Tag Archives: MIstika

Quick Chat: SGO CEO Miguel Angel Doncel

By Randi Altman

When I first happened upon Spanish company SGO, they were giving demos of their Mistika system on a small stand in the back of the post production hall at IBC. That was about eight years ago. Since then, the company has grown its Mistika DI finishing system, added a new product called Mamba FX, and brought them both to the US and beyond.

With NAB fast approaching, I thought I would check in with SGO CEO Miguel Angel Doncel to find out how the company began, where they are now and where they are going. I also checked in about some industry trends.

Can you talk about the genesis of your company and the Mistika product?
SGO was born out of a technically oriented mentality to find the best ways to use open architectures and systems to improve media content creation processes. That is not a challenging concept today, but it was an innovative view in 1993 when most of the equipment used in the industry was proprietary hardware. The idea of using computers to replace proprietary solutions was the reason SGO was founded.

It seems you guys were ahead of the curve in terms of one product that could do many things. Was that your goal from the outset?
Ten years ago, most of the manufacturers approached the industry with a set of different solutions to address different parts of the workflow; this gave us an opportunity to capitalize on improving the workflow, as disjointed solutions imply inefficient workflows due to their linearity/sequentiality.

We always thought that by improving the workflow, our technology would be able to play in all those arenas without having to change the tools. Making the workflow parallel and saving time when a problem is detected avoids going backwards in the pipeline, and we can focus moving forward.

I think after so many years, the industry is saying we were right, and all are going in that direction.

How is SGO addressing HDR?
We are excited about HDR, as it really improves the visual experience, but at the same time it is a big challenge to define a workflow that can work in both HDR and SDR in a smooth way. Our solution to that challenge is the four-dimensional grading that is implemented with our 4th ball. This allows the colorist to work not only in the three traditional dimensions — R, G and B — but also to work in the highlights as a parallel dimension.

What about VR?
VR pieces together all the requirements of the most demanding 3D with the requirements of 360. Considering what SGO already offers in stereo 3D production, we feel we are well positioned to provide a 360/VR solution. For that reason, we want to introduce a specific workflow for VR that helps customers to work on VR projects, addressing the most difficult requirements, such as discontinuities in the poles, or dealing with shapes.

The new VR mode we are preparing for Mistika 8.7 will be much more than a VR visualization tool. It will allow users to work in VR environments the same way they would work in a normal production. Not having to worry about circles ending up being highly distorted ellipses and so forth.

What do you see as the most important trends happening in post and production currently?
The industry is evolving in many different directions at the moment — 8K realtime, 4K/UHD, HDR, HFR, dual-stream stereo/VR. These innovations improve and enhance the audience’s experience in many different ways. They are all interesting individually, but the most vital aspect for us is that all of them actually have something in common — they all require a very smart way of how to deal with increasing bandwidths. We believe that a variety of content will use different types of innovation relevant to the genre.

Where do you see things moving in the future?
I personally envision a lot more UHD, HDR and VR material in the near future. The technology is evolving in a direction that can really make the entertainment experience very special for audiences, leaving a lot of room to still evolve. An example is the Quantum Break game from Remedy Studios/Microsoft, where the actual users’ experience is part of the story. This is where things are headed.

I think the immersive aspect is the challenge and goal. The reason why we all exist in this industry is to make people enjoy what they see, and all these tools and formulas combined together form a great foundation on which to build realistic experiences.

Brian Pope opens post/VFX house Cognition in LA

The post and visual effects studio Cognition has opened in Los Angeles led by writer/producer Brian Pope. It features a management team that includes veteran colorist Dave Hollingsworth (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Adventures of Tintin) along with former Digital Domain VP/creative consultant Jeff Barnes.

Located near Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, Cognition currently offers high-resolution color grading and editorial finishing via SGO’s Mistika platform, as well as visual effects supervision and production.

The company is in the process of expanding the 3,000-square-foot facility they recently moved into. With completion expected by the fall, the facility will feature a pair of 4K digital cinema finishing theaters, a scalable visual effects pipeline, an emerging technologies research center and creative office space, all arrayed in a campus-like environment.

Cognition’s service offerings will encompass on-set and remote dailies, visual effects concept and design, on-set supervision, animation, graphics and deliverables. The company will also target photogrammetry, augmented reality and other new emerging fields as tools for previsualization, location scouting, visual effects production and other applications, helping to further blur the already diffuse lines between pre-, post and primary production.

The creative office space is earmarked for production companies, editorial operations and others who want to develop their projects in a collaborative, communal environment.

Says Pope, “Our business model positions production and what was traditionally called ‘post’ to be much more intimately — and interactively — linked, where producers and directors work in close proximity to the people producing the visual effects, color work and distribution packages. We believe the seamless integration of production with services such as color and VFX is not only a more organic way to fulfill the complex needs of today’s filmmakers, but will also serve to keep more work in Los Angeles and deliver a stronger, more innovative end product.”

