Tag Archives: DaVinci Resolve

An editor’s recap of EditFestLA

By Barry Goch

In late August, I attended my first American Cinema Editors’ EditFest on the Disney lot, and I didn’t know what to expect. However, I was very happy indeed to have spent the day learning from top-notch editors discussing our craft.

Joshua Miller from C&I Studios

The day started with a presentation by Joshua Miller from C&I Studios on DaVinci Resolve. Over the past few releases, Blackmagic has added many new editor-specific and -requested features.

The first panel, “From the Cutting Room to the Red Carpet: ACE Award Nominees Discuss Their Esteemed Work,” was moderated by Margot Nack, senior manager at Adobe. The panel included Heather Capps (Portlandia); Nena Erb, ACE (Insecure); Robert Fisher, ACE (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse); Eric Kissack (The Good Place) and Cindy Mollo, ACE (Ozark). Like film school, we would watch a scene and then the editor of the scene would break it down and discuss their choices. For example, we watched a very dramatic scene from Ozark, then Mollo described how she amplified a real baby’s crying with sound design to layer on more tension. She also had the music in the scene start at a precise moment to guide the viewer’s emotional state.

The second panel, “Reality vs. Scripted Editing: Demystifying the Difference,” was moderated by Avid’s Matt Feury and featured panelists Maura Corey, ACE (Good Girls, America’s Got Talent); Tom Costantino, ACE (The Orville, Intervention); Jamie Nelsen, ACE (Black-ish, Project Runway) and Molly Shock, ACE (Naked and Afraid, RuPauls Drag Race All Stars). The consensus of the panel was that an editor can create stories from reality or from script. The panel also noted that an editor can be quickly pigeonholed by their credits — it’s often hard to look past the credits and discover the person. However, it’s way more important to be able to “gel” with an editor as a person, since the creative is going to spend many hours with the editor. As with the previous panel, we were also treated to short clips and behind-the-scenes discussions. For example, Shock told of how she crafted a dramatic scene of an improvised shelter getting washed away during a flood in the middle of a jungle at night — all while the participants were completely naked.

Joe Walker, ACE, and Bobbie O’Steen

The next panel was “Inside the Cutting Room with Bobbie O’Steen: A Conversation with Joe Walker, ACE.” O’Steen, who authored “The Invisible Cut” and “Cut to the Chase,” moderated a discussion with Walker, whose credits include Widows, Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario and 12 Years a Slave, in which she lead Walker in a wide-ranging conversation about his career, enlivened with clips from his films. In what could be called “evolution of a scene,” Walker broke down the casino lounge scene in Blade Runner 2049, from previs to dailies, and then talked about how the VFX evolved during the edit and how he shaped the scene to final.

The final panel, “The Lean Forward Moment: A Tribute to Norman Hollyn, ACE,” was moderated by Alan Heim, ACE, president of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, and featured Ashley Alizor, assistant editor; Reine-Claire Dousarkissian, associate professor of the practice of cinematic arts at USC; Saira Haider (Creed II), editor; and professor of the practice of cinema arts at USC, Thomas G. Miller, ACE.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Norm for postPerspective, and he was the kind of man you meet once and never forget — a kind and giving spirit who we lost too soon. The panelists each had a story about how wonderful Norm was and they honored his teaching by sharing a favorite scene with the audience and explaining how it impacted them through Norm’s teaching. Norm’s colleague at USC, Dousarkissian, chose a scene from the 1952 Noir film Sudden Fear, with Jack Palance and Joan Crawford. It’s amazing how much tension can be created by a simple wind-up toy.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at EditFest. So often we see VFX breakdowns, which are amazing things, but to see and hear how scenes and story beats are crafted by the best in the business was a treat. I’m looking forward to attending next year already.


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

Review: Dell’s Precision T5820 workstation

By Brady Betzel

Multimedia creators are looking for faster, more robust computer systems and seeing an increase in computing power among all brands and products. Whether it’s an iMac Pro with a built-in 5K screen or a Windows-based, Nvidia-powered PC workstation, there are many options to consider. Many of today’s content creation apps are operating-system-agnostic, but that’s not necessarily true of hardware — mainly GPUs. So for those looking at purchasing a new system, I am going to run through one of Dell’s Windows-based offerings: the Dell Precision T5820 workstation.

The most important distinction between a “standard” computer system and a workstation is the enterprise-level quality and durability of internal parts. While you might build or order a custom-built system for less money, you will most likely not get the same back-end assurances that “workstations” bring to the party. Workstations aren’t always the fastest, but they are built with zero downtime and hardware/software functionality in mind. So while non-workstations might use high-quality components, like an Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti (a phenomenal graphics card), they aren’t necessarily meant to run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. On the other hand, the Nvidia Quadro series GPUs are enterprise-level graphics cards that are meant to run constantly with low failure rates. This is just one example, but I think you get the point: Workstations run constantly and are warrantied against breakdowns — typically.

Dell Precision T5820
Dell has a long track record of building everyday computer systems that work. Even more impressive are its next-level workstation computers that not only stand up to constant use and abuse but are also certified with independent software vendors (ISVs). ISV is a designation that suggests Dell has not only tested but supports the end-user’s primary software choices. For instance, in the nonlinear editing software space I found out that Dell had tested the Precision T5820 workstation with Adobe Premiere Pro 13.x in Windows 10 and has certified that the AMD Radeon Pro WX 2100 and 3100 GPUs with 18.Q3.1 drivers are approved.

You can see for yourself here. Dell also has driver suggestions from some recent versions of Avid Media Composer, as well as other software packages. That being said, Dell not only tests but will support hardware configurations in the approved software apps.

Beyond the ISV certifications and the included three-year hardware warranty with on-site/in-home service after remote diagnostics, how does the Dell Precision T5820 perform? Well, it’s fast and well-built.

The specs are as follows:
– Intel Xeon W-2155 3.3GHz, 4.5GHz Turbo, 10-core, 13.75MB cache with hyperthreading
– Windows 10 Pro (four cores plus for workstations — this is an additional cost)
– Precision 5820 Tower with 950W chassis
– Nvidia Quadro P4000, 8GB, four DisplayPorts (5820T)
– 64GB (8x8GB) 2666MHz DDR and four RDIMM ECC
– Intel vPro technology enabled
– Dell Ultra-Speed Drive Duo PCIe SSD x8 Card, 1 M.2 512GB PCIe NVMe class 50 Solid State Drive (boot drive)
– 3.5-inch 2TB 7200rpm SATA hard drive (secondary drive)
– Wireless keyboard and mouse
– 1Gb network interface card
– USB 3.1 G2 PCIe card (two Type C ports, one DisplayPort)
– Three years hardware warranty with onsite/in-home service after remote diagnosis

All of this costs around $5,200 without tax or shipping and not including any sale prices.

The Dell Precision T5820 is the mid-level workstation offering from Dell that finds the balance between affordability, performance and reliability — kind of the “better, Cheaper, faster” concept. It is one of the quietest Dell workstations I have tested. Besides the spinning hard drive that was included on the model I was sent, there aren’t many loud cards or fans that distract me when I turn on the system. Dell is touting the new multichannel thermal design for advanced cooling and acoustics.

The actual 5820 case is about the size of a mid-sized tower system but feels much slimmer. I even cracked open the case to tinker around with the internal components. The inside fans and multichannel cooling are sturdy and even a little hard to remove without some force — not necessarily a bad thing. You can tell that Dell made it so that when something fails, it is a relatively simple replacement. The insides are very modular. The front of the 5820 has an optical drive, some USB ports (including two USB-C ports) and an audio port. If you get fancy, you can order the systems with what Dell calls “Flex Bays” in the front. You can potentially add up to six 2.5-inch or five 3.5-inch drives and front-accessible storage of up to four M.2 or U.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs. The best part about the front Flex Bays is that, if you choose to use M.2 or U.2 media, they are hot-swappable. This is great for editing projects that you want to archive to an M.2 or save to your Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve cache and remove later.

In the back of the workstation, you get audio in/out, one serial port, PS/2, Ethernet and six USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A ports. This particular system was outfitted with an optional USB 3.1 Gen 2 10GB/s Type C card with one DisplayPort passthrough. This is used for the Dell UltraSharp 32-inch 4K (UHD) USB-C monitor that I received along with the T5820.

The large Dell UltraSharp 32-inch monitor (U3219Q) offers a slim footprint and a USB-C connection that is very intriguing, but they aren’t giving them away. They cost $879.99 if ordered through Dell.com. With the ultra-minimal Infinity Edge bezel, 400 nits of brightness for HDR content, up to UHD (3840×2160) resolution, 60Hz refresh rate and multiple input/output connections, you can see all of your work in one large IPS panel. For those of you who want to run two computers off one monitor, this Dell UltraSharp has a built-in KVM switch function. Anyone with a MacBook Pro featuring USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports can in theory use one USB-C cable to connect and charge. I say “in theory” only because I don’t have a new MacBook Pro to test it on. But for PCs, you can still use the USB-C as a hub.

The monitor comes equipped with a DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI, four USB 3.0 Type A ports and a USB-C port. Because I use my workstation mainly for video and photo editing, I am always concerned with proper calibration. The U3219Q is purported by Dell to be 99% Adobe sRGB-, 95% DCI-P3- and 99% Rec. 709-accurate, so if you are using Resolve and outputting through a DeckLink, you will be able to get some decent accuracy and even use it for HDR. Over the years, I have really fallen in love with Dell monitors. They don’t break the bank, and they deliver crisp and accurate images, so there is a lot to love. Check out more of this monitor here.

Performance
Working in media creation I jump around between a bunch of apps and plugins, from Media Composer to Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve and even from Adobe After Effects to Maxon’s Cinema 4D. So I need a system that can not only handle CPU-focused apps like After Effects but GPU-weighted apps like Resolve. With the Intel Xeon and Nvidia Quadro components, this system should work just fine. I ran some tests in Premiere Pro, After Effects and Resolve. In fact, I used Puget Systems’ benchmarking tool with Premiere and After Effects projects. You can find one for Premiere here. In addition, I used the classic 3D benchmark Cinebench R20 from Maxon, and even did some of my own benchmarks.

