Tag Archives: post production

Behind the Title: Cinematic Media head of sound Martin Hernández

This audio post pro’s favorite part of the job is the start of a project — having a conversation with the producer and the director. “It’s exciting, like any new relationship,” he says.

Name: Martin Hernández

Job Title: Supervising Sound Editor

Company: Mexico City’s Cinematic Media

Can you describe Cinematic Media and your role there?
I lead a new sound post department at Cinematic Media, Mexico’s largest post facility focused on television and cinema. We take production sound through the full post process: effects, backgrounds, music editing… the whole thing. We finish the sound on our mix stages.

What would surprise people most about what you do?
We want the sound to go unnoticed. The viewer shouldn’t be aware that something has been added or is unnatural. If the viewer is distracted from the story by the sound, it’s a lousy job. It’s like an actor whose performance draws attention to himself. That’s bad acting. The same applies to every aspect of filmmaking, including sound. Sound needs to help the narrative in a subjective and quiet way. The sound should be unnoticed… but still eloquent. When done properly, it’s magical.

Hernandez has been working on Easy for Netflix.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Entering the project for the first time and having a conversation with the team: the producer and the director. It’s exciting, like any new relationship. It’s beautiful. Even if you’re working with people you’ve worked with before, the project is newborn.

My second favorite part is the start of sound production, when I have a picture but the sound is a blank page. We must consider what to add. What will work? What won’t? How much is enough or too much? It’s a lot like cooking. The dish might need more of this spice and a little less of that. You work with your ingredients, apply your personal taste and find the right flavor. I enjoy cooking sound.

What’s your least favorite part of the job?
Me.

What do you mean?
I am very hard on myself. I only see my shortcomings, which are, to tell you the truth, many. I see my limitations very clearly. In my perception of things, it is very hard to get where I want to go. Often you fail, but every once in a while, a few things actually work. That’s why I’m so stubborn. I know I am going to have a lot of misses, so I do more than expected. I will shoot three or four times, hoping to hit the mark once or twice. It’s very difficult for me to work with me.

What is your most productive time of the day?
In the morning. I’m a morning person. I work from my own place, very early, like 5:30am. I wake up thinking about things that I left behind in the session. It’s useless to remain in bed, so I go to my studio and start working on these ideas. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish between 6am and 9am. You have no distractions. No one’s calling. No emails. Nothing. I am very happy working in the mornings.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing?
That’s a tough question! I don’t know anything else. Probably, I would cook. I’d go to a restaurant and offer myself as an intern in the kitchen.

For most people I know, their career is not something they’ve chosen; it was embedded in them when they were born. It’s a matter of realizing what’s there inside you and embracing it. I never, in my wildest dreams, expected to be doing this work.

When I was young, I enjoyed watching films, going to the movies, listening to music. My earliest childhood memories are sound memories, but I never thought that would be my work. It happened by accident. Actually, it was one accident after another. I found myself working with sound as a hobby. I really liked it, so I embraced it. My hobby then became my job.

So you knew early on that audio would be your path?
I started working in radio when I was 20. It happened by chance. A neighbor told me about a radio station that was starting up from scratch. I told my friend from school, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, the director. Suddenly, we’re working at a radio station. We’re writing radio pieces and doing production sound. It was beautiful. We had our own on-air, live shows. I was on in the mornings. He did the noon show. Then he decided to make films and I followed him.

Easy

What are some of your recent projects?
I just finished a series for Joe Swanberg, the third season of Easy. It’s on Netflix. It’s the fourth project I’ve done with Joe. I’ve also done two shows here in Mexico. The first one is my first full-time job as supervisor/designer for Argos, the company lead by Epigmenio Ibarra. Yankee is our first series together for Netflix, and we’re cutting another one to be aired later in the year. It’s a very exciting for me.

Is there a project that you’re most proud of?
I am very proud of the results that we’ve been getting on the first two series here in Mexico. We built the sound crew from scratch. Some are editors I’ve worked with before, but we’ve also brought in new talent. That’s a very joyful process. Finding talent is not easy, but once you do, it’s very gratifying. I’m also proud of this work because the quality is very good. Our clients are happy, and when they’re happy, I’m happy.

What pieces of technology can you not live without?
Avid Pro Tools. It’s the universal language for sound. It allows me to share sound elements and sessions from all over the world, just like we do locally, between editing and mixing stages. The second is my converter. We are using the Red system from Focusrite. It’s a beautiful machine.

This is a high-stress job with deadlines and client expectations. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Keep working.

