m also a member and volunteer. BCPC is a nonprofit supporting emerging talent in post by providing mentorships, networking and funding to attend major industry events for pros who make less than the median income of the state they live in. I was one of the recipients of that funding and it was life-changing for me.

Hillary Lewis on panel at NAB for Gals N Gear.

If anyone reading this has questions about the program, reach out to me on Facebook
or Instagram @hillary.dillary. I follow other Facebook pages like I Am a Female Editor!, Avid Editors of Facebook, Post Chat, I Need an Editor, Austin Digital Jobs (I’ll be moving there soon).

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? 
If I listen to anything at work it’s either keeping up with current events from talk shows like The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, etc. or Vice News. Or strictly entertaining things like GoT recaps/fan theory videos, SNL, Vox, Funny or Die.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
It is extremely high stress! I have to keep my body active during the day, using my stand-up desk in intervals and stretching. I can’t be in the right state of mind if my body feels stiff or sore.

Going to the gym at least two to three nights every week also helps me sleep better, which makes me fresher mentally the next day.

Cooking is a great stress reliever for me as well as a creative outlet. I can try new things and be risky with it. Even if I make a meal that tastes horrible, I know I’ll eventually improve that meal and make something that tastes good. It reminds of something a wise man on Queer Eye once said “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a part of it.”

I also love a good beer at the end of the day.

New Boxx workstation features Intel Xeon W-3200 processor

Boxx Technologies, which makes computer workstations, rendering systems and servers, has introduced the Apexx W4L workstation featuring new Intel Xeon W-3200 series processors. This new single-socket processor provides performance increases over previous Intel Xeon W technology. Boxx’s Apexx W4L is purpose-built for rendering, simulation and other GPU-accelerated compute applications.

A new single-socket solution, 28-core (56 thread) Intel Xeon W-3200 processors offer up to 4.6GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0, 64 processor PCIe lanes for more I/O throughput for networking, graphics and storage, and new Intel Deep Learning Boost for accelerated AI performance.

In addition to the new Intel processor technology, Apexx W4L features up to 1TB of memory and four Nvidia or AMD professional GPUs, making the workstation ideal for GPU-intensive workloads, including media and entertainment.

Pricing starts at $7,395 and you can expect two to three weeks for delivery.

 

Izotope’s Neutron 3 streamlines mix workflows with machine learning

Izotope, makers of the RX audio tools, has introduced Neutron 3, a plug-in that — thanks to advances in machine learning — listens to the entire session and communicates with every track in the mix. Mixers can use Neutron 3’s new Mix Assistant to create a balanced starting point for an initial-level mix built around their chosen focus, saving time and energy when making creative mix decisions. Once a focal point is defined, Neutron 3 automatically set levels before the mixer ever has to touch a fader.

Neutron 3 also has a new module called Sculptor (available in Neutron 3 Standard and Advanced) for sweetening, fixing and creative applications. Using never-before-seen signal processing, Sculptor works like a per-band army of compressors and EQs to shape any track. It also communicates with Track Assistant to understand each instrument and gives realtime feedback to help mixers shape tracks to a target EQ curve or experiment with new sounds.

In addition, Neutron 3 includes many new improvements and enhancements based on feedback from the community, such as the redesigned Masking Meter that automatically flags masking issues and allows them to be fixed from a convenient one-window display. This improvement prevents tracks from stepping on each other and muddying the mix.

Neutron 3 has also had a major overhaul in performance for faster processing and load times and smooth metering. Sessions with multiple Neutrons open much quicker, and refresh rates for visualizations have doubled.

