Audionamix – 7.1.20

Category Archives: Collaboration

Media Composer 2020: customizable UI, ProRes for Windows, Catalina

Avid’s new Media Composer 2020 release includes a redesigned customizable user interface, a new Universal Media Engine, finishing and delivery tools, and support for Apple ProRes for Windows and Catalina. These updates are based on user feedback and are available now.

Here are some details of the updates:
– Customization: Users can tailor their workspace to exactly how they want to work. Improvements to the paneled UI increase ease of use and accelerate editing and mastering. A new Timeline Sequence Map increases efficiency by letting creators navigate their entire sequence without taking up the whole screen, while the Blank Panel unclutters the UI and stops panels from resizing.

– More precise finishing/delivery: Expanding on the editing and finishing capabilities introduced a year ago, Media Composer 2020 is offering users the ability to fine-tune color with greater precision and make more granular gain value adjustments when working in ACES (Academy Color Encoding System) spaces. Users can finish high-resolution and HDR projects with total color precision and interoperability, ensuring pristine picture quality throughout their workflow.

– Next-generation Avid Media Engine: The Universal Media Engine enables users to accelerate their workflows by reducing the reliance on QuickTime to deliver better media importing, playback, editing and export performance. The media engine increases processing speed of hi-res HDR media and provides native support for a wider range of formats, including direct media access and Open EXR for over-the-top services such as Netflix. Media Composer 2020 allows users to more easily create content for mobile video platforms and social media by providing 9×16 and 1:1 Mask Margins and FrameFlex framing presets

– Apple ProRes for Windows and Catalina: Like Mac users, Windows users can now create, edit, collaborate and export ProRes media natively with encoding supported on Windows machines for media creation and exporting to Mov export, MXF OP1a and MXF OP-Atom workflows. Creators also can use Media Composer on Apple’s latest macOS Catalina, a 64-bit OS that provides superior performance while leveraging the power of the new Mac Pro.

– Media Composer | Enterprise: Media Composer | Enterprise expands its role-based customization capabilities to enable users to deploy or update site settings across an organization and deploy user settings independently to individuals or groups quickly without impacting any existing site settings.

 

MisterWives’ Rock Bottom music video: light, dark and neon

American indie pop band MisterWives’ Rock Bottom video was made to promote the band’s first single off its upcoming album. In the video, the band’s lead singer, Mandy Lee, is seen walking on the sands and hills of a beach before walking through a mirror to find the rest of her band on a dance floor. The video combines neon colors and different textures with dark and gray backgrounds at the beginning as Lee goes from dark times to eventually breaking through the mirror and shining with her band on a swirling dance floor.

To capture the look the band wanted, production was done in different locations at different times of day. This included shooting on a remote beach and in the California desert, into which director and colorist Jade Ehlers and his small crew had to hand-carry all of their camera gear and lighting, including a 100-pound mirror. Ehlers color graded the piece on Resolve and edited on Adobe Premiere.

“We wanted to go for a darker tone, with the neon colors in the darkness that showed that light can shine through even the dark times. The song is about showing it is more about the journey to get to the end of the tunnel than just sitting in the dark times, and the video had to capture that perfectly,” Ehlers says.

The video was shot with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, which was chosen because of its small size, high dynamic range and ability to shoot in low light, all essential requirements that allowed Ehlers to shoot at the locations that were best for the song.

“Honestly, because of how different all our scenes were, I knew we needed a camera that had great low light that would allow us to be sparing with light since this shoot had a lot of hiking involved,” he says. “The beach location was quite crazy, and we hiked all of the gear in, so having a small camera bag to carry everything in was great.”

Throughout the video, Ehlers had to adjust for different textures and unexpected lighting problems — including lighting the lead singer’s bright-green puffy dress against a gray background in the desert. Another challenge came from shooting the dance floor scenes, wherein the black floor was not putting out as much light as expected. To compensate and get the shots, Ehlers used the camera’s 13 stops of dynamic range and dual native ISO up to 25,600 along with the Blackmagic Raw codec for high-quality, lifelike color images and skin tones.

“Because of the bit range of the camera’s sensor, I was able to qualify the dress to make it pop a bit more, which was amazing and saved me a lot of extra work. And the dance floor scenes were great but were also harder than we imagined, so we had to push the camera higher on the ISO so get the exposure we needed,” concludes Ehlers.

Audionamix – 7.1.20

DP James Whitaker on Amazon’s Troop Zero

The Amazon Studios film Troop Zero follows a bright and quirky young girl named Christmas and her eccentric friends on their quest to become a Birdie Scout troop and travel to Jamboree to take part in a science competition. Christmas’ mother nurtured her into believing that meteors and shooting stars were messages from the heavens above, so when NASA announces the Golden Record program at Jamboree, she knows she needs to infiltrate the high-and-mighty Birdie Scout youth group in order to enter the talent show and get the chance to win and to have her voice heard throughout the stars.

James Whitaker

This comedy-drama, which stars Viola Davis, Allison Janney, Jim Gaffigan and Mckenna Grace, is helmed by the female directing team Bert and Bertie from a screenplay written by the Oscar-winning Beasts of the Southern Wild co-writer Lucy Alibar. It was inspired by Alibar’s 2010 play Christmas and Jubilee Behold the Meteor Shower.

The small-budget Troop Zero was captured over 28 days across multiple locations around New Orleans in settings made to look and feel like the sweltering summer experience common in rural Georgia during the mid-‘70s.

DP James Whitaker, ASC, (The Cooler, Captain America: Civil War, Thank You for Smoking, Patriot), knowing they had limited budget and time, meticulously scouted out the locations ahead of time, blocking scenes and planning the lens choices to best address the style and action the directors wanted to convey during the shoot. Working closely with a camera team consisting of veterans first AC Bryan DeLorenzo, key grip Charles Lenz and gaffer Allen Parks, they were able to light the way and set the mood for the production. Troop Zero’s main camera was an ARRI Alexa SXT.

“Using a lookup table that had been gifted to me by Sean Coleman at CO3 as a starting point, I worked closely with the digital imaging technician, Adrian Jebef, to shape this into our show LUT,” explains Whitaker. “Adrian then applied the LUT across a Sony 24-inch calibrated monitor and then routed this signal to the director’s monitors, including to the video village and the video assist.

“The signal was sent to the entire set so that the established look was presented to everyone — from hair and makeup to costume and wardrobe — to make sure there were no questions on what the picture would look like,” he continues. “With limited time and multiple locations, Adrian would adjust the looks from scene to scene with CDLs or Printer Light adjustments, and these looks were given to dailies colorist Alex Garcia from Light Iron, working near set on location on Resolve. Alex would balance these looks across the multiple cameras and keep things consistent. These looks were then delivered to editorial and posted to PIX for review.”

Whitaker enjoyed working with Bert and Bertie — sometimes Bert would be directing the talent while Bertie would be able to discuss the camera moves for the next setup, and the next day they might switch roles. “The Berts were really into the idea of formal framing, but they also wanted to mix it up,” he explains.

“We looked at a bunch of different films as references but didn’t really find what we liked, so we created a visual language of our own. I used the Vantage MiniHawk lenses. They have an anamorphic look and come with all the good things I wanted — they are fast, and they are light. They actually have two apertures that allow you to have anamorphic-like distortion in the bokeh, but they are actually spherical lenses. This allowed me to use a short focal length lens for a wide shot and have the actors run into closeup. The close focus is basically the front element of the lens, which is amazing.”

There’s a particularly great food fight scene between the members of the titular Troop Zero and the rival group of Birdie Scouts, wherein the use of slow motion perfectly captures how a group of precocious misfits would envision the experience. It’s like an epic battle in the World War of Girl Scouts, with flour raining down around everyone as someone runs by wielding a soaked eggbeater, spraying everyone in range with rapid-fire batter bullets, while another scout takes a bowl of rainbow sprinkles to the face. The slow-motion intensity was captured at high frame rate with the ARRI Alexa SXT camera system using the Codex SXR capture media. Using a combination of dolly and hand-held shots that move the viewer through the action, the motion feels smooth and the images are in focus throughout.

“When I first sat down with the Berts and Corrine Bogdanowicz at Light Iron to grade Troop Zero, we had so much range in the image. This is why ARRI cameras are my first choice,” he says. “You have this large 3.4K filmic image in raw that we could push wherever we wanted. We started warming it up, making it less saturated and windowing various parts of the skies and faces. After a bit of this, we sat back and said, ‘This doesn’t feel like it is servicing the story we wanted to tell.’ Sometimes you need to simply go back to basics.

“We started from the beginning using the same LUT that we had on set, and then Corinne did a basic Printer Light grade (in Resolve) to start, and it looked pretty much like what we had viewed on the monitors during the shoot. We skewed a bit from the original CDL values, but the overall feel of the look was very close in the end.”

“Working with a Codex raw workflow is an easy sell for me. The earlier concerns from a producer about the cost of the capture drives and the time it takes a DIT to back up the data have seemingly gone away. Codex is so fast and robust that I never get a pushback in shooting raw on a production. The last two TV shows I shot — Season 2 of Patriot and Perpetual Grace, LTD — were both captured on Codex in ARRIRAW. I just bought an ARRI Alexa Mini LF with the new compact drives, and I am looking forward to using this when we get back to work.”


Collaborating on color for HBO’s I Know This Much is True

In HBO’s emotionally devastating limited series I Know This Much is True, Mark Ruffalo portrays identical twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey — a pair of men who might look alike and share the same difficult childhood experiences but who are actually quite different. Thomas has schizophrenia that has caused him to frequently act out in frightening and erratic ways, usually leaving Dominick to pick up the pieces.

Sam Daley

The series, directed by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines) and shot by cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Manchester by the Sea) presents this fraught and touching relationship so seamlessly that it’s very easy to forget both characters are the result of a single actor’s performances knitted together by VFX supervisor Eric Pascarelli and his team of compositing and effects experts.

Colorist Sam Daley of Company 3, who has worked with Lipes regularly for over a decade, has the utmost respect for Lipes’ somewhat old-school approach. “I came up through telecine and film laboratories,” he says, “and I strive to always respect what’s on the ‘neg’ — digital neg or celluloid. I’m not interested in ‘breaking apart’ an image to make it something it isn’t. My job is to help the director and cinematographer tell the story. I want everything I do to be in harmony with that.”

Lipes and Cianfrance definitely wanted to shoot the period piece (portions take place in various eras from 1913 to 1992) on film, both for the actual texture and feel it can bring to imagery and its characteristic look that evokes the past. Lipes shot tests using several formats through to a final grade and the filmmakers decided that 2-perf 35mm (with a 2:1 extraction from the full 2.66:1 image area) presented the perfect compromise between the too-clean look of 4-perf 35 and the rougher feel of 16. By shooting 2-perf they could also shoot multiple takes without cutting lasting 22.5 minutes (the director’s preferred way of building performance).

Lipes shot with ARRICAM LT cameras, Optimo 24-290 zooms and Cooke S4s and Canon K35s. He rated Eastman Kodak’s fastest stock, 5219 (500T) “under-exposed” by one stop, increasing the apparent grain, letting shadow information fall to almost nothing and letting some highlights blow out, all in the service of enhancing some of the attributes that make film feel like film.

Daley, who graded in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 16, leaned into these same qualities. Lipes, he reports, “likes what we call a ‘low-contrast’ or ‘faded film’ look even when he shoots digitally. We did something similar for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. When he shoots for this kind of look, he exposes in a way that compresses the values in shadows, whether shooting on film or a digital sensor so that when we lift everything in post to brighten it, the process results in something of a photographic print quality, especially in the blacks.”

Daley also created a film print emulation LUT for Lipes, which the two tweaked before principal photography commenced so that Lipes and the director were in sync on the intended look from the start.

Jody Lee Lipes

“I always want Sam to be there for the whole process,” Lipes notes. “If you call a colorist up the day before you’re supposed to start grading and say, ‘Here’s the footage. Take a look,’ you’re not going to get the same quality. The whole time I’m working, I count on Sam’s feedback. During testing and production, watching dailies, the whole time — and his feedback affects how we shoot.

“Sam has a holistic approach to storytelling and that goes beyond the technical job. It’s about storytelling, and he’s always a creative force in the process. He also catches the tiniest details. He once was a QC guy, and he’ll catch the smallest little thing that I might not see until the 50th time watching it.”

The VFX shots that including both Dominic and Thomas were shot with Ruffalo as Dominick first and then, after all the character’s scenes were complete, the actor returned about 30 pounds heavier to shoot Thomas’ scenes. Lipes shot these on the same 5219 in 3-perf format, exposing the same way and shooting using the exact same negative area as he did for the 2-perf portions. The picture information captured outside that surface area of the negative was there only as a safety measure in case Pascarelli’s team needed a bit more image beyond the frame to create a seamless composite.

“They removed the grain before they did the work and then put it back on top of the finished shots,” Lipes explains. “They did an excellent job of making sure the effects shots matched everything else, and then Sam was very meticulous about making sure that anything that didn’t sit exactly right in the scene was melded in with his color grading tools.”

While colorists sometimes are expected to make images that pop and look snappy, Lipes says of Daley, “He’s the one who sometimes scales me back. I might propose something extreme and he’ll say, ‘Yes, we could do that but…’ and then show me something that isn’t visually distracting from the story, which is ultimately what we both care most about. Sam is subtle and quiet in his work, and I like that. Look at what he’s done with Christian Springer or Andrij Parekh or Ed Lachman. The work is understated but it’s very good and highly-respected, and that’s exactly where I want my work to be.”

While I Know this Much is True has concluded its first run on HBO, episodes will continue to be available to stream on HBO Go and HBO Max.


DP Chat: Defending Jacob’s Jonathan Freeman

When the Apple TV+ crime drama Defending Jacob begins, viewers meet the seemingly perfect Barber family — assistant DA Andy, teacher Laurie and their teenage son, Jacob. Fairly quickly, things start falling apart after a local boy is found murdered in a park, and Jacob becomes the prime suspect.

Jonathan Freeman

Andy and Laurie both lose their jobs, and the family is ostracized as Jacob is presumed guilty before his trial even begins. The series, which stars Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery and Jaeden Martell, keeps viewers asking, “Did he or didn’t he?” until the very end.

For the most part, Defending Jacob takes place in winter, and the look of the show reflects that cold. To find out more about Defending Jacob’s look, we reached out to the show’s cinematographer, Jonathan Freeman, ASC, (Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire) to talk about working with the show’s director, Morten Tyldum, and showrunner Mark Bomback.

The show is set in an affluent suburb of Boston. Where did you shoot?
The series was shot in many of the locations that take place in the story. We were inspired by real locations and had tremendous support by our local crew. The lighting, grip and camera team worked extremely fast, often shooting the rehearsals. We rarely had to shoot a take again for technical reasons. I can honestly say it was one of the best production teams I’ve ever worked with. And our cast was phenomenal. Capturing performance was the most critical aspect of our storytelling.

What cameras did you use, and did you do camera tests?
We used the Panavision XL II. We also tested the Sony Venice and ARRI Alexa LF (both beautiful cameras as well), but the XL II provided the most resolution, which was needed for Apple’s delivery, once the anamorphic image was unsqueezed.

Can you talk about shooting with multiple cameras?
Working on television shows like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, we had to achieve quite a lot in a short period of time. On GoT we shot only 10-hour days with almost no overtime, so I got used to shooting with multiple cameras. That experience helped me when capturing the scenes in Defending Jacob, which is primarily a character-driven story.

It was important for director Morten Tyldum and I to have as many simultaneously running cameras as possible in order to capture performances. Shooting this without it feeling like conventional television was a challenge because we often wanted the camera to be physically close to the characters; finding a second camera angle when shooting a close-up of an actor was sometimes difficult.

When we were not able to get a strong camera angle for the B camera, they would either pick up a detail of that same performance or prep for the next setup. This leapfrogging helped us immensely, but one key motif we frequently used the B camera for was shooting close-ups, where the camera was just a few inches higher than the character’s eyeline. It created a very intimate feeling — almost as if we were sharing the character’s perspective.

Can you talk about lenses?
These internal close-ups became a critical element in our storytelling. For Morten and me, the optical quality of the glass, the lenses, was paramount. We chose to shoot with anamorphic lenses. Even though we composed for a 2:1 aspect ratio, we wanted the benefits anamorphic provides aesthetically.

Since so much of our storytelling would be close-ups of our actors, anamorphic served three critical aspects. The anamorphic bokeh (out of focus distortion) became a skewed backdrop, a subtle depiction of their deteriorating world. It also smoothed out the inherent crispness of digital cinematography. And, frankly, it just looked more cinematic.

Panavision was extremely helpful in getting us the G series, which are particularly beautiful and unique in character. And Apple was very supportive throughout the process, working with us to ensure we kept the aesthetic vision Morten and I had while also delivering the highest-quality image.

You brought up the characters’ perspectives earlier. Can you expand on that?
Because the story is such an internal piece, Morten wanted the audience to experience the story through the characters’ eyes. We became very committed to POV. We referenced films like Michael Clayton, Mystic River and the films of Bergman and Polanski.

For every scene, we determined whose perspective we wanted to take. So in a scene with Andy, we might have shot with the camera close to him and potentially wrapping around him, over his shoulder, to see the rest of the scene play out from his perspective. We would often take the same approach with Laurie. But the critical difference that Morten wanted to convey was how the audience saw Jacob.

As the story unfolded, we wanted to create an enigma around him, just as the characters in our story start to wonder whether Jacob is guilty or innocent. We maintained a less subjective perspective with Jacob by keeping the camera more distant. If we did occasionally come in for a close-up, it was to capture another beautifully ambiguous performance by our actor playing Jacob, Jaeden Martell. We hoped this approach translated a sense of uncertainty for the audience.

Can you talk about the look and tone?
Mark Bomback’s scripts were so compelling. I read almost the entire eight hours in one sitting. Even though it was set in contemporary Boston, in the most familiar settings, it had a somber, elegiac quality to it — like a requiem. For the look and tone, we were inspired by Nordic paintings and the films of Bergman — a cool, wintery chiaroscuro light. To amplify a sense of isolation, we framed our characters against windows showing the world they were increasingly being separated from. We also shot our characters through layers of glass or partially obscured them from view using architecture, emphasizing their prison.

What about the lighting?
We wanted to take a naturalistic approach but with a slightly heightened reality — slightly expressionistic. So a cold, rainy day might be pushed toward cyan a bit more and the color desaturated. And since much of our storytelling would be conveyed by the performances of our brilliant actors, it was important to capture performance but also reflect that tone in their close-ups. Light might fall off to shadow more dynamically, but it was always critical to retain detail in the eyes of the actors.

Defending Jacob was the first production where I shot almost entirely with LEDs. The advancement of LED lighting has been a game-changer for me. I often use mini dimmer boards, where I can adjust the key and fill light ratio on the fly. This was more challenging when shooting with tungsten — as the light dimmed, the color temperature shifted warmer. Before LED, I wasn’t able to do the dynamic adjustments that I can now. It also means that I feel more comfortable shooting a rehearsal wherein I can adjust to the actors’ positions immediately without disrupting the set by tweaking between takes.

ARRI SkyPanels were the workhorses for our lighting, often bouncing them through book lights or lighting sections of our night exteriors. We also used Litepanels through diffusion as key or fill in tight spaces. My gaffer, Josh Dreyfus, introduced me to Quasar tubes, which became very versatile. We would use them in the standard way one would use tubes for lighting, but Josh and our key grip, Woody Bell, built substantial softboxes made of eight-foot Quasars, which we used instead of 18K HMIs through diffusion in cherry pickers. They weighed slightly less, drew less power, were aesthetically more pleasing, and were fully RGB and dimmable.

Talk about the color workflow.
When setting a look, I like to keep the variables to a minimum. By limiting the LUTs, I feel it helps reduce inconsistency across the workflow. Luckily, I had a fantastic team of people who translated the look that we captured on set down to the final color. DIT Nic Pasquariello and I established a few basic LUTs during testing and tweaked them slightly on set from scene to scene.

Jonathan Freeman

One was slightly cool, another slightly warm, but we made them all denser than the standard Rec. 709. I prefer to have darker LUTs, like rating the ASA of a film stock lower to get more exposure in a negative. This ensures that we were capturing more detail in the shadows, so when we got to the final color, we could “print down” most of the image but still extract information we wanted through power windows.

The workflow was seamless between our on-set look and dailies, which was graded by Rob Bessette from Finish Post in Boston. Rob and Nic were in constant communication, ensuring what we were seeing on set was delivered accurately to the editorial department. They were extremely consistent, which helped us greatly when it came to doing the final color timing with Joe Finley at Chainsaw in LA, with whom I have worked over numerous projects, including Game of Thrones.

Morten has a very strong eye, so for him, having great latitude in the color grade was as important as shooting, which was another reason why a dense capture was critical. One addition to the look that Morten made in post was creating a subtle color adjustment to the cool look we established in the dailies. He added yellow to the highlights, which gave it a gritty, almost aged quality and provided a color contrast to the overall cool tone.


Behind the Title: The Cabinet director Doug Cox

As a director who also edits, Doug Cox finds that each discipline informs the other.

Name: Doug Cox

Company: San Francisco’s The Cabinet 

Title: Founder/Director/Editor

Can you describe what The Cabinet is and provides?
I started The Cabinet about four years ago with the intention of making a content creation space that did everything. I had been the in-house editor at a huge agency for eight years when digital content exploded, and suddenly I was writing and directing as well.

A few roster-ships later I realized I was surrounded by all the right talent comprising everything we would need to do it all under one roof. Fifteen years later, I started The Cabinet with my business partner and executive producer David Verhoef, who is an industry vet as well. The Cabinet is a true one-stop shop. Previs, production, post and finish.

Method Men

What would surprise people about what falls under the title of director?
In the commercial world, I would say efficiency. Oftentimes, when you are brought onto a production you are given a list of ingredients that have a delivery date. When I get calendars from producers that want to shoot in two weeks, it is the director that should know if it’s possible — and the layer of efficiency and self-discipline it takes to execute that without sacrificing any creative integrity.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
I love being on set with my shoot family and the shorthand we have with each other. But I also love the martini shot. And post! My friend and another editor/director at The Cabinet, Stu Barnes, edits anything I direct, and I edit anything he directs for the most part. If we can, we try to stick to that pact as much as possible. It is a discipline I encourage all director/editors to try. If you find yourself the right talent, they will bring something to the table every time. It’s the instinct to let go of the edit in your head and embrace the one that tells the best story.

The last three months with the COVID shutdown have certainly been a challenge and very sobering. Social distancing has been critical to help us all get back to set faster. I miss my crew very much. I hope they feel the same but I also imagine them celebrating the break from me, not unlike the chyub nyub Ewok celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi. Now that we are cleared to return June 12th, our struggle will be to adapt to the new AICP guidelines ,which are restrictive — understandably so. I can tell you the rule about no more buffet-style food service at crafty is one my scale and my pants are very grateful for.

What’s your least favorite?
Unrealistic timelines and non-collaborative clientele. It’s the nature of the ad industry these days, so we all just dog paddle to stay creatively relevant. But for the most part when clients come to The Cabinet, they aren’t coming to us to be “Mac Monkeys.” They know they are looking for conceptual “plussing.” That’s what we do best.

If you didn’t have this job what would you be doing instead?
Carpentry. There’s something rewarding about working with your hands and the smell of sawdust. I’m very bad at it, but I enjoy my efforts. And let’s be honest, anything you make can always become a paper weight.

Doug Cox on set

How early on did you know this would be your path?
I was eight when I told my dad I was either going to be an actor or I was going to make movies. We were at a Sbarro’s in the mall, and he asked and that was my response. He told me I should consider something that was actually possible like in the medical field. I’m very glad I didn’t choose the medical field… or acting.

What is it about directing that attracted you?
I was raised in a very religious household, so secular TV and movies made after 1960 weren’t really allowed, but I was obsessed with Hitchcock. Somehow my parents let me watch that, but I wasn’t allowed to watch The Smurfs because Gargamel was a warlock. When left to myself I would grab my dad’s VHS camera, I made warplanes out of boxes and filmed my own stories. I just enjoyed it so damn much. I really couldn’t not be a director, and editing was an immediately employable skillset.

What is it about directing that continues to keep you interested?
The technique continues to adapt to story. I am continually impressed that filmmakers aren’t so much relying on the technique but still paying attention to the story. I love the exploration of it. It’s never 100% exactly how you pictured it in your head but if you stick to your guns on story, the technique does not matter.

Method Men

How do you pick the people you work with on a particular project?
I like to think the people I work with can bring something to the table, are passionate about their craft and, most importantly, laugh at my dumb jokes. Let’s just say I think there is bravery in silliness, and right now levity is something we can all appreciate.

How do you work with your DP?
I draw a lot of pictures before I ever get to set. I share them with my DP. I share my ideas about lensing. I share my ideas about color and mood and composition. At the end of the day, I hope to either get a suggestion to stay in budget or a “hell ya.”

Can you talk about your love of post, in addition to directing.
This is an interesting question because this is the thing that has changed the most about our industry. I love getting a pass at the edit with the editor in the room. But when I am an editor, I have only once had a director take me up on the offer to work with me in the room. I like to think that because I respect the edit, that respect is reciprocal, but every director is different. That’s why Stu and I and The Cabinet have an amazing thing going on. Our inherent ability to shoot for the edit makes the edit all the more enjoyable for the editor.

Method Men

What are some recent projects that you’ve worked on?
I most recently collaborated with the team at Method Home for a launch campaign for Method Men. It’s a series of comedy spots featuring their new line of male grooming products. I directed and Stu edited. This was a perfect example of beginning-to-end collaboration. And I am currently in pre-production on a film for Quibi that I am writing and directing.

What project are you most proud of?
About 10 years ago, Levi’s came to me and asked me to edit a commercial for Modern Frontier, which was a traveling artist collaboration shot in black and white. It’s my favorite edit of all I have ever done. The footage was dropped in my lap with zero script or direction. And it flew under the radar, so I dug in and created a :60 commercial and let the footage drive the narrative. It went on to win an AICE award in the Fashion/Beauty category. It was rewarding on all fronts and to this day is one of my favorites.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
My phone, my laptop and my Nespresso machine. I mean, it literally spins your coffee and is ready in seconds. And it brought George Clooney and Danny Devito together on screen … I feel like this is a “no duh” moment.


Production begins again on New Zealand’s Shortland Street series

By Katie Hinsen

The current global pandemic has shut down production all over the world. Those who can have moved to working from home, and there’s speculation about how and when we’ll get back to work again.

New Zealand, a country with a significant production economy, has announced that it will soon reopen for shoots. The most popular local television show, Shortland Street, was the first to resume production after an almost six-week break. It’s produced by Auckland’s South Pacific Pictures.

Dylan Reeve

I am a native New Zealander who has worked in post there on and off over the years. Currently I live in Los Angeles, where I am an EP for dailies and DI at Nice Shoes, so taking a look at how New Zealand is rolling things out interests me. With that in mind, I reached out to Dylan Reeve, head of post production at Shortland Street, to find out how it looked the week they went back to work under Level 3 social distancing restrictions.

Shortland Street is a half-hour soap that runs five nights a week on prime-time television. It has been on air for around 28 years and has been consistently among the highest-rated shows in the nation. It’s a cultural phenomenon. While the cast and crew take a single three-week annual break from production during the Christmas holiday season, the show has never really stopped production … until the pandemic hit.

Shortland Street’s production crew is typically made up of about 100 people; the post department consists of two editors, two assistants, a composer and Reeve, who is also the online editor. Sound mixes and complex VFX are done elsewhere, but everything else for the production is done at the studio.

New Zealand responded to COVID-19 early, instituting one of the harshest lockdowns in the world. Reeve told me that they went from alert Level 1 — basic social distancing, more frequent handwashing — to Level 3 as soon as the first signs of community transmission were detected. They stayed at this level for just two days before going to Level 4: complete lockdown. New Zealanders had 48 hours to get home to their families, shop for supplies and make sure they were ready.

“On a Monday afternoon at about 1:30pm, the studio emptied out,” explains Reeve. “We were shut down, but we were still on air, and we had about five or six weeks’ worth of episodes in various stages of production and post. I then had two days to figure out and prepare for how we were going to finish all of those and make sure they got delivered so that the show could continue to be on air.”

Shortland Street’s main production building dressed as the exterior of the hospital where the show is set, with COVID workplace safety materials on the doors.

The nature of the show’s existing workflow meant that Reeve had to copy all the media to drives and send Avids and drives home with the editors. The assistant editors logged in remotely for any work they needed to do, and Reeve took what he needed home as well to finish onlining, prepping and delivering those already-shot episodes to the broadcaster. They used Frame.io for review and approval with the audio team and with the directors, producers and network.

“Once we knew we were coming back into Level 3, and the government put out more refined guidelines about what that required, we had a number of HoD meetings — figuring out how we could produce the show while maintaining the restrictions necessary.”

I asked Reeve whether he and his crew felt safe going back to work. He reminded me that New Zealand only went back down to Level 3 once there had been a period with no remaining evidence of community transmission. Infection rates in New Zealand had spent two weeks in single digits, including two days when no new cases had been reported.

Starting Up With Restrictions
My conversation with Reeve took place on May 4, right after his first few days back at work. I asked him to explain some of the conditions under which the production was working while the rest of the country was still in isolation. Level 3 in New Zealand is almost identical to the lockdown restrictions put in place in US cities like New York and Los Angeles.

“One of the key things that has changed in terms of how we’re producing the show is that we physically have way less crew in the building. We’re working slower, and everyone’s having to do a bit more, maybe, than they would normally.

Shortland Street director Ian Hughes and camera operator Connagh Heath discussing blocking with a one-metre guide.

“When crew are in a controlled workspace where we know who everyone is,” he continues, “that allows us to keep track of them properly — they’re allowed to work within a meter of one another physically (three feet). Our policy is that we want staff to stay two meters (six feet) apart from one another as much as possible. But when we’re shooting, when it’s necessary, they can be a meter from one another.”

Reeve says the virus has certainly changed the nature of what can be shot. There are no love scenes, no kissing and no hugs. “We’re shooting to compensate for that; staging people to make them seem closer than they are.

Additionally, everything stays within the production environment. Parts of our office have been dressed; parts of our building have been dressed. We’ll do a very low-profile exterior shoot for scenes that take place outside, but we’re not leaving the lot.”

Under Level 3, everyone is still under isolation at home. This is why, explains Reeve, social distancing has to continue at work. That way any infection that comes into the team can be easily traced and contained and affect as few others as possible. Every department maintains what they call a “bubble,” and very few individuals are allowed to cross between them.

Actors are doing their own hair and makeup, and there are no kitchen or craft services available. The production is using and reusing a small number of regular extras, with crew stepping in occasionally as well. Reeve noted that Australia was also resuming production on Neighbours, with crew members acting as extras.

“Right now in our studio, our full technical complement consists of three camera operators at the moment, just one boom operator and one multi-skilled person who can be the camera assist, the lighting assist and the second boom op if necessary. I don’t know how a US production would get away with that. There’s no chance that someone who touches lights on a union production can also touch a boom.”

Post Production
Shortland Street’s post department is still working from home. Now that they are back in production, they are starting to look at more efficient ways to work remotely. While there are a lot of great tools out there for remote post workflows, Reeve notes that for them it’s not that easy, especially when hardware and support are halfway across the world, borders are closed and supply chains are disrupted.

There are collaboration tools that exist, but they haven’t been used “simply because the pace and volume of our production means it’s often hard to adapt for those kinds of products,” he says. “Every time we roll camera, we’re rolling four streams of DNxHD 185, so nearly 800Mb/s each time we roll. We record that media directly into the server to be edited within hours, so putting that in the cloud or doing anything like that was never the best workflow solution. When we wanted feedback, we just grabbed people from the building and dragged them into the edit suite when we wanted them to look at something.”

Ideally, he says, they would have tested and invested in these tools six months ago. “We are in what I call a duct tape stage. We’re taking things that exist, that look useful, and we’re trying to tape them together to make a solution that works for us. Coming out of this, I’m going to have to look at the things we’ve learned and the opportunities that exist and decide whether or not there might be some ways we can change our future production. But at the moment, we’re just trying to make it through.”

Because Shortland Street has only just resumed shooting, they haven’t reached the point yet where they need to do what Reeve calls “the first collaborative director/editor thing” from start to finish. “But there are two plans that we’re working toward. The easy, we-know-it-works plan is that we do an output, we stick it on Frame.io, the director watches it, puts notes on it, sends it back to us. We know that works, and we do that sometimes with directors anyway.

“The more exciting idea is that we have the directors join us on a remote link and watch the episodes as they would if they were in the room. We’ve experimented with a few things and haven’t found a solution that makes us super-happy. It’s tricky because we don’t have an existing hardware solution in place that’s designed specifically for streaming a broadcast output signal over an internet connection. We can do a screen-share, and we’ve experimented with Zoom and AnyDesk, but in both those cases, I’ve found that sometimes the picture will break up unacceptably, or sync will drift — especially using desktop-sharing software that’s not really designed to share full-screen video.”

