Tag Archives: MTI Film

MTI Film’s Cortex v5.3 renders multiple dailies formats at once time

MTI Film has released Cortex v5.3, the latest version of its family of products for managing workflows on set and in post. This latest release includes new features that make managing and processing data during production and post more efficient. It also adds support for the latest sound and picture formats and delivery requirements of leading distributors, including Netflix, HBO, Hulu and Quibi.

Cortex v5.3 is available in five editions, including two for DIT applications, a full-featured dailies application, an Enterprise package for post and delivery and a quality control application. The software runs on Windows 7 and 10 and uses one or more Nvidia GPUs.

New Features:
– The ability to render multiple formats simultaneously, accelerating dailies processing and other workflows.
– The option to automatically apply IMF delivery specs for HBO and Hulu as well as support for the 16:9 aspect ratio (portrait and landscape) used by the new streaming service Quibi.
– MTI Film worked with Netflix engineers to align the dead pixel detection and repair tools featured in the Enterprise edition of Cortex v5.3 with the Netflix detection algorithm. This solution, which involves importing a .csv file supplied by Netflix, means content can be prepared for Netflix while avoiding multiple redeliveries to fix all pixel defects.
– A new loudness meter includes features for monitoring, measuring and analyzing audio levels, with results viewable in graphical reports across the full timeline. It makes it easier to ensure delivery media conforms to loudness standards.
– Region of interest control for dead pixel detection.
– Composition reel to render individual events.
– Still frame exports can include window burns.
– ARRI look processing for 3D LUTs or CDL values in MXF.
– EXR custom pixel aspect ratio.
– Support for Alexa Mini LF camera.
– Framing tools for picture rotation.
– Fast import for large folders of media files.
– Support for Dolby Atmos audio reading and writing.
– The ability to combine and render multiple audio configs from a composition.

How CBS’ All Rise went remote for season finale

By Daniel Restuccio

When the coronavirus forced just about everything to shut down back in mid-March, many broadcast television series had no choice but to make their last-shot episodes their season finales. Others got creative.

Producer Dantonio Alvarez

While NBC’s The Blacklist opted for a CG/live-action hybrid to end its season, CBS’ courtroom drama, All Rise, chose to address the shutdown head-on with a show that was shot remotely. When CBS/Warner Bros. shut down production on All Rise, EPs Michael M. Robin and Len Goldstein — along with EP/co-showrunners Greg Spottiswood and Dee Harris-Lawrence — began brainstorming the idea of creating an episode that reflected the current pandemic crisis applied to the justice system.

Co-producer Dantonio Alvarez was deep into remote post on the already-shot episodes 19 and 20 when Robin called him. He and consultant Gil Garcetti had looked into how the court system was handling the pandemic and decided to pitch an idea to Warner Bros.: a remote episode of All Rise done via a Zoom-like setup. Alvarez was relieved; it meant a lot of the crew — 50 from the usual 90-person team — could keep working.

In a week’s time, Spottiswood and co-executive producer Greg Nelson wrote the 64-page script that focused on the complications around a virtual bench trial and the virus-jammed court system.

The Logistics
Producer Ronnie Chong reached out to Jargon Entertainment’s Lucas Solomon to see how he could help. Jargon, which provides on-set playback and computer graphics, had been working with network solutions company Straight Up Technologies (SUT) on other projects. Solomon brought SUT into the mix. “We figured out a way to do everything online and to get it to a point where Mike Robin could be at home directing everybody,” he explains.

Straight Up Technologies offers a secure and proprietary broadband network with a broadcast-quality ISP backbone that can accommodate up to 200 simultaneous video feeds at 1920×1080 at 30fps and do 4K (3840×2160 or 4096×2160). For All Rise to record at 1920×1080, each actor needed a network upload speed of 5Mb/s for no lag or packet loss. If the producers had decided to go 4K, it would have needed to be triple that.