In Premiere, I was able to play 4K H.264 (50MB and 100MB 10-bit) and ProRes files (HQ and 4444) in realtime at full resolution. Red Raw 4K was able to playback in full-quality debayer. But as the Puget Systems’ Premiere Benchmark shows, 8K (as well as heavily effected clips) started to bog the system down. With 4K, the addition of Lumetri color correction slowed down playback and export a little bit — just a few frames under realtime. It was close though. At half quality I was essentially playing in realtime. According to the Puget Systems’ Benchmark, the overall CPU score was much higher than the GPU score. Adobe uses a lot of single core processing. While certain effects, like resizes and blurs, will open up the GPU pipes, I saw the CPU (single-core) kicking in here.

In the Premiere Pro tests, the T5820 really shined bright when working with mezzanine codec-based media like ProRes (HQ and 4444) and even in Red 4K raw media. The T5820 seemed to slow down when multiple layers of effects, such as color correction and blurs, were added on top of each other.

In After Effects, I again used Puget Systems’ benchmark — this time the After Effects-specific version. Overall, the After Effects scoring was a B or B-, which isn’t terrible considering it was up against the prosumer powerhouse Nvidia RTX 2080. (Puget Systems used the 2080 as the 100% score). It seemed the tracking on the Dell T5820 was a 90%, while Render and Preview scores were around 80%. While this is just what it says — a benchmark — it’s a great way to see comparisons between machines like the benchmark standard Intel i9, RTX 2080 GPU, 64GB of memory and much more.

In Resolve 16 Beta 7, I ran multiple tests on the same 4K (UHD), 29.97fps Red Raw media that Puget Systems used in its benchmarks. I created four 10-minute sequences:
Sequence 1: no effects or LUTs
Sequence 2: three layers of Resolve OpenFX Gaussian blurs on adjustment layers in the Edit tab
Sequence 3: five serial nodes of Blur Radius (at 1.0) created in the Color tab
Sequence 4: in the Color tab, spatial noise reduction was set at 25 radius to medium, blur set to 1.0 and sharpening in the Blur tab set to zero (it starts at 0.5).

Sequence 1, without any effects, would play at full debayer quality in real time and export at a few frames above real time, averaging about 33fps. Sequence 2, with Resolve’s OpenFX Gaussian blur applied three times to the entire frame via adjustment layers in the Edit tab, would play back in real time and export at between 21.5fps and 22.5fps. Sequence 3, with five serial nodes of blur radius set at 1.0 in the Blur tab in the Color tab, would play realtime and export at about 23fps. Once I added a sixth serial blur node, the system would no longer lock onto realtime playback. Sequence 4 — with spatial noise reduction set at 25 radius to medium, blur set to 1.0 and sharpening in the Blur tab set to zero in the Color tab — would play back at 1fps to 2fps and export at 6.5fps.

All of these exports were QuickTime-based H.264s exported using the Nvidia encoder (the native encoder would slow it down by 10 frames or so). The settings were UHD resolution; “automatic — best” quality; disabled frame reordering; force sizing to highest quality; force debayer to highest quality and no audio. Once I stacked two layers of raw Red 4K media, I started to drop below realtime playback, even without color correction or effects. I even tried to play back some 8K media, and I would get about 14fps on full-res. Premium debayer, 14 to 16 on half res. Premium 25 on half res. good, and 29.97fps (realtime) on quarter res. good.

Using the recently upgraded Maxon Cinebench R20 benchmark, I found the workstation to be performing adequately around the fourth-place spot. Keep in mind, there are thousands of combinations of results that can be had depending on CPU, GPU, memory and more. These are only sample results that you could verify against your own for 3D artists. The Cinebench R20 results were CPU: 4682, CPU (single-core): 436, and MP ratio: 10.73x. If you Google or check out some threads for Cinebench R20 result comparisons, you will eventually find some results to compare mine against. My results are a B to B+. A much higher-end Intel Xeon or i9 or an AMD Threadripper processor would really punch this system up a weight class.

Summing Up
The Dell Precision T5820 workstation comes with a lot of enterprise-level benefits that simply don’t come with your average consumer system. The components are meant to be run constantly, and Dell has tested its systems against current industry applications using the hardware in these systems to identify the best optimizations and driver packages with these ISVs. Should anything fail, Dell’s three-year warranty (which can be upgraded) will get you up and running fast. Before taxes and shipping, the Dell T5820 I was sent for review would retail for just under $5,200 (maybe even a little more with the DVD drive, recovery USB drive, keyboard and mouse). This is definitely not the system to look at if you are a DIYer or an everyday user who does not need to be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But in a corporate environment, where time is money and no one wants to be searching for answers, the Dell T5820 workstation with accompanying three-year ProSupport with next-day on-site service will be worth the $5,200. Furthermore, it’s invaluable that optimization with applications such as the Adobe Creative Suite is built-in, and Dell’s ProSupport team has direct experience working in those professional apps.


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.

 

Review: Blackmagic’s Ursa Mini 4.6K camera

By David Hurd

I have already tested two of Blackmagic’s cameras, and I found both of them to be a great value for the money. This left me with great expectations for the Ursa Mini 4.6K camera.

The Ursa Mini 4.6K feels like a very solid, well-built camera. I spent 15 years on broadcast sports trucks, and this camera has that rock-solid feel to it, and for only a fraction of the price.

This camera has had some software updates since it was first released. The magenta cast issues with the sensor, which required additional color correction in the first run of cameras is gone, and everything looks great in the camera that I’ve been testing. Even without a global shutter, the rolling shutter on the camera looks great compared to DSLRs and delivers a usable shutter and smooth motion when I tweaked it in FCPX.

David with the Ursa Mini.

I used the flip-out screen outdoors in fairly bright sunlight in a park with some tree cover, and it worked fine for framing and focus. Since you need the screen to control the camera settings, you might want to consider a sun hood if you are in extremely bright locations. This will make the screen non-collapsible, but you really do need to see what you’re doing.

Blackmagic sent me the Ursa Mini 4.6K, EVF (Electric View Finder), along with the follow focus and shoulder pad kits. I used my set of Rokinon prime lenses and my Petroff matte box, rods and follow focus. The Ursa Mini 4.6K, with its solid magnesium body, is manageable for even us older guys. I like the weight and the feel of the camera without the matte box and follow focus for extended hand-held shoots. If I’m using a tripod or a slider, it’s nice to have a matte box and follow focus.

There’s really a lot of stuff going on with this little camera. The shoulder mount works better on tripods with small camera plates. My Miller plate digs into my shoulder a bit, but it’s easy to fix by simply unscrewing my tripod plate while doing handheld.

The rotatable side handle is really nicely done, and it’s easy to adjust it to fit your body. If you’re used to making your own rig, with parts hanging everywhere, the side handle and shoulder pad will give you a welcome feeling of tight control. It also has iris control and LANC control for stop/start.

On the backside of the LCD screen there are several handy controls. In addition to Record, Iris, Focus, and Playback controls, there are two programmable function buttons. These come in very handy and are easy to reach when the LCD screen is closed and you’re using the viewfinder.

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the Ursa Mini 4.6K is a compact wonder. It’s small, yet easy to adjust for comfortable viewing. The HD display not only looks great but has a zoom and programmable function buttons on the top the unit, which come in very handy. I like to use the zoom and the peak buttons to check focus with my left hand, while my right hand is on the handle grip. It’s really easy to do without looking.

With my old BMD MFT Cinema camera, a T1.5 Rokinon lens and a Meta-bones speed adapter, I could practically shoot in the dark at 1600 ISO. The Ursa Mini 4.6K is not a great low-light camera; its native 800 ISO can be pushed to 1600 without too much noise in the image, but it really likes stop or two of light.

The Ursa Mini 4.6K has two XLR inputs mounted directly behind the handle on the top of the camera. These two channels of audio can use the onboard mics for scratch audio, or you can plug a microphone into the XLRs.

The nice thing about this camera is that it has phantom power to power your shotgun mics. I recorded a violin performance outdoors with a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic plugged right into the camera. I used a blimp and dead cat to control the wind noise, and ended up with amazing audio. This camera has the best audio of any BMD camera that I’ve tested.

The controls for the audio levels are under the LCD monitor panel, which makes it kind of hard to adjust when you’re using the viewfinder and the LCD panel is closed, but since the menu, power buttons and media slots are under there as well, you get used to it.

Media Cards
So let’s talk a bit about media. Since my other two Blackmagic cameras use SSD media, I have a HighPoint Rocketstor 5212 Thunderbolt drive dock already installed on my Mac.

After doing some research, I decided to use the 256GB Lexar 3500x CFast cards and their Workflow CR2 Thunderbolt/USB3.0 CFast card reader. They are very reliable cards with a good reputation, which is everything when you’re talking data storage. The upside to these cards is that they are located safely inside the camera and are very small in size. The downside is how often you would have to change them when shooting full-blown 4.6K footage.

I shoot a lot of 4K ProRes HQ footage, which doesn’t create too large of a file; one 256GB card will record about 26 minutes of footage. If you have a DIT on set, it’s no problem, but if you’re a one-man band, you will need a bunch of cards. I’m sure the cards will continue to come down in price over time, making them more attractive cost wise.

There is another solution however, and it’s called the Atoch C2S. It mounts on a short arm and has two slots for SSDs. It has two short cables, which plug into your two CFast slots, and a power cable, which plugs into the base of your battery mount at the back of your camera.

Summing Up
The Ursa Mini 4.6K is as solid as a rock, and it really feels like a serious camera. There is a lot of information available on the LCD monitor, and the touchscreen feature let’s you change settings via touch rather than scrolling through a menu. It’s an outstanding value for the money.


David Hurd is a 40-year industry veteran. He owns David Hurd Productions in Tampa, Florida.

Review: Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel

By Brady Betzel

If you’ve never used a color correction panel like the Tangent Element, Tangent Ripple, Avid Artist Color, or been fortunate enough to touch the super high-end FilmLight Blackboard 2, Blackmagic Advanced Panel or the Nucoda Precision Control Panel, then you don’t know what you are missing.

