By Tara Holmes
Almost two weeks ago, I found myself at NAB for the first time. I am the executive producer of color and finishing at Nice Shoes, a post production studio in New York City. I am not an engineer and I am not an artist, so why would an EP go to NAB? I went because one of my main goals for 2016 is to make sure the studio remains at the forefront of technology. While I feel that our engineering team and artists represent us well in that respect, I wanted to make sure that I, along with our producers, were fully educated on these emerging technologies.
One of our first priorities for NAB was to meet with top monitor manufacturers to hopefully land on what UHD HDR monitors we would find to meet our standards for professional client viewing. We came to the conclusion that the industry is not there yet and we have more research to do before we upgrade our studio viewing environments.
Everyone with me was in agreement. They aren’t where they need to be. Most are only outputting around 400-800 nits and are experiencing luminance and contrast issues. None of this should stop the process of coloring for HDR. For the master monitor for the colorist, the Sony BVM-X300 OLED master monitor, which we are currently using, seems to be the ideal choice as you can still work in traditional Rec 709 as well as Rec 2020 for HDR.
After checking out some monitors, we headed to the FilmLight booth to go over the 5.0 upgrades to Baselight. Our colorist Ron Sudul, along with Nice Shoes Creative Studio VFX supervisor Adrian Winter, sat with myself and the FilmLight reps to discuss the upgrades, which included incredible new isolation tracking capabilities. These upgrades will reinvent what can be achieved in the color suite: from realtime comps to retouch being done in color. The possibilities are exciting.
I also spent time learning about the upgrades to Filmlight’s Flip, which is their on-set color hardware. The Flip can allow you to develop your color look on set, apply it during your edit process (with the Baselight plug-in for Avid) and refine it in final color, all without affecting your RAW files. In addition to the Flip, they developed a software that supports on-set look development and grading called Prelight. I asked if these new technologies could enable us to even do high-end things like sky replacements on set and was told that the hardware within the Flip very well could.
We also visited our friends at DFT, the manufacturers of the Scanity film scanner, to catch up and discuss the business of archiving. With Scanity, Nice Shoes can scan 4K when other scanners only scan up to 2K resolution. This is a vital tool in not only preserving past materials, but in future proofing for emerging formats when archiving scans from film.￼￼￼
On Sunday evening before the exhibits opened, we attended a panel on VR that was hosted by the Foundry. At this event we got to experience a few of the most talked about VR projects including Defrost, one of the first narrative VR films, from the director of Grease, Randal Kleiser, who was on the panel along with moderator Morris May (CEO/founder, Specular Theory), Bryn Mooser (co-founder, RYOT), Tim Dillon (executive producer, MPC) and Jake Black (head of VR, Create Advertising).
The Foundry’s VR panel.
The panel inspired me to delve deeper into the VR world, and on Wednesday I spent most of my last day exploring the Virtual & Augmented Reality Pavilion. In addition to seeing the newest VR camera rig offerings and experiencing a live VR feed, as well as demo-ing the Samsung Gear, I explored viewing options for the color workflow. Some people I spoke to mentioned that multiple Oculus set-ups all attached to a single feed was the way to go for color workflow, but another option that we did a very preliminary exploration of was the “dome” possibility, which offers a focused 180-degree view for everyone involved to comment on the same section of a VR scene. This would enable all involved to be sure they are experiencing and viewing the same thing at the same time.
Another panel we attended was about HDR workflows. Nice Shoes has already had the opportunity to work on HDR material and have begun to develop workflows for this emerging medium. Most HDR deliverables are for episodic and long form for such companies as Netflix, Hulu and the like. It may be some time before commercial clients are requesting an HDR deliverable, but the workflows will be much the same so the development being performed now is extremely valuable.
My biggest take away was that there are still no set standards. There’s Dolby Vision vs. HDR 10 vs. PQ vs. others. But it appears that everyone agrees that standards are not needed right now. We need to get tools into the hands of the artists and figure out what works best. Standards will come out of that. The good news is that we appear to be future-proofed for the standard to change. Meaning for the most part, every camera we are shooting on is shooting for HDR and should standards change — say from 1000 nits to 10,000 nits — the footage and process is still there to go back in and color for the new request.
I truly believe my time spent at NAB has prepared me for the myriad of questions that will be put forth throughout the year and will help us develop our workflows to evolve the creative process of post. I’ll be sure to be there again next year in order to prepare myself for the questions of 2017 and beyond.
Our Main Image: The view walking into the South Hall Lower at the LVCC.