NBCUni 7.26

Category Archives: post production

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.

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.

NBCUni 7.26

Review: Boxx’s Apexx A3 AMD Ryzen workstation

By Mike McCarthy

Boxx’s Apexx A3 is based on AMD’s newest Ryzen CPUs and the X570 chipset. Boxx has taken these elements and added liquid CPU cooling, professional GPUs and a compact, solid case to create an optimal third-generation Ryzen system configured for pros. It can support dual GPUs and two 3.5-inch hard drives, as well as the three M.2 slots on the board and anything that can fit into its five PCIe slots. The system I am reviewing came with AMD’s top CPU, the 12-core 3900X running at 3.8GHz, as well as 64GB of DDR4-2666 RAM and a Quadro RTX 4000 GPU. I also tested it with a 40GbE network card and a variety of other GPUs.

I have been curious about AMD’s CPU reboot with Ryzen architecture, but I haven’t used an AMD-based system since the 64-bit Opterons in the HP xw9300s that I had in 2006. That was also around the same time that I last used a system from Boxx, in the form of its HD Pro RT editing systems, based on those same AMD Opteron CPUs. At the time, Boxx systems were relatively unique in that they had large internal storage arrays with eight or 10 separate disks, and those arrays came in a variety of forms.

The three different locations that I worked during that time period had Boxx workstations with IDE-, SATA- and SCSI-based storage arrays. All three types of storage experienced various issues at the locations where I worked with them, but that might have been more a result of unreliable hard drives and relatively new PCI RAID controllers available at that time more than a reflection on Boxx.

Regardless, and for whatever reason, Boxx focused more on processing performance than storage over the next decade, marketing more toward 3D animation and VFX artists (among other users) who do lots of processing on small amounts of data, instead of video editors who do small amounts of processing on large amounts of data. At this point, most large data sets are stored on network appliances or external arrays, although my projects have recently been leaning the other way, using older server chassis with lots of internal drive slots.

Out of the Box
The Apexx system shipped from Boxx in a reasonably sized carton with good foam protection. Compared to the servers I have been using recently, it is tiny and feather-light at 25 pounds. The compact case is basically designed upside down from conventional layouts, with the power supply at the bottom and the card slots at the top. To save space, it fits the 750W power supply directly over the CPU, which is liquid-cooled with a radiator at the front of the case. There are two SATA hard drive bays at the top of the case. The system is based on the X570 Aorus Ultra motherboard, which has three full-length and two x1 PCIe slots, as well as three M.2 slots.

The system has no shortage of USB ports, with four USB 3.0 ports up front next to the headphone and mic connectors, and 10 on the back panel. Of those, three are USB 3.1 Gen2, including one that is a Type-C port. All the rest are Type-A, three more USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports. The white USB 3.0 port allows you to update the BIOS from a USB stick if desired, which might come in handy when AMD’s fix to the Zen2 boost frequency issue becomes available. There are also 5.1 analog audio and SPDIF connectors on the board, as well as HDMI out and Wi-Fi antenna ports.

I hooked up my 8K monitor and connected it to my network for initial config and setup. The simplest test I run is Maxon’s Cinebench 15, which returned a GPU score of 207 and a multi-core CPU score of 3169. Both those values are the highest results I have ever gotten with that tool, including from dual-socket systems workstations, although I have not tested the newest generation of Intel Xeons. AMD’s CPUs are well-suited for that particular test, and this is the first true Nvidia Quadro card I have tested from the Turing-based RTX generation.

As this is an AMD X570 board, it supports PCIe 4.0, but that is of little benefit to current GPUs. The one case where the extra bandwidth could currently make a difference is NVMe SSDs playing back high-resolution frames. This system only came with a PCIe 3.0 SSD, but I am hoping to get a newer PCIe 4.0 one to run benchmarks on for a future article. In the meantime, this one is doing just fine for most uses, with over 3GB/sec of read and over 2GB/sec of write bandwidth. This is more than fast enough for uncompressed 4K work.

Using Adobe Tools
Next I installed both the 2018 and 2019 versions of Adobe Premiere Pro and Media Encoder so I could run tests with the same applications I had used for previous benchmarks on other systems, for more accurate comparisons. I have a standard set of sequences I export in AME, which are based on raw camera footage from Red Monstro, Sony Venice and ARRI Alexa LF cameras, exported to HEVC at 8K and 4K, testing both 8-bit and deep color render paths. Most of these renders were also completed faster than on any other system I have tested, and this is “only” a single-socket consumer-level architecture (compared to Threadripper and Epyc).

I did further tests after adding a Mellanox 40GbE network card, and swapping out the Quadro RTX 4000 for more powerful GPUs. I tested a GeForce RTX 2080 TI, a Quadro RTX 6000, an older Quadro P6000 and an AMD Radeon Pro WX 8200. The 2080TI and RTX6000 did allow 8K playback in realtime from RedCineX, but the max resolution, full-frame 8K files were right at the edge of smooth (around 23fps). Any smaller frame sizes were fine at 24p. The more powerful GeForce card didn’t improve my AME export times much if at all and got a 25% lower OpenGL score in Cinebench, revealing that Quadro drivers still make a difference for some 3D applications and that Adobe users don’t benefit much from investing in a GPU beyond a GeForce 2070. The AMD card did much better than in my earlier tests, showing that AMD drivers and software support have improved significantly since then.

Real-World Use
Where the system really stood out is when I started to do some real work with it. The 40GbE connection to my main workstation allowed me to seamlessly open projects that are stored on my internal 40TB array. I am working on a large feature film at the moment, so I used it to export a number of reels and guide tracks. These are 4K sequences of 7K anamorphic Red footage with layers of GPU effects, titles, labels and notes, with over 20 layers of audio as well. Rendering out a 4K DNxHR file of a 20-minute reel takes 140 minutes on my 16-core dual-socket workstation, but this “consumer-level” AMD system kicks them out in under 90 minutes. My watermarked DNxHD guides render out 20% faster than before as well, even over the network. This is probably due to the higher overall CPU frequency, as I have discovered that Premiere doesn’t multi-thread very well.

For AME Render times, lower is better and for Cinebench scores, higher is better.
Comparison system details:
Dell Precision 7910 with the GeForce 2080 TI
Supermicro X9DRi with Quadro P6000
HP Z4 10-core workstation with GeForce 2080TI
Razer Blade 15 with GeForce 2080 TI Max-Q

I also did some test exports in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve. I am less familiar with that program, so my testing was much more limited, but it exported nearly as fast as Premiere, and the Nvidia cards were only slightly faster than the AMD GPUs in that app. (But I have few previous Resolve tests to use as a point of comparison to other systems.)

As an AMD system, there are a few limitations as compared to a similar Intel model. First of all, there is no support for the hardware encoding available in Intel’s Quick Sync integrated graphics hardware. This lack of support only matters if you have software that uses that particular functionality, such as my Adobe apps. But the system seems fast enough to accomplish those encode and decode tasks on its own. It also lacks a Thunderbolt port, as until recently that was an exclusively Intel technology. Now that Thunderbolt 3 is being incorporated into USB 4.0, it will be more important to have, but it will become available in a wider variety of products. It might be possible to add a USB 4.0 card to this system when the time comes, which would alleviate this issue.

When I first received the system, it reported the CPU as an 800MHz chip, which was the result of a BIOS configuration issue. After fixing that, the only other problem I had was a conflict between my P6000 GPU and my 8K display, which usually work great together. But it won’t boot with that combo, which is a pretty obscure corner case. All other GPU and monitor combinations worked fine, and I tested a bunch. I worked with Boxx technical support on that and a few other minor issues, and they were very helpful, sending me spare parts to confirm that the issues weren’t caused by my own added hardware.

In the End
The system performed very well for me, and the configuration I received would meet the needs of most users. Even editing 8K footage no longer requires stepping up to a dual-socket system. The biggest variation will come with matching a GPU to your needs, as Boxx offers GeForce, Quadro and AMD options. Editors will probably be able to save some money, while those doing true 3D rendering might want to invest in an even more powerful GPU than the Quadro RTX 4000 that this system came with.

All of those options are available on the Boxx website, with the online configuration tool. The test model Boxx sent me retails for about $4,500. There are cheaper solutions available if you are a DIY person, but Boxx has assembled a well-balanced solution in a solid package, built and supported for you. They also sell much higher-end systems if you are in the market for that, but with recent advances, these mid-level systems probably meet the needs of most users. If you are interested in purchasing a system from them, using the code MIKEPOST at checkout will give you a discount.


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.


Charlieuniformtango names company vets as new partners

Charlieuniformtango principal/CEO Lola Lott has named three of the full-service studio’s most veteran artists as new partners — editors Deedle LaCour and James Rayburn, and Flame artist Joey Waldrip. This is the first time in the company’s almost 25-year history that the partnership has expanded. All three will continue with their current jobs but have received the expanded titles of senior editor/partner and senior Flame artist/partner, respectively. Lott, who retains majority ownership of Charlieuniformtango, will remain principal/CEO, and Jack Waldrip will remain senior editor/co-owner.

“Deedle, Joey and James came to me and Jack with a solid business plan about buying into the company with their futures in mind,” explains Lott. “All have been with Charlieuniformtango almost from the beginning: Deedle for 20 years, Joey for 19 years and James for 18. Jack and I were very impressed and touched that they were interested and willing to come to us with funding and plans for continuing and growing their futures with us.

So why now after all these years? “Now is the right time because while Jack and I still have a passion for this business and we also have employees/talent — that have been with us for over 18 years — who also have a passion be a partner in this company,” says Lott. “While still young, they have invested and built their careers within the Tango culture and have the client bonds, maturity and understanding of the business to be able to take Tango to a greater level for the next 20 years. That was mine and Jack’s dream, and they came to us at the perfect time.”

Charlieuniformtango is a full-service creative studio that produces, directs, shoots, edits, mixes, animates and provides motion graphics, color grading, visual effects and finishing for commercials, short films, full-length feature films, documentaries, music videos and digital content.

Main Image: (L-R) Joey Waldrip, James Rayburn, Jack Waldrip, Lola Lott and Deedle LaCour


Review: Samsung’s 970 EVO Plus 500GB NVMe M.2 SSD

By Brady Betzel

It seems that the SSD drives are dropping in price by the hour. (This might be a slight over-exaggeration, but you understand what I mean.) Over the last year or so there has been a huge difference in pricing, including high-speed NVMe SSD drives. One of those is the highly touted Samsung EVO Plus NVMe line.

In this review, I am going to go over Samsung’s 500GB version of the 970 EVO Plus NVMe M.2 SSD drive. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus NVMe M.2 SSD drive comes in four sizes — 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB — and retails (according to www.samsung.com) for $74.99, $119.99, $229.99 and $479.99, respectively. For what it’s worth, I really didn’t see much of price difference on other sites I visited, namely Amazon.com and Best Buy.

On paper, the EVO Plus line of drives can achieve speeds of up to 3,500MB/s read and 3,300MB/s write. Keep in mind that the lower the storage size the lower the read/write speeds will be. For instance, the EVO Plus 250GB SSD can still get up to 3,500MB/s in sequential read speeds, while the sequential write speeds dwindle down to max speeds of 2,300MB/s. Comparatively, the “standard” EVO line can get 3,400MB/s to 3,500MB/s sequential read speeds and 1,500MB/s sequential write speeds on the 250GB EVO SSD. The 500GB version costs just $89.99, but if you need more storage size, you will have to pay more.

There is another SSD to compare the 970 EVO Plus to, and that is the 970 Pro, which only comes in 512GB and 1TB sizes — costing around $169.99 and $349.99, respectively. While the Pro version has similar read speeds to the Plus (up to 3,500MB/s read) and actually slower write speeds (up to 2,700MB/s), the real ticket to admission for the Samsung 970 Pro is the Terabytes Written (TBW) warranty period. Samsung warranties the 970 line of drives for five years or Terabytes Written, whichever comes first. In the 500GB line of 970 drives, the “standard” and Plus 970 cover 300TBW, while the Pro covers a whopping 600TBW.

Samsung says its use of the latest V-NAND technology, in addition to its Phoenix controller, provides the highest speeds and power efficiency of the EVO NVMe drives. Essentially, V-NAND is a way to vertically stack memory instead of the previous method of stacking memory in a planar way. Stacking vertically allows for more memory in the same space in addition to longer life spans. You can read more about the Phoenix controller here.

If you are like me and want both a good warranty (or, really, faith in the product) and blazing speeds, check out the Samsung 970 EVO Plus line of drives. Great price point with almost all of the features as the Pro line. The 970 line of NVMe M.2 SSD drives fits the 2280 form factor (meaning 22mm x 80mm) and fits an M key-style interface. It’s important to understand what interface your SSD is compatible with: either M key (or M) or B key. Cards in the Samsung 970 EVO line are all M key. Most newer motherboards will have at least one if not two M.2 ports to plug drives into. You can also find PCIe adapters for under $20 or $30 on Amazon that will give you essentially the same read/write speeds. External USB 3.1 Gen 2, USB-C enclosures can also be found that will give you an easier way of replacing the drives when needed without having to open your case.

One really amazing way to use these newly lower-priced drives: When color correcting, editing, and/or performing VFX miracles in apps like Adobe Premiere Pro or Blackmagic Resolve, use NVMe drives for only cache, still stores, renders and/or optimized media. With the low cost of these NVMe M.2 drives, you might be able to include the price of one when charging a client and throw it on the shelf when done, complete with the project and media. Not only will you have a super-fast way to access the media, but you can easily get another one in the system when using an external drive.

Summing Up
In the end, the price points of the Samsung 970 EVO Plus NVMe M.2 drives are right in the sweet spot. There are, of course, competing drives that run a little bit cheaper, like the Western Digital Black SN750 NVMe SSDs (at around $99 for the 500GB model), but they come with a slightly slower read/write speed. So for my money, the Samsung 970 line of NVMe drives is a great combination of speed and value that can take your computer to the next level.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producer’s Guild of America. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.


Foundry updates Nuke to version 12.0

Foundry has released Nuke 12.0, which introduces the next cycle of releases for the Nuke family. The Nuke 12.0 release brings improved interactivity and performance across the Nuke family, from additional GPU-enabled nodes for cleanup to a rebuilt playback engine in Nuke Studio and Hiero. Nuke 12.0 also sees the integration of GPU-accelerated tools integrated from Cara VR for camera solving, stitching and corrections and updates to the latest industry standards.

OpenEXR

New features of Nuke 12.0 include:
• UI interactivity and script loading – This release includes  a variety of optimizations throughout the software to improve performance, especially when working at scale. One key improvement offers a much smoother experience and noticeably maintains UI interactivity and reduced loading times when working in large scripts.
• Read and write performance – Nuke 12.0 includes focused improvement to OpenEXR read and write performance, including optimizations for several popular compression types (Zip1, Zip16, PIZ, DWAA, DWAB), improving render times and interactivity in scripts. Red and Sony camera formats also see additional GPU support.
• Inpaint and EdgeExtend – These GPU-accelerated nodes provide faster and more intuitive workflows for common tasks, with fine detail controls and contextual paint strokes.
• Grid Warp Tracker – Extending the Smart Vector toolset in NukeX, this node uses Smart Vectors to drive grids for match moving, warping and morphing images.
• Cara VR node integration – The majority of Cara VR’s nodes are now integrated into NukeX, including a suite of GPU-enabled tools for VR and stereo workflows and tools that enhance traditional camera solving and cleanup workflows.
• Nuke Studio, Hiero and HieroPlayer Playback – The timeline-based tools in the Nuke family see dramatic improvements in playback stability and performance as a result of a rebuilt playback engine optimized for the heavy I/O demands of color-managed workflows with multichannel EXRs.


Uppercut ups Tyler Horton to editor

After spending two years as an assistant at New York-based editorial house Uppercut, Tyler Horton has been promoted to editor. This is the first internal talent promotion for Uppercut.

Horton first joined Uppercut in 2017 after a stint as an assistant editor at Whitehouse Post. Stepping up as editor he’s cut notable projects, such as a recent Nike campaign “Letters to Heroes,” a series launched in conjunction with the US Open that highlights young athletes meeting their role models, including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. He also has cut campaigns for brands such as Asics, Hypebeast, Volvo and MOMA.

“From the beginning, Uppercut was always intentionally a boutique studio that embraced a collaborative of visions and styles — never just a one-person shop,” says Uppercut EP Julia Williams. “Tyler took initiative from day one to be as hands-on as possible with every project and we’ve been proud to see him really grow and refine his own voice.”

Horton’s love of film was sparked by watching sports reels and highlight videos. He went on to study film editing, then hit the road to tour with his band for four years before returning to his passion for film.


Cinelab London adds sound mastering supervisor and colorist

Cinelab London, which provides a wide range of film and digital restoration services, has added two new creatives to its staff — sound mastering supervisor Jason Stevens and senior colorist Mike David.

Stevens brings with him over 20 years of experience in sound and film archive restoration. Prior to his new role, he was part of the archive and restoration team at Pinewood Studios. Having worked there his whole career, Stevens’ worked on many big films, including the recent Yesterday, Rocketman and Judy. His clients have included the BFI, Arrow Films, Studio Canal and Fabulous Films.

During his career, Stevens has also been involved in short films, commercials and broadcast documentaries, recently completing a three-year project for Adam Matthew, the award-winning digital publisher of unique primary source collections from archives around the world.

“We have seen Jason’s enviable skills and talents put to their best use over the six years we have worked together,” says Adrian Bull, co-founder and CEO of Cinelab London. “Now we’re thrilled to have him join our growing in-house team. Talents like Jason’s are rare. He brings a wealth of creative and technical knowledge, so we feel lucky to be able to welcome him to our film family.”

