Tag Archives: color correction

Storage for Post Studios

By Karen Moltenbrey

The post industry relies heavily on storage solutions, without question. Facilities are jugging a variety of tasks and multiple projects all at once. And deadlines are always looming. Thus, these studios need a storage solution that is fast and reliable. Each studio has different needs and searches to find the right system to fit their particular workflow. Luckily, there are many storage choices for pros to choose from.

For this article, we spoke with two post houses about their storage solutions and why they are a good fit for each of their needs.

Sugar Studios LA
Sugar Studios LA is one-stop shop playground for filmmakers that offers a full range of post production services, including editorial, color, VFX, audio, production and finishing, with each department led by seasoned professionals. Its office suites in the Wiltern Theater Tower, in the center of LA, serve an impressive list of clients, from numerous independent film producers and distributors to Disney, Marvel, Sony, MGM, Universal, Showtime, Netflix, AMC, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and others.

Jijo Reed and Sting in one of their post suites.

With so much important data in play at one time, Sugar needs a robust, secure and reliable storage system. However, with diverse offerings come diverse requirements. For its online and color projects, Sugar uses a Symply SAN with 200TB of usable storage. The color workstations are connected via 10Gb Ethernet over Fibre with a 40Gb uplink to the network. For mass storage and offline work, the studio uses a MacOS server acting as a NAS, with 530TB of usable storage connected via a 40Gb network uplink. For Avid offline jobs, the facility has an Avid Nexis Pro with 40TB of storage, and for Avid Pro Tools collaboration, a Facilis TerraBlock with 40TB of usable storage.

“We can collaborate with any and all client stations working on the same or different media and sharing projects across multiple software platforms,” says Jijo Reed, owner/executive producer of Sugar. “No station is limited to what it can do, since every station has access to all media. Centralized storage is so important because not only does it allow collaboration, we always have access to all media and don’t have to fumble through drives. It is also RAID-protected, so we don’t have to be concerned with losing data.”

Prior to employing the centralized storage, Sugar had been using G-Technology’s G-RAID drives, changing over in late 2016. “Once our technical service advisor, Zach Moller, came on board, he began immediately to institute a storage network solution that was tailored to our workflow,” says Reed.

Reed, an award-winning director/producer, founded the company in 2012, using a laptop (running Final Cut Pro 7) and an external hard drive he had purchased on sale at Fry’s. His target base at the time was producers and writers needing sizzle trailers to pitch their projects — at a time when the term “sizzle trailer” was not part of the common vernacular. “I attended festivals to pitch my wares, producing over 15 sizzles the first year,” he says, “and it grew from there.”

Since Reed was creating sizzles for yet-to-be-made features, he was in “pole position” to handle the post for some of these independent films when they got funded. In 2015, he, along with his senior editor, Paul Buhl, turned their focus to feature post work, which was “more lucrative and less exhausting, but mostly, we wanted to tell stories – the whole story.” He rebranded and changed the name of the company from Sizzlepitch to Sugar Studios, and brought on a feature post producer, Chris Harrington. Reed invested heavily in the company, purchasing equipment and acquiring space. Soon, one bay became two, then three and so on. Currently, the company spans three full floors, including the penthouse of the Wiltern Theater Tower.

As Reed proudly points out, the studio space features 21 bays and workstations, two screening theaters, including a 25-seat color and mix DI stage with a Barco DP4K projector and Dolby Atmos configuration. “We are fully staffed, all under one roof, with editorial, full audio services, color correction/grading, VFX and a greenscreen cyclorama stage with on-site 4K cameras, grip and lighting,” he details. “But, it’s the people who make this work. Our passion is obvious to our clients.”

While Sugar was growing and expanding, so, too, was its mass storage solution. According to Zach Moller, it started with the NAS due to its low price and fast (10Gb) connection to every client machine. “The Symply SAN solution was needed because we required a high-bandwidth system for online and color playback that used Fibre Channel technology for the low latency and local drive configuration,” he says.

Moreover, the facility wanted flexibility with its SAN solution; it was very expensive to have every machine connected via Fibre Channel, “and frankly, we didn’t need that bandwidth,” Reed says. “Symply allowed us to have client machines choose whether they connected via Fibre Channel or 10Gb. If this wasn’t the case, we would have been in a pickle, having to purchase expansion chassis for every machine to open up additional PCI slots.” (The bulk of the machines at Sugar connect using the pre-existing 10Gb Ethernet over Fibre network, thus negating the need to use another PCI slot on a Fibre Channel card.)