Other Neutron 3 Features
• Visual Mixer and Izotope Relay: Users can launch Mix Assistant directly from Visual Mixer and move tracks in a virtual space, tapping into Izotope-enabled inter-plug-in communication
• Improved interface: Smooth visualizations and a resizable interface
• Improved Track Assistant listens to audio and creates a custom preset based on what it hears
• Eight plug-ins in one: Users can build a signal chain directly within one highly connected, intelligent interface with Sculptor, EQ with Soft Saturation mode, Transient Shaper, 2 Compressors, Gate, Exciter, and Limiter
• Component plug-ins: Users can control Neutron’s eight modules as a single plug-in or as eight individual plug-ins
• Tonal Balance Control: Updated to support Neutron 3
• 7.1 Surround sound support and zero-latency mode in all eight modules for professional, lightweight processing for audio post or surround music mixes

Visual Mixer and Izotope Relay will be Included free with all Neutron 3 Advanced demo downloads. In addition, Music Production Suite 2.1 will now include Neutron 3 Advanced, and iZotope Elements Suite will be updated to include Neutron Elements (v3).

Neutron 3 will be available in three different options — Neutron Elements, Neutron 3 Standard and Neutron 3 Advanced. See the comparison chart for more information on what features are included in each version.

Neutron will be available June 30. Check out the iZotope site for pricing.

Apple offers augmented reality with Reality Composer

By Barry Goch

In addition to introducing the new MacPro and the Pro Display XDR, at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC19), Apple had some pretty cool demos. The coolest, in my mind, was the Minecraft augmented reality presentation.

Across the street from the San Jose Convention Center, where the keynote was held, Apple set up “The Studio” in the San Jose Civic. One of the demos there was an AR experience with the new MacPro which in reality, you only saw the space frame of Apple’s tower, but in augmented reality you were able to animate an exploded view. The technology behind this demo is the just-announced ARKit3 and Reality Composer.

Apple had a couple of stations demoing Reality Composer in The Studio. Apple has applied its famous legacy of enabling content creators by making new technology easy to use. Case in point is Reality Composer. I’ve tried building AR experiences in other apps and it’s not very straightforward. You have to learn a new interface and coding as well — and use yet another app for targeting your AR environment into the real world. The demo I saw of Reality Composer made it look easy, working in Motion with drag-and-drop prebuilt behaviors built into the app, along with multiple ways to target your AR experience in the real world.

AR QuickLook technology is part of iOS, and you can even get an AR experience of the new MacPro and Pro Display XDR through Apple’s website. They also mentioned its new file for holding AR elements, usdz. Apple has created a tool to convert other 3D file formats to usdz.

With native AR support across Apple’s ecosystem, there is no better time to experiment and learn about augmented reality.


Barry Goch is a finishing artist at LA’s The Foundation and a UCLA Extension Instructor in post production. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gochya.

Behind the Title: DigitalFilm Tree colorist Patrick Woodard

This colorist, who works on episodic TV series, says, “There are so many talented colorists and photographers on Instagram. It’s where I get my daily inspiration.”

NAME: Patrick Woodard

COMPANY: DigitalFilm Tree (@digitalfilmtree)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Independently owned DigitalFilm Tree is a post, consulting and software development company. DFT has played a role in designing post and IT workflows for the media and entertainment industry since 1998.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THE COLORIST TITLE?
People often think colorists are the finishing artists, but we are often brought on early in the process — during preproduction meetings — to get involved with the other creatives (DPs, directors, producers). Key decisions such as general visual aesthetic, camera choices and on-set lookup tables are typically developed with the colorist input.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
I work on a custom-built Linux workstation running Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Yes. I get requests that are outside the traditional color category on every job. Requests such as stabilizes, paint-outs, wrinkle removal/beauty, sky replacements and minor compositing have become very common. The challenge is managing time and staying within the color budget.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I love photography, and as a kid I loved the excitement of seeing a roll of film developed. I get that same satisfaction when a scene comes together and everything is working. In addition, I love overcoming creative or technological challenges.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Most positions in post require a lot of hours and strict deadlines. I have two young children, and it can be challenging juggling work and family life.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I love editing and still photography and would be happy doing either.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?Editing was my main focus, but I found my way to color through my interest in photography. Once I started it felt very natural, and by my second year the two shows I worked on had nominations for Emmys in single-camera cinematography.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
NCIS Los Angeles, American Housewife, I Feel Bad, UnReal and Angie Tribeca.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
NCIS Los Angeles just passed its 10th season, and I feel very fortunate to have worked on it during its run.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I try to watch as many movies and scripted series as possible, and I follow the work of a lot of gifted photographers who also inspire me.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, Boris FX Mocha Pro and Adobe Photoshop.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram. There are so many talented colorists and photographers on Instagram. It’s where I get my daily inspiration.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Outside of work, my life revolves mostly around being in the ocean or hanging at the beach.