Reeve and crew are just about to experiment with a tool used for gaming called Parsec. It’s designed to share low-latency, in-sync, high-frame-rate video. “This would allow us to share an entire desktop at, theoretically, 60fps with half-second latency or less. Very brief tests looked good. Plan A is to get the directors to join us on Parsec and screen-share a full-screen output off Avid. They can watch it down and discuss with the editor in real time or just make their own notes and work through it interactively. If that experience isn’t great, or if the directors aren’t enjoying it, or if it’s just not working for some reason, we’ll fall back to outputting a video, uploading it to Frame.io and waiting for notes.

What’s Next?
What are the next steps for other productions returning to work? Shortland Street is the only production that chose to resume under Level 3. The New Zealand Film Commission has said that filming will resume eventually under Level 2, which is being rolled out in several stages beginning this week. Shortland Street’s production company has several other shows, but none have plans to resume yet.

“I think it’s a lot harder for them to stay contained because they can’t shoot everything in the studio,” explains Reeve. “Our production has an added advantage because it is constantly shooting and the core cast and crew are mostly the same every day. I think these types of productions will find it easiest to come back.”

Reeve says that anyone coming into their building has to sign in and deliver a health declaration — recent travel, contact with any sick person, other work they’ve been engaged in. “I think if you can do some of that reasonable contact tracing with the people in your production, it will be easier to start again. The more contained you can keep it, the better. It’s going to be hard for productions that are on location, have high turnover or a large number of extras — anything where they can’t keep within a bubble.

“From a post point of view, I think we’re going to get a lot more comfortable working remotely,” he continues. “And there are lots of editors who already do that, especially in New Zealand. If that can become the norm, and if there are tools and workflows that are well established to support that, it could be really good for post production. It offers a lot of great opportunities for people to essentially broaden their client essentially or the geographic regions in which they can work.

Productions are going to have to make their own sort of health and safety liability decisions, according to Reeve. “All of the things we are doing are effectively responding to New Zealand government regulation, but that won’t be the case for everyone else.”

He sees some types of production finding an equilibrium. “Love Island might be the sort of reality show you can make. You can quarantine everyone going into that show for 14 days, make sure they’re all healthy, and then shoot the show because you’re basically isolated from the world. Survivor as well, things like that. But a reality show where people are running around the streets isn’t happening anymore. There’s no Amazing Race, that’s for sure.”


After a 20-year career talent-side, Katie Hinsen turned her attention to building, developing and running post facilities with a focus on talent, unique business structures and innovative use of technology. She has worked on over 90 major feature and episodic productions, founded the Blue Collar Post Collective, and currently leads the dailies & DI department at Nice Shoes.


Video Chat: Posting Late Night With Seth Meyers from home

By Randi Altman

For many, late-night shows have been offering up laughs during a really tough time, with hosts continuing to shoot from dens, living rooms, backyards and country houses, often with spouses and kids pitching in as crew.

NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers is one of those shows. They had their last in-studio taping on March 13, followed by a scheduled hiatus week, followed by the news they wouldn’t be able to come back to the studio. That’s when his team started preproduction and workflow testing to figure out questions like “How are we going to transfer files?” and “How are we going to get it on the air?”

I recently interviewed associate director and lead editor Dan Dome about their process and how that workflow has been allowing Meyers to check in daily from his wasp-ridden and probably haunted attic.

(Watch our original Video Interview here or below.)

How are you making this remote production work?
We’re doing a combination of things. We are using our network laptops to edit footage that’s coming in for interviews or comedy pieces. That’s all being done locally, meaning on our home systems and without involving our SAN or anything like that. So we’re cutting interviews and comedy pieces and then sending links out for approval via Dropbox. Why Dropbox? The syncing features are really great when uploading and downloading footage to all the various places we need to send it.

Once a piece is approved and ready to go into the show — we know the timings are right, we know the graphics are right, we know the spelling is correct, audio levels look good, video levels look good — then we upload that back to Dropbox and back to our computers at 30 Rock where our offices are located. We’re virtually logging into our machines there to compile the show. So, yeah, there are a few bits and pieces to building stuff remotely. And then there are a few bits and pieces to actually compiling the show on our systems back at home base.

What do you use for editing?
We’re still on Adobe Premiere. We launched on Premiere when the show started in February of 2014, and we’re still using that version — it’s solid and stable, and doing a daily show, we don’t necessarily get a ton of time to test new versions. So we have a stable version that we like for doing the show composite aspect of things.

When we’re back at 30 Rock and editing remote pieces, we’re using the newer versions of Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015.2 9.2.0 (41 Build). At home we are using Premiere Pro CC 2020 14.0.4 (Build 18).

Let talk about how Seth’s been shooting. What’s his main camera?
Some of the home studio recording has been on iPads and iPhones. Then we’re using Zoom to do interviews, and there are multiple records of that happening. The files are then uploaded and downloaded between the edit team, and our director is in on the interviews, setting up cameras and trying to get it to look the best it can.

Once those interviews are done, the different records get uploaded to Dropbox. On my home computer, I use a 6TB CalDigit drive for Dropbox syncing and media storage. (Devon Schwab and Tony Dolezal, who are also editing pieces, use 4TB G-RAID drives with Thunderbolt 3.) So as soon as they tell me the file is up, I sync locally on the folder I know it’s going to, the media automatically downloads, and we simultaneously download it to our systems at 30 Rock. So it syncs there as well. We have multiple copies of it, and if we need to, we can hand off a project between me, Devin or Tony; we can do that pretty easily.

Have you discovered any challenges or happy surprises working this way?
It has been a nice happy surprise that it’s like, “Oh wow, this is working pretty well.” We did have a situation where we thought we might lose power on the East coast because of rains and winds and things like that. So we had safeguards in place for that, as far as having an evergreen show that was ready to go for that night in case we did end up losing power. It would have been terrible, but everything held up, and it worked pretty well.

So there are certainly some challenges to working this way, but it’s amazing that we are working and we can keep our mind on other things and just try to help entertain people while this craziness is going on.

You can watch our original Video Interview with Dome here:


Chimney Group: Adapting workflows in a time of crisis

By Dana Bonomo

In early March, Chimney delivered a piece for TED, created to honor women on International Women’s Day featuring Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code. This was in the early days of coronavirus taking hold in the United States. We had little comprehension at that point of the true extent to which we would be impacted as a country and as an industry. As the situation grew and awareness around the severity of the COVID-19 health crisis sunk in, we started to realize that it would be animated projects like this one that we would come to rely upon.

TED & Ultimate Software: International Women’s Day

This film showcases the use of other creative solutions when live-action projects can’t be shot. But the real function of work like this is that, on an emotional level, it feels good to make something with a socially actionable message.

In just the last few weeks, platforms have been saturated with COVID-19-related content: salutes to healthcare workers, PSAs from federal, state and local authorities and brands sharing messages of unity. Finding opportunities that can include some form of social purpose help provide hope to our communities while also raising the spirits of those creating it. We are currently in production on two of these projects and they help us feel like we’re contributing in some small way with the resources we have.

As a global company, Chimney is always highlighting our worldwide service capabilities, with 12 offices on four continents, and our abilities to work together. We’ve routinely used portals such as Zoho and Slack in the past, yet now I’m enjoying the shift in how we’re communicating with each other in a more connected and familiar way. Just a short time ago we might have used a typical workflow, and today we’re sharing and exchanging ideas and information at an exponential rate.

As a whole, we prefer to video chat, have more follow-ups and create more opportunities to work on internal company goals in addition to just project pipelines and calendars. There’s efficiency in brainstorming and solving creative challenges in real time, either as a virtual brainstorm or idea exchange in PM software and project communication channels. So at the end of a meeting, internal review or present, current project kick off, we have action items in place and ready to facilitate on a global scale.

Our company’s headquarters is in Stockholm, Sweden. You may have heard that Sweden’s health officials have taken a different approach to handling COVID-19 than most countries, and it is resulting in less drastic social distancing and isolation measures while still being quite mindful of safety. Small shoots are still possible with crews of 10 or less — so we can shoot in Sweden with a fully protected crew, executing safe and sanitary protocols —and we can livestream to clients worldwide from set.

This is Chimney editor Sam O’Hare’s work-from-home setup.

Our CEO North America Marcelo Gandola is encouraging us individually to schedule personal development time, whether it’s for health and wellness, master classes on subjects that interest us, certifications for our field of expertise, or purely creative and expressive outlets. Since many of us used our commute time for that before the pandemic, we can still use that time for emotional recharging in different ways. By setting aside time for this, we regain some control of our situation. It lifts our morale and it can be very self-affirming, personally and professionally.

While most everyone has remote work capabilities these days, there’s a level of creative energy in the air, driven by the need to employ different tactics — either by working with what you have (optimizing existing creative assets, produced content, captured content from the confines of home) or replacing what was intended to be live-action with some form of animation or graphics. For example, Chimney’s Creative Asset Optimization has been around for some time now. Using Edisen, our customization platform, we can scale brands’ creative content on any platform, in any market at any time, without spending more. From title changes to language versioning and adding incremental design elements, clients get bigger volumes of content with high-quality creative for all channels and platforms. So a campaign that might have had a more limited shelf life on one platform can now stretch to an umbrella campaign with a variety of applications depending on its distribution.

Dana Bonomo

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s exciting to see how brands and makers are creatively solving current challenges. Our visual effects team recently worked on a campaign (sorry we can’t name this yet) that took existing archival footage and — with the help of VFX — generated content that resonated with audiences today. We’re also helping clients figure out remote content capture solutions in lieu of their live events getting canceled.

I was recently on a Zoom call with students at my alma mater, SUNY Oneonta, in conversation with songwriter and producer John Mayer. He said he really feels for students and younger people during this time, because there’s no point of reference for them to approach this situation. The way the younger generation is adapting — reacting by living so fully despite so many limitations — they are the ones building that point of reference for the future. I think that holds true for all generations… there will always be something to be learned. We don’t fully know what the extent of our learning will be, but we’re working creatively to make the most of it.

Main Image: Editor Zach Moore’s cat is helping him edit


Dana Bonomo is managing director at Chimney Group in NYC.

Working From Home: VFX house The Molecule

By Randi Altman

With the COVID-19 crisis affecting all aspects of our industry, we’ve been talking to companies that have set up remote workflows to meet their clients’ needs. One of those studios is The Molecule, which is based in New York and has a location in LA as well. The Molecule has focused on creating visual effects for episodics and films since its inception in 2005.

Blaine Cone 

The Molecule artists are currently working on series such as Dickinson and Little Voice (AppleTV+), Billions (Showtime), Genius: Aretha (NatGeo), Schooled and For Life (ABC) and The Stranger (Quibi). And on the feature side, there is Stillwater (Focus Features) and Bliss (Amazon). Other notable projects include The Plot Against America (HBO), Fosse/Verdon (FX) and The Sinner (USA).

In order to keep these high-profile projects flowing, head of production Blaine Cone and IT manager Kevin Hopper worked together to create the studio’s work-from-home setup.

Let’s find out more…

In the weeks leading up to the shutdown, what were you doing to prepare?
Blaine Cone: We had already been investigating and testing various remote workflows in an attempt to find a secure solution we could extend to artists who weren’t readily available to join us in house. Once we realized this would be a necessity for everyone in the company, we accelerated our plans. In the weeks before the lockdown, we had increasingly larger groups of artists work from home to gradually stress-test the system.

How difficult was it to get that set up?
Cone: We were fortunate to have a head start on our remote secure platform. Because we decided to tie into AWS, as well as into our own servers and farm (custom software running on a custom-built hypervisor server on Dell machines), it took a little while, but once we saw the need to fast-track it we were able to refine our solution pretty quickly. We’re still optimizing and improving behind the scenes, but the artists have been able to work uninterrupted since the beginning.

Kevin Hopper

What was your process in choosing the right tools to make this work?
Kevin Hopper: We have been dedicated to nailing down TPN-compliant remote work practices for the better part of a year now. We knew that there was a larger market of artists available for us to tap into if we could get a remote work solution configured properly from a security standpoint. We looked through a few companies offering full remote working suites via Teradici PCOIP setups and ultimately decided to configure our own images and administer them to our users ourselves. This route gives us the most flexibility and allows us to accurately and effectively mirror our required security standards.

Did employees bring home their workstations/monitors? How is that working?
Cone: In the majority of cases, employees are using their home workstations and monitors to tap into their dedicated AWS instance. In fact, the home setup could be relatively modest because they were tapping into a very strong machine on the cloud. In a few cases, we sent home 4K monitors with individuals so they could better look at their work..

Can you describe your set up and what tools you are using?
Cone: We are using Teradici to give artists access to dedicated, powerful and secure AWS machines to work off of files on our server. This is set up for Nuke, Maya, Houdini, Mocha, Syntheyes, Krita, Resolve, Mari and Substance Painter. We spin up the AWS instances in the morning and then down again after the workday is over. It allows us to scale as necessary, and it limits the amount of technical troubleshooting and support we might have to do otherwise. We have our own internal workflow tools built into the workflow just as we did when artists were at our office. It’s been relatively seamless.

Fosse/Verdon

How are you dealing with the issues of security while artists are working remotely?
Cone: Teradici gives us the security we need to ensure that the data exists only on our servers. It limits the artists from web traffic as well.

How is this allowing you to continue creating visual effects for shows?
Cone: It’s really not dissimilar to how we normally work. The most challenging change has been the lack of in-person interaction. Shotgun, which we use to manage our shots, still serves as our creative hub, but Slack has become an even more integral aspect of our communication workflow as we’ve gone remote. We’ve also set up regular team calls, video chats and more to make up for the lack of interpersonal interaction inherent in a remote scenario.

Can you talk about review and approval on shots?
Cone: Our supervisors are all set up with Teradici to review shots securely. They also have 4K monitors. In some cases, artists are doing Region of Interest to review their work. We’ve continued our regular methods of delivery to our clients so that they can review and approve as necessary.

How many artists do you have working remotely right now?
Cone: Between supervisors, producers, artists and support staff in NY and LA, we have about 50 remote users working on a daily basis. Our Zoom chats are a lot of fun. In a strange way, this has brought us all closer together than ever before.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

 

Behind the Title: Unit9 director Matthew Puccini

This young director has already helmed two short films, Dirty and Lavender, that got into Sundance. And he still finds time to edit when his schedule allows. 

Name: Director Matthew Puccini

Can you describe Unit9?
Unit9, which has headquarters in London and Los Angeles, is a global production company that represents a team of producers and film directors, creative and art directors, designers, architects, product designers, software engineers and gaming experts. I’m based in Brooklyn.

Puccini on set of Dirty

What would surprise people the most about what falls under the title of director?
These days, there’s a certain element of self-promotion that’s required to be a young director. We have to figure out how to brand ourselves in a way that people might not have had to do 10 to 15 years ago when the Internet wasn’t as prevalent in how people discovered new artists. I constantly have to be tip-toeing back and forth between the creative side of the work and the more strategic side — getting the work seen and amplified as much as possible.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of directing is the collaborative aspect of it. I love that it offers this unique ability to dip into so many other disciplines and to involve so many other incredible, wildly different people.

What’s your least favorite?
The salesperson aspect of it can be frustrating. In a perfect world it would be nice to just make things and not have to worry about the back end of finding an audience. But at the same time, sometimes being forced to articulate your vision in a way that’s palatable to a financier or a production company can be helpful in figuring out what the core of the idea is. It’s a necessary evil.

Why did you choose this profession? How early on did you know this would be your path?
I fell in love with directing in high school. We had an amazing theater program at my school. I started off mainly acting, and then there was one show where I ended up being the assistant director instead of acting. That experience was so wonderful and fulfilling and I realized that I preferred being on that side of things. That happened parallel to getting my first video camera, which I enjoyed as a hobby but began to take more seriously during my junior and senior years of high school.

What was it about directing that attracted you?
I fell in love with working with actors to craft performances. The whole process requires so much collaboration and trust and vulnerability. Over time, I’ve also grown to appreciate filmmaking as a means of filling in gaps in representation. I get to highlight human experiences that I feel like I haven’t seen properly portrayed before. It’s wish fulfillment, in a sense; you get to make the work that you wish you were seeing as an audience member.

Puccini on set of Lavender

How do you pick the people you work with on a particular project?
I began making work while I was in school in New York, so there’s a wonderful community of people that I met in college and with whom I still work. I also continue to meet new collaborators at film festivals, or will occasionally just reach out to someone after having seen a film of theirs that I responded to. I continue to be amazed by how willing people are to make time for something if they believe in it, even if it seems like it’s far beneath their pay grade.

How do you work with your DP?
It always just starts with me sending them the script and having a meeting to talk about the story. I might have some preconceived ideas going into that meeting about how I’m thinking of shooting it — what my visual references were while writing the script — but I try to stay open to what they imagined when they were reading it. From there, it’s a very organic process of us pulling references and gradually building a look book together of colors, lighting styles, compositions and textures.

It could be as specific as a frame that we want to be completely copy or as general as a feeling that an image evokes, but the idea is that we’re figuring out what our shared vocabulary is going to be before we get to set. My number one need is knowing that the person is just as passionate about the story as I am and is able to tailor their shooting style to what’s right for that particular project.

Do you get involved with the post at all?
Definitely. I’m very involved with every stage of post, working closely with the department heads who are running the show on a more granular level. I love the post process and enjoy being involved as much as possible.

I also work as a video editor myself, which has given me so much awareness and respect for the importance of a good edit and a good editor. I think sometimes it’s easy to waste time and resources on shooting coverage you’re never going to use. So as a director, it’s important even before starting a project for me to think ahead and visualize what the film really needs so that I can be as efficient and decisive as possible on set.

Dirty

Can you talk about Dirty? What was it like getting it ready for Sundance?
We found out that Dirty got into Sundance last November. Obviously, it’s the call of anyone’s dreams and such a wonderful feeling and boost of validation. We had finished the film back in April, so it had been a long time of waiting.

From November to the festival, it was a rush to get the film ready. We got it recolored and remixed, trying to make it as good as possible before it premiered there. It was a bit of a whirlwind. The festival itself was a really special experience. It was incredibly powerful to have a film that, in my mind, is somewhat doing things that are really pushing the boundaries of what we’re seeing on screen and getting to share it with a lot of people. There’s a gay sex scene in the middle of the film, and to have that celebrated and accepted by an important part of the film community was really special.

Can you describe the film?
Dirty is a tender coming-of-age film. It follows two queer teenagers over an afternoon as they navigate intimacy for the first time.

What about Lavender? Do you have a distributor for that?
The film was acquired by Searchlight Pictures out of Sundance last year. They released the film on their Vimeo and YouTube channels last spring. They put the film in theaters for a week in NYC and LA in front of a feature film they were showing, which actually qualified it for the Oscars last year.

Can you describe that film?
The film is about a young gay man who is growing increasingly entangled in the marriage of an older couple. It is the portrait of an unconventional relationship as it blossoms and ultimately unravels.

What is the project that you are most proud of?
To me Dirty and Lavender are both equally important. I don’t have an answer. I’m grateful for both films for different reasons and they are all part of one period of my life — exploring these ideas of intimacy and loneliness and queer people seeking connection. In some ways they’re almost two attempts to answer the same question.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
My laptop for all of the writing and editing I do. I try to watch a lot of movies, so I enjoy my TV. And even though I’m trying to wean myself off my phone as much as possible, I still rely on that throughout the day. Obvious answers I know, but it’s true!

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
I find that watching movies and seeing a lot of theater are often the best ways to get inspired and excited about making new work. I’m trying to meditate more. Starting the day with something like that and building out some introspection into my routine has been really helpful. And therapy, of course. Gotta have therapy.

Sebastian Robertson, Mark Johnson on making Playing For Change’s The Weight

By Randi Altman

If you have any sort of social media presence, it’s likely that you have seen Playing For Change’s The Weight video featuring The Band’s Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr, Lukas Nelson and musicians from all over the world. It’s amazing, and if you haven’t seen it, please click here now. Right now. Then come back and read how it was made.

L-R: Mark Johnson, Robbie Robertson, Sebastian Robertson, Raan Williams and Robin Moxey

The Weight was produced by Mark Johnson and Sebastian Robertson, Robbie’s son. It was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Band’s first studio album, Music From Big Pink, where the song “The Weight” first appeared. Raan Williams and Robin Moxey were also producers on the project.

Playing For Change (PFC) was co-founded by Johnson and Whitney Kroenke in 2002 with the goal to share the music of street musicians worldwide. And it seems the seed of the idea involved the younger Robertson and Johnson. “Mark Johnson is an old friend of mine,” explains Robertson. “I was sitting around in his apartment when he initially conceived the idea of Playing For Change. At first, it was a vehicle that brought street musicians into the spotlight, then it became world musicians, and then it evolved into a big musical celebration.”

Johnson explains further: “Playing For Change was born out of the idea that no matter how many things in life divide us, they will never be as strong as the power of music to bring us all together. We record and film songs around the world to reconnect all of us to our shared humanity and to show the world through the lens of music and art.” Pretty profound words considering current events.

Mermans Mosengo – Kinshasa Congo

Each went on with their busy lives, Robertson as a musician and composer, and Johnson traveling the world capturing all types of music. They reconnected a couple of years ago, and the timing was ideal. “I wanted to do something to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Band’s Music From Big Pink — this beautiful album and this beautiful song that my dad wrote — so I brought it to Mark. I wanted to team up with some friends and we all came together to do something really special for him. That was the driving force behind the production of this video.”

To date, Playing For Change has created over 50 “Songs Around the World” videos — including The Grateful Dead’s Ripple and Jimi Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower — and recorded and filmed over 1,000 musicians across more than 60 countries.

The Weight is beautifully shot and edited, featuring amazingly talented musicians, interesting locales and one of my favorite songs to sing along to. I reached out to Robertson and Johnson to talk through the production, post and audio post.

This was a big undertaking. All those musicians and locales… how did you choose the musicians that were going to take part in it?
Robertson: First, some friends and I went into the studio to record the very basic tracks of the song — the bass, drums, guitar, a piano and a scratch vocal. The first instrument that was added was my dad on rhythm and lead guitar. He heard this very kind of rough demo version of what we had done and played along with it. Then, slowly along the way, we started to replace all those rough instruments with other musicians around them. That’s basically how the process worked.

Larkin Poe – Venice, California

Was there an audition process, or people you knew, like Lukas Nelson and Marcus King? Or did Playing For Change suggest them?
Robertson: Playing For Change was responsible for the world musicians, and I brought in artists like Lukas, my dad, Ringo and Larkin Poe. They have this incredible syndicate of world musicians, so there is no auditioning. So we knew they were going to be amazing. We brought what we had, they added this flavor, and then the song started to take on a new identity because of all these incredible cultures that are added to it. And it just so happened that Lukas was in Los Angeles because he had been recording up at Shangri-La in Malibu. My friend Eric (Lynn) runs that studio, so we got in touch. Then we filmed Lukas.

Is Shangri-La where you initially went to record the very basic parts of the song?
Robertson: It is. The funny and kind of amazing coincidence is that Shangri-La was The Band’s clubhouse in the ’70s. Since then, producer Rick Rubin has taken over. That’s where the band recorded the studio songs of The Last Waltz (film). That’s where they recorded their album, Northern Lights – Southern Cross. Now, here we are 50 years later, recording The Weight.

Mark, how did you choose the locations for the musicians? They were all so colorful and visually stunning.
Johnson: We generally try to work with each musician to find an outdoor location that inspires them and a place that can give the audience a window into their world. Not every location is always so planned out, so we do a lot of improvising to find a suitable location to record and film music live outside.

Shooting Marcus King in Greenville, South Carolina

What did you shoot on? Did you have one DP/crew or use some from all over the world? Were you on set?
Johnson: Most of the PFC videos are recorded and filmed by one crew (Guigo Foggiatto and Joe Miller), including myself, an additional audio person and two camera operators. We work with a local guide to help us find both musicians and locations. We filmed The Weight around the world on 4K with Sony A7 cameras — one side angle, one zoom and a Ronin for more motion.

How did you capture the performances from an audio aspect, and who did the audio post?
Johnson: We record all the musicians around the world live and outside using the same mobile recording studio we’ve used since the beginning of our “Song Around the World” videos over 10 years ago. The only thing that has changed is the way we power everything. In the beginning it was golf cart batteries and then car batteries with big heavy equipment, but fortunately it evolved into lightweight battery packs.

We primarily use Grace mic preamps and Schoeps microphones, and our recording mantra comes from a good friend and musician named Keb’ Mo’. He once told us, “Sound is a feeling first, so if it feels good it will always sound good…” This inspires us to help the musicians to feel comfortable and aware that they are performing along with other musicians from around the world to create something bigger than themselves.

One interesting thing that often comes from this project that differs from life in the studio is that the musicians playing on our songs around the world tend to listen more and play less. They know they are only a part of the performance and so they try to find the best way to fit in and support the song without any ego. This reality makes the editing and mixing process much easier to handle in post.

Lukas Nelson – Austin, Texas

The Weight was recorded by the Playing For Change crew and mixed by Greg Morgenstein, Robin Moxey, Sebastian and me.

What about the editing? All that footage and lining up the song must have been very challenging. I’m assuming cutting your previous videos has given you a lot of experience with this.
Johnson: That is a great question, and one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of the process. It can get really complicated sometimes to edit because we have three cameras per shoot/musician and sometimes many takes of each performance. And sometimes we comp the audio. For example, the first section came from Take 1, the second from Take 6, etc. … and we need to match the video to correspond to each different audio take/performance. We always rough-mix the music first in Avid Pro Tools and then find the corresponding video takes in Adobe Premiere. Whenever we return from a trip, we add the new layer to the Pro Tools session, then the video edit and build the song as we go.

The Weight was a really big audio session in Pro Tools with so many tracks and options to choose from as to who would play what fill or riff and who would sing each verse, and the video session was also huge. with about 20 performances around the world combined with all the takes that go along with them. One of the best parts of the process for me is soloing all the various instruments from around the world and seeing how amazing they all fit together.

You edited this yourself? And who did the color grade?
Johnson: The video was colored by Jon Walls and Yasuhiro Takeuchi on Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and edited by me, along with everyone’s help, using Premiere. The entire song and video took over a year to make, so we had time throughout the process to work together on the rough mixes and rough edits from each location and build it brick by brick as we went along the journey.

Sherieta Lewis and Roselyn Williams – Trenchtown, Jamaica

When your dad is on the bench playing and wearing headphones — and the other artists as well — what are they listening to? Are they listening to the initial sort of music that you recorded in studio, or was it as it evolved, adding the different instruments and stuff? Is that what he was listening to and playing along to?
Robertson: Yeah. My dad would listen to what we recorded, except in his case we muted the guitar, so he was now playing the guitar part. Then, as elements from my dad and Ringo are added, those [scratch] elements were removed from what we would call the demo. So then as it’s traveling around the world, people are hearing more and more of what the actual production is going to be. It was not long before all those scratch tracks were gone and people were listening to Ringo and my dad. Then we just started filling in with the singers and so on and so forth.

I’m assuming that each artist played the song from start to finish in the video, or at least for the video, and then the editor went in and cut different lines together?
Robertson: Yes and no. For example, we asked Lukas to do a very specific part as far as singing. He would sing his verse, and then he would sing a couple choruses and play guitar over his section. It varied like that. Sometimes when necessary, if somebody is playing percussion throughout the whole song, then they would listen to it from start to finish. But if somebody was just being asked to sing a specific section, they would just sing that section.

Rajeev Shrestha – Nepal

How was your dad’s reaction to all of it? From recording his own bit to watching it and listening to the final?
Robertson: He obviously came on board very early because we needed to get his guitar, and we wanted to get him filmed at the beginning of the process. He was kind of like, “I don’t know what the hell you guys are doing, but it seems cool.” And then by the time the end result came, he was like, “Oh my God.” Also, the response that his friends and colleagues had to it… I think they had the similar response to what you had, which is A, how the hell did you do this? And, B, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

It really is amazing. One of my favorite parts of the video is the very end, when your dad’s done playing, looks up and has that huge smile on his face.
Robertson: Yeah. It’s a pulling-at-the-heart-strings moment for me, because that was really a perfect picture of the feeling that I had when it all came together.

You’re a musician as well. What are you up to these days?
Robertson: I have a label under the Universal Production Music umbrella, called Sonic Beat Records. The focus of the label is on contemporary, up-to-the-minute super-slick productions. My collaboration with Universal has been a great one so far; we just started in the fall of 2019, so it’s really new. But I’m finding my way in that family, and they’ve welcomed me with open arms.

Another really fun collaboration was working with my dad on the score for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. That was a wonderful experience for me. I’m happy with how the music that we did turned out. Over the course of my life, my dad and I haven’t collaborated that much. We’ve just been father and son, and good friends, but as of late, we’ve started to put our forces together, and that has been a lot of fun.

L-R: Mark Johnson and Ahmed Al Harmi – Bahrain

Any other scores on the horizon?
Robertson: Yeah. I just did another score for a documentary film called Let There Be Drums!, which is a look into the mindset of rock and roll drummers. My friend, Justin Kreutzmann, directed it. He’s the son of Bill Kreutzmann, the drummer of the Grateful Dead. He gave me some original drum tracks of his dad’s and Mickey Hart’s, so I would have all these rhythmic elements to play with, and I got to compose a score on top of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann’s percussive and drumming works. That was a thrill of a lifetime.

Any final thoughts? And what’s next for you, Mark?
Johnson: One of the many amazing things that came out making this video was our partnership with Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa from Bahrain, who works with us to help end the stereotype of terrorism through music by including musicians from the Middle East in our videos. In The Weight watch an oud master in Bahrain cut to a sitar master in Nepal followed by Robbie Robertson and Ringo Starr, and they all work so well together.

One of the best things about Playing For Change is that it never ends. There are always more songs to make, more musicians to record and more people to inspire through the power of music. One heart and one song at a time…


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years.

Updated: Product makers offer support to cope with COVID-19 disruption

This is a weird time for our industry and the world. The best we can do is try to keep working and stay safe. For our part, postPerspective will continue to report industry news and tell stories about workflows, artists and tools, in addition to running pieces about how pros are working remotely… and keeping sane.

In fact, if you have a story about how you are working remotely and keeping on keeping on, please share it with us (info@postPerspective.com). Even though we can’t see each other face to face right now, keeping a sense of community has never been more important.

A number of companies are releasing updates, offering discounts, and even making their remote services free for a limited time in order to help everyone keep working through this pandemic. Here is a bit of news from some of those companies, and we will add more companies to this list as the news comes in, so watch this space.

mLogic
mLogic is offering a 15% discount on its mTape Thunderbolt 3 LTO-7 and LTO-8 solutions The discount applies to orders placed on the mTape website through April 20th. Use discount code mLogicpostPerspective15%.

Xytech
Xytech has launched “Xytech After Dark,” a podcast focusing on trends in the media and broadcasting industries. The first two episodes are now available on iTunes, Spotify and all podcasting platforms.

Xytech’s Greg Dolan says the podcast “is not a forum to sell, but instead to talk about why create the functionality in MediaPulse and the types of things happening in our industry.”

Hosted by Xytech’s Gregg Sandheinrich, the podcast will feature Xytech staff, along with special guests. The first two episodes cover topics including the recent HPA Tech Retreat (featuring HPA president Seth Hallen), as well as the cancellation of the NAB Show, the value of trade shows and the effects of COVID-19 on the industry.

Nvidia
Nvidia is expanding its free virtual GPU software evaluation to 500 licenses for 90 days to help companies support their remote workers with their existing GPU infrastructure. Nvidia vGPU software licenses — including Quadro Virtual Workstation — enable GPU-accelerated virtualization so that content creators, designers, engineers and others can continue their work. More details are available here.  Nvidia has also posted a separate blog on virtual GPUs to help admins who are working to support remote employees

Object Matrix 
Object Matrix is offering video tips for surviving working from home. The videos, hosted by co-founder Nicholas Pearce, are here.

Adobe
Adobe shared a guide to best practices for working from home. It’s meant to support creators and filmmakers who might be shifting to remote work and need to stay connected with their teams and continue to complete projects. You can find the guide here.

Adobe’s principal Creative Cloud evangelist, Jason Levine, hosted a live stream — Video Workflows With Team Projects ±that focus on remote workflows.

Additionally, Karl Soule, Senior Technical Business Development Manager, hosed a stream focusing on Remote video workflows and collaboration in the enterprise. If you sign up on this page, you can see his presentation.

Streambox
Streambox has introduced a pay-as-you-go software plan for video professionals who use its Chroma 4K, Chroma UHD, Chroma HD and Chroma X streaming encoder/decoder hardware. Since the software has been “decoupled” from the hardware platform, those who own the hardware can rent the software on a monthly basis, pause the subscription between projects and reinstate it as needed. By renting software for a fixed period, creatives can take on jobs without having to pay outright for technology that might have been impractical.

And last week’s offerings as well

Frame.io 
Through the end of March, Frame.io is offering 2TB of free extra storage capacity for 90 days. Those who could use that additional storage to accommodate work from home workflows should email rapid-response@frame.io to get it set up.