American Dreamer

At Sugar, the camera masters and production audio are loaded directly to the NAS for mass storage. Then, the group archives the camera masters to LTO for deep archival, for an additional backup. During LTO archival, the studio creates the dailies for the offline edit on either Avid Media Composer (where the MXFs are migrated to the Avid Nexis server) or Adobe Premiere (where the ProRes dailies continue to live on the NAS).

When adding visual effects, the artists render to the Symply SAN when preparing for the online, color and finishing.

The studio works with a wide range of codecs, some of which are extremely taxing on the systems. And, the SAN is ideal, especially for the raster image files (EXRs), since each frame has such a high density — and there can be 100,000 frames per folder. “This can only be accomplished with a premium storage solution: our SAN,” Reed says.

When the studio moved to the EXR codec for the VFX on the American Dreamer feature film, for example, its original NAS solution over 10Gb didn’t have enough bandwidth for playback on its systems (1.2GB/sec). Once it upgraded the SAN solution with dual 16Gb Fibre Channel, they were able to play back uncompressed 4K EXR footage without the headache or frustration of stuttering.

“We have created an environment that caters to the creative process with a technical infrastructure that is superfast and solid. Filmmakers love us, and I couldn’t be prouder of my team for making this happen,” says Reed.

Mike Seabrooke

Postal
Established in 2015, Postal is a boutique creative studio that produces motion graphics, visual effects, animation, live action and editorial, with the vision of transcending all mediums — whether it’s short animations for social media or big-budget visual effects for broadcast. “As a studio, we love to experiment with different techniques. We feel strongly that the idea should always come first,” says Mike Seabrooke, producer at New York’s Postal.

To ensure that these ideas make it to the final stage of a project, the company uses a mixture of hard drives, LTO tapes and servers that house the content while the artists are working on projects, as well as for archival purposes. Specifically, the studio employs the EditShare Storage v.7 shared storage platform and EditShare Ark Tape for managing the LTO tape libraries that serve as nearline and offline backup. This is the system setup that Postal deployed initially when it started up a few years ago, and since then Postal has been continuously updating and expanding it based on its growth as a studio.

Let’s face it, hard drives always have the possibility of failing. But, failure is not something that Postal — or any other post house — can afford. That is why the studio keeps two instances per job on archive drives: a master and a backup. “Organized hard drives give us quick access to previous jobs if need be, which sometimes can be quite the lifesaver,” says Seabrooke.

 

Postal’s Nordstrom project.

LTO tapes, meanwhile, are used to back up the facility’s servers running EditShare v7 – which house Postal’s editorial jobs — on the off chance that something happens to that precious piece of hardware. “The recovery process isn’t the fastest, but the system is compact, self-contained and gives us peace of mind in case anything does go wrong,” Seabrooke explains.

In addition, the studio uses Retrospect backup and restore software for its working projects server. Seabrooke says, “We chose it because it offers a backup service that does not require much oversight.”

When Postal began shopping for a solution for its studio three years ago, reliability was at the top of its list. The facility needed a system it could rely on to back up its data, which would comprise the facility’s entire scope of work. Ease of use was also a concern, as was access. This decision prompted questions such as: Would we have to monitor it constantly? In what timeframe would we be able to access the data? Moreover, cost was yet another factor: Would the solution be effective without breaking our budget?

Postal’s solution indeed enabled them to check off every one of those boxes. “Our projects demand a system that we can count on, with the added benefit of quick retrieval,” Seabrooke says.

Throughout the studio’s production process, the artists are accessing project data on the servers. Then, once they complete the project, the data is transferred to the archival drives for backup. This frees up space on the company servers for new jobs, while providing access to the stored data if needed.

“Storage is so important in our work because it is our work. Starting over on a project is an outcome we cannot allow, so responsible storage is a necessity,” concludes Seabrooke.


Karen Moltenbrey is a long-time VFX and post production writer.

Review: Tangent Ripple color correction panel

By Brady Betzel

Lately, it feels like a lot of the specializations in post production are becoming generalized and given to the “editor.” One of the hats that the editor now wears is that of color corrector — I’m not saying we are tasked with color grading an entire film, but we are asked to make things warmer or cooler or to add saturation.

With the standard Wacom tablet, keyboard and/or mouse combo, it can get a little tedious when color correcting — in Adobe Premiere, Blackmagic Resolve or Avid Media Composer/Symphony — without specialized color correction panels like the Baselight Blackboard, Resolve Advanced, Nucoda Precision, Avid Artist Color or even Tangent’s Element. In addition, those specialized panels run between $1,000 per piece to upwards of $30,000, leaving many people to fend for themselves using a mouse.