Colorist Mike Davis also joins from Pinewood Studios (following its recent closure) where he spent five years grading feature films and episodic TV productions and specializing in archive and restoration. He has graded over 100 restoration titles for clients such as BFI, Studio Canal and Arrow Films on projects such as A Fish Called Wanda, Rita, Sue & Bob Too and Waterworld.

Davis has worked with the world’s leading DPs, handling dailies and grading major feature films including Mission Impossible, Star Wars: Rogue One and Annihilation. He enjoys working on a variety of content including short films, commercials, broadcast documentaries and Independent DI projects. He recently worked on Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Farming, which won Best British Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June.

Davis started his career at Ascent Media, assisting on film rushes, learning how to grade and operate equipment. By 2010, he segued into production, spending time on set and on location working on stereoscopic 3D projects and operating 3D rigs. Returning to grading film and TV at Company 3, Davis then strengthened his talents working in long format film at Pinewood Studios.

Main Image: (L-R) Stevens and Davis


Pace Pictures and ShockBox VFX formalize partnership

Hollywood post house Pace Pictures and bicoastal visual effects, animation and motion graphics specialist ShockBox VFX have formed a strategic alliance for film and television projects. The two specialist companies provide studios and producers with integrated services encompassing all aspects of post in order to finish any project efficiently, cost-effectively and with greater creative control.

The agreement formalizes a successful collaborative partnership that has been evolving over many years. Pace Pictures and ShockBox collaborated informally in 2015 on the independent feature November Rule. Since then, they have teamed up on numerous projects, including, most recently, the Hulu series Veronica Mars, Lionsgate’s 3 From Hell and Universal Pictures’ Grand-Daddy Day Care and Undercover Brother 2. Pace provided services including creative editorial, color grading, editorial finishing and sound mixing. ShockBox contributed visual effects, animation and main title design.

“We offer complementary services, and our staff have developed a close working rapport,” says Pace Pictures president Heath Ryan. “We want to keep building on that. A formal alliance benefits both companies and our clients.”

“In today’s world of shrinking budgets and delivery schedules, the time for creativity in the post process can often suffer,” adds ShockBox founder and director Steven Addair. “Through our partnership with Pace, producers and studios of all sizes will be able to maximize our integrated VFX pipeline for both quality and volume.”

As part of the agreement, ShockBox will move its West Coast operations to a new facility that Pace plans to open later this fall. The two companies have also set up an encrypted, high-speed data connection between Pace Pictures Hollywood and ShockBox New York, allowing them to exchange project data quickly and securely.

FotoKem expands post services to Santa Monica

FotoKem is now offering its video post services in Santa Monica. This provides an accessible location for those working on the west side of LA, as well as access to the talent from its Burbank and Hollywood studios.

Designed to support an entire pipeline of services, the FotoKem Santa Monica facility is housed just off the 10 freeway, above FotoKem’s mixing and recording studio Margarita Mix. For many projects, color grading, sound mixing and visual effects reviews often take place in multiple locations around town. This facility offers showrunners and filmmakers a new west side post production option. Additionally, the secure fiber network connecting all FotoKem-owned locations ensures feature film and episodic finishing work can take place in realtime among sites.

FotoKem Santa Monica features a DI color grading theater, episodic and commercial color suite, editorial conform bay and a visual effects team — all tied to the comprehensive offerings at FotoKem’s main Burbank campus, Keep Me Posted’s episodic finishing facility and Margarita Mix Hollywood’s episodic grading suites. FotoKem’s entire roster of colorists are available to collaborate with filmmakers to ensure their vision is supported throughout the process. Recent projects include Shazam!, Vice, Aquaman, The Dirt, Little and Good Trouble.

Review: Accusonus Era 4 Pro audio repair plugins

By Brady Betzel

With each passing year it seems that the job title of “editor” changes. It’s not just someone responsible for shaping the story of the show but also for certain aspects of finishing, including color correction and audio mixing.

In the past, when I was offline editing more often, I learned just how important sending a properly mixed and leveled offline cut was. Whether it was a rough cut, fine cut or locked cut — the mantra to always put my best foot forward was constantly repeating in my head. I am definitely a “video” editor but, as I said, with editors becoming responsible for so many aspects of finishing, you have to know everything. For me this means finding ways to take my cuts from the middle of the road to polished with just a few clicks.

On the audio side, that means using tools like Accusonus Era 4 Pro audio repair plugins. Accusonus advertises these Era 4 plugins as one-button solutions, and they are as easy as one button but you can also nuance the audio if you like. The Era 4 Pro plugins work not only work with your typical DAW like Pro Tools 12.x and higher, but within nonlinear editors like Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2017 or higher, FCP X 10.4 or higher and Avid Media Composer 2018.12.

Digging In
Accusonus’ Era 4 Pro Bundle will cost you $499 for the eight plugins included in its audio repair offering. This includes De-Esser Pro, De-Esser, Era-D, Noise Remover, Reverb Remover, Voice Leveler, Plosive Remover and De-Clipper. There is also an Era 4 (non-pro) bundle for $149 that includes everything mentioned previously except for De-Esser Pro and Era-D. I will go over a few of the plugins in this review and why the Pro bundle might warrant the additional $350.

I installed the Era 4 Pro Bundle on a Wacom MobileStudio Pro tablet that is a few years old but can still run Premiere. I did this intentionally to see just how light the plugins would run. To my surprise my system was able to toggle each plug-in off and on without any issue. Playback was seamless when all plugins were applied. Now I wasn’t playing anything but video, but sometimes when I do an audio pass I turn off video monitoring to be extra sure I am concentrating on the audio only.

De-Esser
First up is the De-Esser, which tackles harsh sounds resulting from “s,” “z,” “ch,” “j” and “sh.” So if you run into someone who has some ear piercing “s” pronunciations, apply the De-Esser plugin and choose from narrow, normal or broad. Once you find which mode helps remove the harsh sounds (otherwise known as sibilance), you can enable “intense” to add more processing power (but doing this can potentially require rendering). In addition, there is an output gain setting, “Diff,” that plays only the parts De-Esser is affecting. If you want to just try the “one button” approach, the Processing dial is really all you need to touch. In realtime, you can hear the sibilance diminish. I personally like a little reality in my work so I might dial the processing to the “perfect” amount then dial it back 5% or 10%.

De-Esser Pro
Next up is De-Esser Pro. This one is for the editor who wants the one-touch processing but also the ability to dive into the specific audio spectrum being affected and see how the falloff is being performed. In addition, there are presets such as male vocals, female speech, etc. to jump immediately to where you need help. I personally find the De-Esser Pro more useful than the De-Esser. I can really shape the plugin. However, if you don’t want to be bothered with the more intricate settings, the De-Esser is a still a great solution. Is it worth the extra $350? I’m not sure, but combining it with the Era-D might make you want to shell out the cash for the Era 4 Pro bundle.

Era-D
Speaking of the Era-D, it’s the only plugin not described by its own title, funnily enough, but it is a joint de-noise and de-reverberation plugin. However, Era-D goes way beyond simple hum or hiss removal. With Era-D, you get “regions” (I love saying that because of the audio mixers who constantly talk in regions and not timecode) that can not only be split at certain frequencies — and have different percentage of plugin applied to said region — but also have individual frequency cutoff levels.

Something I had never heard of before is the ability to use two mics to fix a suboptimal recording on one of the two mics, which can be done in the Era-D plugin. There is a signal path window that you can use to mix the amount of de-noise and de-reverb. It’s possible to only use one or the other, and you can even run the plugin in parallel or cascade. If that isn’t enough, there is an advanced window with artifact control and more. Era-D is really the reason for that extra $350 between the standard Era 4 bundle and the Era 4 Bundle Pro — and it is definitely worth it if you find yourself removing tons of noise and reverb.

Noise Remover
My second favorite plugin in the Era 4 Bundle Pro is the Noise Remover. Not only is the noise removal pretty high-quality (again, I dial it back to avoid robot sounds), but it is painless. Dial in the amount of processing and you are 80% done. If you need to go further, then there are five buttons that let you focus where the processing occurs: all-frequencies (flat), high frequencies, low frequencies, high and low frequencies and mid frequencies. I love clicking the power button to hear the differences — with and without the noise removal — but also dialing the knob around to really get the noise removed without going overboard. Whether removing noise in video or audio, there is a fine art in noise reduction, and the Era 4 Noise Removal makes it easy … even for an online editor.

Reverb Remover
The Reverb Remover operates very much like the Noise Remover, but instead of noise, it removes echo. Have you ever gotten a line of ADR clearly recorded on an iPhone in a bathtub? I’ve worked on my fair share of reality, documentary, stage and scripted shows, and at some point, someone will send you this — and then the producers will wonder why it doesn’t match the professionally recorded interviews. With Era 4 Noise Remover, Reverb Remover and Era-D, you will get much closer to matching the audio between different recording devices than without plugins. Dial that Reverb Remover processing knob to taste and then level out your audio, and you will be surprised at how much better it will sound.

Voice Leveler
To level out your audio, Accusonus also has included the Voice Leveler, which does just what is says: It levels your audio so you won’t get one line blasting in your ears while the next one doesn’t because the speaker backed away from the mic. Much like the De-Esser, you get a waveform visual of what is being affected in your audio. In addition, there are two modes: tight and normal, helping to normalize your dialog. Think of the tight mode as being much more distinctive than a normal interview conversation. Accusonus describes tight as a more focused “radio” sound. The Emphasis button helps to address issues when the speaker turns away from a microphone and introduces tonal problems. Breath control is a simple

De-Clipper and Plosive Remover
The final two plugins in the Era 4 Bundle Pro are the Plosive Remover and De-Clipper. De-Clipper is an interesting little plugin that tries to restore lost audio due to clipping. If you recorded audio at high gain and it came out horribly, then it’s probably been clipped. De-Clipper tries to salvage this clipped audio by recreating overly saturated audio segments. While it’s always better to monitor your audio recording on set and re-record if possible, sometimes it is just too late. That’s when you should try De-Clipper. There are two modes: normal/standard use and one for trickier cases that take a little more processing power.

The final plugin, Plosive Remover, focuses on artifacting that’s typically caused by “p” and “b” sounds. This can happen if no pop screen is used and/or if the person being recorded is too close to the microphone. There are two modes: normal and extreme. Subtle pops will easily be repaired in normal mode, but extreme pops will definitely need the extreme mode. Much like De-Esser, Plosive Remover has an audio waveform display to show what is being affected, while the “Diff” mode only plays back what is being affected. However, if you just want to stick to that “one button” mantra, the Processing dial is really all you need to mess with. The Plosive Remover is another amazing plugin that, when you need it, really does a great job fast and easily.

Summing Up
In the end, I downloaded all of the Accusonus audio demos found on the Era 4 website, along with installers. This is the same place you can download the installers if you want to take part in the 14-day trial. I purposely limited my audio editing time to under one minute per clip and plugin to see what I could do. Check out my work with the Accusonus Era 4 Pro audio repair plugins on YouTube and see if anything jumps out at you. In my opinion, the Noise Remover, Reverb Remover and Era-D are worth the price of admission, but each plugin from Accusonus does great work.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producer’s Guild of America. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

AJA adds HDR Image Analyzer 12G and more at IBC

AJA will soon offer the new HDR Image Analyzer 12G, bringing 12G-SDI connectivity to its realtime HDR monitoring and analysis platform developed in partnership with Colorfront. The new product streamlines 4K/Ultra HD HDR monitoring and analysis workflows by supporting the latest high-bandwidth 12G-SDI connectivity. The HDR Image Analyzer 12G will be available this fall for $19,995.

HDR Image Analyzer 12G offers waveform, histogram and vectorscope monitoring and analysis of 4K/Ultra HD/2K/HD, HDR and WCG content for broadcast and OTT production, post, QC and mastering. It also features HDR-capable monitor outputs that not only go beyond HD resolutions and offer color accuracy but make it possible to configure layouts to place the preferred tool where needed.

“Since its release, HDR Image Analyzer has powered HDR monitoring and analysis for a number of feature and episodic projects around the world. In listening to our customers and the industry, it became clear that a 12G version would streamline that work, so we developed the HDR Image Analyzer 12G,” says Nick Rashby, president of AJA.

AJA’s video I/O technology integrates with HDR analysis tools from Colorfront in a compact 1-RU chassis to bring HDR Image Analyzer 12G users a comprehensive toolset to monitor and analyze HDR formats, including PQ (Perceptual Quantizer) and hybrid log gamma (HLG). Additional feature highlights include:

● Up to 4K/Ultra HD 60p over 12G-SDI inputs, with loop-through outputs
● Ultra HD UI for native resolution picture display over DisplayPort
● Remote configuration, updates, logging and screenshot transfers via an integrated web UI
● Remote Desktop support
● Support for display referred SDR (Rec.709), HDR ST 2084/PQ and HLG analysis
● Support for scene referred ARRI, Canon, Panasonic, Red and Sony camera color spaces
● Display and color processing lookup table (LUT) support
● Nit levels and phase metering
● False color mode to easily spot pixels out of gamut or brightness
● Advanced out-of-gamut and out-of-brightness detection with error intolerance
● Data analyzer with pixel picker
● Line mode to focus a region of interest onto a single horizontal or vertical line
● File-based error logging with timecode
● Reference still store

At IBC 2019, AJA also showed new products and updates designed to advance broadcast, production, post and pro AV workflows. On the stand were the Kumo 6464-12G for routing and the newly shipping Corvid 44 12G developer I/O models. AJA has also introduced the FS-Mini utility frame sync Mini-Converter and three new OpenGear-compatible cards: OG-FS-Mini, OG-ROI-DVI and OG-ROI-HDMI. Additionally, the company previewed Desktop Software updates for Kona, Io and T-Tap; Ultra HD support for IPR Mini-Converter receivers; and FS4 frame synchronizer enhancements.

Behind the Title: Chapeau CD Lauren Mayer-Beug

This creative director loves the ideation process at the start of a project when anything is possible, and saving some of those ideas for future use.

COMPANY: LA’s Chapeau Studios

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Chapeau provides visual effects, editorial, design, photography and story development fluidly with experience in design, web development, and software and app engineering.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
It often entails seeing a job through from start to finish. I look at it like making a painting or a sculpture.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Perhaps just how hands-on the process actually is. And how analog I am, considering we work in such a tech-driven environment.

Beats

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Thinking. I’m always thinking big picture to small details. I love the ideation process at the start of a project when anything is possible. Saving some of those ideas for future use, learning about what you want to do through that process. I always learn more about myself through every ideation session.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Letting go of the details that didn’t get addressed. Not everything is going to be perfect, so since it’s a learning process there is inevitably something that will catch your eye.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
My mind goes to so many buckets. A published children’s book author with a kick-ass coffee shop. A coffee bean buyer so I could travel the world.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I always skewed in this direction. My thinking has always been in the mindset of idea coaxer and gatherer. I was put in that position in my mid-20s and realized I liked it (with lots to learn, of course), and I’ve run with it ever since.

IS THERE A PROJECT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
That’s hard to say. Every project is really so different. A lot of what I’m most proud of is behind the scenes… the process that will go into what I see as bigger things. With Chapeau, I will always love the Facebook projects, all the pieces that came together — both on the engineering side and the fun creative elements.

Facebook

What I’m most excited about is our future stuff. There’s a ton on the sticky board that we aim to accomplish in the very near future. Thinking about how much is actually being set in motion is mind-blowing, humbling and — dare I say — makes me outright giddy. That is why I’m here, to tell these new stories — stories that take part in forming the new landscape of narrative.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE DAY TO DAY?
Anything Adobe. My most effective tool is the good-old pen to paper. That works clearly in conveying ideas and working out the knots.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I’m always looking for inspiration and find it everywhere, as many other creatives do. However, nature is where I’ve always found my greatest inspiration. I’m constantly taking photos of interesting moments to save for later. Oftentimes I will refer back to those moments in my work. When I need a reset I hike, run or bike. Movement helps.

I’m always going outside to look at how the light interacts with the environment. Something I’ve become known for at work is going out of my way to see a sunset (or sunrise). They know me to be the first one on the roof for a particularly enchanting magic hour. I’m always staring at the clouds — the subtle color combinations and my fascination with how colors look the way they do only by context. All that said, I often have my nose in a graphic design book.

The overall mood realized from gathering and creating the ever-popular Pinterest board is so helpful. Seeing the mood color wise and texturally never gets old. Suddenly, you have a fully formed example of where your mind is at. Something you could never have talked your way through.

Then, of course, there are people. People/peers and what they are capable of will always amaze me.

Mavericks VFX provides effects for Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale

By Randi Altman

Season 3 episodes of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale are available for streaming, and if you had any illusions that things would lighten up a bit for June (Elizabeth Moss) and the ladies of Gilead, I’m sorry to say you will be disappointed. What’s not disappointing is that, in addition to the amazing acting and storylines, the show’s visual effects once again play a heavy role.

Brendan Taylor

Toronto’s Mavericks VFX has created visual effects for all three seasons of the show, based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian view of the not-too-distant future. Its work has earned two Emmy nominations.

We recently reached out to Maverick’s founder and visual effects supervisor, Brendan Taylor, to talk about the new season and his workflow.

How early did you get involved in each season? What sort of input did you have regarding the shots?
The Handmaid’s Tale production is great because they involve us as early as possible. Back in Season 2, when we had to do the Fenway Park scene, for example, we were in talks in August but didn’t shoot until November. For this season, they called us in August for the big fire sequence in Episode 1, and the scene was shot in December.