If you can, reach out to someone at a post house and sit at a real color correction console; it might change your career path. I’ve talked about it before, but the first time I sat in a “real” (a.k.a. expensive) color correction/editing bay I knew that I was on the right career path.

Color correction can be done without using color correction panels, but think of it like typing with one hand (maybe even one finger) — sure it can be done, but you are definitely missing out on the creative benefit of fluidity and efficiency.

In terms of affordable external color correction panels, Tangent makes the Ripple, Wave and Element panel sets that range from $350 to over $3,300, but work with pretty much every color correction app I can think of (even Avid if you use the Baselight plug-in). Avid offers the Artist Color panel, which also works with many apps, including Avid Media Composer, and costs about $1,300. Beyond those two, you have the super high-end panels that I mentioned earlier; they range from $12,000 to $29,999.

Blackmagic recently added two new offerings to their pool of color correction panel hardware: the DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel and DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel. The Micro is similar in size and functionality to the Avid Artist panel, and the Mini is similar to the center part of most high-end color correction panels.

One important caveat to keep in mind is that you can only use these panels with Blackmagic’s Resolve, and Resolve must be updated to at least version 12.5.5 to function. They connect to your computer via USB 3 Type C or Ethernet.

I received the Resolve Mini Panel to try out for a couple of weeks, and immediately loved it. If you’ve been lucky enough to use a high-end color correction panel like Blackmagic’s Advanced Panel, then you will understand just how great it feels to control Resolve with hardware. In my opinion, using hardware panels eliminates almost 90 percent of the stumbling when using color correction software as opposed to using a keyboard and mouse. The Resolve Mini Panel is as close as you are going to get to professional-level color correction hardware panel without spending $30,000.

Digging In
Out of the box, the panel feels hefty but not too heavy. It’s solid enough to sit on a desk and not have to worry about it walking around while you are using it. Of course, because I am basically a kid, I had to press all the buttons and turn all the dials before I plugged it in. They feel great… the best-feeling wheels and trackballs on a $3,000 panel I’ve used. The knobs and buttons feel fine. I’m not hating on them, but I think I like the way the Tangent buttons depress better. Either way, that is definitely subjective. The metal rings and hefty trackballs are definitely on the level of the high-end color correction panels you can see in pro color bays.

Without regurgitating Blackmagic’s press release in full, I want to go over what I think really shines on this panel. I love the two five-inch LCD panels just above the main rings and trackballs. Below the LCDs and above the row of 12 knobs are eight more knobs that interact with the LCDs. Above the LCDs are eight soft buttons and a bunch of buttons that help you navigate around the node tree and jump into different modes, like qualifiers and tracking.

Something I really loved when working with the Mini Panel was adding points on a curve and adjusting those individual points. This is one of the best features of the Mini Panel, in my opinion. Little shortcuts like adding a node + circle window in one key press are great features. Directly above the trackballs and rings are RGB, All and Level buttons that can reset their respective parameters for each of the Lift Gamma and Gain changes you’ve made. Above those are buttons like Log, Offset and Viewer — a quick way to jump into Log mode, Offset mode and full-screen Viewer mode.

When reading about the user buttons and FX buttons in the Resolve manual it states that they will be enabled in future releases, which gets me excited about what else could be coming down the pike. NAB maybe?

Of course, there can be improvements. I mean, it is a Version 1 product, but everything considered Blackmagic really hit it out of the park. To see what some pros think needs to be changed and/or altered troll over to the holy grail of color correction forums: Lift Gamma Gain. You’ll even notice some Blackmagic folks sniffing around answering questions and hinting at what is coming in some updates. In addition, Blackmagic has their own forum where an interesting post popped up titled DaVinci Mini Panel Suggestion Box. This is another great post to hang around.

Wishlist/Suggestions
When using the panels, when I would exit Resolve the LCDs didn’t dim or go into screen-saver mode like some other panels I’ve used. Furthermore, there isn’t a dimmer for the brightness of the LCD screens and backlit buttons. In the future, I would love the ability to dim or completely shut off the panels when I am in other apps or presenting to a client and don’t want the panel glowing. The backlit keys aren’t terribly bright though, so it’s not a huge deal.

While in the forums, I did notice posts about the panel’s inability to do the NLE-style of transport control: double tapping fast forward to go faster. Furthermore, a wheel might be a nice transport addition for scrubbing. In the node shortcut buttons, I couldn’t find an easy way to delete a node or add an outside node directly from the panel. On other panels, I love moving shapes/windows around using the trackballs but, unfortunately, you can only move/adjust the windows around with knobs, which isn’t terrible but is definitely less natural than using the trackballs. Lastly, I kind of miss the ability to set and load memories from a panel, with the Mini Panel we don’t have that option….yet. Maybe it will come in an update since there are buttons with numbers on them, but who knows.

Mini and Micro Panel
Technically, the Mini Panel is the Micro Panel but with the addition of the top LCDs and buttons. It also has the ability to connect the panel not just by USB-C but also via Ethernet. If connecting via Ethernet, there has been some talk of power over Ethernet (PoE) compatibility, which powers your panel without the need for a power cable. Some folks have had less success with standard PoE, but have had success using PoE+ appliances — something to keep in mind.

Both the Micro and Mini Panels have the standard three trackballs and rings, 12 control knobs and 18 keys hard coded for specific tasks and transport controls. In addition, the Mini Panel has two 5-inch screens, eight additional soft buttons, eight additional soft knobs and 30 additional hard-coded buttons that focus on node navigation and general mode navigation.

Both the Micro and Mini Panels are powered via USB-C, but the Mini Panel also adds PoE connection as mentioned earlier, as well as a 4-pin XLR DC power connection. Something to note: I thought that when I received the Mini Panel I might have been missing a power cable from the box because I had a test unit, but upon more forum reading I found that you do not get a power cable with the Mini Panel. While Blackmagic does ship a USB 3.0 to USB-C adapter cable with the Mini and Micro Panels, they do not ship a power cable, which is unfortunate and an odd oversight, but since the panels are affordable I guess it’s not that big of a deal. Plus, if you are a post nerd like me, you probably have a few 5-15 to C13 power cables lying around the house.

I can’t shake the feeling that Blackmagic is going to be adding some additional external panels to piece together something like the Advanced Panel set-up (much like how the Tangent Element panel set can be purchased). Things like an external memory bank or an X-Keys type set-up seem not too far off for Blackmagic. I would even love to be able to turn the LCD screens into scopes if possible, and even hook up an Ultrascope via the panel so I don’t have to purchase additional hardware. Either way, the Mini Panel gets me real excited about the path Blackmagic is carving for their Resolve users.

Summing Up
In the end, if you are a professional colorist looking for a semi-portable panel and haven’t committed to the Tangent Element ecosphere yet, the Resolve Mini Panel is for you … and your credit card. The Mini Panel is as close to a high-end color correction panel that I have seen, and has a wallet-friendly retail price of $2,995. It is very solid and doesn’t feel like a substitute for a full-sized panel — it can hold its own.

One thing I was worried about when I began writing this review was questioning whether or not tying myself down to one piece of software was a good idea. When you invest in the Mini Panel, you are wholeheartedly dedicating yourself to DaVinci Resolve, and I think that is a safe bet.


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.

Review: LogicKeyboard’s Astra PC keyboard for Resolve 12/12.5

By Brady Betzel

I love a good keyboard. In fact, my favorite keyboards have always been mechanical, or pseudo-mechanical, like those old Windows keyboards you can find at thrift stores for under 10 bucks — in fact, I went back and bought one just the other day at a Goodwill. I love them because of the tactile response and click you get when depressing the keys.

Knowing this, you can understand my frustration (and maybe old-man bitterness) when all I see in the modern workplace are those slimline Apple keyboards, even on Windows PCs! I mean I can get by on those, but at home I love using this old Avid keyboard that is as close to mechanical as I can get.

LogicKeyboard’s Astra latest Resolve-focused backlit keyboard answers many problems in one slick keyboard. Logic’s scissor switch designed keys give me the tactile feedback that I love while the backlit keyboard itself is sleek and modern.

After being a primarily Avid Media Composer-focused editor with keyboards emblazoned with Avid shortcuts for many years, I started using other apps like Adobe After Effects and Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve and realized I really like to see shortcuts displayed on my keyboard. Yeah, I know, I should pretend to be able to blaze through an edit without looking at the keyboard but guess what, I look down. So when learning new apps like Resolve it is really helpful to have a keyboard with shortcuts, moreover with keys that have backlighting. I don’t usually run into many Resolve-focused keyboards so when I heard about Logic’s backlit version, I immediately wanted to try it out.

While this particular keyboard has Resolve-specific shortcuts labeled on the keys it will work as a standard keyboard and will run backlit regardless of what app you are in. If you are looking for a keyboard with shortcuts for a specific app check out LogicKeyboard’s site where you can find Windows and Ma OS keyboards for Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, Avid Media Composer, Autodesk Smoke and even non-video-based apps like Pro Tools or Photoshop.

Taking it for a Drive
The Astra keyboard for Resolve 12/12.5 is awesome. First off, there are two USB 2.0 cables you need to plug into your PC to use this keyboard: one for the keyboard itself and one for the two USB 2.0 ports on the back. I love that LogicKeyboard has created a self-powered USB hub on the back of the keyboard. I do wish it was USB 3.0, but to have the ability to power external hard drives from the keyboard and not have to fumble around the back of the machine really helps my day-to-day productivity, a real key addition. While the keyboard I am reviewing is technically for a Windows-based machine it will work on a Mac OS-based system, but you will have to keep in mind the key differences such as the Windows key, but really you should just buy the Mac OS version.

The Astra keyboard is sleek and very well manufactured. The first thing I noticed after I plugged in the keyboard was that it didn’t walk along the desk as I was using it. Maybe I’m a little hard on my equipment, but a lot of keyboards I use start to move across my desk when typing; the Logic keyboard stays still and allows me to pound on that keyboard all day long.