While color correcting with a mouse isn’t always horrible, once you use a proper color correction panel, you will always feel like you are missing a vital tool. But don’t worry! Tangent has released a new color correction panel that is not only affordable and compatible with many of today’s popular coloring and nonlinear editing apps, but is also extremely portable: the Tangent Ripple.

For this review I am covering how the Tangent Ripple works inside of Premiere Pro CC 2015.3, Filmlight’s Baselight Media Composer/Symphony plug-in and Resolve 12.5.

One thing I always found intimidating about color correction and grading apps like Resolve was the abundance of options to correct or grade an image. The Tangent Ripple represents the very basic first steps in the color correction pipeline: color balancing using lift, gamma, gain (or shadows, midtones and highlights) and exposure/contrast correction. I am way over-simplifying these first few steps but these are what the Ripple specializes in.

You’ve probably heard of the Tangent Element Panels, which go way beyond the basics — if you start to love grading with the Tangent Ripple or the Element-VS app, the Element set should be your next step. It retails for around $3,500, or a little below as a set (you can purchase the Element panels individually for cheaper, but the set is worth it). The Tangent Ripple retails for only $350.

Basic Color Correction
If you are an offline editor who wants to add life to your footage quickly, basic color correction is where you will be concentrating, and the Ripple is a tool you need to purchase. Whether you color correct your footage for cuts that go to a network executive, or you are the editor and finisher on a project and want to give your footage the finishing touch, you should check out what a little contrast, saturation and exposure correction can do.

panelYou can find some great basic color correcting tutorials on YouTube, Lynda.com and color correction-focused sites like MixingLight.com. On YouTube, Casey Faris has some quick and succinct color correction tutorials, check him out here. Ripple Training also has some quick Resolve-focused tips posted somewhat weekly by Alexis Van Hurkman.

When you open the Tangent Ripple box you get an instruction manual, the Ripple, three track balls and some carrying pouches to keep it all protected. The Ripple has a five-foot USB cable hardwired into it, but the track balls are separate and do not lock into place. If you were to ask a Ripple user to tell you the serial number on the bottom of the Ripple, most likely they will turn it over, dropping all the trackballs. Obviously, this could wreck the trackballs and/or injure someone, so don’t do it, but you get my point.

The Ripple itself is very simple in layout: three trackballs, three dials above the trackballs, “A” and “B” buttons and revert buttons next to the dials. That is it! If you are looking for more than that, you should take a look at the Element panels.

After you plug in the Ripple to an open USB port, you probably should download the Tangent Hub software. This will also install the Tangent Mapper, which allows you to customize your buttons in apps like Premiere Pro. Unfortunately, Resolve and the Media Composer Baselight plug-in do not allow for customization, but when you install the software you get a nice HUD that signals what service each Ripple button and knob does in the software you are using.

If you are like me and your first intro into the wonderful world of color correction in an NLE was Avid Symphony, you might have also encountered the Avid Artist Color panel, which is very similar in functionality: three balls and a couple of knobs. Unfortunately, I found that the Artist Color never really worked like it should within Symphony. Here is a bit of interesting news: while you can’t use the Ripple in the native Symphony color corrector, you can use external panels in the Baselight Avid plug-in! Finally a solution! It is really, really responsive to the Tangent Ripple too! The Ripple really does work great inside of a Media Composer plug-in.

The Ripple was very responsive, much more than what I’ve experienced with the Avid Artist Color panel. As I mentioned earlier, the Ripple will accomplish the basics of color correcting — you can fix color balance issues and adjust exposure. It does a few things well, and that is it. To my surprise, when I added a shape (a mask used in color correction) in Baselight, I was able to adjust the size, points and position of the shape using the Ripple. In the curves dialogue I was able to add, move and adjust points. Not only does Baselight change the game for powerful, in-Avid color correction, but it is a tool like the Ripple that puts color correction within any editor’s grasp. I was really shocked at how well it worked.

When using the Ripple in Resolve you get what Resolve wants to give you. The Ripple is great for basic corrections inside of Resolve, but if you want to dive further into the awesomeness of color correction, you are going to want to invest in the Tangent Element panels.

With the Ripple inside of Resolve, you get the basic lift, gamma and gain controls along with the color wheels, a bypass button and reset buttons for each control. The “A” button doesn’t do anything, which is kind of funny to me. Unlike the Baselight Avid plug-in, you cannot adjust shapes, or do much else with the Ripple panel other than the basics.