Frame.io is also offering free Frame.io Enterprise plans for the next 90 days to support educational institutions, nonprofits and health care organizations that have been impacted. Please email rapid-response@frame.io to set up this account.

To help guide companies through this new reality of remote working, Frame.io is launching a new “Workflow From Home” series on YouTube, hosted by Michael Cioni, with the first episode launching Monday, March 23rd. Cioni will walk through everything artists need to keep post production humming as smoothly as possible. Subscribe to the Frame.io YouTube channel to get notified when it’s released.

EditShare
EditShare has made its web-based, remote production and collaboration tool, Flow Media Management, free through July 1st. Flow enables individuals as well as large creative workgroups to collaborate on story development with capabilities to perform extensive review approval from anywhere in the world. Those interested can complete this form and one of EditShare’s Flow experts will follow up.

Veritone 
Veritone will extend free access to its core applications — Veritone Essentials, Attribute and Digital Media Hub — for 60 days. Targeted to media and entertainment clients in radio, TV, film, sports and podcasting, Veritone Essentials, Attribute, and Digital Media Hub are designed to make data and content sharing easy, efficient and universal. The solutions give any workforce (whether in the office or remote) tools that accelerate workflows and facilitate collaboration. The solutions are fully cloud-based, which means that staff can access them from any home office in the world as long as there is internet access.

More information about the free access is here. Certain limitations apply. Offer is subject to change without notice.

SNS
In an effort to quickly help EVO users who are suddenly required to work on editing projects from home, SNS has released Nomad for on-the-go, work-from-anywhere, remote workflows. It is a simple utility that runs on any Mac or Windows system that’s connected to EVO.

Nomad helps users repurpose their existing ShareBrowser preview files into proxy files for offline editing. These proxy files are much smaller versions of the source media files, and therefore easier to use for remote work. They take up less space on the computer, take less time to copy and are easier to manage. Users can edit with these proxy files, and after they’re finished putting the final touches on the production, their NLE can export a master file using the full-quality, high-resolution source files.

Nomad is available immediately and free to all EVO customers.

Ftrack
Remote creative collaboration tool ftrack Review is free for all until May 31. This date might extend as the global situation continues to unfold. ftrack Review is an out-of-the-box remote review and approval tool that enables creative teams to collaborate on, review and approve media via their desktop or mobile browser. Contextual comments and annotations eliminate confusion and reduce reliance on email threads. ftrack Review accepts many media formats as well as PDFs. Every ftrack Review workspace receives 250 GB of storage.

DejaSoft
DejaSoft is offering editors 50% off all their DejaEdit licenses through the end of April. In addition, the company will help users implement DejaEdit in the best way possible to suit their workflow.

DejaEdit allows editors to share media files and timelines automatically and securely with remote co-workers around the world, without having to be online continuously. It helps editors working on Avid Nexis, Media Composer and EditShare workflows across studios, production companies and post facilities ensure that media files, bins and timelines are kept up to date across multiple remote edit stations.

Cinedeck 
Cinedeck’s cineXtools allows editing and correcting your file deliveries from home.
From now until April 3rd, pros can get a one month license of cineXtools free of charge.

Main Image: Courtesy of Adobe

Frame.io 
Through the end of March, Frame.io is offering 2TB of free extra storage capacity for 90 days. Those who could use that additional storage to accommodate work from home workflows should email rapid-response@frame.io to get it set up.

Frame.io is also offering free Frame.io Enterprise plans for the next 90 days to support educational institutions, nonprofits and health care organizations that have been impacted. Please email rapid-response@frame.io to set up this account.

To help guide companies through this new reality of remote working, Frame.io is launching a new “Workflow From Home” series on YouTube, hosted by Michael Cioni, with the first episode launching Monday, March 23rd. Cioni will walk through everything artists need to keep post production humming as smoothly as possible. Subscribe to the Frame.io YouTube channel to get notified when it’s released.

EditShare
EditShare has made its web-based, remote production and collaboration tool, Flow Media Management, free through July 1st. Flow enables individuals as well as large creative workgroups to collaborate on story development with capabilities to perform extensive review approval from anywhere in the world. Those interested can complete this form and one of EditShare’s Flow experts will follow up.

Veritone 
Veritone will extend free access to its core applications — Veritone Essentials, Attribute and Digital Media Hub — for 60 days. Targeted to media and entertainment clients in radio, TV, film, sports and podcasting, Veritone Essentials, Attribute, and Digital Media Hub are designed to make data and content sharing easy, efficient and universal. The solutions give any workforce (whether in the office or remote) tools that accelerate workflows and facilitate collaboration. The solutions are fully cloud-based, which means that staff can access them from any home office in the world as long as there is internet access.

More information about the free access is here. Certain limitations apply. Offer is subject to change without notice.

SNS
In an effort to quickly help EVO users who are suddenly required to work on editing projects from home, SNS has released Nomad for on-the-go, work-from-anywhere, remote workflows. It is a simple utility that runs on any Mac or Windows system that’s connected to EVO.

Nomad helps users repurpose their existing ShareBrowser preview files into proxy files for offline editing. These proxy files are much smaller versions of the source media files, and therefore easier to use for remote work. They take up less space on the computer, take less time to copy and are easier to manage. Users can edit with these proxy files, and after they’re finished putting the final touches on the production, their NLE can export a master file using the full-quality, high-resolution source files.

Nomad is available immediately and free to all EVO customers.

Ftrack
Remote creative collaboration tool ftrack Review is free for all until May 31. This date might extend as the global situation continues to unfold. ftrack Review is an out-of-the-box remote review and approval tool that enables creative teams to collaborate on, review and approve media via their desktop or mobile browser. Contextual comments and annotations eliminate confusion and reduce reliance on email threads. ftrack Review accepts many media formats as well as PDFs. Every ftrack Review workspace receives 250 GB of storage.

DejaSoft
DejaSoft is offering editors 50% off all their DejaEdit licenses through the end of April. In addition, the company will help users implement DejaEdit in the best way possible to suit their workflow.

DejaEdit allows editors to share media files and timelines automatically and securely with remote co-workers around the world, without having to be online continuously. It helps editors working on Avid Nexis, Media Composer and EditShare workflows across studios, production companies and post facilities ensure that media files, bins and timelines are kept up to date across multiple remote edit stations.

Adobe
Adobe has shared a guide to best practices for working from home, created in support of creators and filmmakers who may be shifting to remote work and need to stay connected with their teams and continue to complete projects. You can find the guide below and here.

Adobe’s Jason Levine and Karl Soule will also be hosting two livestreams this week that focus on remote workflows, in the hopes of offering helpful tips during this uncertain time – details are below.

Cinedeck 
Cinedeck’s cineXtools allows editing and correcting your file deliveries from home.
From now until April 3rd, pros can get a one month license of cineXtools free of charge.

Main Image: Courtesy of Frame.io

Finishing artist Tim Nagle discuses work on indie film Miss Juneteenth

Lucky Post Flame artist Tim Nagle has a long list of projects under his belt, including collaborations with David Lowery — providing Flame work on the short film Pioneer as well as finishing and VFX work to Lowery’s motion picture A Ghost Story. He is equally at home working on spots, such as campaigns for AT&T, Hershey’s, The Home Depot, Jeep, McDonald’s and Ram..

Nagle began his formal career on the audio side of the business, working as engineer for Solid State Logic, where he collaborated with clients including Fox, Warner Bros., Skywalker, EA Games and ABC.

Tim Nagle

We reached out to Nagle about his and Lucky Post’s work on the feature film Miss Juneteenth, which premiered at Sundance and was recently honored by SXSW 2020 as the winner of the Louis Black Lone Star award.

Miss Juneteenth was directed (and written) by Channing Godfrey Peoples — her first feature-length film. It focuses on a woman from the south — a bona fide beauty queen once crowned Miss Juneteenth, a title commemorating the day slavery was abolished in Texas. The film follows her journey as she tries to hold onto her elegance while striving to survive. She looks for ways to thrive despite her own shortcomings as she marches, step by step, toward self-realization.

How did the film come to you?
We have an ongoing relationship with Sailor Bear, the film’s producing team of David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks and James Johnston. We’ve collaborated with them on multiple projects, including The Old Man & The Gun, directed by Lowery.

What were you tasked to do?
We were asked to provide dailies transcoding, additional editorial, VFX, color and finishing and ultimately delivery to distribution.

How often did you talk to director Channing Godfrey Peoples?
Channing was in the studio, working side by side with our creatives, including colorist Neil Anderson and me, to get the project completed for the Sundance deadline. It was a massive team effort, and we felt privileged to help Channing with her debut feature.

Without spoilers, what most inspires you about the film?
There’s so much to appreciate in the film — it’s a love letter to Texas, for one. It’s directed by a woman, has a single mother at its center and is a celebration of black culture. The LA Times called it one of the best films to come out of Sundance 2020.

Once you knew the film was premiering at Sundance, what was left to complete and in what amount of time?
This was by far the tightest turnaround we have ever experienced. Everything came down to the wire, sound being the last element. It’s one of the advantages of having a variety of talent and services under one roof — the creative collaboration was immediate, intense and really made possible by our shorthand and proximity.

How important do you think it is for post houses to be diversified in terms of the work they do?
I think diversification is important not only for business purposes but also to keep the artists creatively inspired. Lucky Post’s ongoing commitment to support independent film, both financially and creatively, is an integrated part of our business along with brand-supported work and advertising. Increasingly, as you see greater crossover of these worlds, it just seems like a natural evolution for the business to have fewer silos.

What does it mean to you as a company to have work at Sundance? What kinds of impact do you see — business, morale and otherwise?
Having a project that we put our hands on accepted into Sundance was such an honor. It is unclear what the immediate and direct business impacts might be, but for morale, this is often where the immediate value is clear. The excitement and inspiration we all get from projects like this just naturally makes how we do business better.

What software and hardware did you use?
On this project we started with Assimilate Scratch for dailies creation. Editorial was done in Adobe Premiere. Color was Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, and finishing was done in Autodesk Flame.

What is a piece of advice that you’d give to filmmakers when considering the post phase of their films?
We love being involved as early as possible — certainly not to get in anyone’s way,  but to be in the background supporting the director’s creative vision. I’d say get with a post company that can assist in setting looks and establishing a workflow. With a little bit of foresight, this will create the efficiency you need to deliver in what always ends up being a tight deadline with the utmost quality.

Workstations: Offline Editing Workflows

By Karen Moltenbrey

When selecting a workstation, post facilities differ in their opinions about what’s most important, depending on the function the workstations will serve. It goes without saying that everyone wants value. And for some, power is tantamount. For others, speed is a top priority. And for others still, reliability reigns supreme. Luckily for users, today’s workstations can check all those boxes.

As Eric Mittan, director of technology at New York’s Jigsaw Productions, is quick to point out, it’s hard to fathom the kinds of upgrades in power we’ve seen in workstations just in the time he has been working with them professionally. He recalls that in 2004, it took an overnight encoding session to author a standard-definition DVD with just one hour of video — and that task was performed on one of the first dual-processor desktops available to the regular consumer. “Nowadays, that kind of video transcode can take 15 minutes on a ‘light’ laptop, to say nothing of the fact that physical media like the DVD has gone the way of the dinosaur,” he says.

Eric Mittan

That is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the revolution that workstations have undergone in a very short period. Here, we examine the types of workstations that a pair of studios are using for their editing tasks. Jigsaw, a production company, does a large portion of its own post through Apple iMacs that run Avid Media Composer; it is also a client of post houses for work such as color and final deliverables. Meanwhile, another company, Final Cut, is also a Mac-based operation, running Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere Pro, although the company’s Flames run on HP workstations.

[Editor’s Note: These interviews were done prior to the coronavirus lockdown.]

Jigsaw Productions
Jigsaw Productions is a documentary television and film company that was founded in 1978 by documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney. It has since transitioned from a company that made one movie at a time to one that is simultaneously producing multiple features and series for distribution by a number of networks and distribution partners.

Today, Jigsaw does production and offline editorial for all its own films and series. “Our commitment is to filmmakers bringing real stories to their audience,” Mittan says. Jigsaw’s film and episodic projects include the  political (Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer), the musical (History of the Eagles) and the athletic (The Armstrong Lie).

On the technical front, Jigsaw does all the creative editorial in house using Avid’s Media Composer. After Jigsaw’s producers and directors are satisfied with the storytelling, the lion’s share of the more technical work is left to the company’s partners at various post houses, such as Harbor, Technicolor, Light Iron and Final Frame, among others. Those facilities do the color timing and DCP generation in the case of the feature titles. Most of the conform and online work for Jigsaw’s TV series is now done in house and then sent out for color.

“I wouldn’t say for sure that we have mastered the Avid-to-Resolve online workflow, but we have become better at it with each project,” says Mittan. It’s Mittan’s job to support post and offline operations along with the needs of the others in the office. The backbone of the post fleet comprises 26 (2018) 27-inch i7 iMacs with 32GB of RAM. During 2018 and 2019, Jigsaw experienced a period of rapid growth, adding 19 new edit suites. (That was in addition to the original 13 built out before Mittan came aboard in 2017.) There are also some earlier iMac models that are used for lighter tasks, such as screening, occasional transcoding and data transfers, as well as eight Mac mini screening stations and five Mac Pro cylinders for heavy transcoding and conform/online tasks. Approximately 10 or more 2019 models round out the remainder of the hardware, though they were purchased with i5 processors, not i7s.

“Jigsaw’s rapid expansion pushed us to buy new machines in addition to replacing a significant portion of our 2012/2013 model Mac Pro and iMac units that had comprised most of our workstations prior to my arrival,” Mittan notes. Each project group at the company is responsible for its own data management and transcoding its own dailies.

Furthermore, Jigsaw has an Avid Nexis shared storage system. “Our editors need to be able to run the latest version of Avid and must maintain and play back multiple streams of DNxHR SQ via a 1Gb connection to our Nexis shared storage. While documentary work tends to be lower resolution and/or lower bandwidth than narrative scripted work, every one of our editors deserves to be able to craft a story with as few technical hiccups as possible,” says Mittan. “Those same workstations frequently need to handle heavy transcodes from interview shoots and research archive gathered each day by production teams.”

When buying new equipment, Mittan looks to strikes a balance between economy and sustainability. While the work at Jigsaw does not always require the latest and greatest of all possible end-user technology, he says, each purchase needs to be made with an eye toward how useful it will remain three to five years into the future.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

While expansion in the past few years resulted in the need for additional purchases, Mittan is hoping to get Jigsaw on a regular schedule of cycling through each of the units over a period of five to six years. Optimally, the edit suite units are used for between three or more years before being downgraded for lighter tasks and eventually used as screening stations for Jigsaw’s producers. Even beyond that, the post machines could see life in years six to eight as office workstations for some of the non-post staff and interns. Although Mittan has yet to access one of the new Mac Pro towers, he is impressed by what he has read and hopes for an acquisition in 2021 to replace the Mac Pro cylinders for online and conform work.

Post at Jigsaw runs Avid Media Composer on the Apple machines. They also use the Adobe Creative Cloud suite for motion graphics within Adobe After Effects and Photoshop. Mittan has also implemented a number of open-source software tools to supplement Jigsaw’s tool kit for assistant editors. That includes command-line tools (like FFmpeg) for video and audio transcodes and Rsync for managed file transfers and verification.

“I’ve even begun to write a handful of custom software scripts that have made short work of tasks common to documentary filmmaking — mostly the kind of common video transcoding jobs that would usually require a paid title but that can be taken care of just as well with free software,” he says.

Additionally, Jigsaw makes frequent use of servers, either functioning as a device for a specific task or for automation.

Jigsaw has done projects for HBO (Robin Williams Come Into My Mind), Showtime (Enemies: The President, Justice & the FBI), Discovery Channel (Why We Hate), A&E (The Clinton Affair) and more, as well as for Netflix (Salt Fat Acid Heat, The Family) — work Mittan describes as an exercise in managing more and more pixels.

The Family

Indeed, documentaries can present big challenges when it comes to dealing with a plethora of media formats. “Documentary work can frequently deal with subjects that have already had a significant media footprint in legacy resolutions. This means that if you’re trying to build a documentary in 4K, you’re going to be dealing with archival footage that is usually HD or SD. You may shoot a handful of new interviews in your new, so-called ‘native’ footage but be overwhelmed by hours upon hours of footage from a VHS collection, or stories that have been downloaded from the website of a TV station in the Midwest,” he adds.

“Working with mixed resolutions means you have to have the capability of running and gunning with your new 4K footage, but the lower resolutions can’t leave your creative editors feeling as though they’ve been left with remnants from another time in history. Blending all of those elements together in a way that tells a cohesive story requires technology that can bring together all of those pieces (and newly generated elements like graphics and reenactments) into a unified piece of media without letting your viewing audience feel the whiplash of frequent resolution changes.”

Miky Wolf

Final Cut
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Final Cut was founded in London by editor Rick Russell. It expanded to New York 20 years ago and to Los Angeles 15 years ago. Across all three offices and several subsidiaries – Significant Others VFX, Machine Sound and The Lofts — Final Cut has more than 100 staff and artists worldwide, offering offline editing, online editing, VFX, graphics, finishing, sound design, mixing and original composition, as well as “dry-hire” facilities for long-form content such as original Netflix series like Sex Education.

Primarily, Final Cut does offline creative editorial. Through Significant Others, it offers online editing and finishing. Although, as editor Miky Wolf notes, there are smaller jobs — such as music videos and digital work — for which the facility “does it all.”

Ryan Johnson

The same can be said of technical supervisor Ryan Johnson, whose job it is to design, implement and maintain the technical infrastructure for Final Cut’s New York and Los Angeles offices. This includes the workstations, software, data storage, backups, networking and security. “The best workstations should be like the best edited films. Something you don’t notice. If you are aware of the workstation while you’re working, it’s typically not a good thing,” Wolf says.

Johnson agrees. “Really, the workstation is just there to facilitate the work. It should be invisible. In fact, ours are mostly hidden under desks and are rarely seen. Mostly, it’s a purpose-built machine, designed less for aesthetics and portability than for reliability and practicality.”

Final Cut’s edit room runs off a Mac Pro with 32GB of RAM; there are two editing monitors, a preview monitor on the desk and a client monitor. The majority of the company’s edit workstations are six-core 2013 Mac Pro “trash cans” with AMD FirePro D500 GPUs and 32GB of RAM. There are approximately 16 of these workstations spread between the NY and LA offices. Moreover, the workstations use little to no local storage since the work resides on Avid’s Nexis servers. Each workstation is connected to a pair of 24-inch LCD displays, while video and audio from the edit software are delivered via Blackmagic Design hardware to an LCD preview monitor on the editor’s desk and to an OLED TV for clients.

The assistant editors all work on 27-inch iMacs of various vintages, mainly 2017 i7 models with 32GB of RAM.For on-set/off-site work, Final Cut keeps a fleet of MacBook Pros, mostly the 2015 Thunderbolt 2 pre-Touch Bar models. These travel with USB 3 SSDs for media storage. Final Cut’s Flames, however, all run on dual 12-core HP Z8s with 128GB of RAM. These machines use local SSD arrays for media storage.

According to Johnson, the workstations (running macOS 10.14.6) mostly are equipped with Avid Media Composer or Adobe Premiere Pro, and the editors sometimes “dabble” in Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve (for transcoding or when someone wants to try their hand at editing on it). “We primarily work with compressed proxy footage — typically DNxHD 115 or ProRes LT — at 1080p, so bandwidth requirements aren’t too high. Even lower-spec machines handle a few streams well,” he says. “Sequences that involve many layers or complicated effects will often require rendering, but the machines are fast enough that wait times aren’t too long.”

The editors also use Soundminer’s products for their sound effects library. The assistants perform basic compositing in Adobe After Effects, which the machines handle well, Johnson adds. “However, occasionally they will need to transcode raw/camera original footage to our preferred codec for editing. This is probably the most computationally intensive task for any of the machines, and we’ll try to use newer, faster models for this purpose.”

Stray Dolls feature film

Wherever possible, Final Cut deploys the same types of workstations across all its locations, as maintenance becomes easier when parts are interchangeable, and software compatibility is easier to manage when dealing with a homogeneous collection of machines. Not to mention the political benefit: Everybody gets the same machine, so there’s no workstation envy, so to speak.

Reliability and expandability are the most important factors Johnson considers in a workstation. He acknowledges that the 2013 Mac Pros were a disappointment on both counts: “They had thermal issues from the start — Apple admitted as much — that resulted in unpredictable behavior, and you were stuck with whichever 2013-era GPU you chose when purchasing the machine,” he says. “We expect to get many trouble-free years out of the workstations we buy. They should be easy to fix, maintain and upgrade.”

When selecting workstations for Final Cut, a Macintosh shop, there is not a great deal of choice. “Our choices are quickly narrowed down to whatever Apple happens to be selling,” explains Johnson. “Given the performance tiers of the models available, it is a matter of analyzing our performance needs versus our budget. In an ideal world, the entire staff would be working on the fastest possible machine with the most RAM and so forth, but alas, that is not always in the budget. Therefore, compromise must be found in selecting machines that can capably handle the typical workload and are fast enough not to keep editors and assistants waiting too long for renders.”

The most recent purchase were the new iMacs for the assistants in LA. “For the money, they are great machines, and I’ve found them to be reliable even when pushing them through all night renders, transcodes, etc. They’re at least as fast as the Mac Pros and, in most applications, even faster,” Johnson points out. He expects to replace the 2013 Mac Pros this year.

Florence and the Machine “Big God” music video

Wolf notes that he must be able to work as efficiently at home as he does at the office, “and that’s one nice thing about the evolution of offline editing. A combination of robust laptops and portable SSDs has allowed us to take the work anywhere.”

Using the above-described setup, Final Cut recently finished a campaign for an advertising client in which the edit started on set in LA, continued in the hotel room and then finished back in NY. “We needed to be able to work remotely, even on the plane home, just to get the first cuts done in time,” Wolf explains. “Agencies expect you to be fast. They schedule presentations assuming we can work around the clock to get stuff together — we need systems that can support us.”

Johnson highlighted another recent project with a tight schedule that involved cutting a multi-camera sequence in UHD from portable SSD storage on a standard iMac. “This would have been impossible just a few years ago,” he adds.

Main Image: Netflix’s Sex Education


Karen Moltenbrey is a veteran writer, covering visual effects and post production.

Behind the Title: Akkurat Studios director Andreas Roth

Originally from Hamburg, Andreas Roth is a graduate of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. He began his directing career at 21 and gained momentum with a film for Dirt Devil that went viral, accumulating over 30 million views on Vimeo and garnering an AICP Show honor that placed the piece in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

NAME: Director Andreas Roth

COMPANY: Akkurat Studios

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Akkurat Studios is a creative label sprung out of Berlin and Los Angeles. We act as an artist-driven production and publishing company. We manage talent coming from a variety of acknowledged constellations. We work side by side with brands and agencies to create visionary projects.

Dirt Devil

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE OF DIRECTOR?
Being a psychologist, because you always deal with a bunch of different characters and people. It all comes down to communication; the better that works, the better the results.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I guess it’s the variety the job brings — you always meet new and interesting people. It’s a dream scenario.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Client or agency politics — when it’s less about the film or final result; instead it’s about marketing tests, numbers and guidelines.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I guess with opening our own shop, Akkurat Studios, I kind of brought all the things I like into one place, meaning: direction, creative direction, publishing (Akkurat Journal), photography, producing and traveling (even though world events at the moment won’t allow that).

L-R: Parterns Rocco Kopecny and Andreas Roth

My business partner, Rocco Kopecny, and I have a lot of plans for the upcoming months, which will all somehow have the Akkurate label on it but are slightly different territories out of the film and advertising jungle.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
In art class in high school, I fell in love with editing and picked up a camera. I guess after writing and shooting my first client commercial at the age of 21, I felt that could be a future job. I created the idea with a good friend of mine — we just pitched it direct to the client and got a cinema release — without any big knowledge upfront.

WHAT WAS IT ABOUT DIRECTING THAT ATTRACTED YOU?
I guess I liked the collaboration aspect of things — you need to bring in the best people to realize great results. In the end, a good director knows who he needs around.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT DIRECTING THAT CONTINUES TO KEEP YOU INTERESTED?
You always learn something on each and every project, especially staging and how to work with actors.

HOW DO YOU PICK THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH ON A PARTICULAR PROJECT?
I like to work with people I know; it’s kind of a family vibe and makes life easier. From time to time I like to mix up things — normally I get attracted by their work online, usually via Instagram.

HOW DO YOU WORK WITH YOUR DP?
The visuals are really important to me. That’s why I like to work closely with my DP — talking about lenses, camera movement and the overall look what we aim to achieve. Moods are really helpful and I always create mood boards or even edit short mood films.

DO YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THE POST AT ALL?
I like to be part of the edit if possible because it’s the final stage where you tell the story.

Bucherer

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Lately I’ve been focused on opening our shops in Berlin and Los Angeles, which took some time. Last year I shot a commercial for Bucherer, a Swiss luxury brand. We also produced it with Akkurat.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I have a few: Dirt Devil because we really pushed on this one to make it what it is. Herbaria — shooting at Pinewood’s Underwater Stage was a great experience. Also the O’Neill project with big wave surfer Mark Mathews because it was such an intimate time — just him, the DP and me,

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Sadly, my phone, headphones and laptop. Without those three it’s tricky to survive in the industry. (laughs)

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Tell me! Do you have a secret? For me, it’s normally sports, reading a good book or traveling.

Video Coverage: HPA Tech Retreat’s making of The Lost Lederhosen

By Randi Altman

At the HPA Tech Retreat in Rancho Mirage, California, the Supersession was a little different this year. Under the leadership of Joachim (JZ) Zell — who you might know from his day job as VP of technology at EFILM — the Supersession focused on the making of the short film, The Lost Lederhosen, in “near realtime,” in the desert. And postPerspective was there, camera in hand, to interview a few of the folks involved.

Watch our video coverage here.

While production for the film began a month before the Retreat — with Steve Shaw, ASC, directing and DP Roy H. Wagner Jr., ASC, lending his cinematography talents — some scenes were shot the morning of the session with data transfer taking place during lunch and post production in the afternoon. Peter Moss, ASC, and Sam Nicholson, ASC, also provided their time and expertise. After an active day of production, cloud-based post and extreme collaboration, the Supersession ended with the first-ever screening of The Lost Lederhosen, the story of Helga and her friend Hans making their way to Los Angeles, Zell and the HBA (Hollywood Beer Alliance). Check out HPA’s trailer here.

From acquisition to post (and with the use of multiple camera formats, framefrates and lenses), the film’s crew were volunteers and includes creatives and technologists from companies such as AWS, Colorfront, Frame.io, Avid, Blackmagic, Red, Panavision, Zeiss, FilmLight, SGO, Stargate, Unreal Engine, Sohonet and many more. One of the film’s goals was to use the cloud as much as possible in order to test out that particular workflow. While there were some minor hiccups along the way, the film got made — at the HPA Tech Retreat — and these industry pros got smarter about working in the cloud, something that will be increasingly employed going forward.

While we were were only able to chat with a handful of those pros involved, like any movie, the list of credits and thank you’s are too extensive to mention here — there were dozens of individuals and companies who donated their services and time to make this possible.

Watch our video coverage here.

(A big thank you and shout out to Twain Richardson for editing our videos.)

Main Image Caption: AWS’ Jack Wenzinger and EFILM’s Joachim Zell

Sohonet intros ClearView Pivot for 4K remote post

Sohonet is now offering ClearView Pivot, a solution for realtime remote editing, color grading, live screening and finishing reviews at full cinema quality. The new solution will provide connectivity and collaboration services for productions around the world.

ClearView Pivot offers 4K HDR with 12-bit color depth and 4:4:4 chroma sampling for full-color-quality video streaming with ultra-low latency over the Sohonet’s private media network, which avoids the extreme compression required due to contention and latency of public internet connections.

“Studios around the world need a realtime 4K collaboration tool that can process video at lossless color fidelity using the industry-standard JPEG 2000 codec between two locations across a network like ours. Avoiding the headache of the current ‘equipment only’ approach is the only scalable solution,” explains Sohonet CEO Chuck Parker.

Sohonet says its integrated solution is approved by ISE (Independent Security Evaluators) — the industry’s gold standard for security. Sohonet’s solution provides an encrypted stream between each endpoint and provides an auditable usage trail for every solution. The Soho Media Network ( SMN) connection offers ultra-low latency (measured in milliseconds), and the company says that unlike equipment-only solutions that require the user to navigate firewall and security issues and perform a “solution check” before each session, ClearView Pivot works immediately. As a point-to-multipoint solution, the user can also pivot easily from one endpoint to the next to collaborate with multiple people at the click of a button or even to stream to multiple destinations at the same time.

Sohonet has been working closely with productions on lots and on locations over the past few years in the ongoing development of ClearView Pivot. In those real-world settings, ClearView Pivot has been put through its paces with trials across multiple departments, and the color technologies have been fully inspected and approved by experts across the industry.

Marriage Story director Noah Baumbach

By Iain Blair

Writer/director Noah Baumbach first made a name for himself with The Squid and the Whale, his 2005 semi-autobiographical, bittersweet story about his childhood and his parents’ divorce. It launched his career, scoring him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Noah Baumbach

His latest film, Marriage Story, is also about the disintegration of a marriage — and the ugly mechanics of divorce. Detailed and emotionally complex, the film stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as the doomed couple.

In all, Marriage Story scooped up six Oscar nominations — Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score. Laura Dern walked away with a statue for her supporting role.

The film co-stars Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta. The behind-the-scenes team includes director of photography Robbie Ryan, editor Jennifer Lame and composer Randy Newman.

Just a few days before the Oscars, Baumbach — whose credits also include The Meyerwitz Stories, Frances Ha and Margot at the Wedding — talked to me about making the film and his workflow.

What sort of film did you set out to make?
It’s obviously about a marriage and divorce, but I never really think about a project in specific terms, like a genre or a tone. In the past, I may have started a project thinking it was a comedy but then it morphs into something else. With this, I just tried to tell the story as I initially conceived it, and then as I discovered it along the way. While I didn’t think about tone in any general sense, I became aware as I worked on it that it had all these different tones and genre elements. It had this flexibility, and I just stayed open to all those and followed them.

I heard that you were discussing this with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as you wrote the script. Is that true?
Yes, but it wasn’t daily. I’d reached out to both of them before I began writing it, and luckily they were both enthusiastic and wanted to do it, so I had them as an inspiration and guide as I wrote. Periodically, we’d get together and discuss it and I’d show them some pages to keep them in the loop. They were very generous with conversations about their own lives, their characters. My hope was that when I gave them the finished script it would feel both new and familiar.

What did they bring to the roles?
They were so prepared and helped push for the truth in every scene. Their involvement from the very start did influence how I wrote their roles. Nicole has that long monologue and I don’t know if I’d have written it without Scarlett’s input and knowing it was her. Adam singing “Being Alive” came out of some conversations with him. They’re very specific elements that come from knowing them as people.

You reunited with Irish DP Robbie Ryan, who shot The Meyerowitz Stories. Talk about how you collaborated on the look and why you shot on film?
I grew up with film and feel it’s just the right medium for me. We shot The Meyerowitz Stories on Super 16, and we shot this on 35mm, and we had to deal with all these office spaces and white rooms, so we knew there’d be all these variations on white. So there was a lot of discussion about shades and the palette, along with the production and costume designers, and also how we were going to shoot these confined spaces, because it was what the story required.

You shot on location in New York and LA. How tough was the shoot?
It was challenging, but mainly because of the sheer length of many of the scenes. There’s a lot of choreography in them, and some are quite emotional, so everyone had to really be up for the day, every day. There was no taking it easy one day. Every day felt important for the movie.

Where did you do the post?
All in New York. I have an office in the Village where I cut my last two films, and we edited there again. We mixed on the Warner stage, where I’ve mixed most of my movies. We recorded the music and orchestra in LA.

Do you like the post process?
I really love it. It’s the most fun and the most civilized part of the whole process. You go to work and work on the film all day, have dinner and go home. Writing is always a big challenge, as you’re making it up as you go along, and it can be quite agonizing. Shooting can be fun, but it’s also very stressful trying to get everything you need. I love working with the actors and crew, but you need a high level of energy and endurance to get through it. So then post is where you can finally relax, and while problems and challenges always arise, you can take time to solve them. I love editing, the whole rhythm of it, the logic of it.

_DSC4795.arw

Talk about editing with Jennifer Lame. How did that work?
We work so well together, and our process really starts in the script stage. I’ll give her an early draft to get her feedback and, basically, we start editing the script. We’ll go through it and take out anything we know we’re not going to use. Then during the shoot she’ll sometimes come to the set, and we’ll also talk twice a day. We’ll discuss the day’s work before I start, and then at lunch we’ll go over the previous day’s dailies. So by the time we sit down to edit, we’re really in sync about the whole movie. I don’t work off an assembly, so she’ll put together stuff for herself to let me know a scene is working the way we designed it. If there’s a problem, she’ll let me know what we need.