As a testament to the LogicKeyboard’s durability, one day I came home after work and one of the shift keys on the keyboard had come off (it may or may not have been my two year old — I have no concrete evidence). My first thought was “great, there goes that keyboard,” but then I quickly tried to snap the key back on and it went on the first try. Pretty amazing.

What sets the LogicKeyboard backlit keyboard apart from other application-specific keyboards, or any for that matter, is not only the solid construction but also the six levels of brightness for the backlit keys that can be controlled directly from the keyboard. The brightness can be controlled in increments of 100%, 80%, 60%, 40%, 20% and 0% brightness. As a professional editor or colorist, you might think that having backlit keys in a dark room is both distracting and/or embarrassing, but LogicKeyboard has made a beautiful keyboard that glows softly. Even at 100% brightness it feels like the Astra keyboard has a nice fall off, leaving the keyboard almost unnoticeable until you need to see it and use it. Furthermore, it kicks into what Logic calls “smoothing light” after three minutes of non-use — basically it dims to a dull level.

In terms of shortcuts on the Resolve 12/12.5-specific Astra keyboard, you get four levels of shortcuts: normal, shift + key, control + key, and alt + key. Normal is labeled in black, shift + key are labeled in red just like the shift key, control + key are labeled in blue just like the control key, and alt + key are labeled green just like the alt key. While I love all of these shortcuts I do think that it can sometimes get a little overwhelming with so many visible at the same time. It’s kind of a catch-22; I want every shortcut labeled for easy and fast searches, but too many options lead me, at times, to search too long.

On the flip side, after about a week I noticed my Resolve keyboard shortcuts getting more committed to memory than before, so I was less worried about searching each individual key for the shortcut I needed. I am a big proponent for memorizing keyboard shortcuts and the Astra keyboard for Resolve helped cement those into my memory way faster than any normal non-backlit keyboard. Usually, my eyes have a hard time going back and forth between a bright screen and a super dark keyboard; it’s pretty much impossible to do efficiently. The backlit Astra solved my problem of hunting for keys in a dark room with a bright monitor.

The Windows version is compatible with pretty much any version of Windows from the last 10 years, and the Mac version is compatible with Mac OS 10.6 and higher. I tested mine on a workstation with Windows 10 installed.

Summing Up
In the end, I love Logic’s Astra backlit keyboard for DaVinci Resolve 12/12.5. The tactile feedback from each key is essential for speed when editing and color correcting, and it’s the best I’ve felt since having to give up my trusty mechanical-style keyboards. I’ve been through Apple-like low-profile keyboards for Media Composer, going back to the old-school ps/2-style mechanical-ish keyboards, and now to the Astra backlit keyboard and loving it.

The backlit version of LogicKeyboards don’t necessarily come cheap, however, this version retails for $139.90-plus $11.95 for shipping. The Mac version costs the same.

While you may think that is high for a keyboard, the Astra is of the highest manufacturing quality, has two fully powered USB 2.0 ports (that come in handy for things like the Tangent Ripple or Element color correction panels), and don’t forget the best part: is also backlit! My two-year-old son even ripped a key off of the keyboard (he wants me to add, allegedly!) and I fixed it easily without having to send it in for repairs. I doubt the warranty will cover kids pulling off keys, but you do get a free one-year warranty with the product.

I used this keyboard over a few months and really began to fall in love with the eight-degree angle that it is set at. I use keyboards all day, every day and not all keyboards are the same. Some have super flat angles and some have super high angles. In my opinion, the LogicKeyboard Astra has a great and hurt-free angle.

I also can’t overstate how awesome the backlit element of this keyboard is, it’s not just the letters that are backlit, each key is smoothly backlit in its entirety. Even at 100% brightness the keys look soft with a nice fall off on the edges, they aren’t an eyesore and in fact are a nice talking point for many clients. If you are barely thinking about buying a keyboard or are in desperate need of a new keyboard and you use Resolve 12 or 12.5 you should immediately buy the Astra. I love it, and I know you will not regret it.

Check out my footage of the LogicKeyboard Astra backlit keyboard for Resolve on my YouTube page:

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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.

Blending Ursa Mini and Red footage for Aston Martin spec spot

By Daniel Restuccio

When producer/director Jacob Steagall set out to make a spec commercial for Aston Martin, he chose to lens it on the Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6k and the Scarlet Red. He says the camera combo worked so seamlessly he dares anyone to tell which shots are Blackmagic and which are Red.

L-R Blackmagic’s Moritz Fortmann and Shawn Carlson with Jacob Steagall and Scott Stevens.

“I had the idea of filming a spec commercial to generate new business,” says Steagall. He convinced the high-end car maker to lend him an Aston Martin 2016 V12 Vanquish for a weekend. “The intent was to make a nice product that could be on their website and also be a good-looking piece on the demo reel for my production company.”

Steagall immediately pulled together his production team, which consisted of co-director Jonathan Swecker and cinematographers Scott Stevens and Adam Pacheco. “The team and I collaborated together about the vision for the spot which was to be quick, clean and to the point, but we would also accentuate the luxury and sexiness of the car.”

“We had access to the new Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6k and an older Red Scarlet with the MX chip,” says Stevens. “I was really interested in seeing how both cameras performed.”

He set up the Ursa Mini to shoot ProRes HQ at Ultra HD (3840×2160) and the Scarlet at 8:1 compression at 4K (4096×2160). He used both Canon still camera primes and a 24-105mm zoom, switching them from camera to camera depending on the shot. “For some wide shots we set them up side by side,” explains Stevens. “We also would have one camera shooting the back of the car and the other camera shooting a close-up on the side.”

In addition to his shooting duties, Stevens also edited the spot, using Adobe Premiere, and exported the XML into Blackmagic Resolve Studio 12. Stevens notes that, in addition to loving cinematography, he’s also “really into” color correction. “Jacob (Steagall) and I liked the way the Red footage looked straight out of the camera in the RedGamma4 color space. I matched the Blackmagic footage to the Red footage to get a basic look.”

Blackmagic colorist Moritz Fortmann took Stevens’ basis color correction and finessed the grade even more. “The first step was to talk to Jacob and Scott and find out what they were envisioning, what feel and look they were going for. They had already established a look so we saved a few stills as reference images to work off. The spot was shot on two different types of cameras, and in different formats. Step two was to analyze the characteristics of each camera and establish a color correction to match the two.  Step three was to tweak and refine the look. We did what I would describe as a simple color grade, only relying on primaries, without using any Power Windows or keys.”

If you’re planning to shoot mixed footage, Fortmann suggests you use cameras with similar characteristics, matching resolution, dynamic range and format. “Shooting RAW and/or Log provides for the highest dynamic range,” he says. “The more ‘room’ a colorist has to make adjustments, the easier it will be to match mixed footage. When color correcting, the key is to make mixed footage look consistent. One camera may perform well in low light while another one does not. You’ll need to find that sweet spot that works for all of your footage, not just one camera.”

Daniel Restuccio is a writer and chair of the multimedia department at California Lutheran University.

Rushes promotes Simona Cristea to head of creative color

After three years working as a senior colorist at Deluxe’s Rushes in London, Simona Cristea has been upped to head of creative color. She started her career at Abis Studios in Bucharest, her native country, and moved to London in 2005 where she has worked at Prime Focus, Technicolor, Reliance MediaWorks and Smoke & Mirrors. During her career Cristea, has worked on hundreds of major international campaigns, with directors such as Mert & Marcus, Sam Taylor-Wood, Trevor Robinson, Nick Knight and Rankin.

“Simona is my go-to colorist,” says Rankin. “With her wonderful personality and innate ability to enhance my work, her meticulous attention to detail makes her an integral part of my post production process. Simona is incredibly talented and hard working at creating beautiful cinematic looks each time. Her outstanding eye for color is evidenced by her body of work.”

Nike

Nike

Cristea — who uses Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve with Dolby monitors — has recently worked on campaigns for Nike, Gillette, Geox, Armani and Honda.  She is part of a color team that includes Marty McMullan and Denny Cooper.

Behind the Title: Harbor Picture’s senior editor Chris Mackenzie

NAME: Chris Mackenzie

COMPANY: Harbor Picture Company (@HarborPIcture)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Harbor Picture Company is a New York-based post house known for our flexibility with workflows and our relationships with clients. We offer a complete range of post services — from offline editorial to Dolby Atmos audio mixing.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Senior Editor

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Digital conform, visual effects, titles and some problem solving. My work usually comes under the umbrella of final picture finishing. I’m responsible for getting the picture components to the final state for presentation, be that theatrical, broadcast television or Internet streaming.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
It would surprise most people that I do a lot of VFX work. Often, this happens to be last-minute fixes to address production issues that were overlooked. I am also often asked to address problems flagged during the quality control review of the final deliverables — a little unexpected visual effects work is usually necessary to get the project accepted for its final distribution.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I like being able to fix a problem quickly and easily, or at least offer a creative solution to an issue. There are times — especially on lower budget productions — where a little digital paint or simple VFX compositing can resolve a big issue that may have resulted in a shot or scene being scrapped from the edit.

Chris Mackenzie at work.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
The dreaded recut is my least favorite. This often means that work that was complete and approved now needs to be dismantled and redone. Unlocking an edit (changing the content of a project) used to be a rare event in post production. In recent years, however, having some continued editorial right up to the last minute before delivery has become more and more common.

The tools are a lot faster now. And, generally, operators are a lot faster and more flexible, but projects continue to push the envelope with major editorial revisions sometimes being made very close to the deadline for completion.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Probably mid-morning — I feel best after I’ve had my first cup of coffee, and I know I’ve got most of the day ahead of me. There’s rarely a 10am deadline, so at this point in the day I can concentrate on completing the work without the sense of being rushed to deliver a file.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
At the same time I got interested in television and picture post, I was interested in art and photography. I considered going back to school to pursue an MFA related to digital image making.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
I was working as a bicycle messenger in Vancouver when I first graduated college. During this time, I made a few deliveries to some burgeoning post facilities and caught a glimpse at what I thought were interesting jobs. I imagined that those editors and colorists were creating the fanciest Super Bowl commercials and high-end music videos on a regular basis. Working indoors on an online editing system seemed like a much better (at least drier) career path for me.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
Close to 20 years ago — which seems hard to believe — I saw early versions of Photoshop and Avid editing systems and was amazed by the capability of these technologies. I knew there was a great future for developments in this area and it was something that immediately interested me — for a brief period I was interested in other aspects of filmmaking, but it was post that really captivated me.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Our team at Harbor just completed a few television series: The Knick, The Girlfriend Experience and Billions. We also recently completed Spike Lee’s feature Chi-Raq. Recently, we’ve adopted a divide and conquer strategy at Harbor — there are three of us working in Digital Conform and we usually share the duties of putting these projects together.