Apple intros long-awaited new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR

By Barry Goch

The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC19) kicked off on Monday with a keynote from Apple CEO Tim Cook, where he announced the eagerly awaited new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR.

Tim Cook’s keynote

In recent years, many working in M&E felt as if Apple had moved away from supporting creative pros in this industry. There was the fumbled rollout of FCPX and then the “trash can” MacPro with its limited upgrade path. Well, our patience has finally paid off and our faith in Apple restored. This week Apple delivered products beyond expectation.

This post pro, for one, is very happy that Apple is back making serious hardware for creative professionals. The tight integration of hardware and software, along with Apple’s build quality, makes its products unique in the market. There is confidence and freedom using Macs that creatives love, and the tower footprint is back!

The computer itself is a more than worthy successor to the original Mac Pro tower design. It’s the complete opposite concept of the current trash-can-shaped Mac Pro, with its closed design and limited upgradeability. The new Mac Pro’s motherboard is connected to a stainless steel space frame offering 360-degree access to the internals, which include 12 memory slots with up to 1.5TB of RAM capacity and eight PCI slots, which is the most ever in a Mac — more than the venerable 9600 Power Mac. The innovative graphics architecture in the new Mac Pro is an expansion module, or MPX module, which allows the installation of two graphic cards tied together through the Infinity Fabric link. This allows for data transfers up to five times faster between the GPUs on the PCIe bus.

Also new is the Apple Afterburner hardware accelerator card, which is a field programmable gate array (FPGA) hardware card for accelerating ProRes and ProRes RAW workflows. Afterburner supports playback of up to three streams of 8K ProRes RAW or up to 12 streams of 4K ProRes RAW. The FPGA allows new instruction to be installed on the chipset, giving the MacPro Afterburner card a wealth of possibilities for future updates.

Plays Well With Others
Across the street from the San Jose Convention Center, where the keynote was held, Apple set up “The Studio” in the historic San Jose Civic. The venue was divided into areas of creative specialization: video, photography, music production, 3D and AR. It was really great to see complete workflows and to be able to interface with Apple creative pros. Oh, and Apple has announced support from third-party developers, such as Blackmagic, Avid, Adobe, Maxon’s Cinema 4D, Foundry, Red, Epic Games, Unity, Pixar and more.

Metal is Apple’s replacement for OpenCL/GL. It’s a low level language for interfacing with GPUs. Working closely with AMD, the new Mac Pro will use native Metal rendering for Resolve, OToy Octane, Maxon Cinema 4D and Red.

Blackmagic’s Grant Perry and Barry Goch at The Studio.

DaVinci Resolve is a color correction and online editing software for high-end film and television work. “It was the first professional software to adopt Metal and now, with the new Mac Pro and Afterburner, we’re seeing full-quality 8K performance in realtime with color correction and effects, something we could never dream of doing before,” explains Blackmagic CEO Grant Petty. “DaVinci Resolve running on the new Mac Pro is the fastest way to edit, grade and finish movies and TV shows.”