There’s a lot of nice leadup and planning that goes into it. Our opinions are sought after and we’re able to provide input on what’s the best methodology to use to achieve a shot. Showrunner Bruce Miller, along with the directors, have a way of how they’d like to see it, and they’re great at taking in our recommendations. It was very collaborative and we all approach the process with “what’s best for the show” in mind.

What are some things that the showrunners asked of you in terms of VFX? How did they describe what they wanted?
Each person has a different approach. Bruce speaks in story terms, providing a broader sense of what he’s looking for. He gave us the overarching direction of where he wants to go with the season. Mike Barker, who directed a lot of the big episodes, speaks in more specific terms. He really gets into the details, determining the moods of the scene and communicating how each part should feel.

What types of effects did you provide? Can you give examples?
Some standout effects were the CG smoke in the burning fire sequence and the aftermath of the house being burned down. For the smoke, we had to make it snake around corners in a believable yet magical way. We had a lot of fire going on set, and we couldn’t have any actors or stunt person near it due to the size, so we had to line up multiple shots and composite it together to make everything look realistic. We then had to recreate the whole house in 3D in order to create the aftermath of the fire, with the house being completely burned down.

We also went to Washington, and since we obviously couldn’t destroy the Lincoln Memorial, we recreated it all in 3D. That was a lot of back and forth between Bruce, the director and our team. Different parts of Lincoln being chipped away means different things, and Bruce definitely wanted the head to be off. It was really fun because we got to provide a lot of suggestions. On top of that, we also had to create CGI handmaids and all the details that came with it. We had to get the robes right and did cloth simulation to match what was shot on set. There were about a hundred handmaids on set, but we had to make it look like there were thousands.

Were you able to reuse assets from last season for this one?
We were able to use a handmaids asset from last season, but it needed a lot of upgrades for this season. Because there were closer shots of the handmaids, we had to tweak it and made sure little things like the texture, shaders and different cloth simulations were right for this season.

Were you on set? How did that help?
Yes, I was on set, especially for the fire sequences. We spent a lot of time talking about what’s possible and testing different ways to make it happen. We want it to be as perfect as possible, so I had to make sure it was all done properly from the start. We sent another visual effects supervisor, Leo Bovell, down to Washington to supervise out there as well.

Can you talk about a scene or scenes where being on set played a part in doing something either practical or knowing you could do it in CG?
The fire sequence with the smoke going around the corner took a lot of on-set collaboration. We had tried doing it practically, but the smoke was moving too fast for what we wanted, and there was no way we could physically slow it down.

Having the special effects coordinator, John MacGillivray, there to give us real smoke that we could then match to was invaluable. In most cases on this show, very few audible were called. They want to go into the show knowing exactly what to expect so we were prepared and ready.

Can you talk about turnaround time? Typically, series have short ones. How did that affect how you worked?
The average turnaround time was eight weeks. We began discussions in August, before shooting, and had to delivery by January. We worked with Mike to simplify things without diminishing the impact. We just wanted to make sure we had the chance to do it well given the time we had. Mike was very receptive in asking what we needed to do to make it the best it could be in the timeframe that we had. Take the fire sequence, for example. We could have done full-CGI fire but that would have taken six months. So we did our research and testing to find the most efficient way to merge practical effects with CGI and presented the best version in a shorter period of time.

What tools were used?
We used Foundry Nuke for compositing. We used Autodesk Maya to build all the 3D houses, including the burned-down house, and to destroy the Lincoln Memorial. Then we used Side Effects Houdini to do all the simulations, which can range from the smoke and fire to crowd and cloth.

Is there a shot that you are most proud of or that was very challenging?
The shot where we reveal the crowd over June when we’re in Washington was incredibly challenging. The actual Lincoln Memorial, where we shot, is an active public park, so we couldn’t prevent people from visiting the site. The most we could do was hold them off for a few minutes. We ended up having to clean out all of the tourists, which is difficult with moving camera and moving people. We had to reconstruct about 50% of the plate. Then, in order to get the CG people to be standing there, we had to create a replica of the ground they’re standing on in CG. There were some models we got from the US Geological Society, but they didn’t completely line up, so we had to make a lot of decisions on the fly.

The cloth simulation in that scene was perfect. We had to match the dampening and the movement of all the robes. Stephen Wagner, who is our effects lead on it, nailed it. It looked perfect, and it was really exciting to see it all come together. It looked seamless, and when you saw it in the show, nobody believed that the foreground handmaids were all CG. We’re very proud.

What other projects are you working on?
We’re working on a movie called Queen & Slim by Melina Matsoukas with Universal. It’s really great. We’re also doing YouTube Premium’s Impulse and Netflix’s series Madam C.J. Walker.


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

Colorist Chat: Technicolor’s Doug Delaney

Industry veteran Doug Delaney started his career in VFX before the days of digital, learning his craft from the top film timers and color scientists as well as effects supervisors.

Today he is a leading colorist and finisher at Technicolor, working on major movies including the recent Captain Marvel. We spoke to him to find out more about how he works.

NAME:Doug Delaney

TITLE:Senior Colorist

IN ADDITION TO CAPTAIN MARVEL, CANYOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We have just wrapped on Showtime’s The Loudest Voice,which documented Fox News’ Roger Ailes and starred Russell Crow, Naomi Watts and Sienna Miller.

I also just had the immense pleasure of working with DP Cameron Duncan on Nat Geo’s thriller The Hot Zone. For that show we actually worked together early on to establish two looks — one for laboratory scenes taking place in Washington, DC, and another for scenes in central Africa. These looks were then exported as LUTs for dailies so that the creative intent was established from the beginning of shooting and carried through to finishing.

And earlier this year I worked on Love, Death & Robots, which just received two Emmy nominations, so big congrats to that team!

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Yes, these days I tend to think of “colorists” as finishing artists — meaning that our suites are typically the last stop for a project and where everything comes together.

The technology we have access to in our suites continues to develop, and therefore our capabilities have expanded — there is more we can do in our suites that previously would have needed to be handled by others. A perfect example is visual effects. Sometimes we get certain shots in from VFX vendors that are well-executed but need to be a bit more nuanced — say it’s a driving scene against a greenscreen, and the lighting outside the car feels off for the time of day it’s supposed to be in the scene. Whereas we used to have to kick it back to VFX to fix, I can now go in and use the alpha channels and mattes to color-correct that imbalance.

And what’s important about this new ability is that in today’s demanding schedules and deadlines, it allows us to work collaboratively in real time with the creative rather than in an iterative workflow that takes time we often don’t have.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
The look development. That aspect can take on various conversations depending on the project. Sometimes it’s talking with filmmakers in preproduction, sometimes just when it gets to post, but ultimately, being part of the creative journey and how to deliver the best-looking show is what I love.

That and when the final playback happens in our room, when the filmmakers see for the first time all of the pieces of the puzzle come together with sound … it’s awesome.

ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF A PROJECT FROM A COLOR PERSPECTIVE?
Understanding that each project has a different relationship with the filmmaker, there needs to be transparency and agreement to the process amongst the director, DP, execs, etc. Whether a clear vision is established early on or they are open to further developing the look, a willingness to engage in an open dialogue is key.

Personally I love when I’m able to help develop the color pipeline in preproduction, as I find it often makes the post experience more seamless. For example, what aired on Strange Angel Season 2 was not far removed from dailies because we had established a LUT in advance and had worked with wardrobe, make-up and others to carry the look through. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but open communication and planning really can go a long way in creating a stunning visual identity and a seamless experience.

HOW DO YOU PREFER THE DP OR DIRECTOR TO DESCRIBE THE LOOK THEY WANT? PHYSICAL EXAMPLES, FILMS TO EMULATE, ETC.?
Physical examples — photo books, style sheets with examples of tones they like and things like that. But ultimately my role is to correctly interpret what it is that they like in what they are showing me and to discern if what they are looking for is a literal representation, or more of an inspiration to start from and massage. Again, the open communication and ability to develop strong working relationships — in which I’m able to discern when there is a direct ask versus a need versus an opportunity to do more and push the boundaries — is key to a successful project.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
Baselight. I love the flexibility of the system and the support that the FilmLight team provides us, as we are constantly pushing the capabilities of the platform, and they continue to deliver.

WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA
@colorist_douglasdelaney

Behind the Title: One Thousand Birds sound designer Torin Geller

Initially interested in working in a music studio, once this sound pro got a taste of audio post, there was no turning back.

NAME: Torin Geller

COMPANY: NYC’s One Thousand Birds (OTB)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
OTB is a bi-coastal audio post house specializing in sound design and mixing for commercials, TV and film. We also create interactive audio experiences and installations.

One Thousand Birds

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Sound and Interactive Designer

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I work on every part of our sound projects: dialogue edit, sound design and mix, as well as help direct and build our interactive installation work.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Operating a scissor lift!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Working with my friends. The atmosphere at OTB is like no other place I’ve worked; many of the people working here are old friends. I think it helps us a lot in terms of being creative since we’re not afraid to take risks and everyone here has each other’s backs.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Unexpected overtime.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
In the morning, right after my first cup of coffee.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Making ambient music in the woods.

JBL spot with Aaron Judge

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I went to school for music technology hoping to work in a music studio, but fell into working in audio post after getting an internship at OTB during school. I still haven’t left!

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Recently, we worked on a great mini doc for Royal Caribbean that featured chef Paxx Caraballo Moll, whose story is really inspiring. We also recently did sound design and Foley for an M&Ms spot, and that was a lot of fun.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
We designed and built a two-story tall interactive chandelier at a hospital in Kansas City — didn’t see that one coming. It consists of a 20-foot-long spiral of glowing orbs that reacts to the movements of people walking by and also incorporates reactive sound. Plus, I got to work on the design of the actual structure with my sister who’s an artist and landscape architect, which was really cool.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
– headphones
– music streaming
– synthesizers

Hospital installation

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I love following animators on Instagram. I find that kind of work especially inspiring. Movement and sound are so integral to each other, and I love seeing how that can interplay in abstract plus interesting ways of animation that aren’t necessarily possible in film.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I’ve recently started rock climbing and it’s an amazing way to de-stress. I’ve never been one to exercise, but rock climbing feels very different. It’s intensely challenging but totally non-competitive and has a surprisingly relaxed pace to it. Each climb is a puzzle with a very clear end, which makes it super satisfying. And nothing helps you sleep better than being physically exhausted.

Nvidia and Asus offer first laptop with Quadro RTX 6000 GPU

In another new addition to the Nvidia RTX Studio of laptops, the Nvidia Quadro RTX 6000 GPU will power the Asus ProArt StudioBook One, making it the first laptop to offer the Nvidia Quadro RTX 6000 in a mobile solution so creatives can run complex workloads regardless of location.

The Quadro RTX 6000 within the ProArt StudioBook One provides creatives a similar high-end experience as a deskside workstation. The ProArt StudioBook One is able to handle massive datasets and accelerate compute-intensive workflows, such as creating 3D animations, rendering photoreal product designs, editing 8K video, visualizing volumetric geophysical datasets and conducting walk-throughs of photoreal building designs in VR.

RTX Studio systems, which integrate Nvidia Quadro RTX or GeForce RTX GPUs, offer advanced features — like realtime raytracing, AI and 8K Red video acceleration — to creative and technical professionals.

The Asus ProArt StudioBook One combines performance and portability with the power of Quadro RTX 6000 and features of the new Nvidia “ACE” reference design system, including:
• 24GB of ultra-fast GPU memory to tackle large scenes, models, datasets and complex multi-app workflows.
• Nvidia Turing architecture RT Cores and Tensor Cores to deliver realtime raytracing, advanced shading and AI-enhanced tools to accelerate professional workflows.
• Advanced thermal cooling solution featuring ultra-thin titanium vapor chambers.
• Enhanced Nvidia Optimus technology for seamless switching between the discrete and integrated graphics based on application use with no need to restart applications or reboot the system.
• Slim 300W high-density, high-efficiency power adapter for charging and power at half the size of traditional 300W power adapters.
• Professional 4K 120Hz Pantone-validated display with 100% Adobe RGB color coverage, color accuracy and factory calibration.

In other Nvidia-related news, Acer announced its latest additions to the ConceptD series of laptops, including the ConceptD Pro models featuring Quadro GPUs.

In addition to the Asus ProArt StudioBook One, Nvidia announced 11 additional RTX Studio laptops and desktops from Acer, Asus, HP and MSI, bringing the total number of RTX Studio systems to 39.

Nigel Bennett upped to managing director at UK’s Molinare

Molinare has promoted Nigel Bennett to the role of managing director. He joined the studio earlier this year from Pinewood Studios, where over a 20-year period he worked his way up from re-recording mixer to group director of creative services, a position that he held since 2014.

Bennett’s responsibilities include growing revenue across feature film, TV drama, feature documentaries and reality TV. Over the coming months he will work with the existing senior team at Molinare to implement a new business growth and investment plan with the full support of Molinare’s shareholders, Saphir Capital and Next Wave Partners.

Bennett replaces Julie Parmenter, who has left the company after seven years. While at Molinare, Parmenter was integral to maintaining the successful Molinare brand, subsequent acquisition of Hackenbacker and expansion into Hoxton.

Company 3 buys Sixteen19, offering full-service post in NYC

Company 3 has acquired Sixteen19, a creative editorial, production and post company based in New York City. The deal includes Sixteen19’s visual effects wing, PowerHouse VFX, and a mobile dailies operation with international reach.

The acquisition helps Company 3 further serve NYC’s booming post market for feature film and episodic TV. As part of the acquisition, industry veterans and Sixteen19 co-founders Jonathan Hoffman and Pete Conlin, along with their longtime collaborator, EVP of business development and strategy Alastair Binks, will join Company 3’s leadership team.

“With Sixteen19 under the Company 3 umbrella, we significantly expand what we bring to the production community, addressing a real unmet need in the industry,” says Company 3 president Stefan Sonnenfeld. “This infusion of talent and infrastructure will allow us to provide a complete suite of services for clients, from the start of production through the creative editing process to visual effects, final color, finishing and mastering. We’ve worked in tandem with Sixteen19 many times over the years, so we know that they have always provided strong client relationships, a best-in-class team and a deeply creative environment. We’re excited to bring that company’s vision into the fold at Company 3.”

Sonnenfeld will continue to serve as president of Company 3, and oversee operations of Sixteen19. As a subsidiary of Deluxe, Company 3 is part of a broad portfolio of post services. Bringing together the complementary services and geographic reach of Company3, Sixteen19 and Powerhouse VFX, will expand Company 3’s overall portfolio of post offerings and reach new markets in the US and internationally.

Sixteen19’s New York location includes 60 large editorial suites; two 4K digital cinema grading theaters; and a number of comfortable spaces, open environments and many common areas. Sixteen19’s mobile dailies services will add a perfect companion to Company 3’s existing offerings in that arena. PowerHouse VFX includes dedicated teams of experienced supervisors, producers and artists in 2D and 3D visual effects and compositing.

“The New York film community initially recognized the potential for a Company 3 and Sixteen19 partnership,” says Sixteen19’s Hoffman. “It’s not just the fact that a significant majority of the projects we work on are finished at Company 3, it’s more that our fundamental vision about post has always been aligned with Stefan’s. We value innovation; we’ve built terrific creative teams; and above all else, we both put clients first, always.”

Sixteen19 and Powerhouse VFX will retain their company names.

MovieLabs, film studios release ‘future of media creation’ white paper

MovieLabs (Motion Pictures Laboratories), a nonprofit technology research lab that works jointly with member studios Sony, Warner Bros., Disney, Universal and Paramount, has published a new white paper presenting an industry vision for the future of media creation technology by 2030.

The paper, co-authored by MovieLabs and technologists from Hollywood studios, paints a bold picture of future technology and discusses the need for the industry to work together now on innovative new software, hardware and production workflows to support and enable new ways to create content over the next 10 years. The white paper is available today for free download on the MovieLabs website.

The 2030 Vision paper lays out key principles that will form the foundation of this technological future, with examples and a discussion of the broader implications of each. The key principles envision a future in which:

1. All assets are created or ingested straight to the cloud and do not need to move.
2. Applications come to the media.
3. Propagation and distribution of assets is a “publish” function.
4. Archives are deep libraries with access policies matching speed, availability and security to the economics of the cloud.
5. Preservation of digital assets includes the future means to access and edit them.
6. Every individual on a project is identified and verified and their access permissions are efficiently and consistently managed.
7. All media creation happens in a highly secure environment that adapts rapidly to changing threats.
8. Individual media elements are referenced, tracked, interrelated and accessed using a universal linking system.
9. Media workflows are non-destructive and dynamically created using common interfaces, underlying data formats and metadata.
10. Workflows are designed around realtime iteration and feedback.

Rich Berger

“The next 10 years will bring significant opportunities, but there are still major challenges and inherent inefficiencies in our production and distribution workflows that threaten to limit our future ability to innovate,” says Richard Berger, CEO of MovieLabs. “We have been working closely with studio technology leaders and strategizing how to integrate new technologies that empower filmmakers to create ever more compelling content with more speed and efficiency. By laying out these principles publicly, we hope to catalyze an industry dialog and fuel innovation, encouraging companies and organizations to help us deliver on these ideas.”

The publication of the paper will be supported with a panel discussion at the IBC Conference in Amsterdam. The panel, “Hollywood’s Vision for the Future of Production in 2030,” will include senior technology leaders from the five major Hollywood motion picture studios. It will take place on Sunday, September 15 at 2:15pm in the IBC Conference in the Forum room of the RAI. postPerspective’s Randi Altman will moderate the panel made up of Sony’s Bill Baggelaar, Disney’s Shadi Almassizadeh, Universal’s Michael Wise and Paramount’s Anthony Guarino. More details can be found here.