Gone With the Bullets

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
There are two. The first would be Gone With the Bullets, an epic 3D feature that was released to great fanfare in China. It was my first time conforming in 3D, and it was a massive project — thousands of cuts and hundreds of visual effects.

It was a huge challenge and steep learning curve, but during its run in China it received great reviews for its 3D quality. The second is Pan’s Labyrinth. This was one of the first films I had the opportunity to work on. I was inexperienced and really had to stretch my abilities to accomplish what was needed to finish the project, but the fact the film turned out so well really gave me a lot of confidence.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Autodesk Smoke, Blackmagic Resolve and the Apple PowerMac.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Facebook and a little Instagram

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
Yes and no.

CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
I listen to a lot of NPR — occasionally it will be their music stream, but more often than not I listen to the current affairs or news programming. I like to feel like I’m learning something while I’m working away.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
To de-stress I’ve gotten back into cycling in a serious way.  Unfortunately, I recently had a cycling accident and am currently recovering from a broken hip, so it might be time to find a new hobby for a while.

I find being physically active and part of a demanding sport helps me to focus and increase my energy levels at work. It took some time management to find a schedule that works, but it’s definitely been beneficial and a nice way to balance the work I do in the office.

 

 

Blackmagic makes Fusion 8 Studio public beta available, releases Resolve 12.2

Fusion 8 Studio, the full version of Blackmagic’s visual effects and motion graphics software, is available for download for both Mac OS X and Windows. A public beta of the free version of Fusion 8 was released earlier this year at SIGGRAPH. The new Fusion 8 Studio public beta builds upon all of the tools in the free version and adds advanced optical flow tools for retiming, image repair, color smoothing and morphing between different images, along with the ability to render at resolutions larger than Ultra HD.

The Fusion 8 Studio public beta also adds advanced stereoscopic tools for converting 2D shows to 3D, support for third-party plug-ins, remote scripting and Avid Connect, a plug-in that allows customers to use Fusion directly from Media Composer timelines.

Projects created with the free version of Fusion can be opened and finished in Fusion 8 Studio, regardless of which platform they were created on. Fusion 8 Studio also includes Generation — multi-user studio software for managing assets, tracking versions and doing shot-based review and approval.

In addition, Fusion 8 Studio public beta also includes render node software that lets customers install an unlimited number of Fusion render nodes on additional computers for free, saving them thousands of dollars in licensing fees. That means customers working on high-end film and television projects in large multi user studios can now accelerate their workflow by distributing render jobs across an unlimited number of systems on their network.

Fusion 8 is available in two versions. Fusion 8 Studio, which is now in public beta, will be available for Mac and Windows for $995, with Linux to be released in Q1 2016. Fusion 8 Studio has all of the same features as the free version and adds advanced optical flow image analysis tools for stereoscopic 3D work, retiming and stabilization. Fusion Studio also includes support for third party OpenFX plug-ins, unlimited distributed network rendering and Generation for studio-wide, multi-user collaboration to track, manage, review and approve shots when working with large creative teams on complex projects.

In other news, there is a free DaVinci Resolve 12.2 update that adds support for the latest color science technologies, along with decoding of HEVC/H.265 QuickTime files on OS X, additional high dynamic range features and more. The DaVinci Resolve 12.2 update is available now for both DaVinci Resolve 12 and DaVinci Resolve 12 Studio customers, and can be downloaded from the Blackmagic Design website.

Resolve

Since November’s release of version 12.1, Blackmagic has been adding features pro editors and colorists need, as well as support for the latest formats with expanded color spaces and wide dynamic range. With this DaVinci Resolve 12.2 update, Blackmagic Design continues to improve the software and extend its lead in color, dynamic range and image processing, putting DaVinci Resolve far ahead of other color correction software.

The DaVinci Resolve 12.2 update adds support for the latest Blackmagic and third-party cameras while also delivering significant improvements to DaVinci Resolve color management. Customers get new support for HDR Hybrid Log Gamma, conversion LUTs for Hybrid Log Gamma, ACES IDTs for Canon C300 Mk II clips, and updated ST 2084 HDR color science. That means colorists have even better tools for finishing high dynamic range projects that are going to be distributed to the latest theaters with the latest projection systems like IMAX Laser and Dolby Vision. This also lets customers prepare content that is ready for next generation HDR 4K televisions.

In addition, the DaVinci Resolve 12.2 update adds support for NewBlue Titler Pro titles using Media Composer AAF sequences, improves ProRes 4444 alpha channel support by defaulting to straight blend mode, retains Power Window opacity and invert settings when converting to Power Curve windows and more.

FotoKem’s Alastor Arnold helps set look for ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’

The colorist worked hand in hand with director Sam Raimi and editor Bob Murawski

By Randi Altman

Halloween is known for its ghosts, goblins and gruesome zombies, but this year we got an extra serving of the non-alive, dished up by Sam Raimi and Starz Network. Fans of Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) and its sequels (Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness) were treated to the pilot episode of Ash vs Evil Dead. Many consider The Evil Dead films cult classics, but they are so much more than that. Yes, they are campy and gory and more bloody than necessary, but it’s all done in an effort to make people laugh.

Back for this comedy/action/horror series on Starz is Bruce Campbell as Ash, the man who lost his hand in battle and then cleverly replaced it with a chainsaw. His quick wit and sarcasm have amazingly not diminished over the years. You know, it’s not easy to keep your sense of humor when evil dead people are after you!

Alistor Arnold

Alastor Arnold

Raimi, who directed the first episode, worked very closely with long-time editor and collaborator Bob Murawski and FotoKem colorist Alastor Arnold to create the look of the pilot.

While the show was shot digitally on Arri Alexa (with a couple of pickups shot via a Sony F55), Raimi wanted a filmic look, and that is a big part of what Murawski and Arnold worked to accomplish.

Arnold has some history with Raimi and Murawski — he remastered The Evil Dead for theatrical and Blu-ray release. While Murawski and Arnold work together often, Ash vs Evil Dead is only the second project for the colorist and Raimi.

“I do a lot of work with Bob. In addition to being an Oscar-award winning editor (The Hurt Locker), he has a company called Grindhouse Releasing,” explains Arnold. “They specialize in the restoration and distribution of exploitation and horror films, and I’ve had the pleasure of remastering numerous titles with Bob over the years. When he can bring me in to work with him, he does. And that’s how we got to do the pilot of Ash vs Evil Dead.”

Let’s find out more about the color grade and creating the look for the pilot and series.

How early were you brought on?
Just after shooting — when they started cutting. They had some questions about what work could be accomplished in the color suite when they were doing their rough cuts for the executive screeners. There was one scene in particular… they wanted to see if we could accomplish a specific look without having to go to visual effects.

What was that look?
There was a scene in a room with no lights, and it needed to be lit by a spinning flashlight. So the actors would be coming in and out of darkness, illuminated by only a flashlight. Originally when they shot it, they intended it to be a visual effect, so it was shot brighter than intended. Through color correction, we were able to create the effect they were going for.

How did they describe the look that they wanted for the pilot and the series?
Bob and Sam are both fans of a “filmic” look. They like the image to stay warm and high contrast. Based on their relationship, Sam entrusted Bob with the first pass of color. When Sam walked in for his first day of grading, the show was already in a good place for dialing in looks and trims, with a focus on shaping the frame with Power Windows and integrating visual effects more thoroughly. The look of the pilot is very warm, saturated and punchy, very chromatic — not what I would call a typical kind of horror movie look. A lot of times horror movies are drab or pretty desaturated and a lot of the times they are very cool. This is against that grain.

The pilot was shot almost entirely with an Arri Alexa. How did that play a role in getting the filmic look?
Arri has done a fantastic job with their color science. It responds in a natural way. All the base grades started with a film emulation, internally built at FotoKem with our color scientist, and based on our film lab experience.

The series has a campy feel. Would you say that’s reflected in the look?
The first Evil Dead was much more of a horror movie when compared to Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. The tone of the series has evolved. Sam always injects humor into his movies, even in the first Evil Dead. In the TV show, there’s lots of horror and definitely gore, but it’s actually really funny. There’s an ingrained sense of humor in what Sam does, and that really comes through. Maybe that is reflected in the chromatic, warm look. It may complement that.

What kind of terms or language do you like to use when talking to someone about a look? And do you get examples, such as stills?
I like to approach color from an instinctual artistic level. When I start a project it’s important for me to engage with clients and discuss not only the literal of what they might like to achieve but also what it is emotionally they’re going for, and how color might enhance that. In addition, visual references are always great. I’m always happy when they reference other movies or projects or bring in stills. It’s common these days for looks to be set somewhat in dailies. Any visual reference is always good, but for me, I find it more important to engage artistically and emotionally with people to derive a look for a project.

What about the technical aspects of the grade and the system, in your case Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve?
There’s an expectation when people walk into a room with a professional colorist that the technical side of things won’t be an issue; that the colorist is going to be able to help you reach your creative goals. Solidifying and understanding what those creative goals are in the beginning is very important. So, I’m generally less concerned with how to technically arrive somewhere than creatively. Often the technical side of things can be driven by the creative goals.

It’s very important to experiment and have fun; that’s what this process is all about. Engage creatively and artistically; that is the most important part. The technical will happen.

Were Sam and Bob open to suggestions and experimenting?
Bob has been involved in just about everything Sam has done since Darkman (1990), which was their first project together; they have a short hand. Sam was very involved in this episode, and we spent probably two or three days together going through the show, but Sam is less technically driven. When he walked into the room, Bob had already gone through it and gotten it to a good starting place, based on his knowledge of Sam’s sensibilities.