According to Avid’s director of product management for audio, Francois Quereuil, “Avid’s Pro Tools team is blown away by the unprecedented processing power of the new Mac Pro, and thanks to its internal expansion capabilities, up to six Pro Tools HDX cards can be installed within the system — a first for Avid’s flagship audio workstation. We’re now able to deliver never-before-seen performance and capabilities for audio production in a single system and deliver a platform that professional users in music and post have been eagerly awaiting.”

“Apple continues to innovate for video professionals,” reports Adobe’s VP of digital video and audio, Steven Warner. “With the power offered by the new Mac Pro, editors will be able to work with 8K without the need for any proxy workflows in a future release of Premiere Pro.”

And from Apple? Expect versions of FCPX and Logic to be available with release of the new MacPro and rest assured they will fully use the new hardware.

The Cost
The price for a Mac Pro with an eight-core Xeon W processor, 32GB of RAM, an AMD Radeon Pro 580X GPU and a 256GB SSD is $5999. The price for the fully loaded version with the 28-core Xeon processor, Afterburner, two MDX modules with four AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo graphics cards and 4TB of SSD internal storage will come in around $20,000, give or take. It will be available this fall.

Pro Display XDR
The new Pro Display XDR is amazing. I was invited into a calibrated viewing environment that also housed Dell, Eizo, Sony BVM-X300 and Sony-X310 HDR monitors. We were shown the typical extreme bright and colorful animal footage for monitor demos. Personally, I would have preferred to have seen more shots of people from a TV show or feature and not the usual extreme footage used to show off how bright the monitor could get.

For example, it would have been cool to see the Jony Ive video — which plays on the Apple site and describes the offerings of the MacPro and the monitor — talking about the design of the product on the monitor.

Anyway, the big hang-up with the monitor is the stand. The price tag of $1,000 for a monitor stand is a lot compared to the price of the monitor itself. When the price of the stand was announced during the keynote, there was a loud gasp, which unfortunately dampened the excitement and momentum of the new releases. It too will be available in the fall.

Display Specs
This Retina 6K 32-inch (diagonal) display offers 6016×3384 pixels (20.4 million pixels) at 218 pixels per inch. The sustained brightness is 1000-nits sustained (full screen) with 1600 nits peak and a contrast ratio of one million to one. It works in P3 wide color gamut with 10-bit depth for 1.073 billion colors. Available reference modes include HDR video (P3-ST 2084), Digital Cinema (P3-DCI), Digital Cinema (P3-D65) and HDTV video (BT.709-BT.1886). Supported HDR formats are HLG, HDR 10 and Dolby Vision.

Portrait mode

The Cost
The standard glass version is $4,999. The nano-texture anti-glare glass version is $5,999. As mentioned, the Pro Stand is $999 and VESA mount adapter is $199. Both are sold separately and have a Thunderbolt 3 connection only.

Pros and Cons
MacPro Pros: innovative design, expandability
Cons: Lack of Nvidia support, no Afterburner support for other formats beyond ProRes and no optical audio output.

Pro Display XDR Pros: Ability to sustain 1,000 nits, beautiful design and execution.
Cons: Lack of Rec 2020 color space and ACES profile, plus the high cost of the display stand.

Summing Up
The Pro is back for Apple and third-party apps like Avid and Resolve. I really can’t wait to get my hands on the new MacPro and Pro Display XDR and put them through their paces.


Barry Goch is a finishing artist at LA’s The Foundation as well as a UCLA Extension Instructor, Post Production. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gochya

Post vet Jason Mayo named COO of Chimney North America

Chimney Group has hired industry veteran Jason Mayo as chief operating officer for North America. He will be based in the studio’s New York office. Mayo joins at a time of significant growth for Chimney Group, an independently-owned Stockholm-based creative and post company with studios in 11 cities and eight countries worldwide.

“What attracted me is Chimney being able to leverage their full power of resources around the globe. We need to make budgets and schedules work harder for our clients, and having a 24/7 production and post pipeline is a powerful package we can offer clients on a global scale,” says Mayo.