“Sony Pictures Entertainment has a deep appreciation for the role that current and future technologies play in content creation,” says CTO of Sony Pictures Don Eklund. “As a subsidiary of a technology-focused company, we benefit from the power of Sony R&D and Sony’s product groups. The MovieLabs 2030 document represents the contribution of multiple studios to forecast and embrace the impact that cloud, machine learning and a range of hardware and software will have on our industry. We consider this a living document that will evolve over time and provide appreciated insight.”

According to Wise, SVP/CTO at Universal Pictures, “With film production experiencing unprecedented growth, and new innovative forms of storytelling capturing our audiences’ attention, we’re proud to be collaborating across the industry to envision new technological paradigms for our filmmakers so we can efficiently deliver worldwide audiences compelling entertainment.”

For those not familiar with MovieLabs, their stated goal is “to enable member studios to work together to evaluate new technologies and improve quality and security, helping the industry deliver next-generation experiences for consumers, reduce costs and improve efficiency through industry automation, and derive and share the appropriate data necessary to protect and market the creative assets that are the core capital of our industry.”

Digital Arts expands team, adds Nutmeg Creative talent

Digital Arts, an independently owned New York-based post house, has added several former Nutmeg Creative talent and production staff members to its roster — senior producer Lauren Boyle, sound designer/mixers Brian Beatrice and Frank Verderosa, colorist Gary Scarpulla, finishing editor/technical engineer Mark Spano and director of production Brian Donnelly.

“Growth of talent, technology, and services has always been part of the long-term strategy for Digital Arts, and we’re fortunate to welcome some extraordinary new talent to our staff,” says Digital Arts owner Axel Ericson. “Whether it’s long-form content for film and television, or working with today’s leading agencies and brands creating dynamic content, we have the talent and technology to make all of our clients’ work engaging, and our enhanced services bring their creative vision to fruition.”

Brian Donnelly, Lauren Boyle and Mark Spano.

As part of this expansion, Digital Arts will unveil additional infrastructure featuring an ADR stage/mix room. The current facility boasts several state-of-the-art audio suites, a 4K finishing theater/mixing dubstage, four color/finishing suites and expansive editorial and production space, which is spread over four floors.

The former Nutmeg team has hit the ground running working their long-time ad agency, network, animation and film studio clients. Gary Scarpulla worked on color for HBO’s Veep and Los Espookys, while Frank Verderosa has been working with agency Ogilvy on several Ikea campaigns. Beatrice mixed spots for Tom Ford’s cosmetics line.

In addition, Digital Arts’ in-house theater/mixing stage has proven to be a valuable resource for some of the most popular TV productions, including recording recent commentary sessions for the legendary HBO series, Game of Thrones and the final season of Veep.

Especially noteworthy is colorist Ericson’s and finishing editor Mark Spano’s collaboration with Oscar-winning directors Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim to bring to fruition the Netflix documentary The Great Hack.

Digital Arts also recently expanded its offerings to include production services. The company has already delivered projects for agencies Area 23, FCB Health and TCA.

“Digital Arts’ existing infrastructure was ideally suited to leverage itself into end-to-end production,” Donnelly says. “Now we can deliver from shoot to post.”

Tools employed across post are Avid Pro Tools, D Control ES, S3 for audio post and Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere and Blackmagic Resolve for editing. Color grading is via Resolve.

Main Image: (L-R) Frank Verderosa, Brian Beatrice and Gary Scarpulla

 

Cabin adds two editors, promotes another

LA-based editorial studio Cabin Editing Company has grown its editing staff with the addition of Greg Scruton and Debbie Berman. They have also promoted Scott Butzer to editor. The trio will work on commercials, music videos, branded content and other short-form projects.

Scruton, who joins Cabin from Arcade Edit, has worked on dozens of high-profile commercials and music videos throughout his career, including Pepsi’s 2019 Grammy’s spot Okurrr, starring Cardi B; Palms Casino Resort’s star-filled Unstatus Quo; and Kendrick Lamar’s iconic Humble music video, for which he earned an AICE Award. Scruton has worked with high-profile ad agencies and directors, including Anomaly; Wieden + Kennedy; 72andSunny; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; Dave Meyers; and Nadia Lee Cohen. He uses Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere.

Feature film editor Berman joins Cabin on the heels of her successful run with Marvel Studios, having recently served as an editor on Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Her work extends across mediums, with experience editing everything from PSAs and documentaries to animated features. Now expanding her commercial portfolio with Cabin, Berman is currently at work on a Toyota campaign through Saatchi & Saatchi. She will continue to work in features as well. She mostly uses Media Composer but can also work on Premiere.

Cabin’s Butzer was recently promoted to editor after joining the company in 2017 and honing his talent across many platforms, including commercials, music videos and documentaries. His strengths include narrative and automotive work. Recent credits include Every Day Is Your Day for Gatorade celebrating the 2019 Women’s World Cup, The Professor for Mercedes Benz and Vince Staples’ Fun! music video. Butzer has worked with ad agencies and directors, including TBWA\Chiat\Day; Wieden + Kennedy; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; Team One; Marcus Sonderland; Ryan Booth; and Rachel McDonald. Butzer previously held editorial positions at Final Cut and Whitehouse Post. He studied film at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He also uses Media Composer and Premiere.

London’s Cheat expands with color and finishing suites

London-based color and finishing house Cheat has expanded, adding three new grading and finishing suites, a production studio and a client lounge/bar space. Cheat now has four large broadcast color suites and services two other color suites at Jam VFX and No.8 in Fitzrovia and Soho, respectively. Cheat has a creative partnership with these studios.

Located in the Arthaus building in Hackney, all four of Cheat’s color suites have calibrated projection or broadcast monitoring and are equipped with cutting-edge hardware for HDR and working with 8K. Cheat was the first color company to complete a TV series in 8K on Netflix’s The End of The F***ing World in 2017. Having invested in improved storage and network infrastructure during this period, the facility is well-equipped to take on 8K and HDR projects.

Cheat uses Autodesk Flame for finishing and Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve for color grading.

The new HDR grading suite offers HDR mastering above 2,000 nits with a Flanders Scientific XM310K reference monitor that can master up to 3,000 nits. Cheat is also now a full-fledged Dolby Vision-certified mastering facility.

“Improving client experience was, of course, a key consideration in shaping the design of the renovation,” says Toby Tomkins, founder of Cheat. “The new color suite is our largest yet and comfortably seats up to 10 people. We designed it from the ground up with a raised client platform and a custom-built bias wall. This allows everyone to look at the same single monitor while grading and maintaining the spacious and relaxed feel of our other suites. The new lounge and bar area also offer a relaxing area for clients to feel at home.”

Dick Wolf’s television empire: his production and post brain trust

By Iain Blair

The TV landscape is full of scripted police procedurals and true crime dramas these days, but the indisputable and legendary king of that crowded landscape is Emmy-winning creator/producer Dick Wolf, whose name has become synonymous with high-quality drama.

Arthur Forney

Since it burst onto the scene back in 1990, his Law & Order show has spawned six dramas and four international spinoffs, while his “Chicago” franchise gave birth to another four series — the hugely popular Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. His Chicago Justice was cancelled after one season.

Then there’s his “FBI” shows, as well as the more documentary-style Cold Justice. If you’ve seen Cold Justice — and you should — you know that this is the real deal, focusing on real crimes. It’s all the more fascinating and addictive because of it.

Produced by Wolf and Magical Elves, the real-life crime series follows veteran prosecutor Kelly Siegler, who gets help from seasoned detectives as they dig into small-town murder cases that have lingered for years without answers or justice for the victims. Together with local law enforcement from across the country, the Cold Justice team has successfully helped bring about 45 arrests and 20 convictions. No case is too cold for Siegler, as the new season delves into new unsolved homicides while also bringing updates to previous cases. No wonder Wolf calls it “doing God’s work.” Cold Justice airs on true crime network Oxygen.

I recently spoke with Emmy-winning Arthur Forney, executive producer of all Wolf Entertainment’s scripted series (he’s also directed many episodes), about posting those shows. I also spoke with Cold Justice showrunner Liz Cook and EP/head of post Scott Patch.

Chicago Fire

Dick Wolf has said that, as head of post, you are “one of the irreplaceable pieces of the Wolf Films hierarchy.” How many shows do you oversee?
Arthur Forney: I oversee all of Wolf Entertainment’s scripted series, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, FBI and FBI: Most Wanted.

Where is all the post done?
Forney: We do it all at NBCUniversal StudioPost in LA.

How involved is Dick Wolf?
Forney: Very involved, and we talk all the time.

How does the post pipeline work?
Forney: All film is shot on location and then sent back to the editing room and streamed into the lab. From there we do all our color corrections, which takes us into downloading it into Avid Media Composer.

What are the biggest challenges of the post process on the shows?
Forney: Delivering high-quality programming with a shortened post schedule.

Chicago Med

What are the editing challenges involved?
Forney: Trying to find the right way of telling the story, finding the right performances, shaping the show and creating intensity that results in high-quality television.

What about VFX? Who does them?
Forney: All of our visual effects are done by Spy Post in Santa Monica. All of the action is enhanced and done by them.

Where do you do the color grading?
Forney: Coloring/grading is all done at NBCUniversal StudioPost.

Now let’s talk to Cook and Patch about Cold Justice:

Liz and Scott, I recently saw the finale to Season 5 of Cold Justice. That was a long season.
Liz Cook: Yes, we did 26 episodes, so it was a lot of very long days and hard work.

It seems that there’s more focus than ever on drug-related cases now.
Cook: I don’t think that was the intention going in, but as we’ve gone on, you can’t help but recognize the huge drug problem in America now. Meth and opioids pop up in a lot of cases, and it’s obviously a crisis, and even if they aren’t the driving force in many cases, they’re definitely part of many.

L-R: Kelly Siegler, Dick Wolf, Scott Patch and Liz Cook. Photo by Evans Vestal Ward

How do you go about finding cases for the show?
Cook: We have a case-finding team, and they get the cases various ways, including cold-calling. We have a team dedicated to that, calling every day, and we get most of them that way. A lot come through agencies and sheriff’s departments that have worked with us before and want to help us again. And we get some from family members and some from hits on the Facebook page we have.

I assume you need to work very closely with local law agencies as you need access to their files?
Cook: Exactly. That’s the first part of the whole puzzle. They have to invite us in. The second part is getting the family involved. I don’t think we’d ever take on a case that the family didn’t want us to do.

What’s involved for you, and do you like being a showrunner?
Cook: It’s a tough job and pretty demanding, but I love it. We go through a lot of steps and stuff to get a case approved, and to get the police and family on board, and then we get the case read by one of our legal readers to evaluate it and see if there’s a possibility that we can solve it. At that point we pitch it to the network, and once they approve it and everyone’s on board, then if there are certain things like DNA and evidence that might need testing, we get all that going, along with ballistics that need researching, and stuff like phone records and so on. And it actually moves really fast – we usually get all these people on board within three weeks.

How long does it take to shoot each show?
Cook: It varies, as each show is different, but around seven or eight days, sometimes longer. We have a case coming up with cadaver dogs, and that stuff will happen before we even get to the location, so it all depends. And some cases will have 40 witnesses, while others might have over 100. So it’s flexible.

Cold Justice

Where do you post, and what’s the schedule like?
Scott Patch: We do it all at the Magical Elves offices here in Hollywood — the editing, sound, color correction. The online editor and colorist is Pepe Serventi, and we have it all on one floor, and it’s really convenient to have all the post in house. The schedule is roughly two months from the raw footage to getting it all locked and ready to air, which is quite a long time.

Dailies come back to us and we do our first initial pass by the story team and editors, and they’ll start whittling all the footage down. So it takes us a couple of weeks to just look at all the footage, as we usually have about 180 hours of it, and it takes a while to turn all that into something the editors can deal with. Then it goes through about three network passes with notes.

What about dealing with all the legal aspects?
Patch: That makes it a different kind of show from most of the others, so we have legal people making sure all the content is fine, and then sometimes we’ll also get notes from local law agencies, as well as internal notes from our own producers. That’s why it takes two months from start to finish.

Cook: We vet it through local law, and they see the cuts before it airs to make sure there are no problems. The biggest priority for us is that we don’t hurt the case at all with our show, so we always check it all with the local D.A. and police. And we don’t sensationalize anything.

Cold Justice

Patch: That’s another big part of editing and post – making sure we keep it authentic. That can be a challenge, but these are real cases with real people being accused of murder.

Cook: Our instinct is to make it dramatic, but you can’t do that. You have to protect the case, which might go to trial.

Talk about editing. You have several editors, I assume because of the time factor. How does that work?
Patch: Some of these cases have been cold for 25 or 30 years, so when the field team gets there, they really stand back and let the cops talk about the case, and we end up with a ton of stuff that you couldn’t fit into the time slot however hard you tried. So we have to decide what needs to be in, what doesn’t.

Cook: On day one, our “war room” day, we meet with the local law and everyone involved in the case, and that’s eight hours of footage right there.

Patch: And that gets cut down to just four or five minutes. We have a pretty small but tight team, with 10 editors who split up the episodes. Once in a while they’ll cross over, but we like to have each team and the producers stay with each episode as long as they can, as it’s so complicated. When you see the finished show, it doesn’t seem that complicated, but there are so many ways you could handle the footage that it really helps for each team to really take ownership of that particular episode.

How involved is Dick Wolf in post?
Cook: He loves the whole post process, and he watches all the cuts and has input.

Patch: He’s very supportive and obviously so experienced, and if we’re having a problem with something, he’ll give notes. And for the most part, the network gives us a lot of flexibility to make the show.

What about VFX on the show?
Patch: We have some, but nothing too fancy, and we use an outside VFX/graphics company, LOM Design. We have a lot of legal documents on the show, and that stuff gets animated, and we’ll also have some 3D crime scene VFX. The only other outside vendor is our composer, Robert ToTeras.


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.

Quick Chat: Bonfire Labs’ Mary Mathaisell

Over the course of nearly 30 years, San Francisco’s Bonfire Labs has embraced change. Over the years, the company evolved from an editorial and post house to a design and creative content studio that leverages the best aspects of the agency and production company models without adhering to either one.

This hybrid model has worked well for product launches for Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Logitech and many others.

The latest change is in the company’s ownership, with the last of the original founders stepping down and a new management partnership taking over — led by executive producer Mary Mathaisell, managing director Jim Bartel and head of strategy and creative Chris Weldon.

We spoke with Mathaisell to get a better sense of Bonfire Labs’ past, present and future.

Can you give us some history of Bonfire Labs? When did you join the company? How/why did you first get into producing?
I’ve been with Bonfire Labs for seven years. I started here as head of production. After being at several large digital agencies working on campaigns and content for brands like Target, Gap, LG and PayPal, I wanted to build something more sustainable than just another campaign and was thrilled that Bonfire was interested in growing into a full-service creative company with integrated production.

Prior to working at AKQA and Publicis, I worked in VFX and production as well as design for products and interfaces, but my primary focus and love has always been commercial production.

The studio has evolved from a traditional post studio to creative strategy and content company. What were the factors that drove those changes?
Bonfire Labs has always been smart about staying small and strategic about the kind of work and clients to focus on. We have been able to change based on both the kind of work we want to be doing and what the market needs. With a giant need for content, especially video content, we have decided to staff and service clients as experts across all the phases of creative development and production and finishing. Instead of going to an agency and a production company and post houses, our clients can work directly with us on everything from concept to finishing.

Silicon Valley is clearly a big client base for you. What are they generally coming to you for? Are the content needs in high tech different from other business sectors?
Our clients usually have a new product, feature or brand that they want the world to know about. We work on product launches, brand awareness campaigns, product education, event content and social content. Most of our work is for technology companies, but every company these days has a technology component. I would say that speed to market is one key differentiator for our clients. We are often building stories as we are in production, so we get a lot done with our clients through creative collaboration and by not following the traditional rules of an agency or a production company.

Any specific trends that you’re seeing recently from your clients? New areas that Bonfire is looking to explore, either new markets for your talents or technology you’re looking to explore further?
Rapid brand prototyping is a new service we are offering to much excitement. Because we have experience across so many technology brands and work closely with our clients, we can develop a language and brand voice faster than most traditional agencies. Technology brands are evolving so quickly that we often start working on content creation before a brand has defined itself or transitioned to its next phase. Rapid brand prototyping allows brands to test content and grow the brand simultaneously.

Blade Shadow

Can you talk about some projects that you have done recently that challenged you and the team?
We rolled out a launch film for a new start-up client called Blade Shadow. We are working with Salesforce to develop trailblazer stories and anthem films for its .org branch, which focuses on NGOs, education and philanthropy.

The company is undergoing a transition with some of the original partners. Can you talk about that a bit as well?
The original founders have passed the torch to the group of people who have been managing and producing the work over the past five to 15 years. We have six new owners, three managing partners and three associate partners. Jim Bartel is the managing director; Chris Weldon is the head of strategy and creative, and I’m the executive producer in charge of content development and production. The three of us make up the management team.

The three of us make up the management team. Sheila Smith (head of production) Robbie Proctor (head of editorial) and Phil Spitler (creative technology lead) are associate partners as they contribute to and lead so much of our work and process and have been part of the company for over 10 years each.

 

Review: Dell UltraSharp 27 4K InfinityEdge monitor

By Sophia Kyriacou

The Dell UltraSharp U2718Q monitor did not disappoint. Getting started requires minimal effort. You are up and running in no time — from taking it out of the box to switching it on. The stand, the standard Dell mount, is simple to assemble and intuitive, so you barely need to look at any instructions. But if you do, there is a step-by-step guide to help you set up within minutes.