What were the big editing challenges?
Besides the general challenges of getting a scene right, I think for some of the longer ones it was all about finding the right rhythm and pacing. And it was particularly true of this film that the pace of something early on could really affect something later. Then you have to fix the earlier bit first, and sometimes it’s the scene right before. For instance, the scene where Charlie and Nicole have a big argument that turns into a very emotional fight is really informed by the courtroom scene right before it. So we couldn’t get it right until we’d got the courtroom scene right.

A lot of directors do test screenings. Do you?
No, I have people I show it to and get feedback, but I’ve never felt the need for testing.

VFX play a role. What was involved?
The Artery did them. For instance, when Adam cuts his arm we used VFX in addition to the practical effects, and then there’s always cleanup.

Talk about the importance of sound to you as a filmmaker, as it often gets overlooked in this kind of film.
I’m glad you said that because that’s so true, and this doesn’t have obvious sound effects. But the sound design is quite intricate, and Chris Scarabosio (working out of Skywalker Sound), who did Star Wars, did the sound design and mix; he was terrific.

A lot of it was taking the real-world environments in New York and LA and building on that, and maybe taking some sounds out and playing around with all the elements. We spent a lot of time on it, as both the sound and image should be unnoticed in this. If you start thinking, “That’s a cool shot or sound effect,” it takes you out of the movie. Both have to be emotionally correct at all times.

Where did you do the DI and how important is it to you?
We did it at New York’s Harbor Post with colorist Marcy Robinson, who’s done several of my films. It’s very important, but we didn’t do anything too extreme, as there’s not a lot of leeway for changing the look that much. I’m very happy with the look and the way it all turned out.

Congratulations on all the Oscar noms. How important is that for a film like this?
It’s a great honor. We’re all still the kids who grew up watching movies and the Oscars, so it’s a very cool thing. I’m thrilled.

What’s next?
I don’t know. I just started writing, but nothing specific yet.


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.

Filmic DoubleTake allows multicam workflows via iPhone 11

Filmic’s DoubleTake, is a new iOS app designed to turn an Apple iPhone 11 into a multicam studio. Available now from the Apple App Store, Filmic DoubleTake enables iPhone 11 users to capture video from two cameras, simultaneously from a single device, to create a multi-angle viewing experience.

Filmic DoubleTake allows content creators to use the multiple cameras in the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max — as well as the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max — to create the effect of using multiple camera angles in a shot.

According to Filmic, DoubleTake was designed for content creators of any skill level and for multiple genres of content — from professional broadcast-style news interviews to YouTubers capturing multiple angles during live events, concerts or any situation that requires more than one perspective to capture the moment.

Key features include:
• Multicam: Enables users to capture two different focal lengths of the same subject at the same time. DoubleTake uses the Ultra Wide lens (iPhone 11 Pro Max, 11 Pro and 11 only) and the Tele lens to capture both an establishing shot and a punch-in shot on a subject simultaneously. Or they can use any other combination of front and rear lenses for unrivaled multicam capture.

• Camera Visualization: Similar to a director’s viewfinder, DoubleTake’s camera picker-view enables users to visualize all available cameras on the device. Users can employ this view to help decide how to frame a shot and which cameras to select.

• Shot/Reverse Shot: Shot/Reverse Shot: Enables users to capture all the organic and intimate interaction between two actors or interviewer and interviewee. Traditionally, filmmakers must employ two cameras and place them in cumbersome “over the shoulder” locations. With DoubleTake, users can place one device between the actors, effectively placing the audience in the middle of the conversation.

• PiP or Discrete: The DoubleTake interface allows users to see both cameras of the video capture at the same time through the use of a picture-in-picture (PiP) window. The PiP window can be moved around the screen, tapped to zoom in or swiped away if distracting; the second video will continue to record. With DoubleTake, users can record videos as discrete files or as a composite video that includes the PiP window animated as it is seen on screen.

• Split-Screen: DoubleTake can also use any two cameras to create a 50/50 split-screen effect that is saved as a single video. This allows for capturing engaging interviews or any scenario in which two sides of the story require equal weighting on screen.

• Focus and Exposure Controls: DoubleTake enables users to set and lock focus and exposure on both cameras during multicam capture with Filmic unified reticle. Users can tap anywhere to set an area of interest with the reticle, then tap again to lock or unlock. Filmic camera switcher effortlessly moves between A and B cameras during a recording to adjust the focus and exposure for each, independently of one another.

Select video specifications include:
• Full-frame focus and exposure for smooth and easy automated focus and exposure adjustments
• Selectable broadcast frame rates:  24fps, 25fps and 30fps depending on project requirements
• 1080p video at high-bit-rate encoding for maximum quality. (Note: 1080p video is the maximum resolution supported by Apple today for multicam capture.)
• Composited PiP or separate discrete video files recorded as H.264 Mov files are saved to DoubleTake’s internal library, which supports batch export directly to the camera roll.

Colorist Chat: Light Iron supervising colorist Ian Vertovec

“As colorists, we are not just responsible for enhancing each individual shot based on the vision of the filmmakers, but also for helping to visually construct an emotional arc over time.”

NAME: Ian Vertovec

TITLE: Supervising Colorist

COMPANY: Light Iron

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ROLE IN THE COMPANY?
A Hollywood-based collaborator for motion picture finishing, with a studio in New York City as well.

GLOW

AS A COLORIST, WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
As colorists, we are not just responsible for enhancing each individual shot based on the vision of the filmmakers, but also for helping to visually construct an emotional arc over time. For example, a warm scene feels warmer coming out of a cool scene as opposed to another warm scene. We have the ability and responsibility to nudge the audience emotionally over the course of the film. Using color in this way makes color grading a bit like a cross between photography and editing.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Once in a while, I’ll be asked to change the color of an object, like change a red dress to blue or a white car to black. While we do have remarkable tools at our disposal, this isn’t quite the correct way to think about what we can do. Instead of being able to change the color of objects, it’s more like we can change the color of the light shining on objects. So instead of being able to turn a red dress to blue, I can change the light on the dress (and only the dress) to be blue. So while the dress will appear blue, it will not look exactly how a naturally blue dress would look under white light.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
There is a moment with new directors, after watching the first finished scene, when they realize they have made a gorgeous-looking movie. It’s their first real movie, which they never fully saw until that moment — on the big screen, crystal clear and polished — and it finally looks how they envisioned it. They are genuinely proud of what they’ve done, as well as appreciative of what you brought out in their work. It’s an authentic filmmaking moment.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Working on multiple jobs at a time and long days can be very, very draining. It’s important to take regular breaks to rest your eyes.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Something with photography, VFX or design, maybe.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I was doing image manipulation in high school and college before I even knew what color grading was.

Just Mercy

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Just Mercy, Murder Mystery, GLOW, What We Do in the Shadows and Too Old to Die Young.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Sometimes your perspective and a filmmaker’s perspective for a color grade can be quite divergent. There can be a temptation to take the easy way and either defer or overrule. I find tremendous value in actually working out those differences and seeing where and why you are having a difference of opinion.

It can be a little scary, as nobody wants to be perceived as confrontational, but if you can civilly explain where and why you see a different approach, the result will almost always be better than what either of you thought possible in the first place. It also allows you to work more closely and understand each other’s creative instincts more accurately. Those are the moments I am most proud of — when we worked through an awkward discord and built something better.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I have a fairly extensive library of Pinterest boards — mostly paintings — but it’s real life and being in the moment that I find more interesting. The color of a green leaf at night under a sodium vapor light, or how sunlight gets twisted by a plastic water bottle — that is what I find so cool. Why ruin that with an Insta post?

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
FilmLight Baselight’s Base Grade, FilmLight Baselight’s Texture Equalizer and my Red Hydrogen.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram mostly.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
After working all day on a film, I often don’t feel like watching another movie when I get home because I’ll just be thinking about the color.  I usually unwind with a video game, book or podcast. The great thing about a book or video games is that they demand your 100% attention. You can’t be simultaneously browsing social media or the news  or be thinking about work. You have to be 100% in the moment, and it really resets your brain.

Adobe Premiere Productions: film projects, collaborative workflows

By Mike McCarthy

Adobe announced a new set of features coming to its NLE Premiere Pro. They now support “Productions” within Premiere, which allows easier management of sets of projects being shared between different users. The announcement, which came during the Sundance Film Festival, is targeted at filmmakers working on large-scale projects with teams of people collaborating on site.

Productions extends and refines Premiere’s existing “Shared Project” model, making it easier to manage work spread across a large number of individual projects, which can become unwieldy with the current implementation.

Shared Projects should not be confused with Team Projects, which is an online project-sharing tool set across different locations that each have their own local media and Adobe Anywhere, which is a cloud based streaming editing platform with no local files. Shared Projects are used between users on a local network, usually with high-quality media, with simple mechanisms for passing work between different users. Shared Projects were introduced in Premiere Pro 2018 and included three components. Here, I’m going to tell you what the issues were and how the new Adobe Productions solves them:

1) The ability to add a shortcut to another project into the project panel, which was next to useless. The projects were in no other way connected with each other, and incrementing the target project to a new name (V02) broke the link. The only benefit was to see who might have the shortcut-ed project open and locked, which brings us to:

2) The ability to lock projects that were open on one system, preventing other users from inadvertently editing them at the same time and overwriting each other’s work, which should have been added a long time ago. This was previously managed through a process called “shout down the hall” before opening projects.

3) And most significantly, the inability to open more than one project at the same time. The previous approach was to import other projects into your existing project, but this resulted in massive project files that took forever to load, among other issues. Opening more than one project at once allowed projects to be broken into smaller individual parts, and then different people could more easily work on different parts at the same time.

For the last two-plus years, large films have been able to break down their work into many smaller projects and distribute those projects between numerous users who are working on various parts. And those users can pass the pieces back and forth without concern for overwriting each other’s work. But there was no central way to control all of those projects, and the master project/Shared Project shortcut system required you not to version your projects (bad file management) or to re-linking every project version to the master project (tedious).

You also end up with lots of copies of your media, as every time an asset is used in a different project, a new copy of it is copied into that project. If you update or edit an asset in one project, it won’t change the copies that are used in other projects (master clip effects, relinking, reinterpreting footage, proxies, etc.).

Problems Solved
Premiere’s new Production Panel and tool set are designed to solve those problems. First, it gives you a panel to navigate and explore all of the projects within your entire production, however you structure them within your master project folder. You can see who has what open and when.

When you copy an asset into a sequence from another project, it maintains a reference to the source project, so subsequent changes to that asset (color correction, attaching full-res media, etc.) can propagate to the instance in the sequence of the other project — if both projects are open concurrently to sync.

If the source project can’t be found, the child instance is still a freestanding piece of media that fully functions; it just no longer receives synchronized updates from the master copy. (So you don’t have a huge web of interconnected projects that will all fail if one of them is corrupted or deleted.)

All projects in a Production have the same project settings, (Scratch disks, GPU renderer, etc.) keeping them in sync and allowing you to update those settings across the production and share render files between users. And all files are stored on your local network for maximum performance and security.

In the application, this allows all of the source media to be in dedicated “dailies” projects, possibly a separate project for every day of filming. Then each scene or reel can be its own project, with every instance in the sequences referencing back to a master file in the dailies. Different editors and assistants can be editing different scenes, and all of them can have any source project open concurrently in read-only mode without conflict. As soon as someone saves changes, an icon will alert users that they can update the copy they have open and unlock it to continue working.

Some Limitations
Moving a sequence from one project to another doesn’t retain a link to the original because that could become a mess quickly. But it would be nice to be able to make edits to “reels” and have those changes reflected in a long-play project that strings those reels together. And with so many projects open at once, it can become difficult to keep track of what sequences go with what project panels.

Ideally, a color-coded panel system would help with that, either with random colors for contrast or with user-assigned colors by type of project. In that case it would still be good to highlight what other panels are associated with the selected panel, since two projects might be assigned the same color.

Summing Up
Regardless of those potential changes, I have been using Shared Projects to its fullest potential on a feature film throughout 2019, and I look forward to the improvements that the new Production panel will bring to my future workflows.

Check out this video rundown:


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with over 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.

Quick Chat: Director Sorrel Brae on Rocket Mortgage campaign

By Randi Altman

Production company Native Content and director Sorrel Brae have collaborated once again with Rocket Mortgage’s in-house creative team on two new spots in the ongoing “More Than a House” campaign. Brae and Native had worked together on the campaigns first four offerings.

The most recent spots are More Than a Tradition and More Than a Bear. More Than a Tradition shows a ‘50s family sitting down to dinner and having a fun time at home. Then the audience sees the same family in modern times, hammering home how traditions become traditions.

More Than a Bear combines fantasy and reality as it shows a human-sized teddy bear on an operating table. Then viewers see a worried boy looking on as his mother is repairing the his stuffed animal. Each spot opens with the notes of Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me,” which is featured in all the “More Than a House” spots.

More Than a Bear was challenging, according to Brae, because there was some darker material in this piece as compared to the others  —  viewers aren’t sure at first if the bear will make it. Brae worked closely with DP Jeff Kim on the lighting and color palette to find a way to keep the tone lighthearted. By embracing primary colors, the two were able to channel a moodier tone and bring viewers inside a scared child’s imagination while still maintaining some playfulness.

We reached out to director Brae to find our more.

Sorrel Brae

What did you shoot these two spots on, and why?
I felt that in order for the comedy to land and the idea to shine, the visual separation between fantasy and reality had to be immediate, even shocking. Shooting on an Alexa Mini, we used different lenses for the two looks: Hawk V-Lite Vintage ’74 anamorphic for epic and cinematic fantasy, and spherical Zeiss and Cooke S4 primes for reality. The notable exception was in the hospital for the teddy bear spot, where our references were the great Spielberg and Zemeckis films from the ‘80s, which are primarily spherical and have a warmer, friendlier feeling.

How did you work with the DP and the colorist on the look? And how would you describe the look of each spot, and the looks within each spot? 
I was fortunate to bring on longtime collaborators DP Jeffrey Kim and colorist Mike Howell for both spots. Over the years, Jeff and I have developed a shorthand for working together. It all starts with defining our intention and deciding how to give the audience the feelings we want them to have.

In Tradition, for example, that feeling is a warm nostalgia for a bygone era that was probably a fantasy then, just as it is now. We looked to period print advertisements, photographs, color schemes, fonts — everything that spoke to that period. Crucial to pulling off both looks in one day was Heidi Adams’ production design. I wanted the architecture of the house to match when cutting between time periods. Her team had to put a contemporary skin on a 1950s interior for us to shoot “reality” and then quickly reset the entire house back to 1950s to shoot “fantasy.”

The intention for More Than a Bear was trickier. From the beginning I worried a cinematic treatment of a traumatic hospital scene wouldn’t match the tone of the campaign. My solution with Jeff was to lean into the look of ‘80s fantasy films like E.T. and Back to the Future with primary colors, gelled lights, a continuously moving camera and tons of atmosphere.

Mike at Color Collective even added a retro Ektachrome film emulation for the hospital and a discontinued Kodak 5287 emulation for the bedroom to complete the look. But the most fun was the custom bear that costume designer Bex Crofton-Atkins created for the scene. My only regret is that the spot isn’t 60 seconds because there’s so much great bear footage that we couldn’t fit into the cut.

What was this edited on? Did you work with the same team on both campaigns?
The first four spots of this campaign were cut by Jai Shukla out of Nomad Edit. Jai did great work establishing the rhythm between fantasy and reality and figuring out how to weave in Bob Dylan’s memorable track for the strongest impact. I’m pretty sure Jai cuts on Avid, which I like to tease him about.

These most recent two spots (Tradition and Teddy Bear) were cut by Zach DuFresne out of Hudson Edit, who did an excellent job navigating scripts with slightly different challenges. Teddy Bear has more character story than any of the others, and Tradition relies heavily on making the right match between time periods. Zach cuts on Premiere, which I’ve also migrated to (from FCP 7) for personal use.

Were any scenes more challenging than the others?
What could be difficult about kids, complex set design, elaborate wardrobe changes and detailed camera moves on a compressed schedule? In truth, it was all equally challenging and rewarding.

Ironically, the shots that gave us the most difficulty probably look the simplest. In Tradition there’s a SteadiCam move that introduces us into the contemporary world, has match cuts on either end and travels through most of the set and across most of the cast. Because everyone’s movements had to perfectly align with a non-repeatable camera, that one took longer than expected.

And on Teddy Bear, the simple shot looking up from the patient’s POV as the doctor/mom looms overhead was surprisingly difficult. Because we were on an extremely wide lens (12mm or similar), our actress had to nail her marks down to the millimeter, otherwise it looked weird. We probably shot that one setup 20 times.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Talking with Franki Ashiruka of Nairobi’s Africa Post Office

By Randi Altman

After two decades of editing award-winning film and television projects for media companies throughout Kenya and around the world, Franki Ashiruka opened Africa Post Office, a standalone, post house in Nairobi, Kenya. The studio provides color grading, animation, visual effects, motion graphics, compositing and more. In addition, they maintain a database of the Kenyan post production community that allows them to ramp up with the right artists when the need arises.

Here she talks about the company, its workflow and being a pioneer in Nairobi’s production industry.

When did you open Africa Post Office, and what was your background prior to starting this studio?
Africa Post Office (APO) opened its doors in February 2017. Prior to starting APO, I was a freelance editor with plenty of experience working with well-established media houses such as Channel 4 (UK), Fox International Channels (UK), 3D Global Leadership (Nigeria), PBS (USA), Touchdown (New Zealand), Greenstone Pictures (New Zealand) and Shadow Films (South Africa).

In terms of Kenya-based projects, I’ve worked with a number of production houses including Quite Bright Films, Fat Rain Films, Film Crew in Africa, Mojo Productions, Multichoice, Zuku, Content House and Ginger Ink Films.

I imagine female-run, independent studios in Africa are rare?
On the contrary, Kenya has reached a point where more and more women are emerging as leaders of their own companies. I actually think there are more women-led film production companies than male-led. The real challenge was that before APO, there was nothing quite like it in Nairobi. Historically, video production here was very vertical — if you shot something, you’d need to also manage post within whatever production house you were working in. There were no standalone post houses until us. That said, with my experience, even though hugely daunting, I never thought twice about starting APO. It is what I have always wanted to do, and if being the first company of our kind didn’t intimidate me, being female was never going to be a hindrance.

L-R: Franki Ashiruka, Kevin Kyalo, Carole Kinyua and Evans Wenani

What is the production and post industry like in Nairobi? 
When APO first opened, the workload was commercial-heavy, but in the last two years that has steadily declined. We’re seeing this gap filled by documentary films, corporate work and television series. Feature films are also slowly gaining traction and becoming the focus of many up-and-coming filmmakers.

What services do you provide, and what types of projects do you work on?
APO has a proven track record of successful delivery on hundreds of film and video projects for a diverse range of clients and collaborators, including major corporate entities, NGOs, advertising and PR agencies, and television stations. We also have plenty of experience mastering according to international delivery standards. We’re proud to house a complete end-to-end post ecosystem of offline and online editing suites.

Most importantly, we maintain a very thorough database of the post production community in Kenya.
This is of great benefit to our clients who come to us for a range of services including color grading, animation, visual effects, motion graphics and compositing. We are always excited to collaborate with the right people and get additional perspectives on the job at hand. One of our most notable collaborators is Ikweta Arts (Avatar, Black Panther, Game of Thrones, Hacksaw Ridge), owned and run by Yvonne Muinde. They specialize in providing VFX services with a focus in quality matte painting/digital environments, art direction, concept and post visual development art. We also collaborate with Keyframe (L’Oréal, BMW and Mitsubishi Malaysia) for motion graphics and animations.

Can you name some recent projects and the work you provided?
We are incredibly fortunate to be able to select projects that align with our beliefs and passions.

Our work on the short film Poacher (directed by Tom Whitworth) won us three global Best Editing Awards from the Short to the Point Online Film Festival (Romania, 2018), Feel the Reel International Film Festival (Glasgow, 2018) and Five Continents International Film Festival (Venezuela, 2019).

Other notable work includes three feature documentaries for the Big Story segment on China Global Television Network, directed by Juan Reina (director of the Netflix Original film Diving Into the Unknown), Lion’s Den (Quite Bright Films) an adaptation of ABC’s Shark Tank and The Great Kenyan Bake Off (Showstopper Media) adopted from the BBC series The Great British Bake Off. We also worked on Disconnect, a feature film produced by Kenya’s Tosh Gitonga (Nairobi Half Life), a director who is passionate about taking Africa’s budding film industry to the next level. We have also worked on a host of television commercials for clients extending across East Africa, including Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

What APO is most proud of though, is our clients’ ambitions and determination to contribute toward the growth of the African film industry. This truly resonates with APO’s mantra.

You recently added a MAM and some other gear. Can you talk about the need to upgrade?
Bringing on the EditShare EFS 200 nodes has significantly improved the collaborative possibilities of APO. We reached a point where we were quickly growing, and the old approach just wasn’t going to cut it.

Prior to centralizing our content, projects lived on individual hard disks. This meant that if I was editing and needed my assistant to find me a scene or a clip, or I needed VFX on something, I would have to export individual clips to different workstations. This created workflow redundancies and increased potential for versioning issues, which is something we couldn’t afford to be weighed down with.

The remote capabilities of the EditShare system were very appealing as well. Our color grading collaborator, Nic Apostoli of Comfort and Fame, is based in Cape Town, South Africa. From there, he can access the footage on the server and grade it while the client reviews with us in Nairobi. Flow media asset management also helps in this regard. We’re able to effectively organize and index clips, graphics, versions, etc. into clearly marked folders so there is no confusion about what media should be used. Collaboration among the team members is now seamless regardless of their physical location or tools used, which include the Adobe Creative Suite, Foundry Nuke, Autodesk Maya and Maxon Cinema 4D.

Any advice for others looking to break out on their own and start a post house?
Know what you want to do, and just do it! Thanks Nike …


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Directing bookend sequences for Portals, a horror anthology film

By Hasraf “HaZ” Dulull

Portals is a genre-bending feature film anthology focusing on a series of worldwide blackouts — after which millions of mysterious objects appear everywhere across the planet. While many flee from the sentient objects, some people are drawn toward and into them with horrifying consequences.

Portals

The film was in the final stages of post when writer/director Liam O’Donnell (Beyond Skyline and the upcoming Skylines film) called to see if I would like to get involved and direct some bookend sequences to add more scope and setup, which the producers felt was very much needed. I loved the premise and the world of the anthology, so I said yes. I pitched an idea for an ending, that quickly evolved into an extra segment at the end of the film, which I directed. That’s why there are officially four directors on the show, with me getting executive producer and “end-segment created by” credits.

Two of the other sequences are around 20 to 25 minutes each, and O’Donnell’s sequence was around 35 minutes. The film is 85 minutes long. Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project) co-directed their segments. So the anthology feature film is really three long segments with my bookend sequences. The only connections among all the stories are the objects that appear, the event itself and the actual “portal,” but everything else was unique to each segment’s story. In terms of production, the only consistencies throughout the anthology were the camera language — that slight hand-held feel — and, of course, the music/sound

I had to watch the latest cut of the entire anthology film to get my head into that world, but I was given freedom to bring my own style to my sequences. That is exactly the point of an anthology — for each director to bring his or her own sensibilities to the individual segments. Besides Liam, the main producers I worked closely with on this project were Alyssa Devine and Griffin Devine from Pigrat Productions. They are fans of my first feature film, The Beyond, so they really encouraged the grounded tone I had demonstrated in that film.

The portal in Portals.

I’ve been a huge advocate of Blackmagic cameras and technology for a long time. Additionally, I knew I had to a lot to shoot in a very short time space (two days!), so I needed a camera that was light and flexible yet able to shoot 4K. I brought on cinematographer Colin Emerson, who shoots in a very loose way but always makes his stuff look cinematic. We watched the cut of the film and noticed the consistent loose nature to the cinematography on all the segments. Colin uses the Fig Rig a lot and I love the way that rig works and the BMD Pocket Cinema 4K fits nicely on it along with his DSLR lenses he likes to use. The other reason was to be able to use Blackmagic’s new BRaw format too.

We also shot the segment using a skeleton crew, which comprised of myself as director/producer; VFX supervisor/1st AD John Sellings, who also did some focus pulling; James De Taranto (sound recording); DP/camera op Colin Emerson, FX makeup artists Kate Griffith and Jay James; and our two actors, Georgina Blackledge and Dare Emmanuel. I worked with both of them on my feature film The Beyond.

The Post
One thing I wanted to make sure of was that the post team at The Institution in LA was able to take my Resolve files and literally work from that for the picture post. One of the things I did during prep of the project (before we even cast) was to shoot some tests to show what I had in mind in terms of look and feel. We also tested the BRaw and color workflow between my setup in London and the LA team. Colin and I did this during location recce. This proved to be extremely useful to ensure we set our camera to the exact specs the post house wanted. So we shot at 23.98, 4K (4096×1716) 2:39 cropped, Blackmagic color design log color space.

HaZ’s segments were captured with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.

During the test, I did some quick color tests to show the producers in LA the tone and mood I was going for and to make sure everyone was on board before I shot it. The look was very post apocalyptic, as it’s set after the main events have happened. I wanted the locations to be a contrast with each other, one interior and one exterior with greens.

Colin is used to shooting most of his stuff on the Panasonic GH, but he had the Cinema Pocket Camera and was looking for the right project to use it on. He found he could use all of his usual lenses because the Cinema Pocket Camera has the same mount. Lenses used were the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 + Metabones Speedbooster; the Olympus 12mm f2; and the Lumix 35-100mm f2.8

Colin used the onboard monitor screen on the Pocket Cinema Camera, while I used a tethered external monitor — the Ikan DH5e — for directing. We used a 1TB Samsung external SSD securely attached to the rig cage along with a 64GB CFast card. The resolution we shot in was determined by the tests we did. We set up the rushes for post after each of the two days of the shoot, so during the day we would swap out drives and back things up. At the end of the day, we would bring in all the picture and sound rushes and use the amazing autosync feature in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve to set it all up. This way, when I headed back home I could start editing right away inside Resolve.

Resolve

I have to admit, we were hesitant at first because I was shooting and capturing Log in QuickTime ProRes 4:4:4:4, and I always avoided DNG raw because of the huge file size and data transfer. But the team at Blackmagic has always been so supportive and provided us with support right up till the end of the shoot, so after testing BRaw I was impressed. We had so much control as all that information is accessed within Resolve. . I was able to set the temp look during editing, and the colorist worked from there. Skin tones were of utmost importance; because of the intimate nature of the drama, I wanted a natural look to the skin tones. I am really happy with the way they came out at the end.

They couldn’t believe how cinematic the footage was when we told them we shot using the Pocket Cinema Camera, since the other segments were shot on cameras like Red. We delivered the same 4K deliverables spec as the other segments in the film.

HaZ on set, second from right.

I used the AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 version of the Blackmagic eGPU. The reason was because I wanted to edit on my MacBook Pro (late 2017) and needed the power to run 4K in realtime. I was so impressed with how much power it provided; it was like having a new MacBook Pro without having to buy one. The eGPU had all the connectivity (two Thunderbolt and four USB-3) I needed, which is a limitation of the MacBook Pro.

The beauty of keeping everything native was that there wasn’t much work to do when porting, as it’s just plug and play. And the Resolve detects the eGPU, which you can then set as default. The BRaw format makes it all so manageable to preview and playback in real time. Also, since it’s native, Resolve doesn’t need to do any transcoding in the background. I have always been a huge fan of the tracking in Resolve, and I was able to do eye effects very easily without it being budgeted or done as a VFX shot. I was able to get the VFX render assets from the visual effects artist (Justin Martinez ) in LA and do quick-slap comps during editing. I love the idea that I can set looks and store them as memories, which I can then recall very quickly to apply on a bunch of shots. This allows me to have a slick-looking preview rough cut of the film.

Portals

I sent a hard drive containing all the organized rushes to the team in LA while I was doing the final tweaks to the edit. Once the edit was signed off, or if any last-minute notes came in, I would do them and email them my Resolve file. It was super simple, and the colorists (Oliver Ojeil) and post team (Chad Van Horn and Danny Barone) in LA appreciated the simple workflow because there really wasn’t any conforming for them to do apart from a one-click relink of media location; they would just take my Resolve file and start working away with it.

We used practical effects to keep the horror as real and grounded as possible, and used VFX to augment further. We were fortunate to be able to get special effects makeup artist Kate Griffiths. Given the tight schedule she was able to create a terrifying effect, which I won’t give away. You need to watch the film to see it! We had to shoot those make-up FX-heavy shots at the end of the day, which meant we had to be smart about how we scheduled the shoot given the hours-long make-up process. Kate was also on hand to provide effects like the liquid coming out of the eyes and sweat etc. — every detail of which the camera picked up for us so we could bring it out in the grade.

The Skype-style shots at the start of the film (phone and computer monitor shots) had their VFX screen elements placed as a separate layer so the post team in LA could grade them separately and control the filters applied on them. For some of the wide shots showing our characters entering and leaving the portal, we keyframed some movement of the 4K shot along with motion blur to give the effect of in-camera movement. I also used the camera shake within Resolve, which comes with so many options to create bespoke movement on static frames.

Portals is now available on iTunes and other VOD platforms.


HaZ Dulull is known for his sci-fi feature films The Beyond and 2036 Origin Unknown, also in television for his pilot and episodes on Disney’s Fast Layne. He is currently busy on projects at various stages of development and production at his production company, hazfilm.com.

Sohonet beefs up offerings with Exchange acquisition

Sohonet, which provides connectivity, media services and network security for media and entertainment, has acquired Exchange Communications, which has been providing IT services to film and television productions for more than 20 years. The acquisition broadens the range of connectivity and collaboration solutions that each organization can offer its customers.

Sohonet has a global network of over 500 media companies as well as realtime collaboration, cloud-acceleration and file-transfer tools, while Exchange offers fixed production studio services for phones and video surveillance and rapidly available remote production communications. Together, the companies will serve the rapidly growing and changing production industry across features, episodic and advertising.
Sohonet will invest in the expansion of Exchange Communications services in other geographies, initially focusing on Canada and the UK.

Colorfront’s Express Dailies 2020 for Mac Pro, new rental model

Coinciding with Apple’s launch of the latest Mac Pro workstation, Colorfront announced a new, annual rental model for Colorfront Express Dailies.

Launching in Q1 2020, Colorfront’s subscription service allows users to rent Express Dailies 2020 for an annual fee of $5,000, including maintenance support, updates and upgrades. Additionally, the availability of Apple’s brand-new Pro Display XDR, designed for use with the new Mac Pro, makes on-set HDR monitoring, enabled by Colorfront systems, more cost effective.

Express Dailies 2020 supports 6K HDR/SDR workflow along with the very latest camera and editorial formats, including Apple ProRes and Apple ProRes RAW, ARRI MXF-wrapped ProRes, ARRI Alexa LF and Alexa Mini LF ARRIRAW, Sony Venice 5.0, Blackmagic RAW 1.5, and Codex HDE (High Density Encoding).

Express Dailies 2020 is optimized for 6K HDR/SDR dailies processing on the new Mac Pro running MacOS Catalina, leveraging the performance of the Mac Pro’s Intel Xeon 28 core CPU processor and multi-GPU rendering.

“With the launch of the new Mac Pro and Apple Pro Display XDR, we identified a new opportunity to empower top-end DITs and dailies facilities to adopt HDR workflows on a wide range of high-end TV ad motion picture productions,” says Aron Jaszberenyi, managing director of Colorfront. “When combined with the new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR, Express Dailies 2020 subscription model gives new and cost-effective options for filmmakers wanting to take full advantage of 6K HDR/SDR workflows and HDR on-set.”

 

Quick Chat: The Rebel Fleet’s Michael Urban talks on-set workflows

When shooting major motion pictures and episodic television with multiple crews in multiple locations, production teams need a workflow that gives them fast access and complete control of the footage across the entire production, from the first day of the shoot to the last day of post. This is Wellington, New Zealand-based The Rebel Fleet’s reason for being.

What exactly do they do? Well we reached out to managing director Michael Urban to find out.

Can you talk more about what you do and what types of workflows you supply?
The Rebel Fleet supplies complete workflow solutions, from on-set Qtake video assist and DIT to dailies, QC, archive and delivery to post. By managing the entire workflow, we can provide consistency and certainty around the color pipeline, monitor calibration, crew expertise and communication, and production can rely on one team to take care of that part of the workflow.

We have worked closely with Moxion many times and use its Immediates workflow, which enables automated uploads direct from video assist into its secure dailies platform. Anyone with access to the project can view rushes and metadata from set moments after the video is shot. This also enables different shooting units to automatically and securely share media. Two units shooting in different countries can see what each other has shot, including all camera and scene/take metadata. This is then available and catalogued directly into the video assist system. We have a lot of experience working alongside camera and VFX on-set as well as delivering to post, making sure we are delivering exactly what’s needed in the right formats.