He joins from Postal TV, where he was managing director. Before that, Mayo was managing director/partner at NYC’s Click 3X. He helped grow the studio from a 20-person VFX boutique to a fully integrated digital production company with a staff of over 75 full-time designers, animators, live-action directors, producers, developers, editors, colorists and VFX artists.

The Chimney Group’s recent foray into the North American market includes the opening of studios in New York and Los Angeles and the hiring of over 35 people, including the recent addition of chief client officer Kristen Martini. Mayo will work closely with North American CEO Marcelo Gandola to bring the Swedish operational and creative model to the States, delivering brand strategy as well as full-service production and post capabilities to multiple verticals.

“The work we are doing for our clients is increasingly global and full-service in nature,” says Gandola. “Jason has a great track record building companies and is an ideal operational leader for us to build a team to serve Chimney’s global clientele in the US market.”

Blackmagic intros Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR monitor

Blackmagic’s Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR, is an advanced 8K monitoring solution that lets you use the new Apple Pro Display XDR as a color-critical reference monitor on set and in post.

With dual on-screen scope overlays, HDR, 33-point 3D LUTs and monitor calibration that’s designed for the pro film and television market, the new Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR works with the new generation of monitors, like Apple’s just-announced Pro Display XDR. The Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR will be available in October for $1,295.

The Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR can use third-party calibration probes to accurately align connected displays for precise color. There are two on-screen scopes that can be selected between WFM, Parade, Vector and Histogram.

The front panel includes controls and a color display for input video, audio meters and the video standard indicator. The rear panel has Quad Link 12G-SDI for HD, Ultra HD and 8K formats. There are two DisplayPort connections for regular computer monitors or USB-C-style DisplayPort monitors, such as the Pro Display XDR. The built-in scaler will ensure the video input standard is scaled to the native resolution of the connected DisplayPort monitor. Customers can even connect both 2SI or Square Division inputs.

Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR makes it easy to work in 8K. Users just need only to connect an HDR-compatible DisplayPort monitor to allow HDR SDI monitoring. Static metadata PQ and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) formats in the VPID are handled according to the ST2108-1, ST2084 and the ST425 standards.

Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR handles ST425, which defines two new bits in the VPID to indicate transfer characteristic of SDR, HLG or PQ. Plus the ST2108-1 standard defines how to transport HDR static or dynamic metadata over SDI. Plus there is support for ST2082-10 for 12G SDI as well as ST425 for 3G-SDI sources. It also supports both Rec.2020 and Rec.709 colorspaces and 100% of the DCI-P3 format.

Features include:
• Support for HDR via SDI and DisplayPort
• Two built-in scopes live overlaid on the monitor
• Film industry quality 33-point 3D LUTs
• Automatic monitor calibration support using color probes
• Advanced Quad Link 12G-SDI inputs for 8K
• Scales input video to the native monitor resolution
• Includes LCD for monitoring and menu settings
• Utility software included for Mac and Windows
• Supports latest 8K DisplayPort monitors and displays
• Can be used on a desktop or rack mounted

RPS editors talk workflow, creativity and Michelob Ultra’s Robots

By Randi Altman

Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) is a veteran editing house specializing in commercials, music videos and feature films. Founded by Oscar-winning editor Angus Wall (The Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), RPS has a New York office as well as a main Santa Monica location that it shares with sister companies A52, Elastic and Jax.

We recently reached out to RPS editor Biff Butler and his assistant editor Alyssa Oh (both Adobe Premiere users) to find out about how they work, their editing philosophy and their collaboration on the Michelob Ultra Robots spot that premiered during this year’s Super Bowl.

Let’s find out more about their process…

Rock Paper Scissors, Santa Monica

What does your job entail?
Biff Butler: Simply put, someone hands us footage (and a script) and we make something out of it. The job is to act as cheerleader for those who have been carrying the weight of a project for weeks, maybe months, and have just emerged from a potentially arduous shoot.