Prep started the week of April 10, with Solomon, Alvarez, DP David Harp, Robin and the SUT IT team doing Zoom or WebEx scouts of the actors’ homes for suitable locations. They also evaluated each home’s bandwidth, making a list of what computers and mobile devices everyone had.

“You’re only as good as the connection out of your house and the traffic around your house,” explains SUT’s John Grindley. They used what was in the actors’ houses and enhanced the connection to their network when necessary. This included upgrading the basic download/upload data plan, going from 4G to 5G, putting in signal boosters, adding hard lines to computers and installing “cradle points” — high-end Wi-Fi hotspots — if needed.

The cast got small battery-powered ring lights for their devices.

Cinematographer Harp set out to find what area of the casts’ houses helped tell the story. He asked things like, “What was the architecture? What kind of lights did they have in the room? Were they on dimmers? Where were the windows, and what are the window treatments like?” The answers to those questions determined Harp’s lighting package. He sent small battery-powered ring lights to the cast along with tripods for their iPhones, but mostly they worked with what they had. “We decided that we’re not going to get cameras out to anybody,” explains Alvarez. “We were going to use people’s phones and their home computers for capture.”

As a result, all 22 cast members became camera operators, grips and essentially one-person guerrilla film crews. Their gear was MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, iPhones, and Cisco DX70s. Harp controlled exposure on the computers by moving lights around and positioning the actors.

Solomon set up his video assist system, QTake, at his shop in Valencia. It was equipped with a bandwidth of 400Mb/s download and 20Mb/s upload to record all the feeds. “We set up two other recording locations — one in Hollywood and one in Chatsworth — as redundancy.”

Production Begins
On Friday, April 17, day one of the six-day shoot, a five-person engineering crew at the COVID-safe SUT offices in San Francisco, Seattle and El Segundo fired up the network, checked the call sheet and connected to the crew.

Actors, Jessica Camacho (Emily Lopez) and Lindsay Mendez (Sara Castillo) logged into the join.sutvideo.com on their MacBook Pro laptop and iPhone, respectively. Their signal strength was good, so they shot their scene.

According to Straight Up Technologies CTO Reinier Nissen, the engineers set up virtual spaces, or “talent rooms,” for each actor and a “main stage” room where “talent rooms” were nested and scenes were played out. Every actor’s camera and mic feeds were married and recorded as individual signals. The “main stage” could be configured into a split-screen “Zoom-like” grid with inputs from any of the actors’ feeds. Some of the virtual spaces were control rooms, like a video village, where crew and IT could see all the actors, give technical and creative direction, monitor the signals, manage network traffic and control whose video and audio were on or muted.

The Cisco DX70s natively output 1920×1080 at 30fps. The MacBook Pro and Air 1280×720 camera feeds were upscaled in the sutvideo.com system to 1920×1080 30fps. The iPhones, 4K capable, were set to 1920×1080 30fps. Solomon recorded both the split-screen main stage and individual actor talent room streams to his QTake system in QuickTime ProRes 1920×1080, recalibrated the frame rate to 23.97 and added timecode.

DP David Harp

Each take was slated just like a normal shoot. From his LA home, director Robin could see everyone in the scene on the main stage and decide how to arrange them in the grid, set their eyelines and even pop into the grid during rehearsal and between takes to give notes.

Staging the scene, you would think that the actor should look straight at the camera so you could see their eyes. However, they noticed that there was “less of a connection when looking at the lens,” says Harp. “When they’re looking around the screen, you can feel a connection because they’re looking at each other.”

In addition to the virtual first unit footage, Harp shot eight days of second unit footage of Los Angeles streets during COVID. With four suction cups, he attached his Sony A7 to the roof of his son’s car and drove around for four or five hours a day shooting essentially a stock library of Los Angeles during a pandemic.

Post Production
Alvarez used the remote post infrastructure he set up for Episodes 19 and 20 for the new show. All of the editors, assistant editors, visual effects artists and audio team were working from home on their own systems or ones provided by Warner Bros. Since there was no Avid Unity shared storage, they did old-school shuttling of drives from location to location.