The monitor comes in a well-designed package, which ensures it gets to you safely and securely. The Dell stand is easily adjustable without fuss and remains in place to your liking, with a swivel of 45 degrees to the left or right, a 90-degree pivot clockwise and counter clockwise, and a maximum height of 130mm. This adjustability means it will certainly meet all your comfort and workflow needs, with the pivot being incredibly useful when working in portrait formats.

The InfinityEdge display not only makes the screen look attractive but, more importantly, gives you extra surface area. When working with more than one monitor, having the ultra-thin edge makes the viewing experience less of a distraction, especially when monitors are butted up together. For me, the InfinityEdge is what makes it … in addition to the image quality and resolution, of course!

The Dell UltraSharp U2718Q has a flicker-free screen, making it comfortable on the eyes. It also has 3480×2160 pixels and boasts a color depth of 1.07 billion colors. The anti-glare coating works very well and meets all the needs of work environments with multiple and varied lighting conditions.

There are several connectors to choose from: one DP (v 1.2), one mDP (v 1.2), one HDMI (v 2.0), one USB 3.0 port (upstream), four USB 3.0 ports (including two USB 3.0 BC 1.2) with charging capability at 2A (max), and an audio line out. You are certainly not going to be short of inputs. I found the on-screen navigation incredibly easy to use. The overall casing design is minimal and subtle, with tones of black and dark silver. With the addition of the InfinityEdge, this monitor looks attractive. There is also a matching keyboard and mouse available.

Summing Up
Personally, I like to set my main monitor at a comfortable distance, with the second monitor butted up to my left at an angle of -35 degrees. Being left-handed, this setup works for me ergonomically, keeping my browser, timeline and editing window on that side, so I’m free to focus on the larger-scale composition in front of me.

The two Dell UltraSharp U2718Q monitors I use are great, as they give me the breathing space to focus on creating without having to constantly move windows around, breaking my flow. And thanks to InfinityEdge, the overall experience feels seamless. I have both monitors set up exactly the same so the color matches and retains the same maximum quality perfectly.


Sophia Kyriacou is an award-winning conceptual creative motion designer and animator with over 22 years experience within the broadcast design industry. She’s splits her time between working at the BBC in London and taking on freelance jobs. She is a full voting member at BAFTA and is currently working on a script for a 3D animated short film. 

Post vet Chris Peterson joins NYC’s Chimney North

Chimney’s New York studio has hired Chris Peterson as its new EP of longform entertainment, building on the company’s longform credits, which include The Dead Don’t Die, Atomic Blonde, Chappaquiddick, The Wife and Her.

Chimney is a full-service company working in feature films, television, commercials, digital media, live events and business-to-business communications. The studio has offices in 11 cities and eight countries worldwide.

In his new role, Peterson will be using his expertise in film finance, tax credit maximization and technical workflows to grow Chimney’s feature film and television capabilities. He brings over 20 years of experience in production and post, including a stint at Mechanism Digital and Post Factory, NY.

Peterson’s resume is diverse and spans the television, film, technology, advertising, music, video game and XR industries. Projects include the Academy Award-winning feature Spotlight, the Academy Award-winning documentary OJ: Made in America, and the Grammy-nominated Roger Waters: The Wall. For E! Entertainment’s travel series Wild On, he produced shows in Argentina, Brazil, Trinidad and across the United States. He was also a post producer on Howard Stern on Demand.

“Chimney combines the best of both worlds: a boutique feel and global resources,” says Peterson. “Add to that the company’s expertise in financing and tax credits, and you have a unique resource for producers and filmmakers.”

For the past eight years, Peterson has been board secretary of the Post New York Alliance, which was co-founded by Chimney North America CEO Marcelo Gandola. The PNYA is a trade association that lobbied for and passed the first post-only tax credit, which was recently extended for two years. Peterson is also a member of SMPTE.

Behind the Title: Amazon senior post exec Frank Salinas

NAME: Frank Salinas

COMPANY: Amazon Studios

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We’re Amazon.com….Look us up. Small e-commerce bookstore turned global marketplace, cloud storage services and content maker and broadcaster.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Senior Post Production Executive

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
My core responsibility is to support and shepherd our series, specials and/or episodes in partnership with our production company from preproduction to delivery.

From the early stages of conceptualizing and planning our productions through color grading, mixing, QC, mastering, publishing and broadcast/launch, it’s my responsibility to oversee that our timelines are met and our commitments to our customers are kept.

Our customers expect the highest standards for quality. I work closely and in tandem with all the other departments to assure that our content is ready for distribution on time, under budget and to the utmost standards. Meaning we are shooting at the highest quality, localizing (whether subtitles or dubbing) in all the languages we are distributing to and that the quality is upheld throughout that process.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I’m making it a point of getting involved in the post production process before cameras are chosen or scripts are ever finalized to assure we have a clear runway and a set workflow for success.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Being on set or leading into that moment before going on set and having a plan and a strategy in motion and being able to watch it be executed. It almost never plays out as you predicted, but having the knowledge and the confidence to adjust, and being fluid in that moment, is my favorite part of the job.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My least favorite part of the job would have to be the extraneous meetings that go into making a series. It’s part of the process but I’m not a big fan of meetings

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
My most productive part of the day would likely be my 90-minute drive into the office. This is when I can create my “to-do’s list” for that day, and then the two to three hours I have in the morning before anyone arrives. This allows me to tackle the list without interruption. That and the few times I have the opportunity to run in the morning. It’s those times that allow me to clear my head and process my thoughts linearly.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
If I wasn’t a post executive, I’d likely be a real estate agent or TV/film agent. I get a lot of joy whenever I’m able to make someone happy by being able to pair them with something or someone that fits them perfectly — whatever it is that they are looking for. Finding that perfect marriage between that person and that thing they are needing or wanting brings me a lot of happiness.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
I’ve enjoyed television and the film medium for as long as I can remember. From the moment I saw my first episode of The Twilight Zone and realized that you could really leave your audience asking the question of “Is this real?” or “What if? I thought there was something so powerful about that.

Lorena

CAN YOU NAME A RECENT PROJECT YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The documentary Lorena; Last One Laughing Mexico;This Is Football, premiering early August; Gymkhana; The Jonas Brothers film Chasing Happiness; The live Prime Day concert 2019;
The series Carnival Row (launching 8/31); and the All or Nothing series, just to name a few.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I have a few, but most of them stem from my time at 25/7 Productions. Ultimate Beastmaster, The Briefcase and Strong all hold a special place in my heart, not only because I was able to work on them with people whom I consider my family but because we created something that positively changed peoples lives and expanded their way of thinking

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
I’m going to list four since I’m a techy through and through…

My phone. It’s my safety blanket and my window to the world.

My laptop, which is just a larger window or blanket.

My car. Although it’s basic in nature and not pretentious at all, it allows me to be mobile but still allows me a safe place to work. For the amount of time I spend in my car it’s really become my mobile office.

My headphones. Whether I’m running in my neighborhood or traveling on a plane, the joy I get from listening to music and podcasts is absolute. I love music.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram and Facebook are the two I find myself on, and I tend to follow things that I’m passionate about. My sports teams — the Dodgers, Lakers and Kings — and I love architecture and food so I tend to follow those publications that showcase great photos of both.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
I love music… almost all of it. Classic rock, reggae, pop, hip-hop, rap, house, country, jazz, Latin, punk. Everything but Phish or Grateful Dead? I just don’t get it.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
My love for running, cooking or eating great food, traveling and being with my family helps to remind me that it’s only TV. I constantly need to be reminded that what we are doing, while important, is also just entertainment.

HPA’s 2019 Engineering Excellence Award winners  

The Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) Awards Committee have announced the winners of the 2019 HPA Engineering Excellence Award. They were selected by a judging panel after a session held at IMAX on June 22. Honors will be bestowed on November 21 at the 14th annual HPA Awards gala at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

The HPA Awards were founded in 2005 to recognize creative artistry and innovation in the professional media content industry. A coveted honor, the Engineering Excellence Award rewards outstanding technical and creative ingenuity in media, content production, finishing, distribution and archive.

“Every year, it is an absolute pleasure and a privilege to witness the innovative work that is brewing in our industry,” says HPA Awards Engineering Committee chair Joachim Zell. “Judging by the number of entries, which was our largest ever, there is genuine excitement within our community to push our capabilities to the next level. It was a close race and shows us that the future is being plotted by the brilliance that we see in the Engineering Excellence Awards. Congratulations to the winners, and all the entrants, for impressive and inspiring work.”

Adobe After Effects

Here are the winners:
Adobe – Content-Aware Fill for Video in Adobe After Effects
Content-Aware Fill for video uses intelligent algorithms to automatically remove unwanted objects like boom mics or distracting signs from video. Using optical flow technology, Content-Aware Fill references frames before, next to or after an object and fills the area automatically making it look as if the object was never there.

Epic Games — Unreal Engine 4
Unreal Engine is a flexible and scalable realtime visualization platform enabling animation, simulation, performance capture and photorealistic renders at unprecedented speeds. Filmmakers, broadcasters and beyond use Unreal Engine to scout virtual locations and sets, complete previsualization, achieve in-camera final-pixel VFX on set, deliver immersive live mixed reality broadcasts, edit CG characters and more in realtime. Unreal Engine dramatically streamlines content creation and virtual production, affording creators greater flexibility and freedom to achieve their visions.

Pixelworks — TrueCut Motion
TrueCut Motion is a cinematic video tool for finely tuning motion appearance.  It uses Pixelworks’ 20 years of experience in video processing, together with a new motion appearance model and motion dataset. Used as a part of the creative process, TrueCut Motion enables filmmakers to explore a broader range of motion appearances than previously possible.

Portrait Displays and LG Electronics — CalMan LUT based Auto-Calibration Integration with LG OLED TVs
OLED televisions are commonly used in Hollywood for various uses, including as a client viewing monitor, SDR BT.709 reference monitor and as QC monitor for consumer deliverables, including broadcasting, optical media and OTT. To be used in these professional settings, a highly accurate color calibration is essential. Portrait Displays and LG Electronics partnered to bring 1D and 3D LUT-based hardware level CalMan AutoCal to the 2018 and newer LG OLED televisions.

Honorable Mentions were awarded to Ambidio for Ambidio Looking Glass; Grass Valley, for creative grading; and Netflix, Inc. for Photon.

In addition to the honors for excellence in engineering, the HPA Awards will recognize excellence in 12 craft categories, including color grading, editing, sound and visual effects. The recipients of the Judges Award for Creativity and Innovation and Lifetime Achievement Award will be announced in the coming weeks.
Tickets for the 14th annual HPA Awards will be available for purchase later this summer.

Review: Western Digital’s Blue SN500 NVMe SSD

By Brady Betzel

Since we began the transfer of power from the old standard SATA 3.5-inch hard drives to SSD drives, multimedia-based computer users have seen a dramatic uptick in read and write speeds. The only issue has been price. You can still find a 3.5-inch brick drive, ranging in size from 2TB to 4TB, for under $200 (maybe closer to $100), but if you upgraded to an SSD drive over the past five years, you were looking at a huge jump in price. Hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. These days you are looking at just a couple of hundred for 1TB and even less for 256GB or 512GB SSD.

Western Digital hopes you’ll think of NVMe SSD drives as more of an automatic purchase than a luxury with the Western Digital Blue SN500 NVMe M.2 2280 line of SSD drives.

Before you get started, you will need a somewhat modern computer with an NVMe M.2-compatible motherboard (also referred to as a PCIe Gen 3 interface). This NVMe SSD is a “B+M key” configuration, so you will need to make sure you are compatible. Once you confirm that your motherboard is compatible, you can start shopping around. The Western Digital Blue series has always been the budget-friendly level of hard drives. Western Digital also offers the next level up: the Black series. In terms of NVMe SSD M.2 drives, the Western Digital Blue series drives will be budget-friendly, but they also use two fewer PCIe lanes, which results in a slower read/write speed. The Black series uses up to four PCIe lanes, as well as has a heat sink to dissipate the heat. But for this review, I am focusing on the Blue series and how it performs.

On paper the Western Digital Blue SN500 NVMe SSD is available in either 250GB or 500GB sizes, measures approximately 80mm long and uses the M.2 2280 form factor for the PCIe Gen 3 interface in up to two lanes. Technically, the 500GB drive can achieve up to 1,700MB/s read and 1450MB/s write speeds, and the 250GB can achieve up to 1700MB/s read and 1300MB/s write speeds.

As of this review, the 250GB version sells for $53.99, while the 500GB version sells for $75.99. You can find specs on the Western Digital website and learn more about the Black series as well.

One of the coolest things about these NVMe drives is that they come standard with a five-year limited warranty (or max endurance limit). The max endurance (aka TBW — terabytes written) for the 250GB SSD is 150TB, while the max endurance for the 500GB version is 300TB. Both versions have a MTTF (mean time to failure) of 1.75 million hours.

In addition, the drive uses an in-house controller and 3D NAND logic. Now those words might sound like nonsense, but the in-house controller is what tells the NVMe what to do and when to do it (it’s essentially a dedicated processor), while3D NAND is a way of cramming more memory into smaller spaces. Instead of hard drive manufacturers adding more memory on the same platform in an x- or y-axis, they achieve more storage space by stacking layers vertically on top — or on the z-axis.

Testing Read and Write Speeds
Keep in mind that I ran these tests on a Windows-based PC. Doing a straight file transfer, I was getting about 1GB/s. When using Crystal Disk Mark, I would get a burst of speed at the top, slow down a little and then mellow out. Using a 4GB sample, my speeds were:
“Seq Q32T” – Read: 1749.5 MB/s – Write: 1456.6 MB/s
“4KiB Q8T8” – Read: 1020.4 MB/s – Write: 1039.9 MB/s
“4KiB Q32T1” – Read: 732.5 MB/s – Write: 676.5 MB/s
“4KiB Q1T1” – Read: 35.77 MB/s – Write: 185.5 MB/s

If you would like to read exactly what these types of tests entail, check out the Crystal Disk Mark info page. In the AJA System Test I had a little drop off, but with a 4GB test file size, I got an initial read speed of 1457MB/s and a write speed of 1210MB/s, which seems to fall more in line with what Western Digital is touting. The second time I ran the AJA System Test, I got a read speed of 1458MB/s and write speed of 883MB/s. I wanted a third opinion, so I ran the Blackmagic Design Disk Speed Test (you’ll have to install drivers for a Blackmagic card, like the Ultrastudio 4K). On my first run, I got a read speed of 1359.6MB/s and write speed of 1305.8MB/s. On my second run, I got a read speed of 1340.5MB/s and write speed of 968.3MB/s. My read numbers were generally above 1300MB/s, and my write numbers varied between 800 and 1000MB/s. Not terrible for a sub-$100 hard drive.

Summing Up
In the end, the Western Digital Blue SN500 NVMe SSD is an amazing value at under $100, and hopefully we will get expanded sizes in the future. The drive is a B+M key configuration, so when you are looking at compatibility, make sure to check which key your PCIe card, external drive case or motherboard supports. It is typically M or B+M key, but I found a PCI card that supported both. If you need more space and speed than the WD Blue series can offer, check out Western Digital’s Black series of NVMe SSDs.

The sticker price starts to go up significantly when you hit the 1TB or 2TB marks — $279.99 and $529.99, respectively (with the heat sink attachment). If you stick to the 500GB version, you are looking at a more modest price tag.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Behind the Title: Cinematic Media head of sound Martin Hernández

This audio post pro’s favorite part of the job is the start of a project — having a conversation with the producer and the director. “It’s exciting, like any new relationship,” he says.

Name: Martin Hernández

Job Title: Supervising Sound Editor

Company: Mexico City’s Cinematic Media

Can you describe Cinematic Media and your role there?
I lead a new sound post department at Cinematic Media, Mexico’s largest post facility focused on television and cinema. We take production sound through the full post process: effects, backgrounds, music editing… the whole thing. We finish the sound on our mix stages.

What would surprise people most about what you do?
We want the sound to go unnoticed. The viewer shouldn’t be aware that something has been added or is unnatural. If the viewer is distracted from the story by the sound, it’s a lousy job. It’s like an actor whose performance draws attention to himself. That’s bad acting. The same applies to every aspect of filmmaking, including sound. Sound needs to help the narrative in a subjective and quiet way. The sound should be unnoticed… but still eloquent. When done properly, it’s magical.

Hernandez has been working on Easy for Netflix.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Entering the project for the first time and having a conversation with the team: the producer and the director. It’s exciting, like any new relationship. It’s beautiful. Even if you’re working with people you’ve worked with before, the project is newborn.

My second favorite part is the start of sound production, when I have a picture but the sound is a blank page. We must consider what to add. What will work? What won’t? How much is enough or too much? It’s a lot like cooking. The dish might need more of this spice and a little less of that. You work with your ingredients, apply your personal taste and find the right flavor. I enjoy cooking sound.

What’s your least favorite part of the job?
Me.

What do you mean?
I am very hard on myself. I only see my shortcomings, which are, to tell you the truth, many. I see my limitations very clearly. In my perception of things, it is very hard to get where I want to go. Often you fail, but every once in a while, a few things actually work. That’s why I’m so stubborn. I know I am going to have a lot of misses, so I do more than expected. I will shoot three or four times, hoping to hit the mark once or twice. It’s very difficult for me to work with me.