Their job is to then sell the work that we do to their clients, so I must hold onto and protect their vision, maintaining that initial enthusiasm they had. If the agency has written the menu, and the client has ordered the meal, then a director is the farmer and the editor the cook.

I frequently must remind myself that although I might have been hired because of my taste, I am still responsible for feeding others. Being of service to someone else’s creative vision is the name of the game.

What’s your workflow like?
Alyssa Oh: At the start of the project, I receive the footage from production and organize it to Biff’s specs. Once it’s organized, I pass it off and he watches all the footage and assembles an edit. Once we get deeper into the project, he may seek my help in other aspects of the edit, including sound design, pulling music, creating graphics, temporary visual effects and creating animations. At the end of the project, I prep the edits for finishing color, mix, and conform.

What would surprise people about being an editor?
Oh: When I started, I associated editorial with “footage.” It surprised me that, aside from editing, we play a large part in decision-making for music and developing sound design.

Butler: I’ve heard the editor described as the final writer in the process. A script can be written and rewritten, but a lot happens in the edit room once shots are on a screen. The reality of seeing what actually fits within the allotted time that the format allows for can shape decisions as can the ever-evolving needs of the client in question. Another aspect we get involved with is the music — it’s often the final ingredient to be considered, despite how important a role it plays.

Robots

What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Oh: By far, my favorite part is the people that I work with. We spend so much time together; I think it’s important to not just get along, but to also develop close relationships. I’m so grateful to work with people who I look forward to spending the day with.

At RPS, I’ve gained so many great friendships over the years and learn a lot from everyone around me —- not just in the aspect of editorial, but also from the people at companies that work alongside us — A52, Elastic and Jax.

Butler: At the risk of sounding corny, what turns me on most is collaboration and connection with other creative talents. It’s a stark contrast to the beginning of the job, which I also very much adore — when it’s just me and my laptop, watching footage and judging shots.

Usually we get a couple days to put something together on our own, which can be a peaceful time of exploration and discovery. This is when I get to formulate my own opinions and points of view on the material, which is good to establish but also is something I must be ready to let go of… or at least be flexible with. Once the team gets involved in the room — be it the agency or the director — the real work begins.

As I said before, being of service to those who have trusted me with their footage and ideas is truly an honorable endeavor. And it’s not just those who hire us, but also talents we get to join forces with on the audio/music side, effects, etc. On second thought, the free supply of sparkly water we have on tap is probably my favorite part. It’s all pretty great.

What’s the hardest part of the job?
Oh: For me, the hardest part of our job are the “peaks and valleys.” In other words, we don’t have a set schedule, and with each project, our work hours will vary.

Robots

Butler: I could complain about the late nights or long weekends or unpredictable schedules, but those are just a result of being employed, so I count myself fortunate that I even get to moan about that stuff. Perhaps one of the trickiest parts is in dealing with egos, both theirs and mine.

Inevitably, I serve as mediator between a creative agency and the director they hired, and the client who is paying for this whole project. Throw in the mix my own sense of ownership that develops, and there’s a silly heap of egos to manage. It’s a joy, but not everyone can be fully satisfied all the time.

If you couldn’t edit for a living, what would you do?
Oh: I think I would definitely be working in a creative field or doing something that’s hands-on (I still hope to own a pottery studio someday). I’ve always had a fondness for teaching and working with kids, so perhaps I’d do something in the teaching field.

Butler: I would be pursuing a career in directing commercials and documentaries.

Did you know from a young age that you would be involved in this industry?
Oh: In all honesty, I didn’t know that this would be my path. Originally, I wanted to go into
broadcast, specifically sports broadcasting. I had an interest in television production since
high school and learned a bit about editing along the way.