Sam is generally more concerned with what is going to enhance the performances or the emotion of a scene. There’s lots of Windowing in different parts of the frame to either bring things up or down, or tinting things slightly to enhance an emotional feel. That’s where Sam comes from.

So the initial sessions with Bob are where you did the heavy lifting and decided on the overall look?
Yes, the technical grading — matching shots, fixes, general levels and looks. That’s what Bob focuses on during the pre-grading.

Ash vs Evil Dead

Can you talk about the lighting and working with the Resolve?
Lighting wise, it’s actually pretty up, even though the intent may be to have it slightly darker in final color. The nice thing about Resolve is its tracking tools are very good, so you can bring up parts of the frame individually while still keeping other areas very dark.

We did have to do some noise reduction in certain parts as well. The built-in noise reduction tool is very good. I find it very easy to use — I don’t find myself struggling to reach a look or correction, it generally happens quick and easy. That’s important when you have a client in the room. You don’t want to take too long to come up with something.

FotoKem used Resolve for the online as well?
Yes. With the exception of the visual effects, the entire online edit was completed in Resolve, in addition to the color and deliverables.

How does being able to do so much in that one system help you?
I came up working on a system that was more of a hero suite, so it did the color, it did the graphics, it did the minor visual effects work. So it’s nice to see Resolve now competing at that level.

Although I didn’t do the bulk of the editorial work, it was nice to be in the room with Bob and be able to slip a shot a couple of frames, or drop in the visual effects as they came in last minute along with their associated mattes… it all happens very quickly and easily in Resolve.

Where do you find your inspiration?
I love movies and find my inspiration in them. I always try to stay artistically engaged; I like to work on my own projects, in addition to enjoying and contributing to other people’s work. I make an effort to get to the theater two or three times a week. I’m a member of the Visual Effects Society, so I go to lots of their member screenings too. To me, it’s important to stay current in my craft and to be inspired by other people’s work. I enjoy seeing what people are doing with different cameras and how things hold up in different theaters. I like seeing films in a theater as they’re intended and viewing them with an audience. To see how other people are practicing the craft is important. If you’re a painter, you’re going to go to the museum. If you’re a colorist, you should go to the movies, and lots of them.

What have you seen recently that you respected?
I really liked the movie The Diary of a Teenage Girl. It was beautiful. Also Cartel Land, which was lovely, especially considering it was a documentary. Those are small movies, but I saw Sicario recently and that was a very impressive and pretty movie… beautifully shot.

Another movie I enjoyed this year was Tangerine, which was shot entirely on an iPhone. The artist in me wanted to see it for the story and craft. But it was also really important for me to view it in the theater on a large screen and see how well it held up technically. For a colorist it’s an artistic and technical exercise to watch movies.

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Ash vs. Evil Dead can be seen weekly on Starz at 9pm EST.

Quick Chat: CO3’s Stephen Nakamura on grading ‘The Martian’

Ridley Scott’s The Martian tells the story of an astronaut left behind on Mars. The director, who created that world, called on Company 3’s Stephen Nakamura for the color grade, which he completed in London to be closer to Scott and the production.

We checked in with Nakamura to find out more about his process on The Martian.

You and Ridley have collaborated in the past. We assume you have developed a short hand of sorts?
There are definitely things I know he likes and doesn’t like, but each project is also a little bit different. Obviously, he is very interested in the visuals of every shot. The Martian was relatively straightforward. Something like Exodus: Gods and Kings was much more complex because of the kinds of things we were looking at, like the sea parting. On Prometheus, it was about helping to bring shape and definition to scenes that were really dark. Of course, he’s worked with [Dariusz Wolski, ASC], so a lot of the shaping has already happened between the two of them.

How early does he bring you on a film?

We speak very early on. I know before I see any images what kind of look he’s interested in.

Can you talk about the look of Mars? He referenced the terra cotta/orange look in our recent interview with him.
It was something that we all had a sense of conceptually but it took a lot of work with Ridley, the visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers and me in the DI theater to get it to all look the way it does in the final film. Quite a few shots involved a lot of sky replacements and the addition of mountains in the background. Richard’s team created these additional elements with a combination of CGI practical plates shot in Jordan and combined them with the first unit photography of Matt Damon.

So then when I added the heavy color correction Ridley wanted for that kind of orange look he talks about, it would have an effect on every element in the shot. It’s impossible to know in advance exactly how that correction for the planet’s surface is going to look in context and in a theater until you actually see it. I could get some elements of some shots where we needed them using Power Windows [in the DaVinci Resolve] but sometimes that heavy correction was too much and the effects elements would have to be altered. Maybe the sky needed to be darkened or we needed more separation in the mountains. We might make a change to the foreground, and the background would “break,” or vice versa.

So we had quite a few sessions where Richard would sit with Ridley and me and we would figure that out shot by shot.

You work with Resolve. What is it about that system helps your creative process?
I’ve worked in it as long as it’s been around. I like the way it’s laid out. I like the way I can work… the node-based corrections. I can get to the tools that most colorists use on a normal basis very quickly, and with very few keystrokes or buttons to push. That kind of time saving adds up to a really big deal when you’re coloring complicated movies.

I know there are other great color correctors out there too, but so far Resolve is just the most comfortable for me.

(from left) Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, and Aksel Hennie portray the crewmembers of the fateful mission to Mars.

Was there one particular scene that was more challenging than others, or a scene that you are most proud of?
There are a number of shots set outside the ship Jessica Chastain’s character commands where we see the ship and some characters in the foreground and the surface of Mars further away and then blackness and stars in the far background.

Here again, we all have a strong conceptual sense of the look, but ultimately it’s something you can’t get to without seeing it in a theater and in context. How saturated should the color of Mars be? How sharp should the focus be on the planet’s surface, on the distant stars? It’s not simply a question of having it look “real.” Ridley’s the kind of filmmaker who wants it feel right for the story. And so I might use Resolve’s aperture correction function to make the stars appear more vibrant, the way Ridley wants it, and that could “break” another part of the shot. And then it’s a question of whether I can use power windows to address that issue or if the VFX team needs to re-render and composite the element.

That kind of massaging of every shot takes a lot of time, but when it’s done you really see the results on the screen.

Can you talk about grading for the brighter Dolby Vision 3D?
It definitely gets rid of one of the major issues in 3D when you can effectively put a stereoscopic image onscreen at the traditional 2D spec of 14-foot lamberts. Previously, doing a stereoscopic pass always involved putting a darker image on screen, and when you have that much less light to work with it affects the whole image. That’s particularly true with highlights that might have plenty of detail at 14 but will blow out when you’re working at 3.5.

Of course, we still did a pass for traditional 3D, since there are very few theaters currently able to show Dolby Vision 3D.

Does that involve a whole different pass or a trim pass, or is it just a LUT that translates everything from the 14-foot lambert world to 3.5?
Company 3’s technology team is always building and updating LUTs that get us a lot of the way there. But when there’s never 100 percent “translation” from the one set of display parameters to the other, image characteristics change. The relative brightness of that practical in the background to the character in the shadows may not feel the same at 14 as it does at 3.5.

So which pass would you do first?
The way I work when we’re doing multiple theatrical deliverables like this is to start with the most “constricted” version [the 3.5 fl 3D] and get that where we want it. Then we go and “open it up” for the wider space. It’s important to be consistent. Very often, it’s a question of building Power Windows around bright parts of the frame and bringing them down for the regular 3D version and then either taking them off or lessening the corrections for the brighter projection spec.


For more on The Martian, read our interview with director Ridley Scott.

Review: Rampant Design Tools’ latest updates

By Brady Betzel

If it seems like I’m reviewing Rampant Design Tools’ latest releases every few months, it’s because I am. Sean and Stefanie Mullen, the creators of Rampant Design Tools, are creating brand new sets of overlays, transitions, paint strokes, flares and tons of other tools every month.

Typically when I do reviews there isn’t much personal interaction with the business owners, but Sean and Stefanie made themselves available for questions every step of the way. Even when I’m not doing a Rampant review, I am emailing them and they are always ready to help and even give advice. For them it’s about their customers, and they are continually releasing top shelf tools that I believe every editor and motion graphics artist should have in their toolbox.

Digging In
Before I get into what is new, you should download their free samples at www.4kfree.com. Almost every editor I show these too says, “I had no idea that’s what those were. I thought they were just stock footage elements.” Rampant Design Tools are not stock footage elements; they are color overlays, animated motion graphic elements, transitions, glitches and more. They are elements that are used in any program that can apply an Add, Multiply, Screen or any other composite mode to footage — really to any NLE or VFX app made. If you are a Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve user you can jump into the edit mode, place the Rampant clip on top of your original clip, select the Rampant clip to composite, open the inspector and under the composite mode pop up menu select your desired mode.

Paint Stroke Sample copy

Paint Stroke

Typically, Add mode will do the job, but each mode has some cool differences that you will want to try out for yourself — for a stark contrast check out Hard Light. If you are an Avid Media Composer or Symphony user, check out my previous write-up on discovering the elusive composite or blending modes within Media Composer: https://postperspective.com/tutorial-blending-modes-rampant-inside-media-composer.

What’s New
I think of Rampant offerings as quick and efficient tools that can add texture and interest to footage. In their latest rollout of releases, Rampant has sets of Designer Overlays, Film Burns, Matte Transitions, Flare Transitions, Glitch Transitions, Paint Stroke Transitions, and even animated motion graphics for editors. I’ll go into a few of the ones I find particularly interesting, but to find out more check out http://rampantdesigntools.com/rampant-all-products.

Matte Transitions are really useful. Not only can they be used traditionally as transitions between scenes or footage, but they can also be used to reveal a color treatment. I really like to use Rampant Design Tools in non-traditional ways, such as using mattes to reveal color treatments or effects. In Adobe Premiere I will duplicate my footage in the timeline, apply a unique color treatment to the duplicate footage, add the “Set Matte” effect and tell it to use the alpha channel of the Matte Transition. While this is a unique way to transition a color effect, it can be used in all sorts of circumstances.