You recently worked on a film that was shot in New Zealand and China, and you sent crews to China. Can you talk about that workflow a bit and name the film?
I can’t name the film yet, but I can tell you that it’s in the adventure genre and is coming out in the second half of 2020. The main pieces of software are Colorfront On-Set Dailies for processing all the media and Yoyotta for downloading and verifying media. We also use Avid for some edit prep before handing over to editorial.

How did you work with the DP and director? Can you talk about those relationships on this particular film?
On this shoot the DP and director had rushes screenings each night to go over the main unit and second unit rushes and make sure the dailies grade was exactly what they wanted. This was the last finesse before handing over dailies to editorial, so it had to be right. As rushes were being signed off, we would send them off to the background render engine, which would create four different outputs in multiple resolutions and framing. This meant that moments after the last camera mag was signed off, the media was ready for Avid prep and delivery. Our data team worked hard to automate as many processes as possible so there would be no long nights sorting reports and sheets. That work happened as we went throughout the day instead of leaving a multitude of tasks for the end of the day.

How do your workflows vary from project to project?
Every shoot is approached with a clean slate, and we work with the producers, DP and post to make sure we create a workflow that suits the logistical, budgetary and technical needs of that shoot. We have a tool kit that we rely on and use it to select the correct components required. We are always looking for ways to innovate and provide more value for the bottom line.

You mentioned using Colorfront tools, what does that offer you? And what about storage? Seems like working on location means you need a solid way to back up.
Colorfront On-Set Dailies takes care of QC, grade, sound sync and metadata. All of our shared storage is built around Quantum Xcellis, plus the Quantum QXS hybrid storage systems for online and nearline. We create the right SAN for the job depending on the amount of storage and clients required for that shoot.

Can you name projects you’ve worked on in the past as well as some recent work?
Warner Bros.’ The Meg, DreamWorks’ Ghost in the Shell, Sonar’s The Shannara Chronicles, STX Entertainment’s Adrift, Netflix’s The New Legends of Monkey and The Letter for the King and Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island.

The Irishman editor Thelma Schoonmaker

By Iain Blair

Editor Thelma Schoonmaker is a three-time Academy Award winner who has worked alongside filmmaker Martin Scorsese for almost 50 years. Simply put, Schoonmaker has been Scorsese’s go-to editor and key collaborator over the course of some 25 films, winning Oscars for Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed. The 79-year-old also received a career achievement award from the American Cinema Editors (ACE).

Thelma Schoonmaker

Schoonmaker cut Scorsese’s first feature, 1967’s Who’s That Knocking at My Door, and since 1980’s Raging Bull has worked on all of his features, receiving a number of Oscar nominations along the way. There are too many to name, but some highlights include The King of Comedy, After Hours, The Color of Money, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Casino and Hugo.

Now Scorsese and Schoonmaker have once again turned their attention to the mob with The Irishman, which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including one for Shoonmaker’s editing work. Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, it’s an epic saga that runs 3.5 hours and focuses on organized crime in post-war America. It’s told through the eyes of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran (De Niro). He’s a hustler and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century. Spanning decades, the film chronicles one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American history, the disappearance of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa. It also offers a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime — its inner workings, rivalries and connections to mainstream politics.

But there’s a twist to this latest mob drama that Scorsese directed for Netflix from a screenplay by Steven Zaillian. Gone are the flashy wise guys and the glamour of Goodfellas and Casino. Instead, the film examines the mundane nature of mob killings and the sad price any survivors pay in the end.

Here, Schoonmaker — who in addition to her film editing works to promote the films and writings of her late husband, famed British director Michael Powell (The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus) — talks about cutting The Irishman, working with Scorsese and their long and storied collaboration.

The Irishman must have been very challenging to cut, just in terms of its 3.5-hour length?
Actually, it wasn’t very challenging to cut. It came together much more quickly than some of our other films because Scorsese and Steve Zaillian had created a very strong structure. I think some critics think I came up with this structure, but it was already there in the script. We didn’t have to restructure, which we do sometimes, and only dropped a few minor scenes.

Did you stay in New York cutting while he shot on location, or did you visit the set?
Almost everything in the The Irishman was shot in or around New York. The production was moving all over the place, so I never got to the set. I couldn’t afford the time.

When I last interviewed Marty, he told me that editing and post are his favorite parts of filmmaking. When the two of you sit down to edit, is it like having two editors in the room rather than a director and his editor?
Marty’s favorite part of filmmaking is editing, and he directs the editing after he finishes shooting. I do an assembly based on what he tells me in dailies and what I feel, and then we do all the rest of the editing together.

Could you give us some sense of how that collaboration works?
We’ve worked together for almost 50 years, and it’s a wonderful collaboration. He taught me how to edit at first, but then gradually it has become more of a collaboration. The best thing is that we both work for what is best for the film — it never becomes an ego battle.

How long did it take to edit the film, and what were the main challenges?
We edited for a year and the footage was so incredibly rich: the only challenge was to make sure we chose the best of it and took advantage of the wonderful improvisations the actors gave us. It was a complete joy for Scorsese and me to edit this film. After we locked the film, we turned over to ILM so they could do the “youthifying” of the actors. That took about seven months.

Could you talk about finding the overall structure and considerable use of flashbacks to tell the story?
Scorsese had such a strong concept for this film — and one of his most important ideas was to not explain too much. He respects the audience’s ability to figure things out themselves without pummeling them with facts. It was a bold choice and I was worried about it, frankly, at first. But he was absolutely right. He didn’t want the film to feel like a documentary. He wanted to use brushstrokes of history just to show how they affected the characters. The way the characters were developed in the film, particularly Frank Sheeran, the De Niro character, was what was most important.

Could you talk about the pacing, and how you and Marty kept its momentum going?
Scorsese was determined that The Irishman would have a slower pace than many films today. He gave the film a deceptive simplicity. Interestingly, our first audiences had no problem with this — they became gripped by the characters and kept saying they didn’t mind the length and loved the pace. Many of them said they wanted to see the film again right away.

There are several slo-mo sequences. Could you talk about why you used them and to what effect?
The Phantom camera slo-motion wedding sequence (250fps) near the end of the film was done to give the feeling of a funeral, instead of a wedding, because the DeNiro character has just been forced to do the worst thing he will ever do in his life. Scorsese wanted to hold on De Niro’s face and evoke what he is feeling and to study the Italian-American faces of the mobsters surrounding him. Instead of the joy a wedding is supposed to bring, there is a deep feeling of grief.

What was the most difficult sequence to cut and why?
The montage where De Niro repeatedly throws guns into the river after he has killed someone took some time to get right. It was very normal at first — and then we started violating the structure and jump cutting and shortening until we got the right feeling. It was fun.

There’s been a lot of talk about the digital de-aging process. How did it impact the edit?
Pablo Helman at ILM came up with the new de-aging process, and it works incredibly well. He would send shots and we would evaluate them and sometimes ask for changes — usually to be sure that we kept the amazing performances of De Niro, Pacino and Pesci intact. Sometimes we would put back in a few wrinkles if it meant we could keep the subtlety of De Niro’s acting, for example. Scorsese was adamant that he didn’t want to have younger actors play the three main parts in the beginning of the film. So he really wanted this “youthifying” process to work — and it does!

There’s a lot of graphic violence. How do you feel about that in the film?
Scorsese made the violence very quick in The Irishman and shot it in a deceptively simple way. There aren’t any complicated camera moves and flashy editing. Sometimes the violence takes place after a simple pan, when you least expect it because of the blandness of the setting. He wanted to show the banality of violence in the mob — that it is a job, and if you do it well, you get rewarded. There’s no morality involved.

Last time we talked, you were using the Lightworks editing system. Do you still use Lightworks, and if so, can you talk about the system’s advantages for you?
I use Lightworks because the editing surface is still the fastest and most efficient and most intuitive to use. Maintaining sync is different from all other NLE systems. You don’t correct sync by sync lock — if you go out of sync, Lightworks gives you a red icon with a number of frames that you are out of sync. You get to choose where you want to correct sync. Since editors place sound and picture on the timeline, adjusting sync where you want to adjust the sync is much more efficient.

You’ve been Marty’s editor since his very first film — a 50-year collaboration. What’s the secret?
I think Scorsese felt when he first met me that I would do what was right for his films — that there wouldn’t be ego battles. We work together extremely well. That’s all there is to it. There couldn’t be a better job.

Do you ever have strong disagreements about the editing?
If we do have disagreements, which is very rare, they are never strong. He is very open to experimentation. Sometimes we will screen two ways and see what the audience says. But that is very rare.

What’s next?
A movie about the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, based on the book “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann.


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: Logan & Sons director Tom Schlagkamp

This director also loves editing, sound design and working with VFX long before and after the shoot.

Name: Tom Schlagkamp

Company: Logan & Sons, the live-action division of bicoastal content creation studio Logan, which is based in NYC and LA.

Job Title: Director

What’s your favorite part of the job?
I can honestly say I love every detail of the job, even the initial pitch, as it’s the first contact with a new story, a new project and a new challenge. I put a lot of heart into every aspect of a film — the better you’ve prepared in pre-production, the more creative you can be during the shoot; it brings you more time and oversight during shooting and more power to react if anything changes.

Tom Schlagkamp’s short film Dysconnected.

For my European, South African and Asian projects, I’m also very happy to be deeply involved in editing, sound design and post production, as I love working with the material. I usually shoot footage, so there are more possibilities to work with in editing.

What’s your least favorite?
Not winning a job, that’s why I’m trying to avoid that… (laughs).

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Well, plan A would be a rock star — specifically, a guitarist in a thrash metal band. Plan B would be the exact opposite: working at my family’s winery — Schlagkamp-Desoye in Germany’s beautiful Mosel Valley. My brother runs this company now, which is in its 11th generation. Our family has grown wine since 1602. The winery also includes a wine museum.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
In Germany, you don’t necessarily jump from high school to college right away, so I took a short time to learn all the basics of filmmaking with as much practical experience as I could get. That included directing music videos and short films while I worked for Germany’s biggest TV station, RTL. There I learned to edit and produced campaigns for shows, and in particular movie trailers and campaigns for the TV premieres of blockbuster movies. That was a lot of work and fun at the same time.

What was it about directing that attracted you?
The whole idea of creating something completely new. I loved (and still do) the films of the “New Hollywood” and the Nouvelle Vague — they challenged the regular way of storytelling and created something outstanding that changed filmmaking forever. This fascinated me, and I knew I had to learn the rules first in order to be able to question them, so I started studying at Germany’s film academy, the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.

What is it about directing that keeps you interested?
It’s about always moving forward. There are so many more ways you can tell a story and so many stories that have not yet been told, so I love working on as many projects as possible.

Dysconnected

Do you get involved with post at all?
Yes, I love to be part of that whenever the circumstances allow it. As mentioned before, I love editing and sound design as well, but also planning and working with VFX long before and after the shoot is fascinating to me.

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
As I answer these questions, I’m sitting at the airport in Berlin, traveling to Johannesburg, South Africa. I’m excited about shooting a series of commercials in the African savanna. I shot many commercials this year, but was also happy that my short film Dysconnected, which I shot in Los Angeles last year, premiered at LA Shorts International Film Festival this summer.

What project are you most proud of?
I loved shooting the Rock ’n’ Roll Manifesto for Visions magazine, because it was the perfect combination of my job as a director and my before-mentioned “alternative Plan A,” making my living as a musician. Also, everybody involved in the project was so into it and it’s been the best shooting experience. And winning awards with it in the end was an added bonus.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Manifesto

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
1. Noise cancelling headphones. When I travel, I love listening to music and podcasts, and with these headphones you can dive into that world perfectly.
2. My mobile phone, which I hardly use for phone calls anymore but everything else.
3. My laptop, which is part of every project from the beginning until the end.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Cycling, hiking and rock concerts. There is nothing like the silence of being in pure nature and the loudness of heavy guitars and drums at a metal show (laughs).

Todd Phillips talks directing Warner Bros.’ Joker

By Iain Blair

Filmmaker Todd Phillips began his career in comedy, most notably with the blockbuster franchise The Hangover, which racked up $1.4 billion at the box office globally. He then leveraged that clout and left his comedy comfort zone to make the genre-defying War Dogs.

Todd Phillips directing Joaquin Phoenix

Joker puts comedy even further in his rearview mirror. This bleak, intense, disturbing and chilling tragedy has earned over a $1 billion worldwide since its release, making it the seventh-highest-grossing film of 2019 and the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. Not surprisingly, Joker was celebrated by the Academy, earning a total of 11 Oscar nods, including two for Phillips.

Directed, co-written and produced by Phillips (nominated for Directing and Screenplay), Joker is the filmmaker’s original vision of the infamous DC villain — an origin story infused with the character’s more traditional mythologies. Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is portrayed — and fully inhabited — by three-time Oscar-nominee Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. Longing for any light to shine on him, he tries his hand as a stand-up comic but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy, cruelty and, ultimately, betrayal, Arthur makes one bad decision after another that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this powerful, allegorical character study.

Phoenix is joined by Oscar-winner Robert De Niro, who plays TV host Murray Franklin, and a cast that includes Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Marc Maron, Josh Pais and Leigh Gill.

Behind the scenes, Phillips was joined by a couple of frequent collaborators in DP Lawrence Sher, ASC, and editor Jeff Groth. Also on the journey were Oscar-nominated co-writer Scott Silver, production designer Mark Friedberg and Oscar-winning costume designer Mark Bridges. Hildur Guðnadóttir provided the music.

Joker was produced by Phillips and actor/director Bradley Cooper, under their Joint Effort banner, and Emma Tillinger Koskoff.

I recently talked to Phillips, whose credits include Borat (for which he earned an Oscar nod for Best Adapted Screenplay), Due Date, Road Trip and Old School, about making the film, his love of editing and post.

You co-wrote this very complex, timely portrait of a man and a city. Was that the appeal for you?
Absolutely, 100 percent. While it takes place in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and we wrote it in 2016, it was very much about making a movie that deals with issues happening right now. Movies are often mirrors of society, and I feel this is exactly that.

Do you think that’s why so many people have been offended by it?
I do. It’s really resonated with audiences. I know it’s also been somewhat divisive, and a lot of people were saying, “You can’t make a movie about a guy like this — it’s irresponsible.” But do we want to pretend that these people don’t exist? When you hold up a mirror to society, people don’t always like what they see.

Especially when we don’t look so good.
(Laughs) Exactly.

This is a million miles away from the usual comic-book character and cartoon violence. What sort of film did you set out to make?
We set out to make a tragedy, which isn’t your usual Hollywood approach these days, for sure.

It’s hard to picture any other actor pulling this off. What did Joachin bring to the role?
When Scott and I wrote it, we had him in mind. I had a picture of him as my screensaver on my laptop — and he still is. And then when I pitched this, it was with him in mind. But I didn’t really know him personally, even though we created the character “in his voice.” Everything we wrote, I imagined him saying. So he was really in the DNA of the whole film as we wrote it, and he brought the vulnerability and intensity needed.

You’d assume that he’d jump at this role, but I heard it wasn’t so simple getting him.
You’re right. Getting him was a bit of a thing because it wasn’t something he was looking to do — to be in a movie set in the comic book world. But we spent a lot of timing talking about it, what it would be, what it means and what it says about society today and the lack of empathy and compassion that we have now. He really connected with those themes.

Now, looking back, it seems like an obvious thing for him to do, but it’s hard for actors because the business has changed so much and there’s so many of these superhero movies and comic book films now. Doing them is a big thing for an actor, because then you’re in “that group,” and not every actor wants to be in that group because it follows you, so to speak. A lot of actors have done really well in superhero movies and have done other things too, but it’s a big step and commitment for an actor. And he’d never really been in this kind of film before.

What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together?
I really wanted to shoot on location all around New York City, and that was a big challenge because it’s far harder than it sounds. But it was so important to the vibe and feel of the movie. So many superhero movies use lots of CGI, but I needed that gritty reality of the actual streets. And I think that’s why it’s so unsettling to people because it does feel so real. Luckily, we had Emma Tillinger Koskoff, who’s one of the great New York producers. She was key in getting locations.

Did you do a lot of previz?
I don’t usually do that much. We did it once for War Dogs and it worked well, but it’s a really slow and annoying process to some extent. As crazy as it sounds, we tried it once on the big Murray Franklin scene with De Niro at the end, which is not a scene you’d normally previz — it’s just two guys sitting on a couch. But it was a 12-page scene with so many camera angles, so we began to previz it and then just abandoned it half-way through. The DP and I were like, “This isn’t worth it. We’ll just do it like we always do and just figure it out as we go.” But previz is an amazing tool. It just needed more time and money than we had, and definitely more patience than I have.

Where did you post?
We started off at my house, where Jeff and I had an Avid setup. We also had a satellite office at 9000 Sunset, where all the assistants were. VFX and our VFX supervisor Edwin Rivera were also based out of there along with our music editor, and that’s where most of it was done. Our supervising sound editor was Alan Robert Murray, a two-time Oscar-winner for his work on American Sniper and Letters From Iwo Jima, and we did the Atmos sound mix on the lot at Warners with Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic.

Talk about editing with Jeff Groth. What were the big editing challenges?
There are a lot of delusions in Arthur’s head, so it was a big challenge to know when to hide them and when to reveal them. The scene order in the final film is pretty different from the scripted order, and that’s all about deciding when to reveal information. When you write the script, every scene seems important, and everything has to happen in this order, but when you edit, it’s like, “What were we thinking? This could move here, we can cut this, and so on.”

Todd Phillips on set with Robert DeNiro

That’s what’s so fun about editing and why I love it and post so much. I see my editor as a co-writer. I think every director loves editing the most, because let’s face it — directors are all control freaks, and you have the most control in post and the editing room. So for me at least, I direct movies and go through all the stress of production and shooting just to get to the editing room. It’s all stuff I just have to deal with so I can then sit down and actually make the movie. So it’s the final draft of the script and I very much see it as a writing exercise.

Post is your last shot at getting the script right, and the most fun part of making a movie is the first 10 to 12 weeks of editing. The worst part is the final stretch of post, all that detail work and watching the movie 400 times. You get sick of it, and it’s so hard to be objective. This ended up taking 20 weeks before we had the first cut. Usually you get 10 for the director’s cut, but I asked Warners for more time and they were like, “OK.”

Visual effects play a big role in the film. How many were there?
More than you’d think, but they’re not flashy. I told Edwin early on, if you do your job right, no one will guess there are any VFX shots at all. He had a great team, and we used various VFX houses, including Scanline, Shade and Branch.

There’s a lot of blood, and I’m guessing that was all enhanced a lot?
In fact, there was no real blood — not a drop — used on set, and that amazes people when I tell them. That’s one of the great things about VFX now — you can do all the blood work in post. For instance, traditionally, when you film a guy being shot on the subway, you have all the blood spatters and for take two, you have to clean all that up and repaint the walls and reset, and it takes 45 minutes. This way, with VFX, you don’t have to deal with any of that. You just do a take, do it again until it’s right, and add all the blood in post. That’s so liberating.

L-R: Iain Blair and Todd Phillips

What was the most difficult VFX shot to do?
I’d say the scene with Randall at his apartment, and all that blood tracking on the walls and on Arthur’s face and hands is pretty amazing, and we spent the most time on all that, getting it right.

Where did you do the DI, and how important is it to you?
At Company 3 with my regular colorist Jill Bogdanowicz, and it’s vital for the look. I only began doing DIs on the first Hangover, and the great thing about it is you can go in and surgically fix anything. And if you have a great DP like Larry Sher, who’s shot the last six movies for me, you don’t get lost in the maze of possibilities, and I trust him more than I trust myself sometimes.

We shot it digitally, though the original plan was to shoot 65mm large format, and when that fell through to shoot 35mm. Then Larry and I did a lot of tests and decided we’d shoot digital and make it look like film. And thanks to the way he lit and all the work he and Jill did, it has this weird photochemical feel and look. It’s not quite film, but it’s definitely not digital. It’s somewhere in the middle, its own thing.


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.

DP Chat: Good Boys cinematographer Jonathan Furmanski

By Randi Altman

Cinematographer Jonathan Furmanski is no stranger to comedy. His resume is long and includes such projects as the TV series Search Party and Inside Amy Schumer, as well as Judd Apatow’s documentary, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.

Jonathan Furmanski

So when it came time to collaborate with director Gene Stupnitsky on the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-produced Good Boys feature, he was more than ready.

Good Boys follows three 12-year-old boys (Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams) as they discover girls and how to get in and out of trouble. Inspired by earlier coming of age films, such as Stand By Me, Furmanski aimed for the look of the film to have “one foot in 2019 and the other in 1986.”

We reached out to Furmanski to find out about Good Boys, his workflows, inspiration and more.

Tell us about Good Boys. How early did you get involved in this film, and how did you work with the director Gene Stupnitsky?
Good Boys was a great experience. I interviewed with Gene and the producers several months before prep started. I flew up to Vancouver about a month before we started shooting, so had some time to sit with everyone to discuss the plan and style.

Everyone gave me a lot of room to figure out the look of the film, and there was universal agreement that we didn’t want Good Boys to look like a typical pre-teen comedy. Each conversation about the photography started with the idea that, despite the story being about three 12-year-old boys in a small suburban town, the film should feel bigger and more open. We wanted to show the thrill and fear of adolescence, discovery and adventure. That said, Gene was very clear not to undermine the comedy or constrain the actors.

How would you describe the look of film?
My hope was that Good Boys would feel like it had one foot in 2019 and the other in 1986. We got a lot of inspiration from movies like Stand By Me, The Goonies and ET. I didn’t want the film to be slick-looking; I wanted it to be sharp and vibrant and with a wider point of view. At the same time, it needed some grit and texture — despite all the sillier or crazier moments, I very much wanted the audience to be lulled into a suspension of disbelief. So, hopefully, we achieved that.

How did you work with the director and colorist to achieve the intended look?
We were very lucky to have Natasha Leonnet at Efilm do the final color on the film. She locked into the look and vibe. We were immediately on the same page about everything.

I obsess over all the details, and she was able to address my notes — or talk me off the ledge — while bringing her own vision and sensibility, which was right in line with what Gene and I envisioned. Just like on the shoot, I was given a lot of room to create the look.

You shot in Vancouver. How long was the shoot?
We shot for about 35 days in and around Vancouver.

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses this project? Can you talk about camera tests?
I spent a bit of time thinking about the best camera and lens combo. Initially, I was considering a full-frame format, but as we discussed the film and our references, we realized shooting anamorphic would bring a little more “bigness.”

Also, we knew we’d have a lot of shots of all three boys improvising or goofing around, so the wider aspect ratio would help keep them all in a nice frame. But I also didn’t want to be fighting the imperfections a lot of anamorphic lenses have. That “personality” can be great and really fun to shoot with, but for Good Boys, we needed to have greater control over the frame. So I tested every anamorphic series I could get my hands on — looking at distortion, flaring, horizontal and vertical sharpness, etc. — with a few camera systems. I settled on the ARRI Master anamorphic lenses and Alexa SXT and Mini cameras.

Ultimately, why was this the right combination of camera and lenses?
Well, I’ve shot almost every scripted and documentary project in the last five years on some model of Alexa or Amira, so I’m very familiar with the sensor and how it handles itself, no matter what the situation. And I knew we’d shoot ARRIRAW so would record an awesome amount of information. I’m so impressed with what ARRIRAW can handle; sometimes it sees too much. But really, there’s so much to think about while shooting, no matter how much you like the image in front of you, it’s reassuring to know you have heaps of information to work with.

As for lenses, I wanted a package that gave me all the scope and dimensionality of anamorphic without the typical limitations. Don’t get me wrong; some of the classic anamorphic series with all their flaws can be beautiful and exciting, but they weren’t the right choice for this film. I wanted to select how much (or how little) we had in focus, and I didn’t want to lose sharpness off the center of the frame or have to stop way down because we needed three boys’ faces in focus. So the Master anamorphics ended up being the perfect choice: a big look, great contrast and color rendition, lovely depth and separation, and clean and sharp across the frame.

Can you talk about the lighting and how the camera worked while grabbing shots when you could?
One of the challenges of working with three 12-year-olds as your lead actors is keeping things loose enough so they don’t feel fenced in, which would sap all the energy out of their performances. We worked hard to give each scene and location a strong look, but sometimes we lit a little more broadly or lensed a little wider so the boys had room to play.

We kept as much lighting out of the room or rigged overhead as we could so the locations wouldn’t get claustrophobic or overheated. And the operators were able to adjust their frames easily as things changed or if an actor was doing something unexpected.

Any challenging scenes that you are particularly proud of or that you found most challenging?
Without question, the most challenging sequence was the boys running across the highway. It was the biggest single scene I’ve shot, and it had multiple units shooting over five days — it was really tough from a coordination and matching perspective. Obviously, the scene had to be funny and exciting, but I also wanted it to feel huge. The boys are literally and figuratively crossing the biggest barrier of their lives! We got a little lucky that there was a thin layer of haze most of the time that took the edge off the direct sun and made matching a bit easier.

The key was sitting with our AD, Dan Miller, and coming up with the most advantageous shooting order, but not hopping around so much that we lose continuity or waste tons of time resetting everything. And almost every shot had VFX so our key grip, Marc Nolet, drilled small washers into the tarmac for every camera position and we took copious notes so we could go back if necessary, or second unit could come in and replicate something. It was a lot of work, but the final sequence is really fun and surprising.

Now for some more general questions. How did you become interested in cinematography?
I went to film school with the idea of being a writer/director, but I discovered very quickly that I wasn’t really into that. I was drawn immediately to cameras, lenses and film stocks, and I devoured all the information I could find about cinematography. My friends started asking me to shoot their student projects, and it took off from there. I’m lucky that I still get to work with some of those college friends.

How do you stay on top of advancing technology?
I don’t find it too difficult to stay on top of the latest and greatest camera or light or other widget. The basic idea is always the same, no matter how new the implementation, and when something truly groundbreaking comes along, you hear about it quickly.

Of course, many of my friends are in the camera or lighting departments, so we talk about this stuff all the time, and there are great online resources for checking out gear or swapping ideas. Probably the best place to learn is at events like Cine Gear, where you can see the latest stuff and hang out with your friends.

What inspires you artistically?
It’s easy to find inspiration almost anywhere: museums, books, online, just walking around. I also get great inspiration from my fellow cinematographers (past and present) and the work they do. The DP community is very open and supportive, maybe surprisingly so.

What new technology has changed the way you work?
The two innovations that have impacted my work most are digital cinema cameras and LED lighting. Both have afforded me a more lightweight and efficient way of working without sacrificing quality or options.

Jonathan Furmanski

What are some of your best practices or rules you try to follow on each job?
I credit my documentary work for teaching me to keep an open ear and an open mind. When you listen, you can prepare, anticipate or hear a key piece of information that could impact your approach. This, of course, leads to improvisation because maybe your idea doesn’t work or a better idea is presenting itself. Don’t be rigid. I also try to stand next to the camera as much as possible — that’s where all the action is.

Explain your ideal collaboration with the director when setting the look of a project.
It’s exactly that… a collaboration. I don’t want to be off by myself, and I don’t want to just pass information from one person to another. The best director/DP relationships are an extended, evolving conversation where you’re pushing a clear vision together but still challenging each other.

What’s your go-to gear — things you can’t live without?
I think the ARRI Amira is the best camera ever made, although I’m a bit of a chameleon when it comes to cameras and lenses — I don’t think I’ve used the same lens package twice on all my narrative projects. The two things I must have are my own wireless monitor and a good polarizing filter; I want complete control over the image, and I don’t like standing still.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Terminator: Dark Fate director Tim Miller

By Iain Blair

He said he’d be back, and he meant it. Thirty-five years after he first arrived to menace the world in the 1984 classic The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger has returned as the implacable killing machine in Terminator: Dark Fate, the latest installment of the long-running franchise.

And he’s not alone in his return. Terminator: Dark Fate also reunites the film’s producer and co-writer James Cameron with original franchise star Linda Hamilton for the first time in 28 years in a new sequel that picks up where Terminator 2: Judgment Day left off.

When the film begins, more than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor (Hamilton) prevented Judgment Day, changed the future and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Now, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a simple life in Mexico City with her brother (Diego Boneta) and father when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator — a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) — travels back through time to hunt and kill her. Dani’s survival depends on her joining forces with two warriors: Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor. As the Rev-9 ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 (Schwarzenegger) from Sarah’s past that might be their last best hope.

To helm all the on-screen mayhem, black humor and visual effects, Cameron handpicked Tim Miller, whose credits include the global blockbuster Deadpool, one of the highest grossing R-rated films of all time (it grossed close to $800 million). Miller then assembled a close-knit team of collaborators that included director of photography Ken Seng (Deadpool, Project X), editor Julian Clarke (Deadpool, District 9) and visual effects supervisor Eric Barba (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Oblivion).

Tim Miller on set

I recently talked to Miller about making the film, its cutting-edge VFX, the workflow and his love of editing and post.

How daunting was it when James Cameron picked you to direct this?
I think there’s something wrong with me because I don’t really feel fear as normal people do. It just manifests as a sense of responsibility, and with this I knew I’d never measure up to Jim’s movies but felt I could do a good job. Jim was never going to tell this story, and I wanted to see it, so it just became more about the weight of that sense of responsibility, but not in a debilitating way. I felt pretty confident I could carry this off. But later, the big anxiety was not to let down Linda Hamilton. Before I knew her, it wasn’t a thing, but later, once I got to know her I really felt I couldn’t mess it up (laughs).

This is still Cameron’s baby even though he handed over the directing to you. How hands-on was he?
He was busy with Avatar, but he was there for a lot of the early meetings and was very involved with the writing and ideas, which was very helpful thematically. But he wasn’t overbearing on all that. Then later when we shot, he wanted to write a few of the key scenes, which he did, and then in the edit he was in and out, but he never came into my edit room. He’d give notes and let us get on with it.

What sort of film did you set out to make?
A continuation of Sarah’s story. I never felt it was John’s story to me. It was always about a mother’s love for a son, and I felt like there was a real opportunity here. And that that story hadn’t been told — partly because the other sequels never had Linda. Once she wanted to come back, it was always the best possible story. No one else could be her or Arnold’s character.

Any surprises working with them?
Before we shot, people were telling me, “You got to be ready, we can’t mess around. When Arnold walks on set you’d better be rolling!” Sure enough, when he walked on he’d go, “And…” (Laughs) He really likes to joke around. With Linda — and the other actors — it was a love-fest. They’re both such nice, down-to-earth people, and I like a collegial atmosphere. I’m not a screamer. I’m very prepared, and I feel if you just show up on time, you’re already ahead of the game as a director.

What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together?
They were all different for each big action set piece, and fitting it all into a schedule was tough, as we had a crazy amount of VFX. The C-5 plane sequence was far and away the biggest challenge to do and [SFX supervisor] Neil Corbould and his team designed and constructed all the effects rigs for the movie. The C-5 set was incredible, with two revolving sets, one vertical and one horizontal. It was so big you could put a bus in it, and it was able to rotate 360 degrees and tilt in either direction at the same time.

You just can’t simulate that reality of zero gravity on the actors. And then after we got it all in camera, which took weeks, our VFX guy Eric Barba finished it off. The other big one was the whole underwater scene, where the Humvee falls over the top of a dam and goes underwater as it’s swept down a river. For that, we put the Humvee on a giant scissor lift that could take it all the way under, so the water rushes in and fills it up. It’s really safe to do, but it feels frighteningly realistic for the actors.

This is only my second movie, so I’m still learning, but the advantage is I’m really willing to listen to any advice from the smart people around me on set on how best to do all this stuff.

How early on did you start integrating post and all the VFX?
Right from the start. I use previz a lot, as I come from that environment and I’m very comfortable with it, and that becomes the template for all of production to work from. Sometimes it’s too much of a template and treated like a bible, but I’m like, “Please keep thinking. Is there a better idea?” But it’s great to get everyone on the same page, so very early on you see what’s VFX, what’s live-action only, what’s a combination, and you can really plan your shoot. We did over 45 minutes of previz, along with storyboards. We did tons of postviz. My director’s cut had no blue/green at all. It was all postviz for every shot.

Tim Miller and Linda Hamilton

DP Ken Seng, who did Deadpool with you, shot it. Talk about how you collaborated on the look.
We didn’t really have time to plan shot lists that much since we moved so much and packed so much into every day. A lot of it was just instinctive run-and-gun, as the shoot was pretty grueling. We shot in Madrid and [other parts of] Spain, which doubled for Mexico. Then we did studio work in Budapest. The script was in flux a lot, and Jim wrote a few scenes that came in late, and I was constantly re-writing and tweaking dialogue and adjusting to the locations because there’s the location you think you’ll get and then the one you actually get.

Where did you post?
All at Blur, my company where we did Deadpool. The edit bays weren’t big enough for this though, so we spilled over into another building next door. That became Terminator HQ with the main edit bay and several assistant bays, plus all the VFX and compositing post teams. Blur also helped out with postviz and previz.