“We had three teams tackling this thing because our schedule was ridiculously short,” says Alvarez. “Every single day, feeding everybody material, we were able to get everyone cutting. We’d send live feeds or links to producers to get their eyes on editorial approvals on scenes in real time. We just moved.”

MTI Film EP Barbara Marshall reports that all the footage was ingested into the post house’s Signiant server system. From those masters, they made DNxHD 36 dailies using the MTI Cortex v5 software and sent them to the editors and assistant editors.

The edit team included Craig Bench, Leah Breuer and Chetin Chabuk, who worked with three assistants: Bradford Obie, Diana Santana and Douglas Staffield. They edited from home on six Avid Media Composers. They worked 13-hour days for 14 days in a row, says Bench.

Everyone on the editorial team got the same pool of dailies and started editing Saturday morning, April 18. Once they reviewed the footage, the team decided to rebuild the split-screen grids from scratch to get the pace of the show right. They wanted to retain, as much as possible, both the cadence of the dialog and the syncopated cutting style that Spottiswood and Bench had set in the pilot.

Rebuilding the grids, explains Bench, “gave us the freedom to treat everyone’s coverage separately. Even though the grid appears to be one take, it’s really not. We were creating our own world.” Rough cuts were sent every night to Robin.

During the first couple of production days, all three teams would jump on cutting the dailies as well as working through the previous day’s notes. As the show came together, Bench worked on the teaser and Act 1, Chabuk did Acts 2 and 3, and Breuer did Act 4 and the party scene at the end.

“There was a lot of experimenting,” explains Bench. “In the grid, should the actors be side by side or one on top of the other? There was also a lot of back and forth about grid background colors and textures.”

The assistants had their bins full setting up grid templates. This would allow them to drop an iso shot on a track so it would go to that spot on the grid and keep it consistent. They also built all the sound effects of the frames animating on and off.

Editorial gave MTI online editor Andrew Miller a “soft lock” of the episode early on April 30. Miller got the Avid project file that was “a big stack of split screens” and a reference video from Bench.

MTI colorist Greg Strait

Miller worked over the weekend with post supervisor Cat Crimins putting the episode together remotely. They replaced all the proxies with the high-res masters in the timeline and made necessary last-minute adjustments.

MTI colorist Greg Strait got a baked, uncompressed 10-bit MXF mixdown of the Avid timeline from Miller. Strait, who graded virtually the entire season of All Rise in Digital Vision’s Nucoda, had a good idea where the look was going. “I tried to keep it as familiar as possible to the other 20 episodes,” he says. “Sharpening some things, adding contrast and putting a lot of power windows around things had the best result.”

After laying in the audio stems, post was wrapped Sunday night at 11pm. Alvarez did a quality-control review of the episode. On Monday, May 4, they output XDCAM as the network deliverable.

Despite the tight time crunch, things went pretty smoothly, which MTI Film’s Marshall attributes to the trust and longtime relationship MTI has with Robin and the show. “That’s the cool thing about Mike. He definitely likes to push the envelope,” she says.

All Rise has been renewed for Season 2, and the team promises the innovations will continue.

Our HPA Tech Retreat video coverage

Last month, tech folks from all aspects of post production gathered in the California desert to learn about new trends, tech and workflows at the annual HPA Tech Retreat.
They also got to mingle… a lot.

postPerspective was there and had the opportunity to capture some video of the goings-on and interview folks from Cinnafilm, MTI Film, FilmLight, SMPTE and more.

Click this link to watch them all!

Behind the Title: MTI Senior Colorist Trent Johnson

NAME: Trent Johnson

COMPANY: MTI Film

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
MTI Film works in multiple post production disciplines, including TV and feature post, film restoration and software development.

AS A SENIOR COLORIST, WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
In order to be excellent in this profession you have to be obsessive about the details, because it is in the composite of details that the whole mood and tempo of the show comes alive.