Element-Vs
Another option that took me by surprise was Tangent iOS and the Android app Element-Vs. I expected this app to really underwhelm me but I was wrong. Element-Vs acts as an extension of your Ripple — based off the Tangent Element panels. But keep in mind, it’s still an app and there is nothing comparable to the tactile feeling and response you get from a panel like the Ripple or Elements. Nonetheless, I did use the Element-Vs app on an iPad Mini and it was surprisingly great.

It is a bit high priced for an app, coming in at around $100, but I was able to get a really great response when cycling through the different Element “panels,” leading me to think that the Ripple and Element-Vs app combo is a real contender for the prosumer colorist. At a total of $450 ($350 for the Ripple and $100 for the Element-Vs app), you are in the same ballpark as a colorist who has a $3,000-plus set of panels.

As I said earlier, the Element panels have a great tactile feel and feedback that, at the moment, is hard to compare to an app, but this combo isn’t as shabby as I thought it would be. A welcome surprise was that the installation and connection were pretty simple too.

Premiere Pro
The last app I wanted to test was Premiere Pro CC. Recently, Adobe added external color panel support in version 2015.3 or above. In fact, Premiere has the most functionality and map-ability out of all the apps I tested — it was an eye-opening experience for me. When I first started using the Lumetri color correction tools inside of Premiere I was a little bewildered and lost as the set-up was different from what I was used to in other color correction apps.

I stuck to basic color corrections inside of Premiere, and would export an XML or flat QuickTime file to do more work inside of Resolve. Using the Ripple with Premiere changed how I felt about the Lumetri color correction features. When you open Premiere Pro CC 2015.3 along with the Tangent Mapper, the top row of tabs opens up. You can customize not only the standard functions of the Ripple within each Lumetri panel, like Basic, Creative, Curves, Color Wheels, HSL Secondaries and Vignette, but you can also create an alternate set of functions when you press the “A” button.

In my opinion, the best button press for the Ripple is the “B” button, which cycles you through the Lumetri panels. In the panel Vignette, the Ripple gives you options like Vignette Amount, Vignette Midpoint, feather and Vignette Roundness.

As a side note, one complaint I have about the Ripple is that there isn’t a dedicated “bypass” button. I know that each app has different button designations and that Tangent wants to keep the Ripple as simple as possible, but many people constantly toggle the bypass function.

Not all hope is lost, however. Inside of Premiere, if you hold the “A” button for alternate mapping and hit the “B” button, you will toggle the bypass off and on. While editing in Premiere, I used the Ripple to do color adjustments even when the Lumetri panel wasn’t on screen. I could cycle through the different Lumetri tabs, make adjustments and continue to edit using keyboard functions fast — an awesome feature both Tangent and Adobe should be promoting more, in my opinion.

It seems Tangent worked very closely with Adobe when creating the Ripple. Maybe it is just a coincidence, but it really feels like this is the Adobe Premiere Pro CC Tangent Ripple. Of course, you can also use the Element-Vs app in conjunction with the Ripple, but in Premiere I would say you don’t need it. The Ripple takes care of almost everything for you.

One drawback I noticed when using the Ripple and Element-Vs inside of Premiere Pro was a small delay when compared to using these inside of Resolve and Baselight’s Media Composer plug-in. Not a huge delay, but a slight hesitation — nothing that would make me not buy the Ripple, but something you should know.

Summing Up
Overall, I really love the Ripple color correction panel from Tangent. At $350, there is nothing better. The Ripple feels like it was created for editors looking to dive deep into Premiere’s Lumetri color controls and allows you to be more creative because of it.

Physically, the Ripple has a lighter and more plastic-type of feel than its Element Tk panel brother, but it still works great. If you need something light and compact, the Ripple is a great addition to your Starbuck’s-based color correction set-up.

I do wish there was a little more space between the trackballs and the rotary dials. When using the dials, I kept nudging the trackballs and sometimes I didn’t even realize what had happened. However, since the Ripple is made to be compact, lightweight, mobile and priced to beat every other panel on the market, I can forgive this.

It feels like Tangent worked really hard to make the Ripple feel like a natural extension of your keyboard. I know I sound like a broken record, but saving time makes me money, and the Tangent Ripple color correction panel saves me time. If you are an editor that has to color correct and grade dailies, an assistant editor looking to up their color correction game or just an all-around post production ninja who dabbles in different areas of expertise, the Tangent Ripple is the next tool you need to buy.


Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Earlier this year, Brady was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.

Kyle hires editor Brian Sanford, gets new space, adds color services

Editor Brian Sanford joins Kyle Edit just as it moves to a new location in New York’s Flatiron District. This experienced cutter has worked with agencies such as BBDO, DDB, Grey, Digitas, RGA, M&C Saatchi, McCann and Taxi on campaigns for Lowe’s, Time Warner, E-trade, Mucinex, Guinness and Miller Light.