Veteran episodic colorist Scott Klein joins Light Iron

Colorist Scott Klein has joined post house Light Iron, which has artists working on feature films, episodic series and music videos at its Los Angeles- and New York-based studios. Klein brings with him 40 years of experience supervising a variety of episodic series.

“While Light Iron was historically known for its capabilities with feature films, we have developed an equally strong episodic division, and Scott builds upon our ongoing commitment to providing the talent and technology necessary for supporting all formats and distribution platforms,” says GM Peter Cioni of Light Iron.

Klein’s list of credits include Fox’s Empire, HBO’s Deadwood: The Movie and Showtime’s Ray Donovan. He also collaborated on the series Bosch, True Blood, The Affair, Halt and Catch Fire, Entourage and The Sopranos. Klein is also an associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC). He will be working on Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve.

“I really enjoy the artistic collaboration with filmmakers,” he says. “It is great to be part of a facility with such a pure passion for supporting the creative through technology. Colorists need strong technology that serves as a means to best express the feelings being conveyed in the images and further enhance the moods that draw audiences into a story.”

Also joining Klein are his colleagues and fellow colorists Daniel Yang, Jesús Borrego and Ara Thomassian. They join Light Iron after working together at Warner Bros. and then Technicolor.

In addition to growing its team of artists to support the expanding market and client needs, Light Iron has also expanded its physical footprint with a second Hollywood-based location a short distance from its flagship facility. A full breadth of creative finishing services for feature films and episodic series is available at both locations. Light Iron also has locations in Atlanta, Albuquerque, Chicago and New Orleans.

 

CVLT hires Katya Pavlova as head of post

Bi-coastal video production studio CVLT has added Katya Pavlova as head of post production. She will be based in the studio’s New York location.

Pavlova joins the team after six years at The Mill, where she produced projects that include David Bowie’s Life on Mars music video remake directed by photographer Mick Rock, as well as Steven Klein’s augmented reality experience for W Magazine’s cover, featuring an interactive 3D digital portrait of Katy Perry.

In her new role, Pavlova will focus on growing CVLT’s post production operation and developing new partnerships. She brings career expertise in a broad range of editorial, VFX, design and CG disciplines across digital and broadcast. In her time as a producer at The Mill, she worked on variety of work for brands including Netflix, Facebook, Ralph Lauren, Jimmy Choo and Vogue.

“We have seen post production needs shift focus from traditional media channels to multi-platform requirements, including emerging technology like augmented reality and crafting short-form videos for social media and mobile audiences. At CLVT, I intend to adapt our team to execute post on advanced AR projects as well as quick turnaround videos for social channels.”

Picture Shop buys The Farm Group

Burbank’s Picture Shop has acquired UK-based The Farm Group. The Farm Group was founded in 1998 and currently has four locations in London, as well as facilities in Manchester, Bristol and Los Angeles.

The Farm, London

The Farm also operates the in-house post production teams for BBC Sport in Salford, England; UKTV; and Fremantle Media. This deal marks Picture Shop’s second international acquisition, followed by the deal it made for Vancouver’s Finalé Post earlier this year.

The founders of The Farm, Nicky Sargent and Vikki Dunn, will stay involved in The Farm Group. In a joint statement, Sargent and Dunn said, “We are delighted that after 20 successful years, we have a new partner. Picture Shop is poised to expand in the international post market and provide the combination of technical, creative and professional excellence to the world’s content creators.”

The duo will also re-invest in the expanded Picture Head Group, which includes Picture Head and audio post company Formosa Group, in addition to Picture Shop.

L-R: The Farm Group’s Nicky Sargent and Vikki Dunn.

Bill Romeo, president of Picture Shop, says, “Based on the amount of content being created internationally, we felt it was important to have a presence worldwide and support our clients’ needs. The Farm, based on its reputation and creative talent, will be able to maintain the philosophy of Picture Shop. It is a perfect fit. Our clients will benefit from our collaborative efforts internationally, as well as benefit from our technology and experience. We will continue to partner and support our clients while maintaining our boutique feel.”

Recent work from The Farm Group includes BBC Two’s Summer of Rockets, Sky One’s Jamestown and Britain’s Got Talent.

 

London’s Media Production Show: technology for content creation

By Mel Lambert

The fourth annual Media Production Show, held June 11-12 at Olympia West, London, once again attracted a wide cross section of European production, broadcast, post and media-distribution pros. According to its organizers, the two-day confab drew 5,300 attendees and “showcased the technology and creativity behind content creation,” focusing on state-of-the-art products and services. The full program of standing room-only discussion seminars covered a number of contemporary topics, while 150-plus exhibitors presented wares from the media industry’s leading brands.

The State of the Nation: Post Production panel.

