If you’re involved in post production, especially episodic TV, documentaries and feature films, then it’s highly probable that High Frame Rate (HFR), Ultra High Definition (UHD) and High Dynamic Range (HDR) have come your way.
“On any single project, the combination of HFR, UHD and HDR image-processing can be a pretty demanding, cutting-edge technical challenge, but it’s even more exacting when particular specs and tight turnarounds are involved,” says Jack Jones, digital colorist and CTO of full-service boutique facility Roundtable Post Production.
Among the central London facility’s credits are online virals for brands including Kellogg’s, Lurpak, Rolex and Ford, music films for Above & Beyond and John Mellencamp, plus broadcast TV series and feature documentaries for ITV, BBC, Sky, Netflix, Amazon, Discovery, BFI, Channel 4, Showtime and film festivals worldwide. These include Sean McAllister’s A Northern Soul, Germaine Bloody Greer (BBC) and White Right: Meeting The Enemy (ITV Exposure/Netflix).
“Yes, you can render-out HFR/UHD/HDR deliverables from a variety of editing and grading systems, but there are not many that can handle the simultaneous combination of these formats, never mind the detailed delivery stipulations and crunching deadlines that often accompany such projects,” says Jones.
Rewinding to the start of 2017, Jones says that, “Looking forward, to the future landscape of post, the proliferation of formats, resolutions, frame rates and color spaces involved in modern screened entertainment seemed an inevitability for our business. We realized that we were going to need to tackle the impending scenario head-on. Having assessed the alternatives, we took the plunge and gambled on Colorfront Transkoder.”
Transkoder is a standalone, automated system for fast digital file conversion. Roundtable Post’s initial use of Colorfront Transkoder turned out to be the creation of encrypted DCP masters and worldwide deliverables of a variety of long-form projects, such as Nick Broomfield’s Whitney: Can I Be Me, Noah Media Group’s Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager, Peter Medak’s upcoming feature The Ghost of Peter Sellers, and the Colombian feature-documentary To End A War, directed by Marc Silver.
“We discovered from these experiences that, along with incredible quality in terms of image science, color transforms and codecs, Transkoder is fast,” says Jones. “For example, the deliverables for To End A War, involved 10 different language versions, plus subtitles. It would have taken several days to complete these out straight of out of an Avid, but rendering in Transkoder took just four hours.”
More recently, Roundtable Post was faced with the task of delivering country-specific graphics packages, designed and created by production agency Noah Media Group, for use by FIFA rights holders and broadcasters during the 2018 World Cup.
The project involved delivering a mix of HFR, UHD, HDR and HD SDR formats, resulting in 240 bespoke animations, and the production of a mammoth 1,422 different deliverables. These included: 59.94p UHD HDR, 50p UHD HDR, 59.94p HD SDR, 50p HD SDR, 59.94i HD SDR and 50i HD SDR with a variety of clock, timecode, pre-roll, soundtrack, burn-in and metadata requirements as part of the overall specification. Furthermore, the job encompassed the final QC of all deliverables, and it had to be completed within a five-day work week.
“For a facility of our size, this was a significant job in terms of its scale and deadline,” says Jones. “Traditionally, projects like these would involve throwing a lot of people and time at them, and there’s always the chance of human error creeping in. Thankfully, we already had positive experiences with Transkoder, and were eager to see how we could harness its power.”
Using technical data from FIFA, Jones built an XML file containing timelines all of the relevant timecode, clock, image metadata, Wav audio and file-naming information of the required deliverables. He also liaised with Colorfront’s R&D team, and was quickly provided with an initial set of Python script templates that would help to automate the various requirements of the job in Transkoder.
Roundtable Post was able to complete the FIFA 2018 World Cup job, including the client-attend QC of the 1,422 different UHD HDR and HD SDR assets, in under three days.