Most recently, Sanford’s work can be seen in Jeep’s Super Bowl 50 spot, which ranked number one in Adweek’s roundup of “The 5 Best Ads of Super Bowl 50” and won first place in the 2016 Clio Creative Bowl.

Sanford, who cuts on both Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere, joins Kyle Edit owner/editor Tina Mintus (who cuts on Avid), executive producer Eytan Gutman, editor Nate Taylor (who uses Premiere) and creative director/visual effects artist Mike McKenna.

“I have always wanted Kyle to grow, but just enough so that we can maintain our unique and specialized personality,” says Sanford. “Our move into a larger space in a prime location marks the perfect time to welcome Brian onboard, but walking through our doors still feels like walking into someone’s home.”

With the move, Kyle also expands its visual effects department to include color correction under the creative direction of McKenna, who began his career in 1996 at Manhattan Transfer, which later became Riot Manhattan.

Review: Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 12

This working editor is impressed with the color correction tool’s NLE offerings.

By Brady Betzel

If you’re looking for a nonlinear editor alternative to Adobe Premiere, Apple FCP X or Avid Media Composer you must check out Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 12 Studio. The best part about the continuing evolution of Resolve is that Blackmagic has been adding NLE functionality to its color correction software, instead of building an editor from the ground up.

In terms of editing systems, Avid Media Composer has been in my life from the very first day I started working in television. At school we edited on Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe Premiere, but once I hit the big time it was all Media Composer all the time. Now, of course, that is changing with Adobe Premiere Pro projects popping up more and more.

Many of today’s editors want to work on an NLE offering the latest and greatest features, such as resolution independence, wide codec support, occasional VFX integration and the all-mighty color correction. So that leaves us with Adobe, Avid and the newest player to the NLE game, Blackmagic and its Resolve product.

Resolve's multicam capabilities.

Resolve’s multicam capabilities.

Adobe realizes how important color is to an editor’s workflow and has added color correction inside of Premiere by incorporating Lumetri Color. In fact, Adobe’s After Effects also features Lumetri Color. But even with these new additions some are still wanting more. This is where Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 12 is making its move into the nonlinear editing world.

Inside Resolve 12
With Version 12, Blackmagic has reinvented its internal NLE environment to catch the eye of any editor looking to make a change from their current editing system. In this review I’m looking at Resolve 12 from an editor’s perspective, not a colorist’s. Some NLEs say you can stay inside of their environment from offline to online, but oftentimes that’s not the case.

I think you will really like what Blackmagic is doing in Resolve 12 Studio — you will also like their visual effects and compositing app Fusion, which recently released its Version 8 public beta.

Blackmagic offers two versions of Resolve: Resolve Studio and Resolve. They also offer the DaVinci Resolve Advanced Panel, which retails for $29,995. Resolve Studio sells for $995, while plain Resolve is free, and you get a lot of horsepower for free. If $30K is too pricey for your budget, remember that a lot of high-end colorists use the Tangent Element coloring panels — they retail for under $3,500. (You can check out my review of the Tangent Element panels here.) Color panels will change the way you look at color correcting. Coloring by mouse or tablet compared to panels is like playing baseball with one arm tied behind your back.

The Resolve Panel

The differences between Resolve Studio and Resolve is Studio’s realtime noise reduction and motion blur parameters using CUDA and OpenGL GPUs and stereoscopic 3D grading. The free version has mastering limitations; very limited GPU and Red Rocket support; lack of collaborative teamwork-based features; lack of remote grading; limitation of proxy generation to the UHD frame size; limit of project frame sizes to UHD; and a lack in ability to render the Sony XAVC codec. But keep in mind that even the free Resolve will support the Tangent Element panel if you have it.

Powering It Up
Technically, you should have a pretty beefy workstation at your disposal to run Resolve, especially if you want to take advantage of the enhanced GPU processing and realtime playback of high-resolution sources. One common debate question is, “Do I transcode to a mezzanine format or stay native?” Personally, I like to transcode to a mezzanine format like DNxHD or ProRes, however with systems becoming the powerhouses they are today that need is slowly dying. Even though Resolve can chew through different native codecs such as AVCHD it will definitely be to your advantage to find a common intraframe codec such as ProRes 4444, Cineform or DNxHD/HR as opposed to an interframe codec such as XDCAM, which is very processor-intensive and can slow your system down during edit.