At this point in the post process, I may even become more passionate about certain aspects of the project than the clients. With years of experience under my belt, I have mastered many tricks of the trade that clients may or may not be aware of. I can see what needs to be corrected in lighting and color to make the director, cinematographer and producer’s vision for the piece become a reality.

It is my responsibility to make it right and I take this responsibility very seriously and down to the tiniest detail. For example, I can unify inconsistent shots, change the time of day, augment special effects that have to be married into practical photography, tint color to affect an emotional response from the audience and enhance the appearance of characters, to name a few. The addition of my creative input to the creative process – at the direction of the creative heads of a project – serves as the icing on the cake. It’s the final perfection of the product before it’s delivered and released.

WHAT SYSTEMS DO YOU WORK ON?
I am proficient on Nucoda, Resolve and Baselight.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS? IF SO, CAN YOU DESCRIBE?
I take on light editorial tasks: compositing, speed changes, titling, etc. For a restoration project it could be sifting through various elements to choose the best quality.

The Emoji Movie

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I have lots of favorites. First is working with very talented creative clients who know what they want and how to communicate a vision. Sitting in a theatre with these creative giants, over a period of several days, an atmosphere of camaraderie develops. This has resulted in many wonderful working relationships.

Second, I love being given a challenge on a film or TV project and then being able to meet or exceed expectations. I have always said there are two kinds of people in this world: those who give you reasons why they can’t do something and those who give you reasons why something that seems impossible can be done. I like to be the guy that figures out how to make it happen for a client, even though it may be out of the wheelhouse of most color correctors.

Third, once I meet a challenge and succeed in enhancing the creative vision of the client to an unexpected level, I like reviewing what I colored and how it’s made everything come together according to the vision. I thoroughly enjoy looking at what I colored yesterday and liking it, not to mention witnessing my client’s satisfaction with the final product.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Rushing through the grade. I’m a perfectionist and like to refine a look until everyone in the room is pleased. I’m willing to put the time to get it right.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I edited as well as colored early in my career. I could have easily pursued editing, as I enjoy it quite a lot. I like focusing on performances and finding the magic moments in shots and scenes and piecing it all together to move the story forward. I bring these skills into the color bay every day and draw on them by using color to amplify and strengthen the storyline of the project I’m working on.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
As a child I binge-watched TV shows and movies and developed a love of classic Hollywood. I can walk into a room and glance at a movie and usually know what the title is. My kids get a kick out of that. I have a bit of a photographic memory in that sense. This has come in handy because I not only remember the movie, but the color and lighting as well, and how it was used in that particular instance to create a mood.

As I grew into my teens, I decided to make that movie-watching time investment pay off. I bought a Super 8 camera in high school and began making movies with my friends. I’ve never looked back. I majored in film production at the collegiate level at USC and San Diego State University. I started my career at Complete Post in Hollywood, and the rest is history.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I recently worked on Overboard for MGM, Proud Mary for Screen Gems and The Emoji Movie for Sony/Columbia.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I’ve worked on all the Smurfs movies. I started on the animated TV series early in my career and was hired to color correct all three of the motion pictures. The most challenging aspect of these movies early on was the combination live action and animation.

I became known as the “Smurf Blue guy” for keeping the characteristic blue color of the characters consistent. I especially enjoyed working with the animation clients on these shows because they are extremely precise, and I respect that.

A close second favorite is the motion picture Burlesque. The cinematography on that film was executed brilliantly; it featured dramatic dance numbers enhanced with creative lighting, had an avant-garde cast and was a throw-back to old Hollywood.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
I feel as connected to the old as to the new. Technology is always morphing, and the way movies are made constantly in flux. This is a source of fascination to me, and I’m inspired by the way all forms of art both reflect and influence culture. I study how camerawork and lighting techniques come and go, and how they were and are effectively used artistically in movies past and present. How to communicate different facets of life is the fundamental inspiration for art. What I do is a technical art form, so it draws deeply on these principles.