Do you like the post process?
I love post! I was an animator and VFX guy first, so it’s very natural to me, and I had a lot of the same team from Deadpool, which was great.

Talk about editing with Julian Clarke who cut Deadpool. How did that work?
It was the same set up. He’d be back here in LA cutting while we shot. He’s so fast; he’d be just one day behind me — I’ve never met anyone who works as hard. Then after the shoot, we’d edit all day and then I’d deal with VFX reviews for hours.

Can you talk about how Adobe Creative Cloud helped the post and VFX teams achieve their creative and technical goals?
I’m a big fan, and that started back on Deadpool as David Fincher was working closely with Adobe to make Premiere something that could beat Avid. We’re good friends — we’re doing our animated Netflix show Love, Death & Robots together — and he was like, “Dude, you gotta use this tool,” so we used it on Deadpool. It was still a little rocky on that one, but overall it was a great experience, and we knew we’d use it on this one. Adobe really helped refine it and the workflow, and it was a huge leap.

What were the big editing challenges?
(Laughs) We just shot too much movie. We had many discussions about cutting one or more of the action scenes, but in the end, we just took out some of the action from all of them, instead of cutting a particular set piece. But it’s tricky cutting stuff and still making it seamless, especially in a very heavily choreographed sequence like the C-5.

VFX plays a big role. How many were there?
Over 2,500 — a huge amount. The VFX on this were so huge it became a bit of a problem, to be honest.

L-R: Writer Iain Blair and director Tim Miller

How did you work with VFX supervisor Eric Barba.
He did a great job and oversaw all the vendors, including ILM, who did most of them. We tried to have them do all the character-based stuff, to keep it in one place, but in the end, we also had Digital Domain, Method, Blur, UPP, Cantina, and some others. We also brought on Jeff White from ILM since it was more than Eric could handle.

Talk about the importance of sound and music.
Tom Holkenborg, who scored Deadpool, did another great job. We also reteamed with sound design and mixer Craig Henighan and we did the mix at Fox. They’re both crucial in a film like this, but I’m the first to admit music’s not my strength. Luckily, Julian Clarke is excellent with that and very focused. He worked hard at pulling it all together. I love sound design and we talked about all the spotting, and Julian managed a lot of that too for me because I was so busy with the VFX.

Where did you do the DI and how important is it to you?
It’s huge, and we did it at Company 3 with Tim Stipan, who did Deadpool. I like to do a lot of reframing, adding camera shake and so on. It has a subtle but important effect on the overall film.


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: C&I Studios founder Joshua Miller

While he might run the company, founder/CEO Joshua Miller is happiest creating. He also says there is no job too small: “Nothing is beneath you.”

NAME: Joshua Otis Miller

COMPANY: C&I Studios

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
C&I Studios is a production company and advertising agency. We are located in New York City, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Founder and CEO

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Well, my job is a little weird. While I own and run the company, my passion has always been filmmaking… since I was four years old. I also run the video and film team at the studio, so my job means a lot of things. One day, I can be shooting on a mountain and the next day writing scripts and concepts, or editing, creating feature films or TV shows or managing post production. Since I’m the CEO, I spend a ton of time bringing in new business and adding technology to the company. Every day feels brand new to me, and that is the best part.

Black Violin

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I think the thing that surprises most people is that when I’m on set working, I’m not sitting back drinking a mojito. I’m carrying the tripods and the sandbags and setting up the shots. I’m also the one signing everyone’s checks. One of our core beliefs at our company is “nothing is beneath you,” and that means you can do anything — including cleaning toilets —that helps the company grow, and it requires you to drop your ego. In the creative industry that’s a big deal.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
My favorite part of the job is working with my team. I got so sick of the freelance game — it’s so individualized, and everyone is out for themselves. I wanted to start C&I to work with people consistently, dream together, build together and create together. That is by far better than anything else.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My least favorite part of the job is firing people. That just sucks.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Between 4am and 5am. If you aren’t waking up earlier than everyone else, you aren’t doing it right.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would be doing the exact same thing. I could be working at McDonald’s, but I’d be filming with my iPhone or Razer phone and editing. It’s not about the money; you can’t take this thing from me. It’s a part of me, and something I certainly didn’t choose. So, no matter where you put me, this is what will come out. And since Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve is free, this is something I could actually do… I could be working at McDonald’s and shooting for fun on my phone and editing in Resolve’s new cut page, which is magic. That actually sounds awesome. Well, except the McDonald’s part (laughs).

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
Again, I don’t feel like I chose it. It’s something that I always felt drawn to. I was interested in cameras since I was very young… tearing apart my parents VHS tapes to see how they worked. I was completely perplexed by the idea that a camera does something and then it goes on this tape, and I see what’s on that tape in this VHS player and on TV. That was something I had to learn and figure out. But the main reason I wanted to really dig into this field is because I remember being in my grandmother’s house watching those VHS tapes with my brothers and my family and everyone is just sitting around, laughing watching old memories. I can’t shake that feeling. People feel warm, vulnerable, close… that is the power you have with a camera and the ability to tell a story. It’s absolutely incredible.

Black Violin

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Right now, I’m working on an incredible music video with Black Violin. We are shooting it in Los Angeles and Miami, and I’m really excited about it.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Probably something I’m most proud of is our latest film Christmas Eve. We just poured everything into that film. It’s just magic. We have done a lot of amazing stuff, but that one is really close to me right now.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Camera, computer, speakers (for music — I can’t live without music). Those three things are a must for me to breathe.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I’m not really into social media, not a big fan of what it has turned us into (off of my soapbox now), but I do follow a ton of film companies and directors. I love following Shane Hurlbut, Blackmagic Design, SmallHD, Red Digital Cinema and Panavision, to name a view.

YOU MENTIONED LOVING MUSIC. DO YOU LISTEN WHILE YOU WORK?
Music is everything. It’s the oil to my car. Without that, I’m toast. Of course, I don’t listen to music when I’m editing, but when I’m on set I love to listen to music. Love the new Chance record. When I’m writing, it’s always either Bon Iver or Michael Giacchino. I love scores and composers.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
To distress, I love the moments in the studio when the staff and I just sit around and get to laugh and just hang out. I have a beautiful family and two wonderful kids, so when I’m not stressing about work I’m giving horsey-back rides to my son, while my daughter tries to explain TikTok to me.

Colorist Chat: Scott Ostrowsky on Amazon’s Sneaky Pete

By Randi Altman

Scott Ostrowsky, senior colorist at Deluxe’s Level 3 in Los Angeles has worked on all three seasons of Amazon’s Sneaky Pete, produced by Bryan Cranston and David Shore and starring Giovanni Ribisi. Season 3 is the show’s last.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it follows a con man named Marius (Ribisi), who takes the place of his former cell-mate Pete and endears himself to Pete’s seemingly idyllic family while continuing to con his way through life. Over time he comes to love the family, which is nowhere as innocent as they seem.

Scott Ostrowsky

We reached out to this veteran colorist to learn more about how the look of the series developed over the seasons and how he worked with the showrunners and DPs.

You’ve been on Sneaky Pete since the start. Can you describe how the look has changed over the years?
I worked on Seasons 1 through Season 3. The DP for Season 1 was Rene Ohashi and it had somewhat of a softer feel. It was shot on a Sony F55. It mostly centered around the relationship of Bryan Cranston’s character and Giovanni Ribisi’s newly adopted fake family and his brother.

Season 2 was shot by DPs Frank DeMarco and William Rexer on a Red Dragon, and it was a more stylized and harsher look in some ways. The looks were different because the storylines and the locations had changed. So, even though we had some beautiful, resplendent looks in Season 2, we also created some harsher environments, and we did that through color correction. Going into Season 2, the storyline changed, and it became more defined in the sense that we used the environments to create an atmosphere that matched the storyline and the performances.

An example of this would be the warehouse where they all came together to create the scam/ heist that they were going to pull off. Another example of this would be the beautiful environment in the casino that was filled with rich lighting and ornate colors. But there are many examples of this through the show — both DPs used shadow and light to create a very emotional mood or a very stark mood and everything in between.

Season 3 shot by Arthur Albert and his son, Nick Albert on a Red Gemini, and it had a beautiful, resplendent, rich look that matched the different environments when it moved from the cooler look of New York to the more warm, colorful look in California.

So you gave different looks based on locale? 
Yes, we did. Many times, the looks would depend on time of day and the environment that they were in. An example of this might be the harsh fluorescent green in the gas station bathroom where Giovanni’s character is trying to figure out a way to help his brother and avoid his captures.

How did you work with the Alberts on the most recent season?
I work at Level 3 Post, which is a Deluxe company. I did Season 1 and 2 at the facility on the Sony lot. Season 3 was posted at Level 3. Arthur and Nick Albert came in to my color suite with the camera tests shot on the Red Gemini and also the Helium. We set up a workflow based on the Red cameras and proceeded to grade the various setups.

Once Arthur and Nick decided to use the Gemini, we set up our game plan for the season. When I received my first conform, I proceeded to grade it based on our conversations. I was very sensitive to the way they used their setups, lighting and exposures. Once I finished my first primary grade, Arthur would come in and sit with me to watch the show and make any changes. After Arthur approved the grade, The producers and showrunner would come in for their viewing. They could make any additional changes at that time. (Read our interview with Arthur Albert here.)

How do you prefer to work with directors/DPs?
The first thing is have conversation with them on their approach and how they view color as being part of the story they want to tell. I always like to get a feel for how the cinematographer will shoot the show and what, if any, LUTs they’re using so I can emulate that look as a starting point for my color grading.

It is really important to me to find out how a director envisions the image he or she would like to portray on the screen. An example of this would be facial expressions. Do we want to see everything or do they mind if the shadow side remains dark and the light falls off.

A lot of times, it’s about how the actors emote and how they work in tandem with each other to create tension, comedy or other emotions — and what the director is looking for in these scenes.

Any tips for getting the most out of a project from a color perspective?
Communication. Communication. Communication. Having an open dialogue with the cinematographer, showrunners and directors is extremely important. If the colorist is able to get the first pass very close, you spend more time on the nuisances rather than balancing or trying to find a look. That is why it is so important to have an understanding of the essence of what a director, cinematographer and showrunner is looking for.

How do you prefer the DP or director to describe their desired look?
However they’re comfortable in enlightening me to their styles or needs for the show is fine. Usually, we can discuss this when we have a camera test before principal photography starts. There’s no one way that you can work with everybody — you just adapt to how they work. And as a colorist, it’s your job to make that image sing or shine the way that they intended it to.

You used Resolve on this. Is there a particular tool that came in handy for this show?
All tools on the Resolve are useful for a drama series. You would not buy the large crayon box and throw out colors you didn’t like because, at some point, you might need them. I use all tools — from keys, windows, log corrections and custom curves to create the looks that were needed.

You have been working in TV for many years. How has color grading changed during that time?
Color correction has become way more sophisticated over the years, and is continually growing and expanding into a blend of not only color grading but helping to create environments that are needed to express the look of a show. We no longer just have simple color correctors with simple secondaries; the toolbox continues to grow with added filters, added grain and sometimes even helping to create visual effects, which most color correctors are able to do today.

Where do you find inspiration? Art? Photography?
I’ve always loved photography and B&W movies. There’s a certain charm or subtlety that you find in B&W, whether it’s a film noir, the harshness of film grain, or just the use of shadow and light. I’ve always enjoyed going to museums and looking at different artists and how they view the world and what inspires them.

To me, it’s trying to portray an image and have that image make a statement. In daily life, you can see multiple examples as you go through your day, and I try and keep the most interesting ones that I can remember in my lexicon of images.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Good Company adds director Daniel Iglesias Jr.

Filmmaker Daniel Iglesias Jr., whose reel spans narrative storytelling to avant-garde fashion films with creativity and an eccentric visual style, has signed with full-service creative studio Good Company.

Iglesias’ career started while attending Chapman University’s renowned film school, where he earned a BFA in screen acting. At the same time, Iglesias and his friend Zack Sekuler began crafting images for his friends in the alt-rock band The Neighbourhood. Iglesias’ career took off after directing his first music video for the band’s breakout hit “Sweater Weather,” which reached over 310 million views. He continues working behind the camera for The Neighbourhood and other artists like X Ambassadors and AlunaGeorge.

Iglesias uses elements of surrealism and a blend of avant-garde and commercial compositions, often stemming from innovative camera techniques. His work includes projects for clients like Ralph Lauren, Steve Madden, Skyy Vodka and Chrysler and the Vogue film Death Head Sphinx.

One of his most celebrated projects was a two-minute promo for Margaux the Agency. Designed as a “living magazine,” Margaux Vol 1 merges creative blocking, camera movement and effects to create a kinetic visual catalog that is both classic and contemporary. The piece took home Best Picture at the London Fashion Film Festival, along with awards from the Los Angeles Film Festival, the International Fashion Film Awards and Promofest in Spain.

Iglesias’ first project since joining Good Company was Ikea’s Kama Sutra commercial for Ogilvy NY, a tongue-in-cheek exploration of the boudoir. Now he is working on a project for Paper Magazine and Tiffany.

“We all see the world through our own lens; through film, I can unscrew my lens and pop in onto other people and, by effect, change their point of view or even the depth of culture,” he says. “That’s why the medium excites me — I want to show people my lens.”

We reached out to Iglesias to learn a bit more about how he works.

How do you go about picking the people you work with?
I do have a couple DPs and PDs I like to work with on the regular, depending on the job, and sometimes it makes sense to work with someone new. If it’s someone new that I haven’t worked with before, I typically look at three things to get a sense of how right they are for the project: image quality, taste and versatility. Then it’s a phone call or meeting to discuss the project in person so we can feel out chemistry and execution strategy.

Do you trust your people completely in terms of what to shoot on, or do you like to get involved in that process as well?
I’m a pretty hands-on and involved director, but I think it’s important to know what you don’t know and delegate/trust accordingly. I think it’s my job as a director to communicate, as detailed and effectively as possible, an accurate explanation of the vision (because nobody sees the vision of the project better than I do). Then I must understand that the DPs/PDs/etc. have a greater knowledge of their field than I do, so I must trust them to execute (because nobody understands how to execute in their fields better than they do).

Since Good Company also provides post, how involved do you get in that process?
I would say I edit 90% of my work. If I’m not editing it myself, then I still oversee the creative in post. It’s great to have such a strong post workflow with Good Company.

Colorist Joanne Rourke grades Netflix horror film In the Tall Grass

Colorists are often called on to help enhance a particular mood or item for a film, show or spot. For Netflix’s In the Tall Grass — based on a story from horror writers Stephen King and Joe Hill — director Vincenzo Natali and DP Craig Wrobleski called on Deluxe Toronto’s Joanne Rourke to finesse the film’s final look using color to give the grass, which plays such a large part in the film, personality.

In fact, most of the film takes place in a dense Kansas field. It all begins when a brother and his pregnant sister hear a boy’s cries coming from a field of tall grass and go to find him. Soon they realize they can’t escape.

Joanne Rourke

“I worked with Vincenzo more than 20 years ago when I did the video mastering for his film Cube, so it was wonderful to reconnect with him and a privilege to work with Craig. The color process on this project was highly collaborative and we experimented a lot. It was decided to keep the day exteriors natural and sunny with subtle chromatic variations between. While this approach is atypical for horror flicks, it really lends itself to a more unsettling and ominous feeling when things begin to go awry,” explains Rourke.

In the Tall Grass was principally shot using the ARRI Alexa LF camera system, which helped give the footage a more immersive feeling when the characters are trapped in the grass. The grass itself comprised a mix of practical and CG grass that Rourke adjusted the color of depending on the time of day and where the story was taking place in the field. For the night scenes, she focused on giving the footage a silvery look while keeping the overall look as dark as possible with enough details visible. She was also mindful to keep the mysterious rock dark and shadowed.

Rourke completed the film’s first color pass in HDR, then used that version to create an SDR trim pass. She found the biggest challenge of working in HDR on this film to be reining in unwanted specular highlights in night scenes. To adjust for this, she would often window specific areas of the shot, an approach that leveraged the benefits of HDR without pushing the look to the extreme. She used Blackmagic Resolve 15 along with the occasional Boris FX Sapphire plugins.

“Everyone involved on this project had a keen attention to detail and was so invested in the final look of the project, which made for such great experience,” says Rourke. “I have many favorite shots, but I love how the visual of the dead crow on the ground perfectly captures the silver feel. Craig and Vincenzo created such stunning imagery, and I was just happy to be along for the ride. Also, I had no idea that head squishing could be so gleeful and fun.”

In the Tall Grass is now streaming on Netflix.

The editors of Ad Astra: John Axelrad and Lee Haugen

By Amy Leland

The new Brad Pitt film Ad Astra follows astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) as he journeys deep into space in search of his father, astronaut Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones). The elder McBride disappeared years before, and his experiments in space might now be endangering all life on Earth. Much of the film features Pitt’s character alone in space with his thoughts, creating a happy challenge for the film’s editing team, who have a long history of collaboration with each other and the film’s director James Gray.

L-R: Lee Haugen and John Axelrad

Co-editors John Axelrad, ACE, and Lee Haugen share credits on three previous films — Haugen served as Axelrad’s apprentice editor on Two Lovers, and the two co-edited The Lost City of Z and Papillon. Ad Astra’s director, James Gray, was also at the helm of Two Lovers and The Lost City of Z. A lot can be said for long-time collaborations.

When I had the opportunity to speak with Axlerad and Haugen, I was eager to find out more about how this shared history influenced their editing process and the creation of this fascinating story.

What led you both to film editing?
John Axelrad: I went to film school at USC and graduated in 1990. Like everyone else, I wanted to be a director. Everyone that goes to film school wants that. Then I focused on studying cinematography, but then I realized several years into film school that I don’t like being on the set.

Not long ago, I spoke to Fred Raskin about editing Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. He originally thought he was going to be a director, but then he figured out he could tell stories in an air-conditioned room.
Axelrad: That’s exactly it. Air conditioning plays a big role in my life; I can tell you that much. I get a lot of enjoyment out of putting a movie together and of being in my own head creatively and really working with the elements that make the magic. In some ways, there are a lot of parallels with the writer when you’re an editor; the difference is I’m not dealing with a blank page and words — I’m dealing with images, sound and music, and how it all comes together. A lot of people say the first draft is the script, the second draft is the shoot, and the third draft is the edit.

L-R: John and Lee at the Papillon premiere.

I started off as an assistant editor, working for some top editors for about 10 years in the ’90s, including Anne V. Coates. I was an assistant on Out of Sight when Anne Coates was nominated for the Oscar. Those 10 years of experience really prepped me for dealing with what it’s like to be the lead editor in charge of a department — dealing with the politics, the personalities and the creative content and learning how to solve problems. I started cutting on my own in the late ‘90s, and in the early 2000s, I started editing feature films.

When did you meet your frequent collaborator James Gray?
Axelrad: I had done a few horror features, and then I hooked up with James on We Own the Night, and that went very well. Then we did Two Lovers after that. That’s where Lee Haugen came in — and I’ll let him tell his side of the story — but suffice it to say that I’ve done five films for James Gray, and Lee Haugen rose up through the ranks and became my co-editor on the Lost City of Z. Then we edited the movie Papillon together, so it was just natural that we would do Ad Astra together as a team.

What about you, Lee? How did you wind your way to where we are now?
Lee Haugen: Growing up in Wisconsin, any time I had a school project, like writing a story or writing an article, I would change it into a short video or short film instead. Back then I had to shoot on VHS tape and edited tape to tape by pushing play and hitting record and timing it. It took forever, but that was when I really found out that I loved editing.

So I went to school with a focus on wanting to be an editor. After graduating from Wisconsin, I moved to California and found my way into reality television. That was the mid-2000s and it was the boom of reality television; there were a lot of jobs that offered me the chance to get in the hours needed for becoming a member of the Editors Guild as well as more experience on Avid Media Composer.

After about a year of that, I realized working the night shift as an assistant editor on reality television shows was not my real passion. I really wanted to move toward features. I was listening to a podcast by Patrick Don Vito (editor of Green Book, among other things), and he mentioned John Axelrad. I met John on an interview for We Own the Night when I first moved out here, but I didn’t get the job. But a year or two later, I called him, and he said, “You know what? We’re starting another James Gray movie next week. Why don’t you come in for an interview?” I started working with John the day I came in. I could not have been more fortunate to find this group of people that gave me my first experience in feature films.

Then I had the opportunity to work on a lower-budget feature called Dope, and that was my first feature editing job by myself. The success of the film at Sundance really helped launch my career. Then things came back around. John was finishing up Krampus, and he needed somebody to go out to Northern Ireland to edit the assembly of The Lost City of Z with James Gray. So, it worked out perfectly, and from there, we’ve been collaborating.

Axelrad: Ad Astra is my third time co-editing with Lee, and I find our working as a team to be a naturally fluid and creative process. It’s a collaboration entailing many months of sharing perspectives, ideas and insights on how best to approach the material, and one that ultimately benefits the final edit. Lee wouldn’t be where he is if he weren’t a talent in his own right. He proved himself, and here we are together.

How has your collaborative process changed and grown from when you were first working together (John, Lee and James) to now, on Ad Astra?
Axelrad: This is my fifth film with James. He’s a marvelous filmmaker, and one of the reasons he’s so good is that he really understands the subtlety and power of editing. He’s very neoclassical in his approach, and he challenges the viewer since we’re all accustomed to faster cutting and faster pacing. But with James, it’s so much more of a methodical approach. James is very performance-driven. It’s all about the character, it’s all about the narrative and the story, and we really understand his instincts. Additionally, you need to develop a second-hand language and truly understand what the director wants.

Working with Lee, it was just a natural process to have the two of us cutting. I would work on a scene, and then I could say, “Hey Lee, why don’t you take a stab at it?” Or vice versa. When James was in the editing room working with us, he would often work intensely with one of us and then switch rooms and work with the other. I think we each really touched almost everything in the film.

Haugen: I agree with John. Our way of working is very collaborative —that includes John and I, but also our assistant editors and additional editors. It’s a process that we feel benefits the film as a whole; when we have different perspectives, it can help us explore different options that can raise the film to another level. And when James comes in, he’s extremely meticulous. And as John said, he and I both touched every single scene, and I think we’ve even touched every frame of the film.

Axelrad: To add to what Lee said, about involving our whole editing team, I love mentoring, and I love having my crew feel very involved. Not just technical stuff, but creatively. We worked with a terrific guy, Scott Morris, who is our first assistant editor. Ultimately, he got bumped up during the course of the film and got an additional editor credit on Ad Astra.

We involve everyone, even down to the post assistant. We want to hear their ideas and make them feel like a welcome part of a collaborative environment. They obviously have to focus on their primary tasks, but I think it just makes for a much happier editing room when everyone feels part of a team.

How did you manage an edit that was so collaborative? Did you have screenings of dailies or screenings of cuts?
Axelrad: During dailies it was just James, and we would send edits for him to look at. But James doesn’t really start until he’s in the room. He really wants to explore every frame of film and try all the infinite combinations, especially when you’re dealing with drama and dealing with nuance and subtlety and subtext. Those are the scenes that take the longest. When I put together the lunar rover chase, it was almost easier in some ways than some of the intense drama scenes in the film.

Haugen: As the dailies came in, John and I would each take a scene and do a first cut. And then, once we had something to present, we would call everybody in to watch the scene. We would get everybody’s feedback and see what was working, what wasn’t working. If there were any problems that we could address before moving to the next scene, we would. We liked to get the outside point of view, because once you get further and deeper into the process of editing a film, you do start to lose perspective. To be able to bring somebody else in to watch a scene and to give you feedback is extremely helpful.

One thing that John established with me on Two Lovers — my first editing job on a feature — was allowing me to come and sit in the room during the editing. After my work was done, I was welcome to sit in the back of the room and just observe the interaction between John and James. We continued that process with this film, just to give those people experience and to learn and to observe how an edit room works. That helped me become an editor.

John, you talked about how the action scenes are often easier to cut than the dramatic scenes. It seems like that would be even more true with Ad Astra, because so much of this film is about isolation. How does that complicate the process of structuring a scene when it’s so much about a person alone with his own thoughts?
Axelrad: That was the biggest challenge, but one we were prepared for. To James’ credit, he’s not precious about his written words; he’s not precious about the script. Some directors might say, “Oh no, we need to mold it to fit the script,” but he allows the actors to work within a space. The script is a guide for them, and they bring so much to it that it changes the story. That’s why I always say that we serve the ego of the movie. The movie, in a way, informs us what it wants to be, and what it needs to be. And in the case of this, Brad gave us such amazing nuanced performances. I believe you can sometimes shape the best performance around what is not said through the more nuanced cues of facial expressions and gestures.

So, as an editor, when you can craft something that transcends what is written and what is photographed and achieve a compelling synergy of sound, music and performance — to create heightened emotions in a film — that’s what we’re aiming for. In the case of his isolation, we discovered early on that having voiceover and really getting more interior was important. That wasn’t initially part of the cut, but James had written voiceover, and we began to incorporate that, and it really helped make this film into more of an existential journey.

The further he goes out into space, the deeper we go into his soul, and it’s really a dive into the subconscious. That sequence where he dives underwater in the cooling liquid of the rocket, he emerges and climbs up the rocket, and it’s almost like a dream. Like how in our dreams we have superhuman strength as a way to conquer our demons and our fears. The intent really was to make the film very hypnotic. Some people get it and appreciate it.

As an editor, sound often determines the rhythm of the edit, but one of the things that was fascinating with this film is how deafeningly quiet space likely is. How do you work with the material when it’s mostly silent?
Haugen: Early on, James established that he wanted to make the film as realistic as possible. Sound, or lack of sound, is a huge part of space travel. So the hard part is when you have, for example, the lunar rover chase on the moon, and you play it completely silent; it’s disarming and different and eerie, which was very interesting at first.

But then we started to explore how we could make this sound more realistic or find a way to amplify the action beats through sound. One way was, when things were hitting him or things were vibrating off of his suit, he could feel the impacts and he could hear the vibrations of different things going on.

Axelrad: It was very much part of our rhythm, of how we cut it together, because we knew James wanted to be as realistic as possible. We did what we could with the soundscapes that were allowable for a big studio film like this. And, as Lee mentioned, playing it from Roy’s perspective — being in the space suit with him. It was really just to get into his head and hear things how he would hear things.

Thanks to Max Richter’s beautiful score, we were able to hone the rhythms to induce a transcendental state. We had Gary Rydstrom and Tom Johnson mix the movie for us at Skywalker, and they were the ultimate creators of the balance of the rhythms of the sounds.

Did you work with music in the cut?
Axelrad: James loves to temp with classical music. In previous films, we used a lot of Puccini. In this film, there was a lot of Wagner. But Max Richter came in fairly early in the process and developed such beautiful themes, and we began to incorporate his themes. That really set the mood.

When you’re working with your composer and sound designer, you feed off each other. So things that they would do would inspire us, and we would change the edits. I always tell the composers when I work with them, “Hey, if you come up with something, and you think musically it’s very powerful, let me know, and I am more than willing to pitch changing the edit to accommodate.” Max’s music editor, Katrina Schiller, worked in-house with us and was hugely helpful, since Max worked out of London.

We tend not to want to cut with music because initially you want the edit not to have music as a Band-Aid to cover up a problem. But once we feel the picture is working, and the rhythm is going, sometimes the music will just fit perfectly, even as temp music. And if the rhythms match up to what we’re doing, then we know that we’ve done it right.

What is next for the two of you?
Axelrad: I’m working on a lower-budget movie right now, a Lionsgate feature film. The title is under wraps, but it stars Janelle Monáe, and it’s kind of a socio-political thriller.

What about you Lee?
Haugen: I jumped onto another film as well. It’s an independent film starring Zoe Saldana. It’s called Keyhole Garden, and it’s this very intimate drama that takes place on the border between Mexico and America. So it’s a very timely story to tell.


Amy Leland is a film director and editor. Her short film, Echoes, is now available on Amazon Video. She also has a feature documentary in post, a feature screenplay in development, and a new doc in pre-production. She is an editor for CBS Sports Network and recently edited the feature “Sundown.” You can follow Amy on social media on Twitter at @amy-leland and Instagram at @la_directora.

Quick Chat: Frame.io’s new global SVP of innovation, Michael Cioni

By Randi Altman

Production and post specialist Michael Cioni, whom many of you might know from his years at Light Iron and Panavision, has joined Frame.io as global SVP of innovation. He will lead a new LA-based division of Frame.io that is focused on continued investment into cloud-enabled workflows for films and episodics — specifically, automated camera-to-cutting room technology.

Frame.io has been 100 percent cloud-based since the company was formed, according to founder Emery Wells. “We started seeding new workflows around dailies, collaborative review and realtime integration with NLEs for parallel work and approvals. Now, with Michael, we’re building Frame.io for the new frontier of cloud-enabled professional workflows. Frame.io will leverage machine learning and a combination of software and hardware in a way that will truly revolutionize collaboration.”

Quoted in a Frame.io release that went out today, Cioni says, “A robust camera-to-cloud approach means filmmakers will have greater access to their work, greater control of their content, and greater speed with which to make key decisions,” says Cioni. “Our new roadmap will dramatically reduce the time it takes to get original camera negative into the hands of editors. Directors, cinematographers, post houses, DITs and editors will all be able to work with recorded images in real time, regardless of location.”

We reached out to Cioni with some questions about Frame.io and the cloud.

Why was now the right time for you to move on from Light Iron — which you helped to establish — and Panavision to join Frame.io?
After 10 years at Light Iron and over four at Panavision, I have been very fortunate to spend large portions of my career focused on both post and production. Being at both these groups gave me more access to the unique challenges our industry collaborators face, especially with more productions operating on global schedules. Light Iron and Panavision equipped me with the ideal training to explore something entirely new that couples production and post together in an entirely new way. Frame.io is the right foundation for this change.

What will your day-to-day look like at the company?
I will be based in LA and helping build out Frame.io’s newest division in Los Angeles. I will also be traveling regularly to New York to work directly with the engineers and security teams on our roadmap development. This is great for me because I loved living in New York when we opened up Light Iron NY, but I also love working in LA, where so many post and production infrastructures call home.

Frame.io was founded by post pros. Why is it so important for the company to continue that tradition with your hire?
I find that the key to success in any industry is largely dependent on how deep your knowledge well goes. Even though we in media and entertainment serve the world through creative means, the filmmaking process is inherently complex and inherently technical. It always has been.

The best technologies are the ones that are invisible and let the creative process flow without thought about the technology behind what is happening in your mind. Frame.io CEO Emery Wells and I have a profound respect for post production because we were both entrepreneurs and experts in the post space. Anyone who has built or operated a post facility (big or small) knows that post is a hub linking together nearly all workflow components for both creative and technical team members.

Because post lives at the core of Emery and myself, Frame.io will always be grounded in the professional workflow space, which enables us to better evolve our technology into markets of every type and scale.

Your roadmap seems in line with the MovieLabs white paper on the future of production, which is cloud-based. Can you address that?
MovieLabs is arguably the best representation of a technological roadmap for the media and entertainment industry. I was thrilled to see an early copy because it parallels a similar vision I have been exploring since 2013. I believe MovieLabs paints an accurate picture of the great things we are going to be able to do using cloud and machine learning technology, but it also demonstrates how many challenges there are before we can enjoy all the benefits. Frame.io not only supports the conclusions of the MovieLabs white paper, we have already begun deploying solutions to bring a new virtual creative world to reality.

Main Image: (L-R) Michael Cioni and Emery Wells

Color grading IT Chapter Two’s terrifying return

In IT Chapter Two, the kids of the Losers’ Club are all grown up and find themselves lured back to their hometown of Derry. Still haunted both by the trauma that monstrous clown Pennywise let loose on the community and by each one’s own unique insecurities, the group (James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader) find themselves up against even more terrifying forces than they faced in the first film, IT.

Stephen Nakamura

IT Chapter Two director Andy Muschietti called on cinematographer Checco Varese and colorist Stephen Nakamura of Company 3. Nakamura returned to the franchise, performing the final color grade at Efilm in Hollywood. “I felt the first one was going to be a big hit when we were working on it, because these kids’ stories were so compelling and the performances were so strong. It was more than just a regular horror movie. This second one, in my opinion, is just as powerful in terms of telling these characters’ stories. And, not surprisingly, it also takes the scary parts even further.”

According to Nakamura, Muschietti “is a very visually oriented director. When we were coloring both of the films, he was very aware of the kinds of things we can do in the DI to enhance the imagery and make things even more scary. He pushed me to take some scenes in Chapter Two in directions I’ve never gone with color. I think it’s always important, whether you’re a colorist or a chef or a doctor, to always push yourself and explore new aspects of your work. Andy’s enthusiasm encouraged me to try new approaches to working in DaVinci Resolve. I think the results are very effective.”

For one thing, the technique he used to bring up just the light level in the eyes of the shapeshifting clown Pennywise got even more use here because there were more frightening characters to use it on. In many cases, the companies that created the visual effects also provided mattes that let Nakamura easily isolate and adjust the luminance of each individual eye in Resolve. When such mattes weren’t available, he used Resolve to track each eyeball a frame at a time.