A very thorough explanation can be found over at Sareesh Sudhakaran’s website: http://wolfcrow.com/blog/intra-frame-vs-inter-frame-compression. The minimum requirements for Resolve on a Mac are OS X 10.10.3 Yosemite and 16GB of system memory, although 8GB is the minimum supported. For a Windows system you need Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit with SP1 with 16GB of system memory, although 8GB is the minimum supported as well.

In addition, you will need up-to-date drivers from your GPU, and if I was you a high-end GPU (or two or three) with as much memory as possible. Many people report a couple prosumer Nvidia 980 Ti cards to be a great value if you aren’t able to jump up to the Quadro family of GPUs. In addition AMD and Intel GPUs are supported.

Let’s be real, you should either have a sweet X99 system with as much RAM as you can afford or something on the level of an HP z840 or recent Mac Pro to run smoothly. You will also want an SSD boot drive and a RAID (SSD if possible) to get the most out of your editing and color experience with minimal lag, especially when adding Power Windows, motion blur and grain.

The Interface
My immediate reaction to Resolve’s updated interface is that it looks and feels like an amalgamation of FCP X and Adobe Premiere CC 2015. If you like the way Adobe separates out their assembly, color and NLE interfaces then you will be right at home with Resolve’s Media, Edit, Color, and Deliver keys. In the timeline you will see a similar look to FCP X with rounded corners and an otherwise intriguing graphical user interface. I’m not going to lie, it felt a little shiny at first but coming from Media Composer almost every NLE interface will feel shiny and new. So the questions is: will it perform on the same level as a tried and true behemoth like Avid’s Media Composer?

Testing the NLE
There are a few key functions that I test on every NLE I jump into: trimming, multicam editing and media management. For the most part, every NLE can insert edit, assemble edit and replace an edit, but most can’t replicate Avid’s trimming and media management functionality.

Jumping into trim mode there are your standard ripple, overwrite, slip and slide trims. You can perform that multitrack asymmetric trim to pull time between those huge acts and even one type of trim that I really wish Avid would steal — the ability to trim durations of multiple clips simultaneously. The best way I can describe this is when you are building credits and you need to shorten them all by one frame. Typically, you could go in card by card and remove one frame from each card until you are done. In Resolve 12, you can trim multiple clips at the same time and in the same direction, i.e. trim one frame from every credit in a sequence simultaneously. It’s really a remarkable addition to a trim workflow, not to mention a time saver.

Second on my checklist for running an NLE is its ability to work smoothly with multiple camera angles in a grouped set of footage, sometimes referred to as groups. One of my personal pet peeves with Media Composer is the inability to change a group after it has been created (and by pet peeve I mean bane of my existence when I was assistant editor and a 12-hour group was off by one or two frames… but I digress.)

Luckily, Blackmagic has given us a solution inside of Resolve. After a group has been created, you can step “inside” of that group, add angles, add a final mix and even change sync. All of these changes ripple through the edits; it’s very impressive. My two favorite features in Resolve’s new multi group abilities are mixing frame rates within a group and auto syncing of audio and video based on waveforms. If you’ve ever needed Red Giant’s PluralEyes because there was no jam sync timecode on footage you received, then you will feel right at home inside of Resolve’s auto sync. Plus you can adjust the group after it’s been created! I love this… a lot.

Media management

Last on my list is media management. I have pretty high expectations when it comes to media management because I was an assistant editor for a little over four years working on Media Composer, and for the most part that system’s media management works rock solid — if you need to vent about how I am wrong you can tweet me @allbetzroff) — especially when used in conjunction with an Avid Shared Storage product like the Unity or ISIS. What I realize is that while Avid’s way of media organization is a little bit antiquated, it is reliable.

So what I’ve really started to embrace within the last year is metadata and I now recognize just how valuable it is with NLEs like FCP X and now Resolve. Metadata is only valuable, however, if someone actually enters it and enters it correctly.

If in Resolve you have properly kept your metadata game extremely up to date you can quickly and efficiently organize your media using Smart Bins. Smart Bins are incredible if they are set up properly; you can apply certain metadata filtering criteria to different bins such as interview shots, or have shots from a particular date to automatically populate. This is a huge time saver for assistant editors and editors without assistant editors; another feature I really love.