Designer Overlays Sample copy

Designer Overlays Sample

My favorite is when a producer or even another editor comes in and just wants something different; they don’t know what they want but they know it needs to be totally different. You can easily throw on a few different Rampant Design Tool overlays and get very different treatments quickly. You can even use the mattes to reveal text in a lower third or main title. It really adds depth to your work.

Paint Strokes are a really cool way to reveal or transition out of text or footage. I really like to use these to reveal color in a scene. Recently, I used it on a very desaturated piece I was working on. In the last 10 seconds of the piece I used a Paint Stroke to add a vibrant splash of paint to the project. The client really liked how it left a lasting impression of vibrancy and color.

If you have seen what is going on in the land of YouTube, you might have noticed how flashy and eye catching the videos are (and if you haven’t you better get over there and get inspired before you are asked to work on something and end up under-delivering in the “wow” department). One thing that gets tricky is designing new or altered transitions. Rampant Design has tons of transitions that are great to have in your editor’s toolbox. From the ever-popular Glitch transition to Flares, Paint Strokes and even Color Overlays. I like to add a white flash under a light leak to turn it into a transition sometimes.

Motion Graphics for Editors Sample copy

Motion Graphics for Editors

Finally, my interest was captured with the “Motion Graphics for Editors” bundle. It contains lots of motion graphics elements such as Grids, Signs, Rays, Loaders, Lines, pre-made aspect ratios or even Triangles. Typically these little elements can take a ton of time to create. Usually if you are looking for these elements you are an editor who knows enough about motion graphics to be dangerous but who doesn’t have time to create these elements individually. Some uses for these are lower thirds that would typically be a boring gradient with text over the top or infographics, and while infographics seem easy they are most definitely not. They take tons and tons of time if you want them to look great. They are really easy to use with Rampant alpha channels.

Summing Up
In the end if you are looking for elements that are not stock footage, but instead handcrafted elements like organic paint strokes or unique Designer Overlays, you need to get over to www.rampantdesigntools.com. I have experienced firsthand the power these elements have. I’ve been at the end of my rope on some projects that weren’t paying enough to validate the drain on my brain power, then, remembering I had Rampant Design Tools, spent about an hour applying about 20 different treatments, transitions and effects to footage, color and text.

Film Burns Sample copyMatte Transition Sample copy
Film Burns and Matte Transition

In the end the client was happy and I was happy that I didn’t have to spend my time creating the elements from scratch. Rampant Design Tools takes projects to the next level quickly and easily by dragging and dropping, allowing you to work faster and more efficiently, making you more money in the process. I leave you with these highlights: unique non-serialized graphic overlays; easily combine color corrections to make unique color grades; and the newly-added “Motion Graphics for Editors.”

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.

AlphaDogs employs roundtripping workflow for surfing film ‘Gone’

The AlphaDogs post house in Burbank color graded the film Gone, from producer/director Mark Kronemeyer of Pargo Media. Gone takes audiences on a journey through Mexican deserts and jungles, from Baja to Oaxaca, on the search for the soul of surfing in Mexico.

Edited in Final Cut Pro X by Kronemeyer, Gone required a roundtrip workflow through DaVinci Resolve before the color grading process could begin in order to match mixed frame rates between FCP X and Resolve. Roundtripping often causes playback judder if not done properly. To avoid this problem, AlphaDogs colorist Sean Stack, who was in charge of creating the look for the film, rendered the footage outside of Resolve using the original source frame rate, then allowed for adjustment in playback quality once the footage was back in the editing application.

GONEImage2

Non-native frame rates can sometimes appear jittery, which is especially problematic with action footage. The post house used Cinema Tools on short clips to simply convert the playback rate to match the timeline. Although there is a slight speed ramp applied when using this technique, it is typically not noticeable on shorter clips.

Gone was shot in various locations throughout Mexico, so it encompasses a wide variety of beach terrain. To give each location its own personality and character, Stack made specific creative color decisions, such as making southern beaches more teal and green in color while adding more blue and purple/red into the shadows of the surf on northern beaches. Kronemeyer specifically wanted the sections of larger waves to appear even more dangerous and menacing. Stack achieved this look by punching up the blue in the surf, making the water appear darker and in turn giving the waves a deeper and more hazardous look.

While FCP X and Resolve workflows are mostly reliable when it comes to roundtrip accuracy, Stack remains diligent in making sure he always has a QuickTime reference movie with time code delivered to the color session before any conforming begins.

GONEmovieposter

“Without that roadmap, commonly known as a ‘chase reference,’ I cannot guarantee sync with the original offline locked cut,” explains Stack. “The audio mixer should use the same chase reference as the colorist, as this will further guarantee that the mix stems will sync up perfectly with the color graded final sequence.”

Round-trip workflows also present unique challenges when it comes to audio. Because FCP X cannot export proper materials for a pro mix, specific steps are required so as to not slow down the audio process in post. AlphaDogs audio engineer Curtis Fritsch used workaround methods, such as applying Assisted Editing’s Xto7 app and streamlining the audio tracks to ease the transition from FCP X to Pro Tools. Fritsch then added extra EQ to the low and high ends of each song to help elevate the drive of the music to better match the fast pace and lush visuals of the beaches in Mexico.

Behind the Title: Efilm senior colorist Tim Stipan

NAME: Tim Stipan (@timstipan)

COMPANYEfilm (@EFILMDigitalLab)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE EFILM?
Efilm, a Deluxe company, is a feature film finishing house. We are a sister facility to Company 3, and that allows me access to a great wealth of knowledge. When I recently did something in UHD for the first time, I was able to call up CO3 senior colorist Stephen Nakamura, who is one of the few in the world who has experience in UHD, and ask him how he set everything up.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Senior Colorist

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
The technical component involves working at a color correction console in a theater with the filmmakers. I make adjustments to the overall color palette. We do it to refine the look and give the movie a certain feeling with color. I take shots that were captured at different times, under different conditions — sometimes with different cameras — and match them with color and contrast.

That’s the coloring aspect of the job, but that’s really only half of it. The other part is being able to read minds, in a sense. If a cinematographer or director says, “I’m not sure what I don’t like about this,” then I need to think about their taste and personality and what they’ve liked and disliked previously, try to come up with a solution and then perform it quickly as possible.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I think some people might be surprised by how many hours we spend in the room. Color correction takes time. We will color the movie once, usually in about five days, and then spend another five days refining “the look.” On big VFX shows it can take twice that time.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?

I had worked on [Autodesk] Lustre for over 10 years. Now I working with the FilmLight Baselight and I’m also getting my feet wet with the Blackmagic Resolve. They all essentially do the same thing — they let you adjust the color, contrast and saturation and all of the things that affect the look of the image. Some are more flexible in terms of how they work with different file formats and resolutions than others, but knowing them all is a good way to stay on top of the technology.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
The role of the final colorist means you are usually involved in the project before principal photography begins. This includes working with the cinematographer on picking lenses, exposures, lighting units, filters, wardrobes, wall colors, makeup, look up tables and much more. It’s good to test as much as possible before principal photography so if you have to push the image in exposure or color you know how the elements will react.




WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?

I feel I’m helping to create something that might be around in 50 or 100 years, which is cool. My favorite part of the job though is working with such talented and creative people.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

My 100 percent least favorite thing is not working. It can be grueling putting in 18-hour days, but I would take that over not working any day of the week!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Lunch! That’s when I have the opportunity to get to know the people I am working with better. You get to digress, talk and just be human. The more I know my client the better I am at reading their mind, which makes the color correction process smoother and faster.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
If I wasn’t a colorist I would like to be a director. When I went to film school at Columbia College in Chicago, I thought I was going to be an actor, but I wanted to learn every role in the filmmaking process. Eventually I gravitated to the camera department and received a degree in cinematography.

However, the most exhilarating thing I ever did in film school was when I directed my thesis film. You’re dealing with script, locations, actors, cinematographer, grips everybody. If I wasn’t a colorist, that’s what I’d want to be doing today.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE COLOR GRADING?
During college I was working as a camera assistant and crane operator on a Stage. This led to getting hired a lot as a grip for commercials and short films. Working on set was fun, but I was thinking about having a family and freelancing scared the hell out of me. My adviser suggested I visit Filmworkers Club in Chicago. I went in, started learning about color grading and fell in love with it.



CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?

I just finished Me Earl and the Dying Girl, which won best film at Sundance. I also completed a film called The Family Fang, directed by the actor Jason Bateman and shot by my friend Ken Seng, who I went to film school with. It was. It’s a great film and shot with multiple capture formats. Next is Creed, which will get everyone’s blood pumping!




WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I like to look at old photographic books. Not any photographer in particular. A lot of people you’ve never heard of. I’m also fascinated by old printing processes, like autochrome, or by the look of a Polaroid when someone ripped it apart too quickly. I love to watch movies, commercials and TV shows, too. A lot of TV today is as cinematic as movies are.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.

GPS. How did we get anywhere before? My color corrector and projector. I’m not married to any particular brand as long as they do what I need them to do. But the color corrector and projector have to be running perfectly or I can’t do my work. I’m very fortunate that Deluxe has an incredible technical and support staff, and state of the art equipment.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?

Facebook and Instagram, and occasionally Twitter. But I like Facebook the best. There are so many videos on there. I am friends with a lot of cinematographers, and they post great images and interesting articles. If you follow Chivo [Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC] on Instagram (@chivexp) — it’s jaw-dropping the things he’s producing. It’s also a great way to keep in touch with DPs who are working on location.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL? 
I ride a motorcycle daily, and it prepares me mentally and physically for my job. I am an avid runner, which helps combat sitting in a chair for long periods of time. Reading is a great way to zone off into another world and forget about any stress, but the best thing in life is spending time with my family!

First Impressions: Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 12

By Brady Betzel

While I wasn’t able to get to Las Vegas for NAB this year, I was definitely there in spirit thanks to constant Twitter updates and blog posts around the web. The company that stood out to me the most was Blackmagic Design. They introduced tons of awesome equipment and products, including the latest update to DaVinci Resolve. I was really interested in what I was seeing: multicam workflow, AAF exporting, 3D tracking… it was overwhelming.