“Resolve has excellent tracking capabilities, but we were looking to isolate just the tiny whites of the characters’ eyes,” Nakamura explains, “and there just wasn’t enough information to track.” It was meticulous work, he recalls, “but it’s very effective. The audience doesn’t consciously know we’re doing anything, but it makes the eyes brighter in a very strange way, kind of like a cat’s eyes when they catch the light. It really enhances the eerie feeling.”

In addition, Nakamura and the filmmakers made use of Resolve’s Flicker tool in the OpenFX panel to enhance the flickering effect in a scene involving flashing lights, taking the throbbing light effects further than they did on set. Not long ago, this type of enhancement would have been a more involved process in which the shots would likely be sent to a visual effects house. “We were able to do it as part of the grading, and we all thought it looked completely realistic. They definitely appreciated the ability to make little enhancements like that in the final grade, when everyone can see the scenes with the grade in context and on a big screen.”

Portions of the film involve scenes of the Losers’ Club as children, which were comprised of newly shot material (not cut in from the production of the first It). Nakamura applied a very subtle amount of Resolve’s mid-tone detail tool over them primarily to help immediately and subliminally orient the audience in time.

But the most elaborate use of the color corrector involved one short sequence in which Hader’s character, walking in a local park on a pleasant, sunny day, has a sudden, terrifying interaction with a very frightening character. The shots involved a significant amount of CGI and compositing work, which was completed at several effects houses. Muschietti was pleased with the effects work, but he wanted Nakamura to bring in an overall quality to the look of the scene that made it feel a bit more otherworldly.

Says Nakamura, “Andy described something that reminded me of the old-school, two-strip color process, where essentially anything red would get pushed into being a kind of magenta, and something blue or green would become a kind of cyan.”

Nakamura, who colored Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (shot by Robert Richardson, ASC), had designed something at that point to create more of a three-strip look, but this process was more challenging, as it involved constraining the color palette to an even greater degree — without, of course, losing definition in the imagery.

With a bit of trial and error, Nakamura came up with the notion of using the splitter/combiner node and recombined some nodes in the output, forcing the information from the green channel into the red and blue channels. He then used a second splitter/combiner node to control the output. “It’s almost like painting a scene with just two colors,” he explains. “Green grass and blue sky both become shades of cyan, while skin and anything with red in it goes into the magenta area.”

The work became even more complex because the red-haired Pennywise also makes an appearance; it was important for him to retain his color, despite the rest of the scene going two-tone. Nakamura treated this element as a complex chroma key, using a second splitter/combiner node and significantly boosting the saturation just to isolate Pennywise while preventing the two-tone correction from affecting him.

When it came time to complete the pass for HDR Dolby Cinema — designed for specialty projectors capable essentially of displaying brighter whites and darker blacks than normal cinema projectors — Muschietti was particularly interested in the format’s treatment of dark areas of the frame.

“Just like in the first one,” Nakamura explains, “we were able to make use of Dolby Cinema to enhance suspense. People usually talk about how bright the highlights can be in HDR. But, when you push more light through the picture than you do for the P3 version, we also have the ability to make shadowy areas of the image appear even darker while keeping the details in those really dark areas very clear. This can be very effective in a movie like this, where you have scary characters lurking in the shadows.

“The color grade always plays some kind of role in a movie’s storytelling,” Nakamura sums up, “but this was a fun example of how work we did in the color grade really helped scare the audience.”

You can check out our Q&A with Nakamura about his work on the original IT.

Michael Engler on directing Downton Abbey movie

By Iain Blair

If, like millions of other fans around the world, you still miss watching the Downton Abbey series, don’t despair. The acclaimed show is back as a new feature film, still showcasing plenty of drama, nostalgia, glamour and good British values with every frame.

So sit back in a comfy armchair, grab a cup of tea (assuming you don’t have servants to fetch it for you) and forget about the stresses of modern life. Just let Downton Abbey take you back to a simpler time of relative innocence and understated elegance.

Director Michael Engler

The film reunites the series’ cast (including Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith) and also adds some new members. The film starts with a simple but effective plot device, a visit to the Great House from the most illustrious guests the Crawley family could ever hope to entertain — their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary. With a dazzling parade and lavish dinner to orchestrate, Mary (Dockery), now firmly at the reins of the estate, faces the greatest challenge to her tenure as head of Downton.

At the film’s helm was TV and theater director Michael Engler, whose diverse credits include 30 Rock, Empire, Deadwood, Nashville, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and several episodes of the series Downton Abbey.

I recently talked to him about making the film, its durable appeal and the workflow.

You directed one episode in the fifth season of the TV show and then a few in the final season. How daunting was it making a film of such a beloved show?
It was very daunting, especially as people have such high expectations. They love it so much, so you feel you really have to deliver. You can’t disappoint them. But basically, you’re pretty lucky in life and in your career when those are your big problems. Then you also have the advantage of this amazing cast, who know their characters so well, and Julian (Fellowes, the series creator), who loves writing these characters. We’ve all developed such a good working rhythm together, and all that really helped so much. Because of the huge fan base, it’s not like so many projects where you’re trying to get audiences to pay attention. They’re already very invested in it, and I’d far rather have that than the worry of directing an unknown project.

What were the big differences between shooting the series and the movie?
The big one was the need to ramp it up, even though the TV series was always ambitious cinematically, and we knew that the template would be a good one to build on. The DNA of the show was a good foundation. For instance, one of the things we discovered very quickly, even shooting intimate scenes of a few people in a bedroom or a drawing room, it would be full-scale. We could hold the shots longer and see everyone’s reactions in a big wide shot. We didn’t have to emphasize plot points with a lot of cutting as you’d do in TV. We could let the rooms play in full size for a while, and that automatically made it all feel bigger and richer. It almost feels like you’re in those rooms, and you get the whole visual sweep of their grandeur.

Then the royal visit gave us some tremendous opportunities with all the lavish set pieces — the arrival, the banquet, the parade, the ball — to really show them fully and showcase the huge scale of them. In the series, more often than not, you’d imply the sheer scale of such events and focus more on details and pieces of them. I think the series was more realistic and objective in many ways, more “on the ground” and real and undecorated. It is more understated. The film is far more sweeping, with more camera movement. It’s elevated for the big screen.

Was it a plus being an American? Did it give you a fresh perspective?
I was already such a big fan when I began working on the series, and I’d seen many of the episodes several times, so I did feel I knew it and understood it well. But then there was a lot of the protocol and etiquette that I didn’t know, so I studied and learned as much as I could and consulted with a historical advisor. After that, I quickly felt very much at home in this world.

How tough was it juggling so many familiar characters — along with some new ones?
That was difficult, but mainly because of all the filming logistics and schedules. We had people flying in from all over — India, New York, California — maybe just for a day or two, so it was a big logistical puzzle to make it work out.

The film looks gorgeous. You used DP Ben Smithard, who shot Blinded by the Light and Goodbye Christopher Robin. Can you talk about how you collaborated with him on the look?
We wanted it to have a big, rich film feel and look, so we shot it in 6K. And Ben does such beautiful work with the lighting, which really helped take the edge off the digital look. He’s just so good at capturing the romance of all those great sweeping period films and the very different look between upstairs — which is all elegant, sparkly and light-filled — and downstairs, which is rougher, less refined and darker. There are a lot of tonal shifts, so we worked on all those visual contrasts, both in camera and in post and the DI.

L-R: Cinematographer Ben Smithard, director Michael Engler and producer Gareth Neame.

Where did you post?
We did all the editing at Hireworks in London with editor Mark Day and his team, and sound at Hackenbacker Studios and Abbey Road Studios, where we recorded with an orchestra twice as big as any we had on the series, which also elevated all the sound and music. Framestore did all the VFX.

Do you like the post process?
I absolutely love it. I like shooting, but it’s so stressful because of the ticking clock and a huge crew waiting while we fix something and the light is going down. Then you get into post, and it’s stress-free in that sense, and you can look at what you have and start playing with it and really be creative. You can leave for a few days and have a fresh perspective on it. You can’t do that on the set.

Talk about editing with Mark Day. How did that work?
We didn’t start cutting until after we wrapped, and we experimented quite a lot, trying to find the best way to tell all the stories. For instance, we took one scene that was originally early on, and moved it five scenes later, and it changed the entire meaning of it. So we tried a lot of that sort of thing. Then there are all the other post elements that work on a subconscious level, especially once you cut in all the tiny background sounds — voices in the distance, footsteps and so on, that help create and add to the reality of the visuals.

What were the big editing challenges?
The big one was taking the rhythms of the series and adjusting them for the film. In the series, it was far more broken up because all the different stories didn’t have to be finished by the end of an episode. There would be some cliffhangers while some would be resolved, so we could hop around a lot and break up scenes. But on this we found it was far more effective to stay with a storyline and let longer arcs play out and finish. That way the audiences would know exactly where they were if we left one story, went to another and then came back. Mark was very clear about that, keeping the main story moving forward all the time, while juggling all the side stories.

What was involved in all the visual effects?
More than you’d think. We had a big set piece at King’s Cross train station, which we actually shot at a tiny two-track station in the north of England. Framestore then created everything around it and built the whole world, and they did an amazing job. Then we had the big military parade, and they did a lot of work on the surroundings and the pub overlooking it. And, of course, we had a ton of cleanup and replacement background work, as it’s a period piece.

Talk about the importance of sound in this film.
As they say, it’s half the movie, and our supervising sound editor Nigel Heath was so thorough and detailed in his work. He also really understands how sound can help storytelling. In the scene where Molesley embarrasses himself, we played around with it a lot, thinking maybe it needed some music and so on. But when Nigel started on it, he kept it totally silent except for the sound of a ticking clock — and it was so perfect. It made the moment and silence that much more vivid, along with underscoring how time was dragging on. It heightened the whole thing. Sound is also so important downstairs in the house, where you feel this constant activity and work going on in every room, and all the small sounds and noises add so much weight and reality.

Where did you do the DI and how important is it to you?
We did the digital intermediate at Molinare with Gareth Spensley, and it’s hugely important to me, though the DP’s more involved. I let them do their work and then went through it with them and gave my notes, and we got quite detailed.

Did the film turn out the way you hoped?
Much better! I was worried it might feel too disjointed and not unified enough since there were so many plotlines and characters and tones to deal with. But in the end it all flowed together so well.

How do you explain the huge global appeal of Downton Abbey?
I think that, apart from the great acting and fascinating characters, the themes are so universal. It’s like a workplace drama and a family drama with all the complex relationships, and you get romance, emotion, suspense, comedy and then all the great costumes and beautiful locations. The nostalgia appeals to so many people, and the Brits do these period dramas just better than anyone else.

What’s next? Would you do another Downton movie?
I’d love to, if it happens. They’re all such lovely people to work with. Making movies is hard, but this was just such a wonderful experience.


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.


Senior colorist Maria Carretero joins Nice Shoes

NYC-based post studio Nice Shoes has hired senior colorist Maria Carretero, who comes to Nice Shoes with nearly two decades of global experience in color grading under her belt. Her portfolio includes a wide range of feature films, short films, music videos and commercials for brands like Apple, Jeep, Porsche, Michael Kors, Disney and Marriott, among many others. She will be based at Nice Shoes’ NYC studio, also working across Nice Shoes’s Boston, Chicago, Toronto and Minneapolis spaces and through its network of remote partnerships globally.

She comes to Nice Shoes from Framestore in Chicago, where she spent nearly two years establishing relationships with agencies such as BBDO, FCB, DDB, Leo Burnett Chicago and Media Arts Lab LA.

Carretero is originally from Spain, where she received an education in fine arts. She soon discovered the creative possibilities in digital color grading, quickly establishing a career for herself as an international artist. Her background in painting, coupled with her natural eye for nuanced visuals, are the tools that help her maximize her clients’ creative visions. Carretero’s ability to convey a brand story through her work has earned her a long list of awards, including Cannes Lions and a Clio.

Carretero’s recent work includes Jeep’s Recalculating, Disney’s You Can Fly and Bella Notte, Porsche’s The Fix and Avocados From Mexico’s Top Dog spot for Super Bowl 2019.

“Nice Shoes brings together the expertise backed by 20 years of experience with a personal approach that really celebrates female talent and collaboration,” adds Carretero. “I’m thrilled to be joining a team that truly supports the creative exploration process that color takes in storytelling. I’ve always wanted to live in New York. Throughout my whole life, I visited this city again and again and was fascinated by the diversity, the culture, and incredible energy that you breathe in as you walk the city’s streets.”

IBC 2019 in Amsterdam: Big heads in the cloud

By David Cox

IBC 2019 kicked off with an intriguing announcement from Avid. The company entered into a strategic alliance with Microsoft and Disney’s Studio Lab to enable remote editorial workflows in the cloud.

The interesting part for me is how this affects the perception of post producing in the cloud, rather than the actual technology of it. It has been technically possible to edit remotely in the cloud for some time —either by navigating the Wild West interfaces of the principal cloud providers and “spinning up” a remote computer, connecting some storage and content, and then running an edit app or alternatively, by using a product that takes care of all that such as Blackbird. No doubt, the collaboration with Disney will produce products and services within an ecosystem that makes the technical use of the cloud invisible.

Avid press conference

However, what interests me is that arguably, the perception of post producing in the cloud is instantly changed. The greatest fear of post providers relates to the security of their clients’ intellectual property. Should a leak ever occur, to retain the client (or indeed avoid a catastrophic lawsuit), the post facility would have to make a convincing argument that security protocols were appropriate. Prior to the Disney/Avid/Microsoft Azure announcement, the part of that argument where the post houses say “…then we sent your valuable intellectual property to the cloud” caused a sticky moment. However, following this announcement, there has been an inherent endorsement by the owner of one of the most valuable IP catalogs (Disney) that post producing in the cloud is safe — or at least will be.

Cloudy Horizons
At the press conference where Avid made its Disney announcement, I asked whether the proposed cloud service would be a closed, Avid-only environment or an open platform to include other vendors. I pointed out that many post producers also use non-Avid products for various aspects, from color grading to visual. Despite my impertinence in mentioning competitors (even though Avid had kindly provided lunch), CEO Jeff Rosica provided a well-reasoned and practical response. To paraphrase, while he did not explicitly say the proposed ecosystem would be closed, he suggested that from a commercial viewpoint, other vendors would more likely want to make their own cloud offerings.

Rosica’s comments suggest that post houses can expect many clouds on their horizons from various application developers. The issue will then be how these connect to make coherent and streamlined workflows. This is not a new puzzle for post people to solve — we have been trying to make local systems from different manufacturers to talk to each other for years, with varying degrees of success. Making manufacturers’ various clouds work together would be an extension of that endeavor. Hopefully, manufacturers will use their own migrations to the cloud to further open their systems, rather than see it as an opportunity to play defensive, locking bespoke file systems and making cross-platform collaboration unnecessarily awkward. Too optimistic, perhaps!

Or One Big Cloud?
Separately to the above, just prior to IBC, MovieLabs introduced its white paper, which discussed a direction of travel for movie production toward the year 2030. The IBC produced a MovieLabs panel on the Sunday of the show, moderated by postPerspective’s own Randi Altman and featuring tech chiefs from the major studios. It would be foolish not to pay it proper consideration, given that it’s backed by Disney, Sony, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Universal.

MovieLabs panel

To summarize, the proposition is that the digital assets that will be manipulated to make content stay in one centralized cloud. Apps that manipulate those assets, such as editorial and visual effects apps, delivery processes and so on, will operate in the same cloud space. The talent that drives those apps will do so via the cloud. Or to put it slightly differently, the content assets don’t move — rather, the production apps and talent move to the assets. Currently, we do the opposite: the assets are transferred to where the post services are provided.

There are many advantages to this idea. Multiple transfers of digital assets to many post facilities would end. Files would be secured on a policy basis, enabling only the relevant operators to have access for the appropriate duration. Centralized content libraries would be produced, helping to enable on-the-fly localization, instant distribution and multi-use derivatives, such as marketing materials and games.

Of course, there are many questions. How do the various post application manufacturers maintain their product values if they all work as in-cloud applications on someone else’s hardware? What happens to traditional post production facilities if they don’t need any equipment and their artists log in from wherever? How would a facility protect itself from payment disputes if it does not have control over the assets it produces?

Personally, I have moved on from the idea of brick-and-mortar facilities. Cloud post permits nearly unlimited resources and access to a global pool of talent, not just those who reside within a commutable distance from the office. I say, bring it on… within reason. Of course, this initiative relates only to the production of content for those key studios. There’s a whole world of content production beyond that scope.

Blackmagic

Knowing Your Customer
Another area of interest for me at IBC 2019 was how offerings to colorists have become quite polarized. On one hand there is the seemingly all-conquering Resolve from Blackmagic Design. Inexpensive, easy to access and ubiquitous. On the other hand there is Baselight from FilmLight — a premium brand with a price tag and associated entry barrier to match. The fact that these two products are both successful in the same market but with very different strategies is testament to a fundamental business rule: “Know your customer.” If you know who your customer is going to be, you can design and communicate the ideal product for them and sell it at the right price.

A chat with FilmLight’s joint founder, Wolfgang Lempp, and development director Martin Tlaskal was very informative. Lempp explained that the demand placed on FilmLight’s customers is similarly polarized. On one hand, clients — including major studios and Netflix — mandate fastidious adherence to advanced and ever-improving technical standards, as well as image pipelines that are certified at every step. On the other hand, different clients place deadline or budget as a prevalent concern. Tlaskal set out for FilmLight to support those color specialists that aim for top-of-the industry excellence. Having the template for the target customer defines and drives what features FilmLight will develop for its Baselight product.

FilmLight

At IBC 2019, FilmLight hosted guest speaker-led demonstrations (“Colour on Stage”) to inspire creative grading and to present its latest features and improvements including better hue-angle keying, tracking and dealing with lens distortions.

Blackmagic is no less focused on knowing its customer, which explains its success in recent years. DaVinci Resolve once shared the “premium” space occupied by FilmLight but went through a transition to aim itself squarely at a democratized post production landscape. This shift meant a recognition that there would be millions of content producers and thousands of small post houses rather than a handful of large post facilities. That transition required a great deal more than merely slashing the price. The software product would have to work on myriad hardware combinations, not just the turnkey approved setup, and would need to have features and documentation aimed at those who hadn’t spent the past three years training in a post facility. By knowing exactly who the customer would be, Blackmagic built Resolve into an extremely successful, cross-discipline, post production powerhouse. Blackmagic was demonstrating the latest Resolve at IBC 2019, although all new features had been previously announced because, as director of software engineering Rohit Gupta explained, Blackmagic does not time its feature releases to IBC.

SGO

Aiming between the extremities established by FilmLight and Blackmagic Design, SGO promoted a new positioning of its flagship product, Mistika, via the Boutique subproduct. This is essentially a software-only Mistika that runs on PC or Mac. Subscription prices range from 99 euros per month to 299 euros per month, depending on features, although there have been several discounted promotions. The more expensive options include SGO’s highly regarded stereo 3D tools and camera stitching features for producing wrap-around movies.

Another IBC — done!


David Cox is a VFX compositor and colorist with more than 20 years of experience. He started his career with MPC and The Mill before forming his own London-based post facility. Cox specializes in unusual projects, such as those using very high resolutions and interactive immersive experiences featuring realtime render engines and augmented reality.

FilmLight sets speakers for free Color On Stage seminar at IBC

At this year’s IBC, FilmLight will host a free two-day seminar series, Color On Stage, on September 14 and 15. The event features live presentations and discussions with colorists and other creative professionals. The event will cover topics ranging from the colorist today to understanding color management and next-generation grading tools.

“Color on Stage offers a good platform to hear about real-world interaction between colorists, directors and cinematographers,” explains Alex Gascoigne, colorist at Technicolor and one of this year’s presenters. “Particularly when it comes to large studio productions, a project can take place over several months and involve a large creative team and complex collaborative workflows. This is a chance to find out about the challenges involved with big shows and demystify some of the more mysterious areas in the post process.”

This year’s IBC program includes colorists from broadcast, film and commercials, as well as DITs, editors, VFX artists and post supervisors.

Program highlights include:
•    Creating the unique look for Mindhunter Season 2
Colorist Eric Weidt will talk about his collaboration with director David Fincher — from defining the workflow to creating the look and feel of Mindhunter. He will break down scenes and run through color grading details of the masterful crime thriller.

•    Realtime collaboration on the world’s longest running continuing drama, ITV Studios’ Coronation Street
The session will address improving production processes and enhancing pictures with efficient renderless workflows, with colorist Stephen Edwards, finishing editor Tom Chittenden and head of post David Williams.

•    Looking to the future: Creating color for the TV series Black Mirror
Colorist Alex Gascoigne of Technicolor will explain the process behind grading Black Mirror, including the interactive episode Bandersnatch and the latest Season 5.

•    Bollywood: A World of Color
This session will delve into the Indian film industry with CV Rao, technical general manager at Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad. In this talk, CV will discuss grading and color as exemplified by the hit film Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.

•    Joining forces: Strengthening VFX and finishing with the BLG workflow
Mathieu Leclercq, head of post at Mikros Image in Paris, will be joined by colorist Sebastian Mingam and VFX supervisor Franck Lambertz to showcase their collaboration on recent projects.

•    Maintaining the DP’s creative looks from set to post
Meet with French DIT Karine Feuillard, ADIT — who worked on the latest Luc Besson film Anna as well as the TV series The Marvelous Mrs Maisel — and FilmLight workflow specialist Matthieu Straub.

•    New color management and creative tools to make multi-delivery easier
The latest and upcoming Baselight developments, including a host of features aimed to simplify delivery for emerging technologies such as HDR. With FilmLight’s Martin Tlaskal, Daniele Siragusano and Andy Minuth.

Color On Stage will take place in Room D201 on the second floor of the Elicium Centre (Entrance D), close to Hall 13. The event is free to attend but spaces are limited. Registion is available here.

DP Chat: David Makes Man’s Todd A. Dos Reis, ASC

The series David Makes Man follows a 14-year-old boy attending a prestigious magnet school and his formerly drug-addicted mother, who is relying on him and his potential to get them out of the rough Miami neighborhood they live in. David is torn between the streets he grew up on and the life he’s capable of living.

Written by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, an Oscar winner for co-writing Moonlight, David Makes Man will be premiere on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network on August 14. Along with McCraney, some of the show’s producers include Nantale Corbett, Mike Kelley, Michael B. Jordan, Oprah Winfrey. Dee Harris-Lawrence is a showrunner, along with McCraney.

The series depicts David’s two very different worlds — home and school — each of which  McCraney wanted to have different looks. He called on cinematographer Todd A. Dos Reis, ASC, to help create those two worlds. We reached out to Dos Reis to find out how he accomplished this and his workflow.

Tell us about David Makes Man. How would you describe the overarching look of the film?
Early on in pre-production, showrunner Tarell McCraney and I came up with the idea to have our young protagonist, David, live in two worlds and give each world its own distinct look.

One world was The Ville, the Miami housing project where he lived with his mother and younger brother. David’s home life was unpredictable, and we wanted the viewer to be on edge as David was on a daily basis. The Ville had low-income families and drug dealers that ran their business out of the projects. The Ville would not have the typical lushness dripping with color that everyone is used to seeing in Miami. Our Miami would be a desaturated limited color palette leaning toward the cool blue side of the color wheel.

David’s other world was his middle school that encompassed a warmer tone, with natural lighting that you would see in the early morning and the late afternoon. David is a prodigy and excels in this world, so we wanted to make this environment more welcoming.

How did the director tell you about the look that was wanted?
In our initial meeting, Tarell McCraney, the EP, showrunner and writer, talked about Fresh (1994) and Juice (1992) being a good place to start when discussing the tone of the show. He said he wanted David Makes Man to be a 10-hour film versus 10 one-hour episodes.

We also discussed the works of artist Kerry James Marshall when looking at the blackness of a frame. In David Makes Man, we wanted to accept darkness as a point of expression versus a deficit. Director Michael Williams came in with an amazing look book that referenced images from Mother of George, Daughters of the Dust, Selma and Belly.

How early did you get involved in the production?
As soon as I got the call from producer Wayne Morris that I was their choice for DP, I made myself available for discussions with the showrunners Tarell McCraney and Dee Lawrence Harris. I had three weeks of unofficial prep in Los Angeles and three weeks of prep in Orlando.

It was shot in Orlando?
The story of David Makes Man takes place in Miami, but we filmed in Orlando. We were based at Universal Studios Orlando, where we built the interiors of The Ville housing project apartments (David’s family apartment and friend of the family Elijah’s apartment) and any swing sets that appeared in various episodes. There was one day of filming in Miami with a second unit.

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses?
There were many factors that I had to consider. First, how to visually create the two worlds of David. The Ville, where David lived, was going to be hand-held, subjective, wider lenses in your face, and more intimate and chaotic.

His school and outside The Ville world were going to be photographed on a stable platform, i.e. dollies, cranes and SteadiCam. This world was going to have a natural calming feel to offset his home life. I needed a camera that could be used hand-held, on a dolly and on a SteadiCam and switched back and forth quickly. I chose three ARRI Alexa Minis.

David’s two worlds were also enhanced by filming in both spherical and anamorphic. Discussions with the director of Episode 1, Michael Williams, led us to film The Ville with Cooke anamorphic lenses. Because many scenes in the story take place in David’s alternate reality, and I was going to be using the Lensbaby lenses to heighten David’s visions, the Cooke anamorphics created a great foundation to have under David’s visions. The spherical lenses, Cooke Panchro/i Classics, would be used to show the normalcy of David’s school and anything outside of The Ville.

Are there any scenes that you are particularly proud of or found most challenging?
Our most challenging scenes usually took place at The Ville. We built a two-story section of a housing project where some of the interior apartments were practical. For day exteriors in the ever-changing Florida sky and weather, we used a 40×40 quarter silk to cover the courtyard. We could have used an 80×80. Key grip Joel Wheatley and his crew managed the silk like a sail on a yacht, constantly trimming and adjusting for weather changes and shot selection.

Night exteriors at The Ville called for an array of lighting instruments. Working from the inner circle of the hallways, we built fluorescent housings to hang above the exterior hallways and hold two 4-foot cool white fluorescents with cyan 60. This would give our wide range of African American skin tones an unnatural and eerie color. The next circle of color is what lit The Ville courtyard and exterior.

Gaffer Marc Wostak bought safety lights at a local hardware store, and we gelled them with high sodium gel. We built four poles for inside the courtyard and hung the gelled safety lights on the outside corners of each housing project building. The final outside diameter of The Ville had a sprinkling of mercury vapor lighting (1/2 blue and ¼ plus green). To give moonlight ambience, we always used one or two helium balloons above the courtyard and parking area at The Ville. Because helium was a rare commodity on our budget, we usually hung the balloons without helium from 80-foot Condors.

Without giving any story points away, there were night interior scenes where there was no electricity and we were blocked out of any possible moonlight. Being a big fan of John Alcott, BSC, and the film Barry Lyndon, I took my impetus from here. Not having the fast T1.3 lens that Mr. Alcott used, I had the art department buy every three-wick and two-wick candle they could find in Orlando. I augmented the scenes with small china balls and LED Light Gear patches that I could tape to candles and hide behind objects in the room. In some scenes we had the luxury of a character carrying a flashlight, but that was rare.

The most challenging scene would have to be when two characters have a heated discussion with someone holding a Zippo lighter. We taped four dots of tungsten LED Light Gear to the back side of the Zippo and ran the cable down the actor’s wardrobe with my gaffer Marc Wostak walking and adjusting as the actor moved around the room. The choreography between camera operator Bob Scott, Marc Wostak and the actors was something out of a Bob Fosse film.

Can you talk about shooting anamorphic for The Ville housing project scenes?
We wanted to shoot David’s world at The Ville with anamorphic lenses because this is the place he did not want to be. One of David’s main goals in the story is to get out of this life at The Ville. I felt the anamorphic lenses would help isolate David from his surroundings and the drug dealers he didn’t want to be associated with.

The shallow depth of field that the lenses give you was a characteristic that we wanted to create visually. We wanted to show the emotions on his face that David was going through as well as heighten the tension of what was lurking around the dark corners of The Ville. The lenses also helped in giving us a more filmic quality and made all the episodes feel more like a feature film instead of 10 episodes.

How did you become interested in cinematography?
From an early age, I watched a great deal of TV and frequented the local movie theater to see any film that hit my small city of New Bedford, Massachusetts. It started with Disney films with my family, then went to Bruce Lee triple features and the Blaxploitation genre.

When I was 13, my grandparents bought me my first Canon still camera and I was fascinated. This led me to photography classes and running the TV studio at my high school. My love for the image grew, and I researched the best film schools for college. I ended up at USC Cinema. I started focusing on cinematography and learned that I could tell a story with just the visual image.

What inspires you artistically? And how do you simultaneously stay on top of advancing technology that serves your vision?
I am inspired artistically by the journey to be original. I am constantly trying to never repeat myself, and I never want to imitate anyone else in this industry. I use other DPs and directors that I admire as inspirations.

I try to stay on top of advancing technology that serves my vision by always educating myself and surrounding myself with artists and craftsmen who are willing to take chances and are not afraid of failing.

What new technology has changed the way you work (looking back over the past few years)?
I think all the advancements in the LED lighting category have opened up amazing opportunities for filmmakers. In productions where space is always a factor, there is always some nook and cranny to create beautiful, artistic or dramatic lighting.

What are some of your best practices or rules you try to follow on each job?
On every project, I use the script as my bible. What is the story? What is the auteur trying to convey? What is the emotion of each scene? My job is to visually collaborate with the director, showrunner or writer to get their vision to the screen. The rule I try to follow is that there are no rules in filmmaking. The more rules I can break, the more original I will be as an artist.

Explain your ideal collaboration with the director when setting the look of a project.
It starts with the script. I like to meet with a director as early and as often as possible. If a director is open to ideas that are not his/hers, then I know I am in a good place. Sharing ideas, watching films together and collaborating and experimenting on the set opens up my creativity.

What’s your go-to gear (camera, lens, mount/accessories) — things you can’t live without?
My most recent go-to gear is a set of Lensbaby lenses that my camera house, Otto Nemenz, created for me. I am also a big fan of Tiffen and Schneider streak filters. The lighting instrument that I can’t do without is a Source Four Leko. I would like to do a project with all Lekos, daylight and tungsten.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Point.360 adds senior colorist Patrick Woodard

Senior colorist Patrick Woodard has joined the creative team at Point.360 in Burbank. He was most recently at Hollywood’s DigitalFilm Tree, where he colored dozens of television shows, including ABC’s American Housewife, CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles, NBC’s Great News and TBS’ Angie Tribeca. Over the years, he also worked on Weeds, Everybody Hates Chris, Cougar Town and Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles.

Woodard joins Point.360 senior colorist Charlie Tucker, whose recent credits include the final season of the Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, CW’s Legacies and Roswell, New Mexico, YouTube’s Cobra Kai, as well as the Netflix comedy Medical Police.

“Patrick is an exceptional artist with an extensive background in photography,” says Point.360’s SVP of episodic Jason Kavner. “His ability to combine his vast depth of technical expertise and his creative vision to quickly create a highly-developed aesthetic has the won the loyalty of many DPs and creatives alike.”

Point360 has four color suites at its Burbank facility. “Although we have the feel of a boutique episodic facility, we are able to offer a robust end to end pipeline thanks to our long history as a premier mastering company,” reports Kavner. “We are currently servicing 4K Dolby Vision projects for Netflix such as the upcoming Jenji Kohan series currently being called Untitled Vigilante Project, as well as the UHD SDR Sony produced YouTube series Cobra Kai. We also continue to offer the same end-to-end service to our traditional studio and network clients on series such as Legacies for the CW, Fresh Off The Boat, Family Guy and American Dad for 20th Century Fox, and Drunk History and Robbie for Comedy Central.

Woodard, who will be working on Resolve at Point360, was also a recent subject of our Behind the Title series. You can read that here.

Editing for Short Form

By Karen Moltenbrey

Unlike features or even series, short-form projects such as commercials give the editor the opportunity for a fresh start with each new job. Indeed, some brands have a specific style that they adhere to, but even so, there is a good deal of creative flexibility placed in the hands of the editor.

The challenge here is to condense a story into 30, 60 or 90 seconds. And more and more, there are other deliverables associated with a job aside from the traditional commercial, as editors also may be asked to provide social media spots, cinema spots and more. And as some editors point out, it’s no longer enough to excel at solely working with video; today, it is helpful to have a wider range of skills, such as audio editing and basic animation, to support the workflow.

Here we examine the editing work on a trio of spots and the approach each editor took to deliver a compelling piece.

Nespresso: The Quest
George Clooney has been the brand ambassador for coffee-machine maker Nespresso since 2006, and his commercials have been featured in Europe and around the world. In a recent spot airing in North America, Clooney embarks on a quest for the perfect cup of coffee, and does so with true Hollywood flair.