I couldn’t cover everything within Resolve in this space, but believe me when I tell you that the features not covered are just as great as the ones I have covered. In addition to the newly updated audio engine under the hood, there is a command to decompose a nested timeline in place — think of a nested sequence that you want to revisit but you don’t have to find the original and recut it into the sequence — one click and magically your nested sequence is un-nested. There is also compatibility with Open VFX, such as GenArts Sapphire and Boris FX BCC Continuum Complete. There is remote rendering and grading, plus many, many more features. One of my favorite resources is the Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 12 manual written by Alexis Van Hurkman (@Hurkman on Twitter), who also wrote Color Correction Handbook: Professional Techniques for Video and Cinema, a phenomenal book on color correction techniques widely regarded as the manual for color correction.

Summing Up
In the end I can’t begin to touch on the power of Resolve 12 in this relatively small review; it’s constantly being updated! The latest 12.2 update includes compatibility with plug-ins like New Blue Titler from Media Composer via an AAF! I didn’t even get a chance to mention Resolve’s integration of Bezier curve adjustments to transitions and keyframe-able movements.

If you are looking for an upgrade in your color correction experience, you need to download the free version immediately. If you’re an editor and have never taken Resolve for a test drive, now is the time. With features like greatly improved dynamic trimming to the extremely useful and easy to set up Smart Bins to the new 3D tracker and foreground color matching, Resolve is quickly overtaking the color and NLE market in one solid and useful package.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim-Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

 

Review: Tangent Element color panels

These compact surfaces can help editors gain control of their color work

By Brady Betzel

More and more these days offline editors are also color correcting or grading footage in some way. For those who are new to this and unsure of the differences between color correction and color grading, let me help…

Color correction is the process of balancing different cameras color properties, exposure and contrast to create a visibly and technically pleasing image — helped by an external waveform monitor, such as Tektronix products with the Double Diamond display. This can mean hours, days or weeks of work depending on factors such as white balancing or poor lighting.

Color grading, on the other hand, typically happens after the colorist balances the footage. This is where they will add “creative” looks to the content, such as the ubiquitous orange and teal look. While some software packages (Magic Bullet Looks, for example) are great, they are designed to be only color grading packages — for the most part tools such as Blackmagic’ DaVinci Resolve, Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master, FilmLight’s Baselight, Adobe SpeedGrade and others are built to correct as well as grade.

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There are a lot of conversations and arguments to be had about correcting and grading, but there is one thing that all colorists I’ve met agree on: color correcting and grading are more efficient and creative with hardware panels.

If you’ve never seen a colorist work, I highly suggest you find a way. At the beginning of my career, I had the opportunity to tag along with a friend to watch the colorist for a Barry Sonnenfeld show, called Pushing Daisies, at work. I was blown away.

To be honest, I don’t remember what panel or software was used (or even his name), but, like most “creative” people who work in any medium will tell you, it’s not the tool that should define you. In the end, I remember the colorist balancing and grading a day-for-night shot. It was incredible. I had seen what amateur colorists could do, but holy cow! A dedicated colorist really is a pro for a reason. It was magical.

element-tk_lg

Some vendors who produce color software also make color correction and grading panels — for example, the Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Control Surface and the Digital Vision Nucoda Precision Panels. These surfaces target dedicated and high-end colorists and are often $20,000 to $30,000. Plus, there is the additional cost of equipment needed to run the software, like an HP z840 or Mac Pro, and a local storage server. It can set you back a lot of cash. This is where Tangent Element panels can help.

Affordable Control
In my opinion, the Tangent Element panels are great for someone who loves to learn everything about post production, including color correcting and grading… so me, for instance, (an editor/VFX artist who wants to color but doesn’t want to commit $30K to purchase a full panel) or a wedding videographer who really wants to dial in their color without that hefty price tag.

Tangent makes different panels and iOS apps that work well with a variety of software apps, including Resolve 12, Digital Vision Nucoda, Baselight and many more. If you’ve ever tried to color correct on your MacBook Pro or HP z800 with your mouse, a tablet, a keyboard, or a combination of all three, you probably understand how constrained your creativity becomes.

A color panel set typically contains different banks of buttons, knobs, scroll wheels, maybe a built-in tablet, roller balls and rings. Tangent sells a set of panels — that can be purchased separately or as a package — for way under the price tag of the Blackmagic control surface, the FilmLight Blackboard 2 or others in that price range.

Element Mf

Element Mf

The Tangent Element package costs in the neighborhood of $3,300, and the pieces are sold individually as well. For example, a place like B&H sells them individually: Element Mf costs $1,040; Element Bt costs $660; Element Kb costs $850; and Element Tk costs $1,135. Add that all up and it’s $3,686, but if you purchase the entire package all at once, you can save over $300. Oh, what do those letters after the panel’s name mean? They stand for each product’s function. Tk = Trackball, Mf = Multifunction, Kb = Knobs and Bt = Buttons. For an in-depth description of each, check out Tangent’s site.