During a session called “The State of the Nation: Post Production,” Rowan Bray, managing director of Clear Cut Pictures, said that “while [wage and infrastructure] costs are rising, our income is not keeping up.” And with salaries, facility rent and equipment amortization representing 85% of fixed costs, “it leaves little over for investment in new technology and services. In other words, increasing costs are preventing us from embracing new technologies.”

Focusing on the long-term economic health of the UK post industry, Bray pointed out that few post facilities in London’s Soho area are changing hands, which she says “indicates that this is not a healthy sector [for investment].”

“Several years ago, a number of US companies [including Technicolor and Deluxe] invested £100 million [$130 million] in Soho; they are now gone,” stated Ian Dodd, head of post at Dock10.

Some 25 years ago, there were at least 20 leading post facilities in London. “Now we have a handful of high-end shops, a few medium-sized ones and a handful of boutiques,” Dodd concluded. Other panelists included Cara Kotschy, managing director of Fifty Fifty Post Production.

The Women in Sound panel

During his keynote presentation called “How we made Bohemian Rhapsody,” leading production designer Aaron Haye explained how the film’s large stadium concert scenes were staged and supplemented with high-resolution CGI; he is currently working on Charlie’s Angels (2019) with director/actress Elizabeth Banks.

The panel discussion “Women in Sound” brought together a trio of re-recording mixers with divergent secondary capabilities and experience. Participants were Emma Butt, a freelance mixer who also handles sound editorial and ADR recordings; Lucy Mitchell, a freelance sound editor and mixer; plus Kate Davis, head of sound at Directors Cut Films. As the audience discovered, their roles in professional sound differ. While exploring these differences, the panel revealed helpful tips and tricks for succeeding in the post world.


LA-based Mel Lambert is principal of Content Creators. He can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com. Follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.

New Boxx workstation features Intel Xeon W-3200 processor

Boxx Technologies, which makes computer workstations, rendering systems and servers, has introduced the Apexx W4L workstation featuring new Intel Xeon W-3200 series processors. This new single-socket processor provides performance increases over previous Intel Xeon W technology. Boxx’s Apexx W4L is purpose-built for rendering, simulation and other GPU-accelerated compute applications.

A new single-socket solution, 28-core (56 thread) Intel Xeon W-3200 processors offer up to 4.6GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0, 64 processor PCIe lanes for more I/O throughput for networking, graphics and storage, and new Intel Deep Learning Boost for accelerated AI performance.

In addition to the new Intel processor technology, Apexx W4L features up to 1TB of memory and four Nvidia or AMD professional GPUs, making the workstation ideal for GPU-intensive workloads, including media and entertainment.

Pricing starts at $7,395 and you can expect two to three weeks for delivery.

 

Post vet Jason Mayo named COO of Chimney North America

Chimney Group has hired industry veteran Jason Mayo as chief operating officer for North America. He will be based in the studio’s New York office. Mayo joins at a time of significant growth for Chimney Group, an independently-owned Stockholm-based creative and post company with studios in 11 cities and eight countries worldwide.

“What attracted me is Chimney being able to leverage their full power of resources around the globe. We need to make budgets and schedules work harder for our clients, and having a 24/7 production and post pipeline is a powerful package we can offer clients on a global scale,” says Mayo.

He joins from Postal TV, where he was managing director. Before that, Mayo was managing director/partner at NYC’s Click 3X. He helped grow the studio from a 20-person VFX boutique to a fully integrated digital production company with a staff of over 75 full-time designers, animators, live-action directors, producers, developers, editors, colorists and VFX artists.

The Chimney Group’s recent foray into the North American market includes the opening of studios in New York and Los Angeles and the hiring of over 35 people, including the recent addition of chief client officer Kristen Martini. Mayo will work closely with North American CEO Marcelo Gandola to bring the Swedish operational and creative model to the States, delivering brand strategy as well as full-service production and post capabilities to multiple verticals.

“The work we are doing for our clients is increasingly global and full-service in nature,” says Gandola. “Jason has a great track record building companies and is an ideal operational leader for us to build a team to serve Chimney’s global clientele in the US market.”

Dell adds to Precision workstation line, targets M&E

During the Computex show, Dell showed new Precision mobile workstations featuring the latest processors, next-gen graphics, new display options and longer battery life. These systems are designed demanding data- and graphics-intensive workloads.

Dell Precision workstations are ISV-certified and come with Dell Precision Optimizer software that automatically tailors the system’s settings to get the best software performance from the workstation. The compact design of the new 5000 and 7000 series models offer a combination of extreme battery life, powerful processor configurations and large storage options. Starting at 3.9 pounds, the Dell Precision 5540 comes with Intel Xeon E or 9th Gen Intel Core eight-core processors.