Creating a deeper talent pool: training for Mistika, Mamba FX

Now that SGO Mistika systems are being installed here in the US, postPerspective thought it would make sense to find out what the company is doing about training artists so studios that have invested in the product have a deeper pool of talent to pick from when the need arises.

With that in mind, we reached out to David Cox, who has been helping SGO with their training efforts. Here is his take on the subject.

By David Cox

An interesting challenge for any manufacturer that aspires to bring a new product to market — or a different way of thinking to an existing market — is how to cultivate an extensive user-base by training enough individuals to allow their technology to take hold.

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SGO Mistika to support Dolby Vision

SGO’s color grading and finishing platform Mistika will support Dolby Vision technology in its next available version, enabling the display of high dynamic range (HDR) images with wider color gamut capabilities.

SGO, working in close collaboration with Dolby, intends to make the Dolby Vision workflow capabilities available in Mistika from V.8.2, which was previewed at NAB and is due for release shortly after IBC 2014.

Dolby Vision allows creative teams to use the full gamut of colors, peak brightness and local contrast, knowing that those will be reproduced on televisions that feature Dolby Vision.

Said Roland Vlaicu, Senior Director, Broadcast Imaging, Dolby, “Films and TV shows will look more like the real world, and viewers will notice details that might have previously gone unseen.”

“All the necessary underlying requirements are already in place, guaranteeing our customers a future-proof return in their investment,” said SGO’s Director of Global Sales and Operations Geoff Mills. “Dolby Vision delivers vivid imagery, and we’re absolutely thrilled to be one of the first in our industry to make this technology a reality.”


SGO at NAB with updates to Mistika, Mambo FX

Madrid, Spain — At the NAB Show, in Las Vegas, SGO unveiled its new Mistika range — Mistika Post, Mistika Optima and Mistika Ultima — in Version 8. Mistika includes realtime grading, compositing and editing tools in one system.

New Mistika V.8 features include a spatial keyer with the ability to allow grading selections or keying mattes to be derived from CGI object metadata; an all-new node-based intuitive compositing interface; support for Canon’s RMF; Sony’s XAVC; enhanced AAF support; ProRes 4:4:4:4 file formats; a re-branding output render module; Dolby Atmos DCP Generation and realtime playback DPX RGB 10bit 4K at 60p.

SGO also announced that Mistika will support the Precision grading panel made by Digital Vision.

Mistika Air, a version of Mistika tailored for broadcasters of HD, Ultra HD, 8K productions and beyond was shown. Mistika also offers 4K HFR modes at 59p and 60p speeds for the UHD market, supported through the QuadSDI standard. Mistika Air can now render to Sony XAVC.

Making its first US appearance was Mamba FX, which SGO launched at IBC 2013. It offers unlimited compositing layers and effects features a node-based graphic interface. It runs on Linux and Windows and will soon be available on Mac.

Mamba FX can also be extended with OFX plug-ins or additional options from SGO. These options include DCP creation and access to SGO’s stereo correction tools.

Mamba FX incorporates a variety of realistic effects and filters, including SGO’s “optical flow” technology. Recently GenArts Sapphire 7, was added offering compositors over 250 new effects and pre-sets.

Peter Amies joins SGO as training, education mentor

Soho, London – To help manage the training strategy for its Mistika and Mamba FX software solutions, SGO has hired training and education mentor Peter Amies.

Aimes comes with a strong technical background that includes customer services, workflow coordination, and technology management for high-end post. Before joining SGO, he worked at New Zealand’s Park Road Post Production for six years, starting out in their film laboratory and moving to in-house post production coordinator, and working on managing workflow and delivery for a range of short-form and feature length projects through the laboratory, DI and sound departments. He began his career at Norway’s Cinevation as product manager for the Cinevator film-recorder product line where he worked for over four years.

Geoff Mills, SGO’s director of global sales and operations said, “Peter Amies has joined SGO at an important time, and we are delighted to welcome him as a key member of our team. As SGO expands further, it is imperative that our educational strategy is in place as demand increases. Armed with an impressive portfolio, Peter will be an excellent asset with his relevant expertise and knowledge and will predominantly focus on the technical development needs and post production skill sets, which are of enormous value in the industry.”

Park Road Post employs Mistika on the newest ‘Hobbit’ film

Wellington, New Zealand — Park Road Post Production used SGO’s Mistika DI color grading system on the The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), the second film in The Hobbit Trilogy directed by Peter Jackson.