NAME SOME TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
XM Radio, television, my iPhone and my coffeemaker.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I thoroughly enjoy reading blogs, and especially listening to podcasts of cinematographers and other colorists to stay current on innovation trends. Anything to do with the industry on Facebook, YouTube, etc. is always interesting to me.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Sinatra, classic radio shows and pastry. Actually, it’s my sense of humor that keeps me going. Also, coming home to my loving family and being highly involved in my children’s lives is my lifeblood.

MTI Film updates Cortex for V.4, includes Dolby Vision HDR metadata editing

MTI Film is updating its family of Cortex applications and tools, highlighted by Cortex V.4. In addition to legacy features such as a dailies toolset, IMF and AS-02 packaging and up-res algorithms, Cortex V.4 adds DCP packaging (with integrated ACES color support), an extended edit tool and officially certified Dolby Vision metadata editing capabilities.

“We allow users to manipulate Dolby Vision HDR metadata in the same way that they edit segments of video,” says Randy Reck, MTI Film’s director of development. “In the edit tool, they can graphically trim, cut and paste, add metadata to video, analyze new segments that need metadata and adjust parameters within the Dolby Vision metadata on a shot-by-shot basis.”

With the integration of the Dolby Vision ecosystem, Cortex V.4 provides a method for simultaneously QC-ing HDR and SDR versions of a shot with Dolby Vision metadata. For delivery, the inclusion of the Dolby Vision “IMF-like” output format allows for the rendering and delivery of edited Dolby Vision metadata alongside HDR media in one convenient package.

Cortex V.4’s Edit Tool has been updated to include industry-standard trimming and repositioning of edited segments within the timeline through a drag-and-drop function. The entire look of the Edit Tool (available in the Dailies and Enterprise editions of Cortex) has also been updated to accommodate a new dual-monitor layout, making it easier for users to scrub through media in the source monitor while keeping the composition in context in the record monitor.

MTI Film is also offering a new subscription-based DIT+ edition of Cortex. “It doesn’t make sense for productions to purchase a full software package if their schedule includes a hiatus when it won’t be used,” explains Reck.

DIT+ contains all aspects of the free DIT version of Cortex with the added ability to render HD ProRes, DNx and H.264 files for delivery. A DIT+ subscription starts at $95 per month, and MTI Film is offering a special NAB price of $595 for the first year.

Meet The Director of Engineering: John Stevens

NAME: John Stevens

COMPANY: Hollywood-based MTI Film, LLC (http://www.mtifilm.com, @MTIFilm)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
The official line is: MTI Film is a full-service post facility providing dailies, editorial, visual effects, color correction and assembly for film, television and commercial projects. MTI also boasts a new DI theater that is fully calibrated and capable of 4K play back.

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MTI Film adds post staff for television series work

 

HOLLYWOOD — MTI Film (www.mtifilm.com) has added veteran producers Antoinette Perez and Lawrence Epstein to its post production services division focusing on television work.

Perez joins from Pixomondo where she produced visual effects for such films as Oblivion and Red Tails. Epstein’s appointment is a promotion. He served for the past three years as MTI Film’s night operations manager.

Epstein will oversee post work for several television productions, including Major Crimes, Hell on Wheels, The Walking Dead and Bates Motel. Perez’s responsibilities will include the shows Sirens, Dallas, Key and Peele, A Country Christmas Story and Through the Wormhole.

Epstein-cropped

Lawrence Epstein

Epstein joined MTI Film in 2010 after three years at Encore Hollywood where he held a similar operations role. His expertise encompasses editorial, color correction, graphics and visual effects.

Perez has worked in post production since 1994. She began her career at Encore Hollywood and later joined Cinesite, Europe, where her credits included Tomb Raider and the first two Harry Potter movies. She also held served as a producer at Prime Focus and as a CG production manager Rhythm & Hues.