What is your most productive time of the day?
In the morning. I’m a morning person. I work from my own place, very early, like 5:30am. I wake up thinking about things that I left behind in the session. It’s useless to remain in bed, so I go to my studio and start working on these ideas. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish between 6am and 9am. You have no distractions. No one’s calling. No emails. Nothing. I am very happy working in the mornings.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing?
That’s a tough question! I don’t know anything else. Probably, I would cook. I’d go to a restaurant and offer myself as an intern in the kitchen.

For most people I know, their career is not something they’ve chosen; it was embedded in them when they were born. It’s a matter of realizing what’s there inside you and embracing it. I never, in my wildest dreams, expected to be doing this work.

When I was young, I enjoyed watching films, going to the movies, listening to music. My earliest childhood memories are sound memories, but I never thought that would be my work. It happened by accident. Actually, it was one accident after another. I found myself working with sound as a hobby. I really liked it, so I embraced it. My hobby then became my job.

So you knew early on that audio would be your path?
I started working in radio when I was 20. It happened by chance. A neighbor told me about a radio station that was starting up from scratch. I told my friend from school, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, the director. Suddenly, we’re working at a radio station. We’re writing radio pieces and doing production sound. It was beautiful. We had our own on-air, live shows. I was on in the mornings. He did the noon show. Then he decided to make films and I followed him.

Easy

What are some of your recent projects?
I just finished a series for Joe Swanberg, the third season of Easy. It’s on Netflix. It’s the fourth project I’ve done with Joe. I’ve also done two shows here in Mexico. The first one is my first full-time job as supervisor/designer for Argos, the company lead by Epigmenio Ibarra. Yankee is our first series together for Netflix, and we’re cutting another one to be aired later in the year. It’s a very exciting for me.

Is there a project that you’re most proud of?
I am very proud of the results that we’ve been getting on the first two series here in Mexico. We built the sound crew from scratch. Some are editors I’ve worked with before, but we’ve also brought in new talent. That’s a very joyful process. Finding talent is not easy, but once you do, it’s very gratifying. I’m also proud of this work because the quality is very good. Our clients are happy, and when they’re happy, I’m happy.

What pieces of technology can you not live without?
Avid Pro Tools. It’s the universal language for sound. It allows me to share sound elements and sessions from all over the world, just like we do locally, between editing and mixing stages. The second is my converter. We are using the Red system from Focusrite. It’s a beautiful machine.

This is a high-stress job with deadlines and client expectations. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Keep working.

Veteran episodic colorist Scott Klein joins Light Iron

Colorist Scott Klein has joined post house Light Iron, which has artists working on feature films, episodic series and music videos at its Los Angeles- and New York-based studios. Klein brings with him 40 years of experience supervising a variety of episodic series.

“While Light Iron was historically known for its capabilities with feature films, we have developed an equally strong episodic division, and Scott builds upon our ongoing commitment to providing the talent and technology necessary for supporting all formats and distribution platforms,” says GM Peter Cioni of Light Iron.

Klein’s list of credits include Fox’s Empire, HBO’s Deadwood: The Movie and Showtime’s Ray Donovan. He also collaborated on the series Bosch, True Blood, The Affair, Halt and Catch Fire, Entourage and The Sopranos. Klein is also an associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC). He will be working on Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve.

“I really enjoy the artistic collaboration with filmmakers,” he says. “It is great to be part of a facility with such a pure passion for supporting the creative through technology. Colorists need strong technology that serves as a means to best express the feelings being conveyed in the images and further enhance the moods that draw audiences into a story.”

Also joining Klein are his colleagues and fellow colorists Daniel Yang, Jesús Borrego and Ara Thomassian. They join Light Iron after working together at Warner Bros. and then Technicolor.

In addition to growing its team of artists to support the expanding market and client needs, Light Iron has also expanded its physical footprint with a second Hollywood-based location a short distance from its flagship facility. A full breadth of creative finishing services for feature films and episodic series is available at both locations. Light Iron also has locations in Atlanta, Albuquerque, Chicago and New Orleans.

 

CVLT hires Katya Pavlova as head of post

Bi-coastal video production studio CVLT has added Katya Pavlova as head of post production. She will be based in the studio’s New York location.

Pavlova joins the team after six years at The Mill, where she produced projects that include David Bowie’s Life on Mars music video remake directed by photographer Mick Rock, as well as Steven Klein’s augmented reality experience for W Magazine’s cover, featuring an interactive 3D digital portrait of Katy Perry.

In her new role, Pavlova will focus on growing CVLT’s post production operation and developing new partnerships. She brings career expertise in a broad range of editorial, VFX, design and CG disciplines across digital and broadcast. In her time as a producer at The Mill, she worked on variety of work for brands including Netflix, Facebook, Ralph Lauren, Jimmy Choo and Vogue.

“We have seen post production needs shift focus from traditional media channels to multi-platform requirements, including emerging technology like augmented reality and crafting short-form videos for social media and mobile audiences. At CLVT, I intend to adapt our team to execute post on advanced AR projects as well as quick turnaround videos for social channels.”

Assimilate Scratch 9.1: productivity updates, updated VFX workflow

Assimilate’s Scratch 9.1, a dailies and finishing software, now includes new and extensive performance and productivity features, including integration with Foundry Nuke and Adobe After Effects. It’s available now.

“A primary goal for us is to quickly respond to the needs of DITs and post artists, whether it’s for more advanced features, new format support, or realtime bug-fixes,” said Mazze Aderhold, Scratch product manager at Assimilate. “Every feature introduced in Scratch 9.1 is based on feedback we received from our users before and during the beta cycle.”

The software now features native touch controls for grading by clicking and dragging directly on the image. Thanks to this intuitive way to color and manipulate images, an artist can grade the overall image or even control curves and secondaries — all without a panel and directly where the cursor is dragging.

There is also a redesigned color management system, enabling deep control over how camera-specific gamut and gamma spaces are handled and converted. Additionally, there is a new color-space conversion plugin (any color space to any other) that can be applied at any stage of the color/mastering process.

Also new is integration with After Effects and Nuke. Within Scratch, users can now seamlessly send shots to and from Nuke and After Effects, including transparencies and alphas. This opens up Scratch to high-end tracking, compositing, 3D models, advanced stabilization, motion graphics and more.

Within the VFX pipeline, Scratch can act as a central hub for all finishing needs. It provides realtime tools for any format, data management, playback and all color management in a timeline with audio, including to and from After Effects and Nuke.

Other new features include:

• Integration with Avid, including all metadata in the Avid MXF. Additionally, Scratch includes all the source-shot metadata, such as the genuine Sound TC in Avid MXF, which is important later on in post for something like a Pro Tools roundtrip
• Per-frame metadata on ARRIRAW files, allowing camera departments to pass through camera roll and tilt, lens focus distance metadata items, and more. Editorial and VFX teams can benefit from per-frame info later in the post process.
• Faster playback and rendering
• Realtime, full-res Red 8K DeBayer on GPU
• A deep set of options to load media, including sizing options, LUTs and automatic audio-sync, speeding up the organizational process when dealing with large amounts of disparate media
• A LUT cycler that allows for quick preview and testing of large numbers of looks on footage
• Preset outputs for Pix, Dax, MediaSilo and Copra, simplifying the delivery of industry-standard web dailies


• Vector tool for advanced color remapping using a color grid
• Automatic installation of free Matchbox Shaders, opening Scratch up to a wealth of realtime VFX effects, including glows, lens effects, grain add/remove, as well as more advanced creative FX
• Built-in highlight glow, diffusion, de-noise and time-warp FX
• Added support for AJA’s Io 4K Plus and Kona 5 SDI output devices using the latest SDKs.
• Support for Apple’s new ProRes RAW compressed-acquisition format and Blackmagic RAW support on both OS X and Windows

Scratch 9.1 starts at $89 monthly and $695 annually.

Picture Shop buys The Farm Group

Burbank’s Picture Shop has acquired UK-based The Farm Group. The Farm Group was founded in 1998 and currently has four locations in London, as well as facilities in Manchester, Bristol and Los Angeles.

The Farm, London

The Farm also operates the in-house post production teams for BBC Sport in Salford, England; UKTV; and Fremantle Media. This deal marks Picture Shop’s second international acquisition, followed by the deal it made for Vancouver’s Finalé Post earlier this year.

The founders of The Farm, Nicky Sargent and Vikki Dunn, will stay involved in The Farm Group. In a joint statement, Sargent and Dunn said, “We are delighted that after 20 successful years, we have a new partner. Picture Shop is poised to expand in the international post market and provide the combination of technical, creative and professional excellence to the world’s content creators.”

The duo will also re-invest in the expanded Picture Head Group, which includes Picture Head and audio post company Formosa Group, in addition to Picture Shop.

L-R: The Farm Group’s Nicky Sargent and Vikki Dunn.

Bill Romeo, president of Picture Shop, says, “Based on the amount of content being created internationally, we felt it was important to have a presence worldwide and support our clients’ needs. The Farm, based on its reputation and creative talent, will be able to maintain the philosophy of Picture Shop. It is a perfect fit. Our clients will benefit from our collaborative efforts internationally, as well as benefit from our technology and experience. We will continue to partner and support our clients while maintaining our boutique feel.”

Recent work from The Farm Group includes BBC Two’s Summer of Rockets, Sky One’s Jamestown and Britain’s Got Talent.

 

Editing for Features and Docs

By Karen Moltenbrey

When editing a feature film, the cutter can often feel as if he or she is assembling a puzzle, putting together a plethora of pieces, from the acting, to the lighting, to the production design, and turning those raw elements into a cohesive, comprehensive story. With so much material to sort through, so many shots to select from and so many choices to be made overall, the final cut indeed is reflective of these many choices made by the editor over a significant period of time.

Here, we examine the unique workflow of two editors, one who worked on a drama with an up-and-coming director, and another who cut a documentary with a director who is very well known throughout the film world.

Clemency
The feature film Clemency will be released at the end of the year, but already it commanded attention at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and beyond, taking home the Grand Jury Prize. The drama, directed by Chinonye Chukwu, stars Alfre Woodard as prison warden Bernadine Williams, who’s preparing for the execution of another inmate and struggling with the emotional toll that task has taken on her. The film was edited by Phyllis Housen.

As is often the case, while cutting Clemency, the editing style evolved organically from the story being told. “That happens all the time, unless it’s a very specific genre piece, like a thriller or horror film,” Housen says. For this film, she describes the style as “deliberate.” “There is no racing through the day. We feel the time pass. In prison, time stretches and changes, and we wanted to recreate that feeling of time. Often you don’t know if it’s night or day,” she says.

Also, the director wanted the film to feel as though the audience was there, living inside the prison. “So, there is a lot of repetition. We visit and revisit some of the routines of daily life like the prisoners do,” Housen adds.

Phyllis Housen

According to Housen, the film looks at what it is like for the warden to have a day-to-day relationship with the inmates on the ward as well as what happens when the warden, ultimately and occasionally, has to perform an execution. “By creating the routine of daily life, we would get to know how the prisoners live and experience that through them,” she explains.

The focus in the film turns to one prisoner in particular, Anthony Woods, a convicted felon on death row. “You get attached to these people, and to him,” Housen points out.

For instance, there is a good deal of walking in the movie, as the camera follows the warden while she sets out from her office and through the prison hallways, passing prisoners all the way to the death row ward, which is separated from everything and everyone — even the general population of prisoners. “You feel that length and distance as she is walking. You get a sense of how far away — literally and figuratively — the death row prisoners are,” Housen explains.

Housen (Cargo, the I, Witness TV documentary series and much more) cut the film at Tunnel in Santa Monica, California, using Adobe Premiere Pro, after having migrated from Apple Final Cut Pro years back. She says she finds the Adobe platform very intuitive.

In terms of her workflow, Housen believes it is fairly consistent across all projects. She receives dailies that are transcoded from raw footage, an assistant organizes all the footage for her, then she starts putting scenes together, maybe one or two days after principal photography begins so there is some footage to work with. “I am thinking of the footage as if I am building a house, with the scenes as the bricks,” she says. “So, I might get footage from, say, scenes 12, 84 and 105 on the first day, and I start lightly sketching those scenes out. I watch the dailies to get a feeling of what the scenes might eventually become. It takes longer than it sounds! And then the next day, four more scenes might come in, and the day after, seven. You’re always getting a bit behind the eight ball during dailies, but you sketch as best you can.”

Once Housen begins building out the scenes, she starts creating what she calls “reels,” an assembly of the film in 20-minute segments — a habit from the days of working with film in the predigital age. “Once you create your reels, then you end up, when they are done shooting, with a rather long, but not paced, assembly of the film that serves as a blueprint,” she says. “When post begins, we roll up our sleeves and start at Scene 1 and dig in.”

Housen finds that on an independent film, there isn’t a lot of time to interact with the director while the film is being shot, and this held true for Clemency; but once they got to the cutting room, “we were there every day together, all day, attached at the hip,” she says.

Clemency was the first time Housen had the opportunity to work with Chukwu. “She’s a very bold director, and there are some very bold choices in this film,” Housen says. She points out that some liberties were taken in terms of pacing and editing style, especially toward the end of the film, which she believes really pays off. However, Housen stops short of revealing too much about the scenes prior to the film’s release.

“It is a very heavy film, a difficult film,” Housen continues. “It’s thought-provoking. For such a heavy movie, we had a light time making it. We laughed a lot and enjoyed the process very much. I was just so pleased with [Chukwu’s] vision. She is a young and up-and-coming filmmaker. I think we are going to continue hearing a lot about her.”

Pavarotti
In the documentary Pavarotti, in limited release starting June 7, director Ron Howard tells the story of the opera legend Luciano Pavarotti through an assemblage of unique footage, concert performances and interviews. The film was edited by Paul Crowder, ACE.

Director Ron Howard and editor Paul Crowder take a selfie at the Pavarotti premiere.

As Crowder notes, it seemed logical to approach the story of Pavarotti in the format of an opera. His art and his life lent themselves to a natural three-act arc: The tenor starts his career as an opera singer and becomes successful. Then there is a period of self-doubt, followed by the meteoric success of The Three Tenors, his philanthropic period and then his marriage to a much younger woman. “You have these dramatic moments in his life story like you do in an opera, and we thought if we could use Pavarotti’s music and operas, that would tell the story, so we gave the documentary an operatic feel,” he says.

A musician himself, Crowder well understood this unique dimension to the documentary. Still, approaching the film in this way required careful navigation in the editing suite. “It’s not like editing pop music or something like that. You can’t just drop in and out of arias. They don’t come in four-bar sections or a middle-eight section,” he points out. “They’re all self-contained. Each section is its own thing. You have to select the moments when you can get in and out of them. Once you commit to them, you have to really commit to a degree, and it all becomes part of the style and approach of the editing.”

Crowder edited the film on an Avid system at his home studio. “I am an Avid Media Composer guy and will be to the day I die,” he says. “I was brought up on Avid, and that will always be my go-to choice.”

The biggest editing challenge on the documentary was dealing with the large mix of media and formats, as the film integrates footage from past concerts and interviews that took place all over the world at different points in time. In all, music was pulled from 22 different operas – not opera pieces, but different operas themselves. The footage was digitized in Avid using native frame rates “because Avid is so adept at dealing with multiple frame rates on a single timeline,” he says, noting that his assistant, Sierra Neal, was instrumental in keeping all the various media in check.

Nevertheless, dealing with various frame rate issues in the online was tough. Everyone has a way to do it, Crowder says, but “there is no definitive excellent way to go from standard def to HD.”

The mixed frame rates and formats also made it difficult to spot flaws in the imported footage: The overall transfer might look good, but there might be a frame or two that did not transfer well. “We kept spotting them throughout the online in the same clips we had already fixed, but then we’d find another flaw that we hadn’t seen,” Crowder says.

The film was built in pieces. The first section Crowder and writer Mark Monroe built pertained to Pavarotti’s children. “It was a leaping-off point for the film. We knew the girls were going to be in it and they would have something fun to say,” he says. He then worked forward from that point.

Crowder praises the research team at Pavarotti production company White Horse Pictures with assembling the tremendous amount of research and documentation for the film, organizing the various content and clips that made it easier for him and Neal to locate those with the best potential for particular scenes. “Still, it was essential to really look closely at everything and know where it was,” he adds, “Otherwise, you don’t know what you might miss.”

In fact, Crowder has something he calls his “hip pocket,” interesting material that hasn’t been placed yet. “It’s just a bin that contains material when I need something strong,” he says. On this project, footage of Pavarotti’s trip to the Amazon in 1995 is in that bin. And, they found an ideal place for it in the opening of the film.

“The film always talks to you, and sometimes you can’t find something you’re looking for but it’s staring you right in the face,” Crowder says. In this case, it was the Amazon footage. “It was vital that we hear Luciano’s voice at the opening of the film. If you don’t hear him sing, then there’s no point because it’s all about his voice. And everything we are going to tell you from that point on comes off the back of his voice.”

While he has worked on series as well as other kinds of projects, Crowder prefers films — documentaries, in particular. Series work, he says, can become a little too “factory-esque” for his taste — especially when there is a deadline and you are aware of what worked before, it can be come easy to get into a rhythm and possibly lose creative drive. “With a film, you lead audiences on an emotional journey, but you can take it to completion in one sitting, and not drag it out week after week,” Crowder says.

And, how did the editor feel working alongside famed director Ron Howard? Crowder says it was a fantastic experience, calling Howard very decisive and knowledgeable. “A wonderful and generous person to learn from. It was a great working relationship where we could discuss ideas honestly.”

Another bonus about this project: Crowder’s mom was an amateur opera singer, a soprano, while his grandfather was an amateur tenor. “I wanted to work on the film for my mom. She passed away, unfortunately, but she would have loved it.” Surely others will as well.