Mistika’s involvement at Park Road included supporting on-set services and screening HFR digital dailies, all the way through to the DI online, stereoscopic work and stunning final grade for the film. The studio boasts purpose-built DI theatres for both high-end 2D and stereoscopic finishing work, supported by Mistika 4K/stereoscopic master systems combined with dedicated finishing suites with matching SGO technology and shared storage for speed and fluidity between their online editors and colorists.

Supervising digital colorist for The Desolation of Smaug Trish Cahill worked with a team at Park Road alongside lead DI colorist Vickie-Lynn Roy, using Mistika’s color grading toolsets to complement the second film’s darker and richer narrative as the characters head through Middle-earth toward both Erebor and, of course, Smaug — the creature played by Benedict Cumberbatch and brought to life by VFX artists at Weta Digital.

“At Park Road we are inspired by filmmakers who share our constant desire to push storytelling tools forward,” said Cahill. “That motivation allows us to deliver world-leading results for our clients which never let technology take the lead, but which give us compelling color grading tools with which to achieve a director’s vision.

“Park Road chooses tools which are not only scalable and technically deep, but have truly focused on using those tools as enablers for creative expression,” she continued. “With the Mistika we were able to work interactively with the production, at high frame rate, taking the unique looks developed for the second film and extending them in the final grade sessions to focus on visual narrative. The best thing about great tools is they enable us to work with filmmakers to bring the world they imagined to life.”

Roy explained some of the technical intricacies behind the scenes: “Beyond the look development undertaken prior to the final online sessions, such as the variable ‘lens’ effects built entirely in the Mistika, we were able to effortlessly fold in highly technical requirements for specific shots — such as deep mattes, themselves mathematically driving complex grade and stereo effects — all on the same platform, and all the time running critical stereo work in parallel with the ongoing look refinement, as the team headed towards the final delivery.”

According to lead stereographer Meetal Gokul, “The interaction of grade and stereo is so often underestimated, so at Park Road we work in parallel – with any screening format, 2D or 3D, available for review at any time. The stereo toolset in the Mistika was definitely used to its fullest for the second film in the Trilogy, and as always my team’s focus is on an incredible 3D experience which drives the story forward. This film is amazing, and the Mistika continues to provide exactly the right platform to service productions of any scale.”

Montréal’s studio Post Kopic invests in Mistika system 

Montreal — Studio Post Kopic, a boutique studio specializing in the creation of 2D and stereoscopic 3D content, has expanded its service offerings with the purchase of a Mistika DI Post Production System from SGO.

Nicofficial-SPK (603x640) (2)

Nicolas Fournier

Headed by veteran editor Alain Baril (pictured, top) and partner/digital artist Nicolas Fournier, Studio Post Kopic (www.studiopost-kopic.com) said this investment reflects its desire to push the envelope and offer alternative innovative and creative ways for post production finishing for film and broadcast.

CEO/editor, Alain Baril, said, “We are delighted to be the first company in Montréal to own world-leading SGO creative innovation. Mistika has effectively influenced and enhanced our current business model to enable us to become even more competitive with budget spend allocated on the screen  and not on the overheads, which makes a significant difference to our profit margins.”

Current Studio Post Kopic projects include the film Stealing Alice directed and produced by Marc Séguin. OutSideIn, is a short stereo 3D film directed and produced by Newfoundland filmmaker Anne Troake about an up, close and personal look at the dancing human body in natural environments.

With Sherbrooke University, Studio Post Kopic have also developed a stereoscopic 3D robot to capture RAW 2K DPX files. Blended with Mistika, a full package will be available early next year in order to produce high quality stereo 3D content, which will also be available for the benefit of the world-wide Mistika community.

“In the current economic climate, larger post facilities are having to restructure themselves in order to survive and producers are no longer interested in a ‘hypermarket-style’ service,” concluded Baril. “As a “boutique” post facility, the timing is perfect for us to move forward with Mistika in order to offer cutting-edge innovation, technologies and methods that provide that personal service that clients relish.”

Studio partner Nicolas Fournier, will be trained by SGO staff in Madrid next month.

OutSideIn (2)

OutSideIn: the studio used a PS technik micro rig plus Flare cams from IO Industries, and a 1 Beyond mini wrangler. The micro rig allows them to film very close to the object. It’s also easier to move around.

Two hot items at the electronics circus

By Tim Spitzer
Managing Director
Goldcrest Post, NYC


SGO, manufacturers of Mistika, introduced Mamba FX.  Mamba FX is a stunningly cost-effective node-based, shot-based, Windows-based effects software package.  Mamba FX is effectively the full subset of effects tools that live in Mistika.

Mamba FX allows capture of all the same camera codecs/file formats as Mystika.

Mamba FX has the same stabilizing, speed change, compositing, tracking, text, color, and 3D tools as Mystika. In my understanding the only tools that have been removed are the Stereoscopic toolset. Continue reading