You might have noticed that in addition to my day job as an editor at Margarita Mix, I do a lot of product reviews. I love the process. Why wouldn’t I? I get to play with the latest and greatest offerings in production and post.

While I don’t have the DaVinci Resolve 12 update yet, the senior director of marketing and all around guru for Blackmagic, Paul Saccone, gave me an in-depth tour of what is going to be released in the latest version. Before I review the software I wanted to share a couple of key updates that are seemingly turning DaVinci Resolve into what many had hoped Avid Symphony would maybe turn into.

Multicamera Workflow
Working with multiple cameras can often be tricky. Syncing and grouping them together isn’t always as straightforward as one would hope. When I was an assistant editor I remember spending hours and days grouping footage. Sometimes I would be able to sync by timecode and sometimes not. I would be lucky to get a clap or some sort of sync reference from the people recording in the field. When none of that was available and my clips seemingly had very little in common I would resort to using PluralEyes by Red Giant, which is still a great and useful tool. The only problem is that it’s an external app and if I can avoid it I would much rather work inside my NLE or online suite.

Blackmagic has added what seems to be an awesome integration of multicam workflow into Resolve 12. You can even sync by audio, just like PluralEyes does! That should be a great feature.

The best part about Resolve 12’s multicam workflow is the ability to modify and add to existing groups by simply editing the group like a sequence. If your group is out of sync, open up the group sequence, put it in sync and your group will be immediately updated. For us Avid users out there this means no more re-grouping yuck. You can even add cameras or audio tracks to your group later!

Nested Timelines
You can now nest a sequence inside of your current sequence. If you are assembling a final edit you may want to lay out your acts in linear order for timing reasons and then once all the acts are “final” (we know nothing is ever final), you can now “decompose in place,” meaning break out all of your clip-based edits in the same timeline you are working in without having to overcut. Really a great feature.

3D Keyer and Tracker
If you’ve seen how Imagineer System’s/BorisFx Mocha Pro planar tracker works or Adobe After Effects’ 3D tracker works, you know there are some amazing options to track. Unfortunately these are usually not the tools you work in to conform and online your work. In Resolve 12, there is a new 3D tracker and 3D keyer that from first glance will be all you need for basic to semi-advanced work. It doesn’t seem like these will be full replacements of Keylight in After Effects or planar tracking in Mocha Pro, but if Blackmagic can keep me in one NLE/coloring platform/compositor without having to farm out tasks to After Effects or another program, I am definitely listening.

The features I listed here are only a couple that I think are amazing. In addition, there are features like shot color matching, AAF to Pro Tools export, improved media management features, improved trimming functions, overall layout improvement, smart bins and many more.

I hope to review DaVinci Resolve 12 in a few months, and am really excited to run it through its paces. I’ve been venturing deeper into different compositing apps, coloring correcting packages and NLEs and am really impressed by the way Blackmagic is digging in and starting to outpace other software and hardware makers. Maybe they really can make the ultimate NLE/compositor/color corrector — we’ll have to wait and see.

If you want to get a quick video run through of the new features being released, check out Blackmagic Design’s website and click on “What’s New.” You can also follow them on Twitter @Blackmagic_News.

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.

Behind the Title: Cinetic Studios colorist/editor Jason Bowdach

NAME: Jason Bowdach

COMPANY: Cinetic Studios (@CineticStudios)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Cinetic Studios is a boutique-style color and finishing studio that was created to provide easier access to high-end color grading and finishing services that most assume are out of their reach.

Our slogan, “We Tell Stories With Color,” represents our belief that color is a very powerful narrative tool that shouldn’t be overlooked. On the technical side, we take a bleeding-edge approach, as we feel the latest technology allows us to offer services that are cost-effective yet quality driven.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE? Colorist and Online Editor Continue reading

New DaVinci Resolve 11.2 offers improved CinemaDNG processing

Blackmagic has made available DaVinci Resolve 11.2, which adds improved CinemaDNG RAW image processing with new soft clipping features, improved round trip workflows with Avid Media Composer 8.3, DNxHR support and more.

DaVinci Resolve 11.2 is now available for download free of charge for all existing DaVinci Resolve customers. In addition to the CinemaDNG RAW image processing improvements that make working with files shot on Blackmagic digital film cameras look even better than before, customers can take advantage of new colorspace transform enhancements when decoding RAW files for more realistic Rec. 709 and P3 colorspace images.

New soft clip options are now available when converting high dynamic range CinemaDNG RAW images into Rec. 709 colorspace. That means customers will get better images when moving to reduced color spaces because colors are transformed using new algorithms designed to minimize clipping and provide amazing results.

DaVinci Resolve 11.2 also makes it easier to work with Avid editors because you can now move both high-resolution media and sequences back and forth between the two systems. New DNxHR encoding and decoding lets customers work natively and share the same high-resolution media files, and improved AAF import and export lets editors and colorists round trip projects with Media Composer 8.3 more accurately and reliably than ever before.

Additional features in DaVinci Resolve 11.2 include the ability to select RGB pixel order when working with DPX 2.0 files, new flag and marker support in ColorTrace, and support for the Red SDK 5.3.

Says Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design, “The new CinemaDNG color algorithms are an incredible improvement in image processing technology. This new processing turns wide-dynamic range RAW images into HD Rec. 709 in a way that retains more color detail and subtlety, making pictures look more natural and lifelike than ever before, especially when working with digital film cameras from Blackmagic Design. We think it’s an amazing innovation that extends DaVinci Resolve’s incredible image quality and helps customers get even more from their Blackmagic cameras simply by opening up their existing RAW files in this new DaVinci Resolve 11.2.”

Veteran colorist Joe Finley joins Chainsaw

With over 20 years of experience in features and episodic television, colorist Joe Finley has joined Chainsaw. He will be working out of a DaVinci Resolve DI theater at the company’s Hollywood facility. Currently working on the fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, show he started working on the show while at his last job at Modern Videofilm.

Finley, whose career began at Laser Pacific,  was a senior colorist at Modern for almost two decades. His credits there comprise over 100 feature films, including The Descendants¸ 3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line. A three-time HPA Award nominee, he won the HPA Award for Color Grading in the TV category in 2012 for the Game of Thrones episode “The Prince of Winterfell.”

In discussing his move to Chainsaw (a division of the SIM Group), Finley says, “The facility has a great location and a great vibe, and caters to everything my clients ask for. I want to help Chainsaw to continue to grow its scripted television department and to seek out more very high-end scripted television shows.”

Saying that the best part of his job is “collaborating with other creative people,” Finley asserted that there has never been a better time to work in scripted television. “Creative people enjoy more freedom in television today,” he concludes. “A lot of great cinematographers and directors are moving to TV today because they want that freedom.”

Quick Chat: New color grading boutique Apache Digital

By Randi Altman

When Apache Digital opened its doors in late July in Santa Monica, they knew exactly what they wanted to do — provide color grading services, and only color grading services, in a boutique environment. They felt that was the best way to serve their clients.

Their philosophy has paid off. Apache, founded by colorists Shane Reed and Steve Rodriguez, along with executive producer/managing director LaRue Anderson, have been busy out of the gate with commercial, music video (Steve Aoki’s Flux Pavilion, The Cold and Lovely’s Doll), television (Side Effects on Awesomeness TV) and film (an independent feature that debuted at Continue reading

postPerspective announces winner of Resolve give-away contest

Brummermedia’s Tobias Brummer has won postPerspective’s first-ever give-away contest. The rules were simple: sign up for our weekly newsletter and enter to win a free DaVinci Resolve license from Blackmagic Design.

Germany-based Brummer is a freelancer whose intention is “to combine the different possibilities of techniques and media to create a unique experience for my clients — from one source and well matched.”

You can check out his Vimeo channel here: http://vimeo.com/brummermedia.

Brummer was surprised and excited when notified of his win. “It’s really great to win the Resolve license,” he says. “At the moment I’m using Resolve Lite and often I’d like to use the noise reduction feature, which only is available in the full version. Also I’m intending to start 4K productions this year, so the full version is great for this, too.”

Congratulations Tobias! Looking forward to seeing how the Resolve impacts your work.

Howard Brock on Anger Management’s uncomplicated post

By Randi Altman

Post-production veteran Howard Brock is not sentimental about the past. He has seen the industry change from film to tape to digital to file-based, and he’s embraced each new step along the way.

Brock co-founded the Burbank-based post house Matchframe in 1984. He ran it day to day until his departure in 2002. He took on freelance editing jobs before becoming president of Avid rental house Runway. After four years he went back to freelance editing once more. That’s where an editor friend found him and asked him to come on board the Charlie Sheen sitcom Anger Management… as an assistant editor. “I was under employed and over qualified,” he explains, “So I said, ‘It’s a union gig, right? Sure. Yay, health insurance!'”

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DigitalFilm Tree embraces OpenStack and cloud-based post workflows

The studio is running OpenStack private clouds for TNT’s Perception and ABC’s Mistresses.

By Randi Altman
Los Angeles — Ramy Katrib and the team over at DigitalFilm Tree (www.digitalfilmtree.com) have always set their own path. I first met Ramy at NAB in 2001. He was there looking at tools that would allow him to embrace a data-based workflow, something he thought was the future of post. He thought right.

He has spent over 14 years successfully creating data-based workflows for TV series like Scrubs, Cougar Town, NCIS: Los Angeles and feature films like Her.

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Common Colorist Concerns

By Tristan Kneschke

Often at trade shows and conferences, there are sessions on the art of color science or challenges of color grading. Since it seems to be a growing topic of interest, as a freelance colorist, I thought I’d focus on some common questions I encounter from clients and colorists new to this quickly burgeoning field.

How do you go about teaching or learning the craft of color grading?
Color grading, like many crafts in the film industry, is honed through a mix of practice and theory. There is no replacement for direct industry experience, but it needs to be grounded in a firm understanding of the concepts of the technology.

Continue reading