In The Quest, the actor plays a medieval knight who throws the head of a dragon he has just slain at the feet of his queen. Thankful, she asks what he desires as his reward. He pauses, then steps through a movie screen and enters the modern world, where he wanders the streets in his armor until he finds a coffee shop and his long-sought-after cup of Nespresso coffee. Satisfied, he heads back, walks down the theater aisle, through the movie screen once again and is back in the medieval world. When the queen asks if he has enough coffee for the kingdom, the actor gives a sheepish look, and soon we see the queen and court riding in a double-decker city bus, merrily on their way to get their own cup of Nespresso coffee.

Clooney’s producing partner, Grant Heslov, directed the spot, which was filmed against greenscreen on a backlot in Los Angeles. The background plates were shot in New York City, and compositing was done by VFX supervisor Ryan Sears from Big Sky Edit. The spot was edited by Chris Franklin, who launched New York-based Big Sky Edit in 1992.

Chris Franklin

“Ryan and I were working as a team on this. As I’m cutting, he’s compositing scenes so we can really get an idea of what everything looks like, and then I properly sound-designed it,” says Franklin. “He dealt with everything in terms of George on the movie screen and popping out of the screen and walking through New York, while I dealt with the sound design and the editing. It helped keep the job efficient, so Grant could come in and see everything pretty much completed.”

Having the various departments under one roof at Big Sky Edit enables Franklin to show work to clients, agencies or directors with effects integrated into the cut, so they do not have to rely on their imaginations to visualize the spot. “They’re judging the story as opposed to the limitations of the footage if effects work isn’t done yet,” he explains.

This is not Franklin’s first Nespresso ad, having worked on the very first one for the US market, and all of them have been directed by Heslov (who also directed Clooney in the Hulu series Catch-22). “He has shorthand with George, so the shoots go beautifully,” Franklin says, noting there is also a feeling of trust with everyone who has a responsibility on the post side.

When asked to describe the editing style he used for The Quest, Franklin was hard-pressed to pinpoint one specifically, saying “sometimes you just go by instinct in terms of what feels right. The fact that this was a movie within a movie, you’re kind of looking at it like an epic. So, you deal with it as a bigger type of thing. And then once [the story] got to New York, we were feeding off the classic man-on-the-street vibe.” So, rather than using a specific editing style on the spot, Franklin says he concentrated on making sure the piece was put together well, had a good storytelling aspect and that everything clicked.

The footage was delivered to Big Sky Edit as transcoded dailies, which were downloaded overnight from LA. Franklin cut the spot on an Avid Media Composer, and the completed spot was delivered in standard HD for 60- and 30-second versions, as well as pullouts and social media material. “There are so many deliverables attached to things now, and a job tends to be longer than it used to be due to all the elements and pieces of content you’re delivering to finish the job,” Franklin says. While time-consuming, these demands also force him to tell the story in different ways for the various deliverables.

Franklin describes his general workflow as fairly straightforward. He will string the entire shoot together – “literally every piece of film that was exposed” — and go through the material, then whittle that down and review it a second time. After that, he starts breaking it down in terms of sequences for all the pieces he needs, and then he starts building the edit. Without question, this process takes a substantial amount of time on the front end, as it takes an editor roughly four hours to go through one hour of footage in order to screen it properly, learn it, understand the pieces in it, break it apart, label it and prepare it — all before any assembly can be done. “It’s not unusual to have 10 or 12 hours of footage, so it’s going to take 40 hours to go through that material and break it down before I can start assembling,” he says.

As Franklin points out, he does his own sound design — his favorite part of the process — while editing. In fact, he started out as an audio engineer years ago, and doing both the audio and editing simultaneously “helps me see the story,” he says. “If I wasn’t doing sound design while I am working, I would get totally lost.” (Tom Jucarone at Sound Lounge mixed The Quest.)

Franklin has edited features, documentaries and even short films, and his workflow remains fairly constant across the genres. “It’s just longer sometimes. You have to learn the footage, so you’ve got to watch everything. It’s a lot of watching and thinking,” he notes. “Deadlines give you an end that you have to shoot for, but you can’t rush things. It takes time to do the work properly.”

Despite his experience with other genres, commercials have been Franklin’s bread and butter for the past 30 years. He says he likes the challenge of whittling down 10 hours of footage into 30 or 60 seconds of storytelling.

M&M’s ‘Hazelnut Spread’ Campaign
Over the years, audiences have been treated to commercial spots featuring the various spokescandies for Mars Incorporated’s M&M’s, from the round-bodied regular flavored character to the egg-shaped yellow peanut character. And, there have been other new flavor characters, too. Most recently, the company introduced its latest addition: hazelnut spread M&M’s. And helping to launch the product is PS260 owner/editor Maury Loeb and assistant editor Sara Sachs, who “divided and conquered” on the campaign, which features three spots to promote the new flavor and the ever-popular M&M’s chocolate bar, which came out in 2018.

The first spot, New Spokescandy, is currently airing. The two other spots, which will be launching next year, are called Injury Attorney and Psychiatrist. Sachs focused on the latter, a comical session between a therapist and the yellow M&M, who is “feeling stuck.” The therapist points out that it’s because he is stuck in a chocolate bar. “We played around a lot with the humor of that moment. It was scripted with three progressively wider shots to ultimately reveal the candy bar, but in the edit, we decided the humor was more impactful if it was just one single reveal at the end,” says Sachs.

Helping to unite the three spots, aside from the brand’s humor and characters, is a consistent editing style. “The pacing is consistent. M&M’s as a whole doesn’t really do very music-heavy spots; they are more real-world in nature,” Sachs notes.

At PS260, the editors often collaborate on client campaigns, so as ideas are being worked out and implemented in one suite, revisions are made in another, allowing the clients to move from space to space to view the work progression.

Sara Sachs

To edit the spot, Sachs worked primarily in Adobe Premiere, using After Effects and Photoshop for some of the quick graphics, as PS260’s graphics department did the heavy lifting for the bigger moving elements, such as the M&M’s characters. The biggest challenge came from getting the tonality of the actor just right. “When a person is talking on camera to an empty couch or stage, you really have to think about both sides of the emotion,” she explains. “VO talent comes in after you have a cut in place, so even though these things are recorded a month apart, it still needs to feel like the characters are talking to each other and come across emotionally true.”

Having to do some minor graphics work is not so unusual these days; Sachs points out that editors today are becoming multitalented and handling other aspects of a project aside from cutting. “It’s not enough to just know the edit side; you also need a base in graphics, audio fine-tuning and color correction. More and more we try to get the rough cut closer to what the final picture will actually look like,” she says. “In this campaign, they even took a lot of the graphics that we applied in the rough and used them directly for air.”

Most of Sachs’ experience has come from commercials, but she has also done shorts, features, documentaries, music videos, promotional and internal videos, pitch and instructional videos, web series and so on. Of those, she prefers short-form projects because they afford her the opportunity to painstakingly watch every frame of a video “900 times and put some love into every 24th of a second,” she adds.

That level of focus is usually not practical or applicable on longer-form projects, which often require scene-to-scene organization with 15- and 30-second spots. “Shorter content maintains the same basic project structure but tends to get more attention on the little things like line-by-line sequences, which are every time a character says something in any situation,” she explains.

Nike Choose Phenomenal
Charlie Harvey recently finished a unique spot for Nike Korea for the South Korean market titled Choose Phenomenal, an empowering ad for women created by Wieden + Kennedy Tokyo that has over 10 million views on YouTube. The spot opens on a young girl dressed in traditional Korean clothing before evolving into a fast-paced, split-screen succession of images — video, animation, graphic elements, pictures and more, mainly of women in action — set to an inspiring narration.

“The agency always wanted it to be split-screen,” says Harvey of Whitehouse Post, who edited the spot. The DP shot the majority of the “moments” in a few different ways and from different angles, giving her the ability to find the elements that complemented each other from a split-screen standpoint. Yet it was up to Harvey to sort through the plethora of clips and images and select the most appropriate ones.

“There’s a Post-it note moment in there, too. That’s a big thing in South Korea, where people write messages on Post-its and stick them on a wall, so it’s culturally significant,” Harvey explains. Foremost in her mind while editing the spot was that it was culturally significant and inspiring to young women, resulting in her delving deep into that country’s traditions to find elements that would resonate best with the intended audience.

Charlie Harvey

Harvey initially began cutting the spot in Los Angeles but then traveled to Tokyo to do the majority of the edit.

In fact, when Harvey began the project, she didn’t have an opportunity to work one-on-one with the director – something that would always be her preference. “I always want to create what the director has envisioned. I always like to make that [vision] come to life while adding my own point of view, too,” she says.

Working with split screens or multiple screens is always trickier because you need to work with multiple layers while maintaining the rhythm of the film, Harvey says. “Making what seems like a small change in one shot will affect not only the shot that comes before and after it, but also the shots next to those. It’s more a puzzle you are solving,” she adds.

The visual element, however, was just one aspect of the project; here, like on many other projects, finding the right music accompaniment is not easy. “You end up going around and around trying to find exactly what you are looking for, and music is always a challenge. If you find the right track, it makes all the difference. It elevates a spot, or impacts it negatively,” Harvey points out. “Music is so important.”

In addition, the split-screen concept forced Harvey to concentrate on both sides of the screen – akin to concentrating on two shorts playing at the same time. “You have to make sure they work together and they link to the next page, where you have another two shorts,” she explains. “You need that harmonious relationship, and there needs to be a rhythm. Otherwise, it could get choppy, and then you are looking at one side or the other, not both together in unison.”

Indeed, dealing with the multiple split-screen images was difficult, but perhaps even more daunting was ensuring that the spot respected the culture of the young women to whom it was directed. To this end, Harvey incorporated as much reference as she could that would resonate with the audience, as opposed to using more generic references geared for audiences outside of that country. “I’m sure it meant a lot to these girls,” she says of the inspirational spot and the effort put into it.

Harvey performed the edit on an Avid system, preferring the simplistic interface to other systems. “It has everything for what I want to do,” she says. “There are no extra tabs here and there. It’s just really easy to use, and it’s very stable and steady.”

For the most part, Harvey sticks with shorter-form projects like commercials, though she has experience with longer formats. “I think you get into a routine with commercials, so you know you have a certain number of days to do what you need to do. I know where I need to be at certain points, and where I need to get to by the time I see the director or the agency,” she explains. “I have a very specific routine. I have a way that I work, and I am comfortable with it. It works for me.”


Karen Moltenbrey is a veteran writer/editor covering VFX and post production.

Yesterday director Danny Boyle

By Iain Blair

Yesterday, everyone knew The Beatles. Today, only a struggling singer-songwriter in a tiny English seaside town remembers their songs. That’s the brilliant-yet-simple setup for Yesterday, the new rock ’n’ roll comedy from Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, Notting Hill).

Danny Boyle on set with lead actor Himesh Patel

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel of BBC’s EastEnders) is the struggling singer-songwriter whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend/manager, Ellie (Lily James, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again). But after a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that only he remembers The Beatles and their music, and his career goes supercharged when he ditches his own mediocre songs and instead starts performing hit after hit by the Fab Four — as if he’d written them.

Yesterday co-stars Ed Sheeran and James Corden (playing themselves) and Emmy Award-winner Kate McKinnon as Jack’s Hollywood agent. Along with new versions of The Beatles’ most beloved hits, Yesterday features a seasoned group of collaborators, including DP Christopher Ross (Terminal, the upcoming Cats), editor Jon Harris (Kingsman: The Secret Service, 127 Hours), music producer Adem Ilhan (The Ones Below, In the Loop) and composer Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse).

I recently spoke with Boyle, whose eclectic credits include Shallow Grave, The Beach, A Life Less Ordinary, Trance, Steve Jobs, Sunshine and 127 Hours, about making the film and the workflow.

What was your first reaction when you read this script?
I was a big fan of Richard’s work, and we’d worked together on the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, when we did this Chariots of Fire spoof with Rowan Atkinson, and I casually said to him, “If you’ve ever got anything for me, send it over.” And he said, “Funnily enough, I do have a script that might suit you,” and he sent it over, and I was just overwhelmed when I read it. He’d managed to take these two fairly ordinary people and their love story, and then intertwine it, like a double helix, with this love letter to The Beatles, which is the whole texture and feeling of this film.

It comes across as this very uplifting and quite emotional film.
I’m glad you said that, as I thought this whole simple idea — and it’s not sci-fi, but it’s not really explained — of this global amnesia about The Beatles and all their songs was just so glorious and wonderful, and just like listening to one of their songs. It really moved me, and especially the scene at the end. That affected me in a very personal way.  It’s about the wonder of cinema and its relationship to time, and film is the only art form that really looks at time in such detail because film is time. And that relates directly to editing, where you’re basically compressing time, stretching it, speeding it up, freezing it — and even stopping it. No other art form can do that.

The other amazing aspect of film is that going to the movies is also an expression of time. The audience says, “I’m yours for the next two hours,” and in return you give them time that’s manipulated and squeezed and stretched, and even stopped. That’s pretty amazing, I think. That’s what I tried to do with this film, do something that brings back The Beatles and all that sense of pure joy in their music, and how it changed people’s lives forever.

Is it true that Jack is partly based on Ed Sheeran’s own life story?
It is, absolutely, and he’s good friends with Richard Curtis. Ed played all the little pubs and small festivals where we shot, and very unsuccessfully when he started out. Then he was propelled into superstardom, and that also appeared to happen overnight. Where did all his great songs come from? Then, like in the film, Ed actually returned to his childhood sweetheart and they ended up getting married, and you go, “Wow! OK. That’s amazing.” So all that gave us the exo-skeleton of the film, and Ed’s also done some acting — he was in Game of Thrones and Bridget Jones’ Baby, and then he also wrote the song at the end, so it was really perfect he was also in it.

What did Himesh bring to the role of Jack?
The only trepidation I had was when I began auditioning people for the part, as it was basically, “Come in and sing a couple of Beatles songs.” And some were probably better technically than Himesh, but I soon realized it was going to be far harder than I thought to get the right guy. We had great actors who weren’t great singers, and vice versa, and we didn’t want just a karaoke version of 17 songs.

And making it more complicated was that, unlike in the film, we all do remember The Beatles. But then Himesh walked in, played “Yesterday” and “Back in the USSR,” and even though I was oversaturated by The Beatles music at this point, they just grabbed me. He made them his own, as if they were his songs. He was also very modest with it as well, in his demeanor and approach. He doesn’t rethink the wheel. He says, “This is the song you’ve missed, and I’m bringing it back to you.” And that’s the quality he brings to his performance. There’s a genuine simplicity, but he’s also very funny and subtle. He doesn’t try and hijack The Beatles and lay on extra notes that you don’t need. He’s a very gentle guy, and he lets you see the song for what it is, the beauty of them.

Obviously, the music and sound were crucial in this, and usually films have the actors lipsync, but Himesh sang live?
Totally. He played and sang live — no dubs or pre-records. Early on I sat down with Simon Hayes, who won the Oscar for mixing Les Mis, and told him that’s what I wanted. It’s very difficult to do live recording well, but once Simon heard Himesh sing, he got it.

The songs in this help tell the story, and they’re as important as all the dialogue, so every time you hear Himesh play and sing it live. Then for all the big concerts, like at Wembley, we added extra musicians, which we over-dubbed. So even if there were mistakes or problems with Himesh’s performances, we kept it, as you’ve got to believe it’s him and his songs. It had to be honest and true.

We screened the premiere in Dolby Vision Atmos in London, and it’s got such a fantastic range. The sound is so crisp and clean — and not just the effects, but all the dialogue, which is a big tribute to Simon. It’ll be so sad if we lose cinema to streaming on TV and watching films on tiny phones because we’ve now achieved a truly remarkable technical standard in sound.

Where did you do all the post?
We edited at a few places. We were based at Pinewood to start with, as I was involved with the Bond film, and then we moved to some offices in central London. Finally, we ended up at Working Title, where they have a great editing setup in the basement. Then as usual we did all the sound mixing at Pinewood with Glenn Freemantle and his team from Sound 24. They’ve done a lot of my films.

We did all the visual effects with my usual guy, VFX supervisor Adam Gascoyne over at Union Visual Effects in London. He’s done all my films for a very long time now, and they did a lot of stuff with crowd and audience work for the big shows. Plus, a lot of invisible stuff like extensions, corrections, cleanup and so on.

You also reteamed with editor Jon Harris, whose work on 127 Hours earned him an Oscar nom. What were the big editing challenges?
We had quite a few. There was this wonderful scene of Jack going on the James Corden show and playing “Something,” the George Harrison song, and we ultimately had to cut the whole thing. On its own, it was this perfect scene, but in the context of the film it came too late, and it was also too reminiscent of “Yesterday” and “The Long and Winding Road.”

The film just didn’t need it, and it was quite a long sequence, and it was really sad to cut it, but it just flowed better without it. Originally, we started the film with a much longer sequence showing Jack being unsuccessful, and once we tested that, it was immediately obvious that the audience understood it all very quickly. We just didn’t need all that, so we had to cut a lot of that. It’s always about finding the right rhythm and pace for the story you’re telling.

L-R: Iain Blair and Danny Boyle

Where was the DI done?
At Goldcrest with colorist Adam Glasman, who has worked a lot with DP Chris Ross. It was a very joyous film to make and I wanted it to look joyful too, with a summer spirit, but also with a hint of melancholy. I think Himesh has that too, and it doesn’t affect the joy, but it’s a sub-note. It’s like the English countryside, where we tried to capture all its beauty but also that feeling it’s about to rain all the time. It’s that special bittersweet feeling.

I assume Paul and Ringo gave you their blessing on this project?
Yeah, you have to get their agreement as they monitor the use of the songs, and Working Title made a great deal with them. It was very expensive, but it gave us the freedom to be able to change the songs in the edit at the last minute if need be, which we did a few times. We got beautiful letters back, very touching, and Paul was very funny as he gave us permission to use “Yesterday,” which we also used as the film title. He told us that his original lyric title was “Scrambled Eggs,” and if the film turned out to be a mess, we could just call it Scrambled Eggs instead.


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.

DP Chat: Good Omens cinematographer Gavin Finney

By Randi Altman

London-born cinematographer Gavin Finney, BSC, has a wealth of television series and film experience under his belt, including Wolf Hall, The Fear and the upcoming series based on the film of the same name, Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral. One of his most recent projects was the six-episode Amazon series Good Omens, starring Michael Sheen (Aziraphale) and David Tennant (Crowley) as an angel and a demon with a very long history, who are tasked with saving the world. It’s based on the book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Finney was drawn to cinematography by his love of still photography and telling stories. He followed that passion to film school and fell in love with what could be done with moving images.

Let’s find out more about Finney and his work on Good Omens.

How would you describe the look of Good Omens? How did you work with the director/s/producers to achieve the look they wanted?
There is a progression through the story where things get increasingly strange as Adam (who our main characters believe is the antichrist) comes into his powers, and things in his head start manifesting themselves. It is also a 6,000-year-long buddy movie between an angel and a demon! There is Adam’s world — where everything is heightened and strangely perfect — and Aziraphale and Crowley’s world of heaven and hell. At some point, all these worlds intersect. I had to keep a lot of balls in the air in regard to giving each section its own look, but also making sure that when these worlds collide, it still makes sense.

Each era depicted in the series had a different design treatment — obviously in the case of costume and production design — but also in the way we shot each scene and the way they were lit. For instance, Neil Gaiman had always imagined the scene in the church in the blitz in Episode 3 to be an homage to the film noir style of the time, and we lit and photographed it in that style. Ancient Rome was given the patina of an Alma-Tadema oil painting, and we shot Elizabethan London in an exact recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The ‘60s were shot mainly on our Soho set, but redressed with posters from that time, and we changed the lighting to use more neon and used bare bulbs for signage.

I also graded the dailies throughout production on DaVinci Resolve, adding film grain and different looks to different time periods to help anchor where we were in the story. Neil wanted heaven and hell to feel like two parts of the same celestial building, so heaven occupied the best penthouse offices, and hell was stuck in the damp, moldy basement where nothing works properly.

We found a huge empty building for the heaven set that had shiny metal flooring and white walls. I frosted all the windows and lit them from outside using 77 ARRI Skypanels linked to a dimmer desk so we could control the light over the day. We also used extremely wide-angle lenses such as the Zeiss rectilinear 8mm lens to make the space look even bigger. The hell set used a lot of old, slightly greenish fluorescent fittings, some of them flickering on and off. Slimy dark walls and leaking pipes were added into the mix.

For another sequence Neil and Douglas wanted an old-film look. To do this, ARRI Media in London constructed a hand-cranked digital camera out of an old ARRI D21 camera and connected it to an ARRI 435 hand-crank wheel and then to a Codex recorder. This gave us a realistic, organic varis-peed/vari-exposure look. I added a Lensbaby in a deliberately loose mount to emulate film weave and vignetting. In this way I was able to reproduce very accurately the old-style, hand-cranked black and white look of the first days of cinema.

How early did you get involved in the production?
I’d worked with the director Douglas Mackinnon a few times before (on Gentlemen’s Relish and The Flying Scotsman), and I’d wanted to work with him again a number of times but was never available. When I heard he was doing this project, I was extremely keen to get involved, as I loved the book and especially the kind of world that Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett were so good at creating. Fortunately, he asked me to join the team, and I dropped everything I was doing to come on board. I joined the show quite late and had to fly from London to Cape Town on an early scout the day after getting the job!

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses for this project?
We shot on Leica Summilux Primes and ARRI Alura zooms (15.5-45mm and 45-
250mm) and ARRI Alexa SXT and Alexa Mini cameras outputting UHD 4K files. The Alexa camera is very reliable, easy to work with, looks great and has very low noise in the color channels, which is useful for green/bluescreen work. It can also shoot at 120fps without cutting into the sensor size. We also had to make sure that both cameras and lenses were easily available in Cape Town, where we filmed after the
UK section.

The Alexa output is also very flexible in the grade, and we knew we were going to be pushing the look in a number of directions in post. We also shot with the Phantom Flex 4K high-speed camera at 1,000fps for some scenes requiring ultra-slo motion, and for one particular sequence, a specially modified ARRI D-21 that could be “hand-cranked” like an old movie camera.

You mentioned using Resolve on set. Is this how you usually work? What benefit did you get from doing this?
We graded the dailies on Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve with our DIT Rich
Simpson. We applied different looks to each period of the story, often using a modified film emulation plugin. It’s very important to me that the dailies look great and that we start to establish a look early on that can inform the grade later.

Rich would bring me a variety of looks each day and we’d pick the one we liked for that day’s work. Rich was also able to export our selected looks and workflow to the South African DIT in Cape Town. This formed the starting point of the online grade done at Molinare on FilmLight Baselight under the hugely capable hands of Gareth Spensley. Gareth had a big influence on the look of the series and did some fantastic work balancing all the different day exteriors and adding some magic.

Any challenging scenes you are particularly proud of?
We had some very big sets and locations to light, and the constantly moving style of photography we employed is always a challenge to light — you have to keep all the fixtures out of shot, but also look after the actors and make sure the tone is right for the scene. A complicated rig was the Soho street set that Michael Ralph designed and built on a disused airbase. This involved four intersecting streets with additional alleyways, many shops and a main set — the bookshop belonging to Aziraphale.

This was a two-story composite set (the interior led directly to the exterior). Not only did we have to execute big crane moves that began looking down at the whole street section and then flew down and “through” the windows of the bookshop and into an interior scene. We also had to rig the set knowing that we were going to burn the whole thing down.

Another challenge was that we were filming in the winter and losing daylight at 3:30pm but needing to shoot day exterior scenes to 8pm or later. My gaffer (Andy Bailey) and I designed a rig that covered the whole set (involving eight cranes, four 18Kw HMIs and six six-meter helium hybrid balloons) so that we could seamlessly continue filming daylight scenes as it got dark and went to full night without losing any time. We also had four 20×20-foot mobile self-lighting greenscreens that we could move about the set to allow for the CGI extensions being added later.

What inspires you artistically? And how do you simultaneously stay on top of advancing technology that serves your vision?
The script inspires me artistically. If I don’t love the story and can’t immediately “see” how it might look, I don’t do it. After that, I’m inspired by real life and the way changing light utterly transforms a scene, be it a landscape or an interior. I also visit art galleries regularly to understand how other people see, imagine and communicate.

What new technology has changed the way you work (looking back over the past few years)?
Obviously, digital cinematography has had a huge impact. I trained in film and spent the first 16 years of my career shooting film exclusively, but I was happy to embrace digital when it came in. I love keeping up with all the advances.

Lighting is also going digital with the advent of LED fixtures with on-board computers. I can now dial any gel color or mix my own at any dimmer level from an app on my phone and send it to dozens of fixtures. There is an incredible array of tools now at our disposal, and I find that very exciting and creatively liberating.

What are some of your best practices or rules you try to follow on each job?
I tend to work on quite long jobs — my last two shows shot for 109 and 105 days, respectively. So keeping to sensible hours is critical. Experienced producers who are concerned with the welfare, health and safety of their crew keep to 10 hours on camera, a one-hour lunch and five-days weeks only. Anything in excess of that results in diminishing returns and an exhausted and demoralized crew.

I also think prep time is incredibly important, and this is another area that’s getting squeezed by inexperienced producers to the detriment of the production. Prep time is a comparatively cheap part of the process but one that reaps huge dividends on the shoot. Being fully prepared, making the right location and set design choices, and having enough to time to choose equipment and crew and work out lighting designs all make for a smooth-running shoot.

Explain your ideal collaboration with the director when setting the look of a project.
This goes back to having enough prep time. The more time there is to visit possible locations and simply talk through all the options for looks, style, movement and general approach the better. I love working with visual directors who can communicate their ideas but who welcome input. I also like being able to ditch the plan on the day and go with something better if it suddenly presents itself. I like being pushed out of my comfort zone and challenged to come up with something wonderful and fresh.

What’s your go-to gear — things you can’t live without?
I always start a new production from scratch, and I like to test everything that’s available and proven in the field. I like to use a selection of equipment — often different cameras and lenses that I feel suit the aesthetic of the show. That said, I think
ARRI Alexa cameras are reliable and flexible and produce very “easy to work with” images.

I’ve been using the Letus Helix Double and Infinity (provided by Riz at Mr Helix) with an Exhauss exoskeleton support vest quite a lot. It’s a very flexible tool that I can operate myself and it produces great results. The Easyrig is also a great back-saver when doing a lot of handheld-work, as the best cameras aren’t getting any lighter.

Apart from that, comfortable footwear and warm, waterproof clothing are essential!


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

DP Chat: Catch-22’s Martin Ruhe, ASC

By Randi Altman

For the bibliophiles out there, you know Catch-22 as the 1961 book by Joseph Heller. Cinephiles might remember the 1970 film of the same name starring Alan Arkin. And for those who are familiar with the saying, but not its origins, a Catch-22 is essentially a no-win situation. The famous idiom comes from the book — specifically the main character, Captain John Yossarian, a World War II bombardier who finds himself needing to escape the war, but rules and regulations hold him back.

Martin Ruhe (right) on-set with George Clooney.

Now there is yet another Catch-22 to point to: Hulu’s miniseries, which stars Christopher Abbott, Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie and George Clooney. Clooney is also an executive producer, alongside Grant Heslov, Luke Davies, David Michôd, Richard Brown, Steve Golin and Ellen Kuras. The series was written by Davies and Michôd and directed by Clooney, Heslov and Kuras, who each directed two episodes. It was shot entirely in Italy.

We recently reached out to the show’s German-born DP, Martin Ruhe, ASC, to find out about his workflow on the series and how he became a cinematographer.

Tell us about Catch-22. How would you describe the look of the film that you and the directors wanted to achieve?
George was very clear — he wanted to push the look of the show toward something we don’t see very often these days in TV or films. He wanted to feel the heat of the Italian summer.

We also wanted to contrast the absurdity of what happens on the ground with the claustrophobic and panic of the aerial work. We ended up with a strong warm tone and a lot of natural light. And we move the camera as if we‘re always with our hero (Abbott). Very often we travel with him in fluent camera moves, and then we contrast that with shaky hand-held camera work in the air. It was good fun to be able to have such a range to work with.

Were you given examples of the look that was wanted?
We looked at newsreel footage from the period and at stills and benefitted from production designer David Gropman‘s research. Then I took stills when we did camera tests with our actors in costume. I worked on those on my computer until we got to a place we all liked.

Stefan Sonnenfeld at Company 3 did the grading for the show and loved it. He gave us a LUT that we used for our dailies. Later, when we did the final grade, we added film grain and refined our look to what it is now.

How early did you get involved in the production?
I spoke with George Clooney and Grant Heslov for the first time four months before we started to shoot. I had eight weeks of prep.

How did you go about choosing the right camera and lenses for this project?
A lot of the scenes were happening in very small spaces. I did a lot of research on smaller cameras, and since we would have a lot of action scenes in those planes, I did not want to use any cameras with a rolling shutter.

I ended up using Arri Alexa Minis with Cooke S4 lenses and also some Flare cameras by IO industries, which could record 4K raw to Q7 Odyssey recorders. We mounted those little ones on the planes whenever they were flying for real. We also used it for the parachute jump.

This is a period piece. How did that affect your choices?
The main effect was the choice of light sources when we shot interiors and night scenes. I love fluorescents, and they existed in the period, but just not in those camps and not in the streets of Rome at night. We used a lot of practicals and smaller sources, which we spread out in the little streets of a small town where we shot, called Viterbo (standing in for Rome).

Another thing I learned was that in those camps at night, lights were blacked out. That meant we were stuck with moonlight and general ambience for night scenes, which we created with HMI sources — sometimes direct if we needed to cover big areas, like when the air base gets attacked at night in Episode 5.

Any challenging scenes that you are particularly proud of or found most challenging? 
In the end of Episode 5, Yossarian’s plane loses both engines in combat and goes down. We see YoYo and others escape the plane, while the pilot takes the plane over water and tries to land it. It’s a very dramatic scene.

We shot some exteriors of the real B25 Mitchell over Sardinia. We mounted camera systems in a DC3 and our second Mitchell to get the shots with the real planes. The destruction on the engines and the additional planes were added in post. The interiors of our actors in the plane were shot at Cinecitta Studios in Rome. We had a fuselage of a real B-25 on a gimbal. The studio was equipped with a 360-degree screen and a giant top light.

In the plane, we shot with a hand-held ARRI Alexa Mini camera. It was only the actors, myself and my focus puller inside. We never altered the physical space of the plane but instead embraced the claustrophobia. We see all of the crew members getting out — only the pilot stays on board. There was so little physical space for our actors since the fuselage was rigged to the gimbal, and then we also had to create the lighting for them to jump into within a couple of feet of space.

Then, when Yossarian leaves the plane, we actually put a small camera on a stuntman while another stuntman in Yossarian’s wardrobe did a real jump. We combined that with some plate shots from a helicopter (with a 3D plane in it) and some shots of our actor on a rig on the backlot of Cinecitta.

It all worked out. It was always our goal to shoot as many real elements as we could and leave the rest with post.

Stepping away from Catch-22. How did you become interested in cinematography?
I grew up in a small town in western Germany. No one in my family had anything to do with film. I loved movies and wanted to work on them as a director. After a little journey, I got an internship at a camera rental in London. It was then I saw for the first time what cinematographers do. I loved it and knew that was it. Then I studied in Berlin, became a focus puller for a couple of years and started working as a DP on music videos, then commercials and then, a little later, films.

What inspires you artistically?
Photography and movies. There is a lot of good work out there by a lot of talented DPs. I love to look at photographers I like as well as some documentary stills like the ones you see in the World Press Photo contest once a year. I love it when it is real. There are so many images around us every day, but if I don’t believe them (where they seem real to me), they are just annoying.

Looking back over the last few years, what new technology has changed the way you work?
Maybe LED lighting and maybe the high sensitivity of today’s digital cameras. You are so much more free in your choice of locations, days and, especially, night work because you can work with fewer lights.

What are some of your best practices or rules you try to follow on each job?
Keep it as simple as you can, and stay true to your vision.

Explain your ideal collaboration with the director when setting the look of a project.
I’m not sure there is just one way to go. After reading the script, you have an idea of what it can be, and then you start getting the information of the where and in what frame you will work.

Martin Ruhe behind the ARRI Alexa.

I love to spend time with my directors in prep — going to the locations, seeing them in different light, like mornings, noon or during night. Then I love to work with stills and sometimes also reference pictures to show what I think it can be and present a way we can get there. It’s always very important to leave some space for things to develop.

What’s your go-to gear — things you can’t live without?
I look for the right gear for each project. I like ARRI cameras, but I’ve also shot two movies with Panavision cameras.

I have shot movies in various countries, and the early ones didn’t have big budgets, so I tried to work with local crew and gear that was available. The thing I like about that is you get to know different ways of doing things, and also you might work with gear you would have never picked yourself. It keeps you flexible. When I start a project, I am trying to develop a feel for the story and the places it lives. Once I have that feel, I start into how and decide what tools I’ll use.

Photo Credit: Philippe Antonello


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years.