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

Envoi’s end-to-end cloud solution for data migration, post 

Envoi has launched a cloud-based data, migration and post production workflow solution at the AWS M&E Symposium on June 18  in Los Angeles. Enabled by Cantemo and Teradici PCoIP technology, Envoi is offering this as a media “production-to-payment” platform.

Envoi is a cloud-based content management, distribution and monetization platform, giving broadcasters and video content providers a complete secure end-to-end video management and distribution system. Available on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Marketplace, Envoi is designed to provide simple and efficient data migration to the cloud and between services in the workflow.

Thanks to a partnership with Cantemo, Envoi has been integrated with Cantemo’s media asset management solution, Cantemo Portal and its cloud video management hub, Cantemo Iconik. Iconik makes it easy to collaborate on media, regardless of geographic location. Advanced Artificial Intelligence simplifies content discovery by improving metadata collection. By combining Envoi with Cantemo Portal, media companies of virtually all sizes can now monetize their video libraries within 48 hours.

Envoi also enables post in the cloud with the integration of Iconik with Teradici-enabled workstations on AWS. These workstations are configured to support a wide range of editing and post production tools. By supporting the entire post process on AWS, Envoi says it is providing a solution that increases the security, performance and collaboration potential within the creative process. Delivering the solution through AWS Marketplace simplifies procurement, delivery and deployment for Envoi’s customers.

 

London’s Media Production Show: technology for content creation

By Mel Lambert

The fourth annual Media Production Show, held June 11-12 at Olympia West, London, once again attracted a wide cross section of European production, broadcast, post and media-distribution pros. According to its organizers, the two-day confab drew 5,300 attendees and “showcased the technology and creativity behind content creation,” focusing on state-of-the-art products and services. The full program of standing room-only discussion seminars covered a number of contemporary topics, while 150-plus exhibitors presented wares from the media industry’s leading brands.

The State of the Nation: Post Production panel.

During a session called “The State of the Nation: Post Production,” Rowan Bray, managing director of Clear Cut Pictures, said that “while [wage and infrastructure] costs are rising, our income is not keeping up.” And with salaries, facility rent and equipment amortization representing 85% of fixed costs, “it leaves little over for investment in new technology and services. In other words, increasing costs are preventing us from embracing new technologies.”

Focusing on the long-term economic health of the UK post industry, Bray pointed out that few post facilities in London’s Soho area are changing hands, which she says “indicates that this is not a healthy sector [for investment].”

“Several years ago, a number of US companies [including Technicolor and Deluxe] invested £100 million [$130 million] in Soho; they are now gone,” stated Ian Dodd, head of post at Dock10.

Some 25 years ago, there were at least 20 leading post facilities in London. “Now we have a handful of high-end shops, a few medium-sized ones and a handful of boutiques,” Dodd concluded. Other panelists included Cara Kotschy, managing director of Fifty Fifty Post Production.

The Women in Sound panel

During his keynote presentation called “How we made Bohemian Rhapsody,” leading production designer Aaron Haye explained how the film’s large stadium concert scenes were staged and supplemented with high-resolution CGI; he is currently working on Charlie’s Angels (2019) with director/actress Elizabeth Banks.

The panel discussion “Women in Sound” brought together a trio of re-recording mixers with divergent secondary capabilities and experience. Participants were Emma Butt, a freelance mixer who also handles sound editorial and ADR recordings; Lucy Mitchell, a freelance sound editor and mixer; plus Kate Davis, head of sound at Directors Cut Films. As the audience discovered, their roles in professional sound differ. While exploring these differences, the panel revealed helpful tips and tricks for succeeding in the post world.


LA-based Mel Lambert is principal of Content Creators. He can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com. Follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.

LumaFusion mobile filmmaking editing app updated

Luma Touch has updated LumaFusion, its video editing application for iOS. Created by video editing industry veterans Chris Demiris and Terri Morgan, LumaFusion Version 2 introduces new features and a new UI, and effectively doubles the number of audio/video tracks supported to 12 tracks, with six video tracks supporting 4K video in realtime.

The UI now features all-new vector icons streamline editing, with new track headers for locking, hiding and muting all tracks, and an overview of the timeline that lets users jump to any location in your edit with a single touch.

Keying

Additional updates include:
• New Timeline Overview:, which makes it quick and easy to see your whole project and jump to a specific location in your edit
• New Shuttle Control: Press-and-hold the Play button to scrub at different rates to find the right frame
• Track Headers with track link/unlink, track locking, hide and mute
• Flexible Editing: Video and audio clips on the primary (anchor) track let users to edit the way they want
• External Display: Users can view their video on the large screen and get more room for your timeline and library with new UI layouts
• Support for Gnarbox 2.0 SSD, as well as improvements for supporting Gnarbox1.0
• Dozens of editing and media management improvements

Ryan Connolly is a filmmaker, writer, director and creator of the YouTube channel, Film Riot. He has been testing LumaFusion 2.0. “LumaFusion is surprisingly fast and fluid, and is also perfect for doing previs on location scouts.”

LumaFusion Version 2  is available now on the App Store for $29.99, but the company is offering a discount of 50% until June 27, 2019.

Quick Chat: Sinking Ship’s Matt Bishop on live-action/CG series

By Randi Altman

Toronto’s Sinking Ship Entertainment is a production, distribution and interactive company specializing in children’s live-action and CGI-blended programming. The company has 13 Daytime Emmys and a variety of other international awards on its proverbial mantel. Sinking Ship has over 175 employees across all its divisions, including its VFX and interactive studio.

Matt Bishop

Needless to say, the company has a lot going on. We decided to reach out to Matt Bishop, founding partner at Sinking Ship, to find out more.

Sinking Ship produces, creates visual effects and posts its own content, but are you also open to outside projects?
Yes, we do work in co-production with other companies or contract our post production service to shows that are looking for cutting-edge VFX.

Have you always created your own content?
Sinking Ship has developed a number of shows and feature films, as well as worked in co-production with production companies around the world.

What came first, your post or your production services? Or were they introduced in tandem?
Both sides of company evolved together as a way to push our creative visions. We started acquiring equipment on our first series in 2004, and we always look for new ways to push the technology.

Can you mention some of your most recent projects?
Some of our current projects include Dino Dana (Season 4), Dino Dana: The Movie, Endlings and Odd Squad Mobile Unit.

What is your typical path getting content from set to post?
We have been working with Red cameras for years, and we were the first company in Canada to shoot in 4K over a decade ago. We shoot a lot of content, so we create backups in the field before the media is sent to the studio.

Dino Dana

You work with a lot of data. How do you manage and keep all of that secure?
Backups, lots of backups. We use a massive LTO-7 tape robot and we have over a 2PB of backup storage on top of that. We recently added Qumulo to our workflow to ensure the most secure method possible.

What do you use for your VFX work? What about your other post tools?
We use a wide range of software, but our main tools in our creature department are Pixologic Zbrush and Foundry Mari, with all animation happening inside Autodesk Maya.

We also have a large renderfarm to handle the amount of shots, and our render engine of choice is Arnold, which is now an Autodesk project.  In post we use an Adobe Creative Cloud pipeline with 4K HDR color grading happening in DaVinci Resolve. Qumulo is going to be a welcome addition as we continue to grow and our outputs become more complex.


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

EIPMA: Focusing on industry mentoring

By Barry Goch

As an instructor, I try to bridge the gap between the technology of yesterday, today and tomorrow. So much of what I do as an industry pro depends on knowing and respecting the past while keeping an eye on the future. I see a digital divide as I guide my students into the world of contemporary post production. For example, it helps them to know the origins of terms like bin, trim and splice.

So when I had the opportunity to learn more about the Entertainment Industry Professionals Mentoring Alliance (EIPMA), I was intrigued. It’s an organization that wants to pay it forward by providing mentors to students and educational institutions. I’m proud to say that I am one of the first beneficiaries. When I was looking for a guest speaker for my UCLA post production class, EIPMA came through in a heartbeat.

I’m happy this organization exists and I want to spread the word to other educators, institutions and facilities. Let’s find out more from EIPMA president Bernard Weiser, who is also VP of the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE).

Bernard Weiser

What inspired you to start the Entertainment Industry Professionals Mentoring Alliance?
The beginning idea for EIPMA started with the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE). The MPSE is a craft society for sound editors and I am vice president. Its main purpose is to bring attention to the craft of sound editing and what sound editors do — both technically and creatively.

A longtime board member and treasurer of the MPSE, Paul Rodriguez, passed away about a year and half ago. We very much looked upon him as a sound ambassador — he went to many events, including NAB, each year, speaking about sound editorial. (You can see him chatting with us and sharing his wisdom during NAB 2017) The MPSE wanted to honor him and came up with the idea of a mentoring program in his name, since he had given so many editors their start in our industry. MPSE President Tom McCarthy began talking about it, and a lot of other organizations started to hear about the idea and said, “You know, we’ve been trying to put a mentorship program together. We’d like to be involved in this.”

How long did it take to get it going?
Literally, in two or three days, this had grown far bigger than the MPSE, far bigger than anything that was imagined. After a month or two of discussion about this, and given my background as an instructor at the UCLA Film School, I was voted president of what is now called EIPMA. In addition to the MPSE, we have many industry organizations involved as members — American Cinema Editors (ACE), Audio Engineering Society, Cinema Audio Society (CAS), Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE), The Recording Academy (Grammy’s), SMPTE and SoundGirls.org (a group of women that does field reporting). All are founding members with more industry organizations poised to come aboard.

It sounds like you have a lot of momentum already for a brand-new organization, and there’s definitely a need for it. There’s definitely a lack of hand-off from the old-school ways to the new-school ways.
We realized that many top industry and veteran professionals have a feeling of wanting to give back. But also, what all of us would see are changes in the industry that create a gap. New people coming in are basically fresh out of school or from some other background, and there’s no real apprenticeship program anymore. So they come in and start working and they really don’t have a background for professional workflows, protocols, and just the way that industry professional life works. Professors and educators see the need for this as well, and that is the core of what we are doing as an organization, to be a conduit between those two points.

How do you envision the rollout of mentoring programs?
We start out with Q&As, setting up a panel especially for high schools that will show the different crafts that are out there. Around the high school level, you have a lot of kids that might be talented and looking toward the craft of storytelling through videos and such, but they just don’t know all of the different fields that are out there. They know there’s writing and there’s directing, but they really don’t know the depths of the different crafts. A Q&A can start to show that, and they can ask professionals how they got started and learn a more detailed perspective of those crafts.

Then, we move to the college level, where these are people who probably are majoring in cinema studies, film studies, television or broadcast, and they have more of a commitment toward what’s going on. So we will do Q&As in the different crafts for them too, but start to proceed a little bit further — and that’s where group mentoring can happen. Also, we can send individual professionals in as a guest lecturers to help cross that divide within the classroom. We look upon it as an aid to the educators, and the way we see this working, in fact, is having educators invite us in so we can help support education from a “real-world” perspective.

Then the third part is graduate and post-graduate students, or what we call “pre-industry individuals,” such as people coming out of the military, which I am very familiar with. One of my first jobs was doing films for the military for three years. There’s great talent in the military. They come out and have no idea where to go or how to pursue a career in entertainment; I really feel we have a role to fill in that area as well. In this third category, we’d start with many of the events I mentioned earlier, but also include one-on-one mentoring, helping people with their own projects, getting them seen, helping them with areas of filmmaking that could be their strength to help them keep going. That’s where job fairs and new contacts leading them toward internships and a much higher level of advice can come into play.

We also want to offer shadowing possibilities for late-college-level, close-to-graduation, college-level and the graduate students. They could come for a couple of days and follow someone skilled in a craft to see what goes on during the day.

L-R, front: At Notre Dame High School are EIPMA board members MPSE/music editor Steven A. Saltzman, MPSE/sound supervisor Christopher B. Reeves, ACE/picture editor Molly Shock and Sound Girls/mastering engineer Jett Galindo.

I have my own experience with the organization. Having Mark Lanza, MPSE, from EIPMA as a guest speaker in my UCLA Extension post production class was magical.
Yeah, by the way, Mark, who is also on the EIPMA board, is one of our first mentors/lecturers. It’s a perfect example. In fact, on May 3, we had a Q&A at Notre Dame High School in the San Fernando Valley, with panelists representing picture editing, sound design/editing, music editing and live field recording.

How is the EIPMA addressing the diversity issue in the industry?
EIPMA recognizes that diversity is an important step in fixing serious issues that have existed for so long in our business. When one sees what diversity has to offer the entertainment industry creatively, I for one fall in love with filmmaking all over again. I see it directly in the students at UCLA who come from around the world, bringing their different cultures, varying social, economic and ethnic backgrounds all into their stories and into their films. And, at the end of the day, this is what it’s all about — storytelling. Diversity opens a huge door to a wide world of fresh stories and with it, the next generation of incredibly talented filmmakers

Where are you in terms of rolling this out, and how can the readers of postPerspective connect with the organization?
What we’re doing this summer is building our database. We have our website, which is EIPMA.org. We invite educators, potential mentors, volunteers, interested businesses, students and individuals interested in the program to come and register their information, and especially their emails, so we can contact them as the program goes forward. In late September, we will have an introductory event at Sony Picture Studios in Culver City. Sound Girls is putting together an event that will happen in a few weeks as well.

Bernard Weiser mingling with educators and Avid folks during Avid’s Learning Program reception during NAB.

Tell us about the connection with Avid.
Avid is the only manufacturer involved with us as a member organization and has representatives on our board. At NAB, during Avid Connect weekend, there was a meet and greet with educators from around the world. I gave a talk about what we’re doing. Avid CEO Jeff Rosica fell in love with what we were doing. The next day I met with Avid executives from back east, and we had 100% of their support.

Avid talks about its connection with education. It’s not just making sales. They really want to support the educators and help develop the next generation of filmmakers. They know what that means business-wise but also, they’re also very supportive in doing the right thing. We are thrilled by Avid’s support and commitment.

Main Image: Mark Lanza, MPSE, is on the EIPMA board talking to Barry Goch’s UCLA Extension class.


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

Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher on Elton John musical

By Iain Blair

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

L-R: Dexter Fletcher and Iain Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dexter Fletcher and Taron Egerton on the set of Rocketman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Post vet Jason Mayo named COO of Chimney North America

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

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

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

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

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

Blackmagic intros Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR monitor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whiskey Cavalier DPs weigh in on the show’s look, DITs

While ABC recently cancelled freshman series Whiskey Cavalier, their on-set workflow is an interesting story to tell. The will-they-won’t-they drama featured FBI agent Will Chase (Scott Foley) and CIA operative Frankie Trowbridge (Lauren Cohan) — his codename is Whiskey Cavalier and hers is Fiery Tribune. The two lead an inter-agency team of spies who travel all over the world, periodically saving the world and each other, all while navigating friendship, romance and office politics.

David “Moxy” Moxness

Like many episodic television shows, Whiskey Cavalier used two cinematographers who alternated episodes so that the directors could work side-by-side with a cinematographer while prepping. David “Moxy” Moxness, CSC, ASC, shot the pilot. Moxness had previously worked on shows like Lethal Weapon, Fringe and Smallville and was just finishing another show when Warner Bros. sent him the pilot script.

“I liked it and took a meeting with director Peter Atencio,” explains Moxness. “We had a great meeting and seemed to be on the same page creatively. For me, it’s so much about collaborating on good shows with great people. Whiskey gave me that feeling.” Sid Sidell, ASC, a friend and colleague of Moxness’, was brought on as the second DP.

While Whiskey Cavalier’s plot has its two main characters traveling all over the world, principal photography took place in Prague. Neither cinematographer had worked there previously, although Moxness had passed through on vacation years before. While prepping and shooting the pilot, Moxness developed the look of the show with director Atencio. “Peter and I had the idea of using the color red when our lead character Will Chase was conflicted emotionally to trigger an emotional response for him,” he explains. “This was a combo platter of set dressing, costumes and lighting. We were very precise about not having the color red in frame other than these times. Also, when the team was on a mission, we kept to a cooler palette while their home base, New York, used warmer tones.”

This didn’t always prove to be straightforward. “You still have to adjust to location surroundings — when scouting for the pilot, I realized Prague still had mostly sodium vapor streetlights, which are not often seen in America anymore,” explains Moxness. “This color was completely opposite to what Peter and I had discussed regarding our nighttime palette, and we had a big car chase over a few nights and in different areas. I knew time and resources would in no way allow us to change or adjust this, and that I would have to work backwards from the existing tones. Peter agreed and we reworked that into our game. For our flashbacks, I shot 35mm 4-perf film with an ARRI IIC hand-cranked camera and Kowa lenses. That was fun! We continued all of these techniques and looks during the series.”

DITs
Mission, a UK-based DIT/digital services provider serving Europe, was brought on to work beside the cinematographers. Mission has an ever-expanding roster of DITs and digital dailies lab operators and works with cinematographers from preproduction onward, safeguarding their color decisions as a project moves from production into post.

Moxness and Sidell hadn’t worked with Mission before, but a colleague of Moxness’ had spoken to him about the experience of working with Mission on a project the year before. This intrigued Moxness, so he was waiting for a chance to work with them.

“When Whiskey chose to shoot in Prague I immediately reached out to Mission’s managing director, Mark Purvis,” explains Moxness. “Mark was enthusiastic about setting us up on Whiskey. After a few conversations to get to know each other, Mark suggested DIT Nick Everett. Nick couldn’t have been a better match for me and our show.”