However, I had applied to work at RPS as a production assistant shortly after graduating and quickly gained interest in editing and never looked back!
Butler : I vividly recall seeing the movie Se7en in the cinema and being shell-shocked by the opening title sequence. The feeling I was left with was so raw and unfiltered, I remember thinking, “That is what I want to do.” I wasn’t even 100 percent sure what that was. I knew I wanted to put things together! It wasn’t even so much a mission to tell stories, but to evoke emotion — although storytelling is most often the way to get there.

Robots

At the same time, I was a kid who grew up under the spell of some very effective marketing campaigns — from Nike, Jordan, Gatorade — and knew that advertising was a field I would be interesting in exploring when it came time to find a real job.

As luck would have it, in 2005 I found myself living in Los Angeles after the rock band I was in broke up, and I walked over to a nearby office an old friend of mine had worked at, looking for a job. She’d told me it was a place where editors worked. Turns out, that place was where many of my favorite ads were edited, and it was founded by the guy who put together that Se7en title sequence. That place was Rock Paper Scissors, and it’s been my home ever since.

Can you guys talk about the Michelob Ultra Robots spot that first aired during the Super Bowl earlier this year? What was the process like?
Butler: The process involved a lot of trust, as we were all looking at frames that didn’t have any of the robots in — they were still being created in CG — so when presenting edits, we would have words floating on screen reading “Robot Here” or “Robot Runs Faster Now.”

It says a lot about the agency in that it could hold the client’s hand through our rough edit and have them buy off on what looked like a fairly empty edit. Working with director Dante Ariola at the start of the edit helped to establish the correct rhythm and intention of what would need to be conveyed in each shot. Holding on to those early decisions was paramount, although we clearly had enough human performances to rest are hats on too.

Was there a particular cut that was more challenging than the others?
Butler: The final shot of the spot was a battle I lost. I’m happy with the work, especially the quality of human reactions shown throughout. I’m also keen on the spot’s simplicity. However, I had a different view of how the final shot would play out — a closer shot would have depicted more emotion and yearning in the robot’s face, whereas where we landed left the robot feeling more defeated — but you can’t win them all.

Robots

Did you feel extra stress knowing that the Michelob spot would air during the Super Bowl?
Butler: Not at all. I like knowing that people will see the work and having a firm airdate reduces the likelihood that a client can hem and haw until the wheels fall off. Thankfully there wasn’t enough time for much to go wrong!

You’ve already talked about doing more than just editing. What are you often asked to do in addition to just editing?
Butler: Editors are really also music supervisors. There can be a strategy to it, also knowing when to present a track you really want to sell through. But really, it’s that level of trust between myself and the team that can lead to some good discoveries. As I mentioned before, we are often tasked with just providing a safe and nurturing environment for people to create.

Truly, anybody can sit and hit copy and paste all day. I think it’s my job to hold on to that initial seed or idea or vision, and protect it through the final stages of post production. This includes ensuring the color correction, finishing and sound mix all reflect intentions established days or weeks ahead when we were still fresh enough in our thinking to be acting on instinct.

I believe that as creative professionals, we are who we are because of our instincts, but as a job drags on and on, we are forced to act more with our heads than our hearts. There is a stamina that is required, making sure that what ends up on the TV is representative of what was initially coming out of that instinctual artistic expression.

Does your editing hat change depending on the type of project you are cutting?
Butler: No, not really. An edit is an edit. All sessions should involve laughter and seriousness and focus and moments to unwind and goof off. Perhaps the format will determine the metaphorical hat, or to be more specific, the tempo.

Selecting shots for a 30- or 60-second commercial is very different than chasing moments for a documentary or long-form narrative. I’ll often remind myself to literally breathe slower when I know a shot needs to be long, and the efficiency with which I am telling a story is of less importance than the need to be absorbed in a moment.

Can you name some of your favorite technology?
Oh: My iPhone and all the apps that come with it; my Kindle, which allows me to be as indecisive as I want when it comes to picking a book and traveling; my laptop; and noise-cancelling headphones!

Butler: The carbonation of water, wireless earphones and tiny solid-state hard drives.