Digging In!
When I opened the Tangent Element boxes and felt their weight for the first time, I was blown away at the build quality. I have been around some high-end color bays over the last few years, as an editor and online editor, and have been lucky enough to spin the track balls a few times. The expensive and luxurious panels are awesome, smooth and easy to navigate, but did I mention they are also expensive? So when I picked up the Tangent Element panels I was expecting plastic, or a lightweight set — like the difference between a Hyundai and a Mercedes. While they both do the same basic function, the feeling and weight are incomparable. This was not the case with the Tangent panels. The knobs were smooth, the rings rotated graciously and the balls rolled like butter. Considering the price, I was shocked at the quality.

What you will notice with a color panel is that every action has a button or a knob. Tangent requires that you download and use its software, Tangent Hub, including Mapper for certain applications. This helps in assigning functions to buttons in different programs. In some programs you are locked to what functions the manufacturer sets for the Tangent Element panels, such as Resolve, SpeedGrade and Baselight. This includes the Avid plug-ins for Baselight as well. Nucoda, however, allows for mapping using Tangent Mapper, which is a pretty big deal for such a powerful color application.

element-bt_lg

Element Bt

I tested the panels using Adobe SpeedGrade. As an editor, even if you just do a color balance pass, just one panel like the Tk can improve your color correcting tremendously. Keep in mind that when buying panels for Resolve, Tangent’s Application Compatibility list states that you must buy the Bt panel if you are buying the Kb panel. While it’s pretty awesome to have the full Elements set, if you wanted to go bare bones, you would likely want the Tk and the Kb panels, so it would kind of stink to have to shell out the extra $660 to get the knobs to work.

While I’m not digging too deep into the particulars of color correcting — and I’m looking at it from an editor’s perspective — the Tangent Element panels are a night and day difference when compared to color correcting with a mouse, tablet and/or keyboard. If you want some down and dirty talk about how Tangent Panels compare to others or whether functions like the soft clip are properly mapped to the panels in Resolve 12, you should sign up for the Lift Gamma Gain forums. They are one of my favorite resources next to Denver Riddle’s, where you can find some great tutorials to get you up to speed. (On a side note, I have Alexis Van Hurkman’s paperback book “Color Correction Handbook,” and it’s a phenomenal resource for color correction rules and techniques.)

For the price, the feel of these panels is great. The trackballs are great, the rings are smooth and even removable. The rings are attached by magnets and can be removed for easy cleaning, although I would leave that to a professional. You definitely don’t want to clean the trackballs on your own if you are unsure. You will most likely damage your panels and trackballs permanently.

Summing Up
I love these panels! The trackballs are at a great height and the button placement is great. I chose not to magnetically connect my panels edge to edge because I like to have them angled a little… just a personal preference. My line-up, from left to right was Mf, Tk, Bt and Kb.

One thing you should keep in mind when blindly purchasing color correction surfaces is button and trackball placement. Will you be comfortable with knobs and buttons above your trackballs? Personally, I find myself touching the trackballs and adjusting grades by accident when using compact color panels with the knobs and buttons placed on top, but the Tangent Elements panels have few buttons above the trackballs exactly for this reason.

The one thing I wish was different? I would love it if each panel had a separate USB plug with no hub to connect them all together (you need to purchase your own hub separately). It might be nice if one of Element panels had a built-in hub to help clean up the cable mess, but it’s definitely not a deal breaker.

If you are an editor who finds yourself editing, onlining, coloring and mixing your work (which hopefully you can do at least at a basic level), then you want the right tools to do the job. The full Tangent Element panel set is definitely a luxury item for the editor who dabbles in color, but it will increase your efficiency ten fold, if not more. Like any tool with keyboard shortcuts, the more you practice the faster you become. Next to my Wacom Intuos tablet, I really feel that these Tangent Panels are worth every penny. Check them out for yourself; I’m sure you will be impressed.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

Quick Chat: FilmLight co-founder Wolfgang Lempp

In what has become a semi-regular column here at postPerspective, we have taken to doing short Q&As with the people behind the products you use. The questions, submitted by pros, are meant to illicit responses that allow users to understand how a company goes about creating, updating and servicing gear for our industry.

This time we spoke to Wolfgang Lempp, who co-founded UK-based FilmLight with Peter Stothart and Steve Chapman in 2002. He and the other co-founders oversee the management of the company, including business and product development, product management and strategic development.

Lempp’s tech credentials are pretty impressive. He has a degree in theoretical physics from Munich University and has been working in the motion picture industry since 1983. Continue reading