Interestingly, Sidell had often worked without a DIT before his time on Whiskey Cavalier. He says, “My thoughts on the DP/DIT relationship changed drastically on Whiskey Cavalier. By choice, before Whiskey, I did the majority of my work without a DIT. The opportunity to work alongside Nick Everett and his Mission system changed my view of the creative possibilities of working with a DIT.”

Gear
Whiskey Cavalier was shot with the ARRI Alexa Mini and primarily ARRI Master Prime lenses with a few Angenieux zooms. Both Moxness and Sidell had worked with the Mini numerous times before, finding it ideal for episodic television. The post workflow was simple. On set, Everett used Pomfort’s LiveGrade to set the look desired by the cinematographers. Final color was done at Picture Shop in Los Angeles by senior colorist George Manno.

Moxy (behind camera) and director/EP Peter Atencio (to his right) on the Prague set.

“There are a few inherent factors shooting episodic television that can, and often do, handcuff the DP with regards to maintaining their intended look,” says Moxness. “The shooting pace is very fast, and it is not uncommon for editorial, final color and sometimes even dailies to happen far away from the shooting location. Working with a properly trained and knowledgeable DIT allows the DP to create a desired look and get it into and down the post pipeline to maintain that look. Without a proper solid roadmap, others start to input their subjective vision, which likely doesn’t match that of the DP. When shooting, I feel a strong responsibility to put my thumbprint on the work as I was hired to do. If not, then why was I chosen over others?”

Since successfully working on Whiskey Cavalier in Prague, Mission has set up a local office in Prague, led by Mirek Sochor and dedicated to Mission’s expansion into Central Europe.

And Moxness will be heading back to Prague to shoot Amazon’s The Wheel of Time.

 

Showrunner and EP Peter Gould on AMC’s Better Call Saul

By Iain Blair

Having a legal issue? Thinking of calling someone who has a questionable relationship with the rule of law? Jimmy McGill? Saul Goodman? Or, maybe, Gene, the lonely Cinnabon store manager? The slippery, shady, shape-shifting character — played beautifully by multiple Emmy-nominee Bob Odenkirk — is at the heart of Better Call Saul, the spin-off prequel to AMC’s Breaking Bad. But if you want to know what’s going on under the hood of the show, you better call writer/showrunner Peter Gould.

L-R: Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan

A Sony Pictures Television and AMC Studios co-production, Better Call Saul is executive produced by co-creators Gould and Vince Gilligan, as well as Mark Johnson (Breaking Bad, Diner, Rain Man), Melissa Bernstein (Breaking Bad, Rectify, Halt and Catch Fire) and Breaking Bad alums Thomas Schnauz and Gennifer Hutchison. The show recently won a Peabody Award in the Entertainment category and has racked up wins and nominations from pretty much every organization that hands them out, including Primetime Emmys, Golden Globes, SAG, AFI and the WGA.

For those of you who are champing at the bit for a new season this summer, you must be patient. The new season isn’t set to premiere until 2020, so maybe binge watch some Saul or even Breaking Bad to get you through!

I recently spoke with Gould about making the show and the latest on the Breaking Bad movie.

Do you enjoy being a showrunner?
I love it. In my opinion it’s the greatest job in show business. It’s a privilege to get to work with all the people on this, and it’s a fantastic situation. If the show falls short I only have myself to blame, as the cast and crew are all extraordinary.

What are the big challenges of showrunning Better Call Saul?
The number one challenge is always figuring out the story and how to tell the story in the most interesting and engaging way… while being as true as possible to the characters we’ve created, and then how to create the most cinematic experience that we can. By that, I mean using every tool we have available in production and post.

How far along are you Season 5?
Today we’re shooting the last day of Episode 3. Episode 4 starts next week, and we’re breaking the last episode, which is number 10.  We’re also in the middle of cutting the first three episodes, so there’s a lot going on.

What can fans expect? Will we see more of Gene Takovic, the man Jimmy McGill becomes after he becomes Saul Goodman?
I think it’s safe to say that we’re very interested in Gene. There’s a lot more to be said about him, and fans can expect that. One of the fun things about Gene is that his scenes are in black-and-white, so it gives us a very different space to play in visually.

Why such a long wait from season four until five airs next year?
There’s a lot of moving parts, and we do our best each season to craft the best show we can. So the time is actually spent more in the writing than in the production or post, which are more predictable in terms of schedules. Then there’s the matter of scheduling with the network and other outlets. But I think it’s about the same, month to month. It takes us about 14 months to do a season from start to finish; that seems to be how it works on this. I’m not proud of that, as there are a lot of other TV shows that make a lot more episodes in a lot less time, but we can’t seem to do it much faster and keep up the high quality we all aim for.

Are you still shooting in Albuquerque?
Absolutely. That setting and all the locations are a very important part of the show.

Where do you post, and do you like the post process?
I love working on all the post, and I work closely with our post EP Diane Mercer and the people at our post facility, Keep Me Posted, which is our partner and part of Fotokem in Burbank. We do the audio mix at Wildtracks in Hollywood. Phillip Palmer does our production sound mixing, and Kevin Valentine and Larry Benjamin do all our re-recording mixing. They’re just the best there is.

Talk about editing. You have several editors, I assume because of the time factor. How does that work?
Our editors — Skip Macdonald and Chris McCaleb — cut the show here at our LA offices, where we also have our writers’ room. So at the start of a season, it’s very quiet because nothing much is happening there, but once production starts, every part of our offices are very busy. Then once the writers go home, all the post comes in and it’s really bustling.

What are the big editing challenges?
We have a very big cast and a lot of moving pieces in each episode. Plus there are a lot of time jumps, so we alternate with the editors. So this year Skip is on the odds and Chris is on the evens. They do their cuts and then the directors come in to do their cut. As they’re so heavily booked these days, some of them end up giving notes remotely, and we use Pix to distribute our cuts and dailies.

One of the eccentricities of the way this show’s evolved — and it’s really based on the way Vince Gilligan ran Breaking Bad, and where I learned everything I know about showrunning — is that we don’t really do a producer’s cut until fairly late in the process. There are cuts of pretty much every episode before we close production, but we don’t fully address post until after production has closed, especially on a season like number three.

When I direct the season finale, that creates a big hole in the production schedule, and as soon as I get back we start working on the producer’s cut. Generally, I’ll give notes on the director’s cut and editor’s cut, and the editors will execute those on their own. Then I’ll end up spending about a week with the editor on each episode. Usually, the writer and maybe another producer will sit in too. And often an EP like Tom Schnauz will sit in as he has a great eye for editing, and we’ll do the producer’s cut together in that week.

You mention directing a few of the shows. Do you like directing?
I do, but I find it very stressful. I haven’t done it enough of it to lower my stress level, but I find it very creative. I think it’s very useful for the show to have a showrunner come and direct and episode now and again, as it keeps my humility level going as directing is a hard battle. It’s wonderful to be able to work with the cast and crew in such a hands-on way.

Peter Gould (center) on set

I’ve always loved every aspect of filmmaking, and I’m fascinated by it all — from the chip sensors we use to the dollies, lights and so on. I have such respect for the craft and artistry of everyone making the show, and what I’ve learned about directing is that success or failure is about the situation you’re in as much as it is about your own talent. This is a great situation.

This show has a great score, and great sound design. Where do you mix and talk about the importance of sound and music.
Nick Forshager is our sound supervisor over at Wildtracks. I’m pretty involved in all the sound, but we do things a bit different from most shows. For a start, we use almost no temp music on the cuts, for various reasons. One, it can be a bit of a crutch, and second, you get used to it, so anything new then sounds strange. We’ve trained ourselves to cut without it, and our composer Dave Porter is brilliant at spotting where music can be useful and where it’s not necessary. So we spend time spotting each episode and talk a lot about the music and sound, and I believe sound and music are the way to get to an audience’s emotion by bypassing the logical brain.

You can really enhance the drama and clue-in the audience on how to read a scene through sound design and ambient shifts. I can’t tell you how often we’ve had a scene that sort of played okay, but which just came alive when we found the right sound. There’s a great example of that in a scene at the end of Season 1 where Jimmy’s running the bingo game, and he has this nervous breakdown. We kept making the speakers worse and worse, and added some delay and we had the pops in the mic when he got too close — and it went from being a really interesting scene to one that was funnier, more public and more psychological. So we put in so much detail and it really pays off.

Where do you do the grading, and who’s the colorist?
It’s all done at Keep Me Posted and our colorist is Ted Brady. You asked earlier why it all takes so long, and one big reason is that I’m at every producer’s color session. Our DP Marshall Adams is usually there too, and we’ll go through the whole show together. It takes about a day to do one episode and make sure we’re happy with the look.

It definitely has a different look from Breaking Bad, and even from season to season.
You’re right. That was shot on film, and it was a very different process in post. Now we’re shooting digitally, there’s almost too many possibilities. We also switched cameras this season, from Reds to an ARRI LF, and it has a different look from the Red. And we began shooting night exteriors on Season Three with the Panasonic VariCam, which gave us a very interesting look — neither filmic nor digital. The other thing is that as the characters evolve and change, it just made sense to change the look too.

How long do you see the show running?
Great question! This is a show with a beginning, middle and end, and I can say we’re closer to the end than the beginning. I just hope we can stick the ending the way Vince stuck it on Breaking Bad.

What’s the latest on the Breaking Bad movie?
You tell me! Vince knows.


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.

Dell adds to Precision workstation line, targets M&E

During the Computex show, Dell showed new Precision mobile workstations featuring the latest processors, next-gen graphics, new display options and longer battery life. These systems are designed demanding data- and graphics-intensive workloads.

Dell Precision workstations are ISV-certified and come with Dell Precision Optimizer software that automatically tailors the system’s settings to get the best software performance from the workstation. The compact design of the new 5000 and 7000 series models offer a combination of extreme battery life, powerful processor configurations and large storage options. Starting at 3.9 pounds, the Dell Precision 5540 comes with Intel Xeon E or 9th Gen Intel Core eight-core processors.

With a 15.6-inch InfinityEdge display inside a 14-inch chassis, the Precision 5540 houses up to 4TB of storage and up to 64GB of memory, which helps pros to quickly access, transfer and store large 3D, video and multimedia files. Editors and designers will also benefit from contrast ratios, touch capability and picture quality with up to a UHD, 100% Adobe color gamut display or the new OLED display with 100% DCI-P3 color gamut.

The Dell Precision 7540 15-inch mobile workstation comes with a range of 15.6-inch display options, including a UHD HDR 400 display. It supports up to 8K resolution and playback of HDR content via single DisplayPort 1.4. The Precision 7540 can accelerate heavy workflows with up to 3200MHz SuperSpeed memory or up to 128GB of 2666MHz ECC memory.

For creatives whose process requires an even more immersive experience, the new Dell Precision 7740 has a 17.3-inch screen and is Dell’s most powerful and scalable mobile workstation. VR- and AI-ready, it is designed to help users bring their most data-heavy, graphic-intensive ideas to life while keeping applications running smoothly.

The Precision 7740 has been updated to feature up to the latest Intel Xeon E or 9th Gen Intel Core eight-core processors and comes with up to 128GB of ECC memory and a large PCIe SSD storage capacity (up to 8TB). Nvidia Quadro RTX graphics offer realtime raytracing with AI-based graphics acceleration. Additional options include next-generation AMD Radeon Pro GPUs. It is available with a range of display options, including a new 17.3-inch UltraSharp UHD IGZO display featuring 100% Adobe color gamut.

Along with the new Precision mobile workstation models, Dell has also updated its Precision 3000 series towers and the Precision 1U rack workstation. The 3930 1U rack workstation has been updated with Intel Xeon E or 9th Gen Intel Core processor options. The solution now offers up to 128GB of memory and up to one double-width 295W of Nvidia Quadro or AMD Radeon Pro professional graphics support.

The next-gen Dell Precision 3630 and 3431 towers improve response time with up to 128GB or 64GB of 2666MHz ECC or non-ECC memory, respectively, and both offer scalable storage options. All workstations have a range of operating system options, including Windows 10 Pro, Red Hat and Ubuntu Linux.

The Dell Precision 5540, 7540 and 7740 mobile workstations will be available on Dell.com in early July. Starting prices are $1339, $1149 and $1409, respectively. The Dell Precision 3630 tower workstation will be available on dell.com in mid-July starting at $609.

The Dell Precision 3431 Tower workstation will be available on their site in June starting at $609. The Dell Precision 3930 Rack will be available on their site in mid-July starting at $879.

Phil Kubel named director of HPA

The Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) has appointed Phil Kubel as the organization’s director. He will be the Burbank-based presence of the HPA management team, managing the organization’s day-to-day business as well as supporting strategic planning, membership development and program development.

After his graduation from USC, Kubel worked in a number of production-related positions. In 2003 he became one of the founding members of HRTV, a national television network that featured equestrian and horse racing content. Kubel was instrumental in the design, engineering and production build of the studios and broadcast facility at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. He went on to oversee day-to-day operations of all digital media, production and technology initiatives at HRTV, including creating the subscription-based HRTV.com.

In addition to Kubel’s technical portfolio, he served as VP of post production for HRTV and was the creative force behind the documentary series Inside Information, which earned 10 Emmy wins.

In 2015, Kubel was named VP/EP for a new digital media initiative for The Stronach Group. Under Stronach Digital, he oversaw the launch of XBTV, which is now an industry-leading multi-media horse racing product that provides insight and analysis for wagering customers.

“It’s an exciting time to be joining HPA,” notes Kubel. “We have a rare opportunity to use our accumulated knowledge and relationships to support industry growth by connecting the players and leading the conversation. I look forward to continuing the vision of HPA and developing it as a world-class resource for production professionals.”

He will report to HPA’s executive director, Barbara Lange.

Sonnet adds new card and adapter to 10GbE line

Sonnet Technologies is offering the Solo10G SFP+ PCIe card and the Solo10G SFP+ Thunderbolt 3 Edition adapter, the latest products in the company’s line of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) network adapters.

Solo10G SFP+ adapters add fast 10GbE network connectivity to a wide range of computers, enabling users to easily connect to 10GbE-enabled network infrastructure and storage systems via LC fiber optic cables (sold separately). Both products include a 10GBase-SR (short-range) SFP+ transceiver (the most commonly used optical transceiver), enabling 10Gb connectivity at distances up to 300 meters.

The Solo10G SFP+ PCIe card is a low-profile x4 PCIe 3.0 adapter card that offers Mac, Windows and Linux users an easy-to-install and easy-to-manage solution for adding 10GbE fiber network connectivity to computers with PCIe card slots. This card is also suited for use in a multi-slot Thunderbolt-to-PCIe card expansion system connected to a Mac. The Solo10G SFP+ Thunderbolt 3 Edition adapter is a compact, rugged, bus-powered, fanless Thunderbolt 3 adapter for Mac and Windows computers with Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Sonnet’s Solo10G SFP+ products offer Mac users a plug-and-play experience with no driver installation required; Windows and Linux use only requires a simple driver installation. Both products are configured using operating system settings, so there’s no separate management program to install or run.

With its broad OS support and small form factor, the Solo10G SFP+ PCIe card allows companies to standardize on a single adapter and deploy it across platforms with ease. For users with Thunderbolt 3-equipped Mac and Windows computers, the Solo10G SFP+ Thunderbolt 3 Edition adapter is a simple external solution for adding 10GbE fiber network connectivity. From its replaceable captive cable to its bus-powered operation, the Thunderbolt 3 adapter is highly portable.

Solo10G SFP+ products were engineered with security features essential to today’s users. Incorporating encryption in hardware, the Sonnet network adapters are protected against malicious firmware modification. Any unauthorized attempt to modify the firmware to enable covert computer access renders them inoperable. These security features prevent the Solo10G SFP+ adapters from being reprogrammed, except by a manufacturer’s update using a secure encryption key.

Measuring a compact 3.1 inches wide by 4.9 inches deep by 1.1 inches tall — less than half the size of every other adapter in its class — the Solo10G SFP+ Thunderbolt 3 Edition adapter features an aluminum enclosure that effectively cools the circuitry and eliminates the need for a fan, enabling silent operation. Unlike every other 10GbE fiber Thunderbolt adapter available, Sonnet’s Solo10G SFP+ adapter requires no power adapter and instead is powered by the computer to which it’s connected.

The Solo10G SFP+ PCIe card and Solo10G SFP+ Thunderbolt 3 Edition adapter are available now for $149 and $249, respectively.

Cutters Studios promotes Heather Richardson, Patrick Casey

Cutters Studios has promoted Heather Richardson to executive producer and Patrick Casey to head of production. Richardson’s oversight will expand into managing and recruiting talent, and in maintaining and building the company’s client base. Casey will focus on optimizing workflows, project management and bidding processes.

Richardson joined Cutters in 2015, after working as a producer for visual effects studio A52 in LA and for editorial company Cosmo Street in both LA and New York for more than 10 years. On behalf of Cutters, she has produced Super Bowl spots for Lifewtr, Nintendo and WeatherTech, and campaigns including Capital One, FCA North America (Fiat, Dodge Ram, and Jeep), Gatorade, Google, McDonald’s and Modelo.

“I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some excellent executive producers during my career, and I’m honored and excited for the opportunity to expand the scope of my role on behalf of Cutters Studios, and alongside Patrick Casey,” says Richardson. “Patrick’s kindness and thoughtfulness in addition to his intelligence and experience are priceless.”

In addition to leading Cutters editors, Casey produced the groundbreaking Always “#LikeAGirl” campaign, Budweiser’s Harry Caray’s Last Call and Whirlpool’s “Care Counts” campaign that won top Cannes Lions, Clio, Effie and Adweek Project Isaac Awards.