With a 15.6-inch InfinityEdge display inside a 14-inch chassis, the Precision 5540 houses up to 4TB of storage and up to 64GB of memory, which helps pros to quickly access, transfer and store large 3D, video and multimedia files. Editors and designers will also benefit from contrast ratios, touch capability and picture quality with up to a UHD, 100% Adobe color gamut display or the new OLED display with 100% DCI-P3 color gamut.

The Dell Precision 7540 15-inch mobile workstation comes with a range of 15.6-inch display options, including a UHD HDR 400 display. It supports up to 8K resolution and playback of HDR content via single DisplayPort 1.4. The Precision 7540 can accelerate heavy workflows with up to 3200MHz SuperSpeed memory or up to 128GB of 2666MHz ECC memory.

For creatives whose process requires an even more immersive experience, the new Dell Precision 7740 has a 17.3-inch screen and is Dell’s most powerful and scalable mobile workstation. VR- and AI-ready, it is designed to help users bring their most data-heavy, graphic-intensive ideas to life while keeping applications running smoothly.

The Precision 7740 has been updated to feature up to the latest Intel Xeon E or 9th Gen Intel Core eight-core processors and comes with up to 128GB of ECC memory and a large PCIe SSD storage capacity (up to 8TB). Nvidia Quadro RTX graphics offer realtime raytracing with AI-based graphics acceleration. Additional options include next-generation AMD Radeon Pro GPUs. It is available with a range of display options, including a new 17.3-inch UltraSharp UHD IGZO display featuring 100% Adobe color gamut.

Along with the new Precision mobile workstation models, Dell has also updated its Precision 3000 series towers and the Precision 1U rack workstation. The 3930 1U rack workstation has been updated with Intel Xeon E or 9th Gen Intel Core processor options. The solution now offers up to 128GB of memory and up to one double-width 295W of Nvidia Quadro or AMD Radeon Pro professional graphics support.

The next-gen Dell Precision 3630 and 3431 towers improve response time with up to 128GB or 64GB of 2666MHz ECC or non-ECC memory, respectively, and both offer scalable storage options. All workstations have a range of operating system options, including Windows 10 Pro, Red Hat and Ubuntu Linux.

The Dell Precision 5540, 7540 and 7740 mobile workstations will be available on Dell.com in early July. Starting prices are $1339, $1149 and $1409, respectively. The Dell Precision 3630 tower workstation will be available on dell.com in mid-July starting at $609.

The Dell Precision 3431 Tower workstation will be available on their site in June starting at $609. The Dell Precision 3930 Rack will be available on their site in mid-July starting at $879.

Phil Kubel named director of HPA

The Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) has appointed Phil Kubel as the organization’s director. He will be the Burbank-based presence of the HPA management team, managing the organization’s day-to-day business as well as supporting strategic planning, membership development and program development.

After his graduation from USC, Kubel worked in a number of production-related positions. In 2003 he became one of the founding members of HRTV, a national television network that featured equestrian and horse racing content. Kubel was instrumental in the design, engineering and production build of the studios and broadcast facility at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. He went on to oversee day-to-day operations of all digital media, production and technology initiatives at HRTV, including creating the subscription-based HRTV.com.

In addition to Kubel’s technical portfolio, he served as VP of post production for HRTV and was the creative force behind the documentary series Inside Information, which earned 10 Emmy wins.

In 2015, Kubel was named VP/EP for a new digital media initiative for The Stronach Group. Under Stronach Digital, he oversaw the launch of XBTV, which is now an industry-leading multi-media horse racing product that provides insight and analysis for wagering customers.

“It’s an exciting time to be joining HPA,” notes Kubel. “We have a rare opportunity to use our accumulated knowledge and relationships to support industry growth by connecting the players and leading the conversation. I look forward to continuing the vision of HPA and developing it as a world-class resource for production professionals.”

He will report to HPA’s executive director, Barbara Lange.

Sonnet adds new card and adapter to 10GbE line

Sonnet Technologies is offering the Solo10G SFP+ PCIe card and the Solo10G SFP+ Thunderbolt 3 Edition adapter, the latest products in the company’s line of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) network adapters.

Solo10G SFP+ adapters add fast 10GbE network connectivity to a wide range of computers, enabling users to easily connect to 10GbE-enabled network infrastructure and storage systems via LC fiber optic cables (sold separately). Both products include a 10GBase-SR (short-range) SFP+ transceiver (the most commonly used optical transceiver), enabling 10Gb connectivity at distances up to 300 meters.

The Solo10G SFP+ PCIe card is a low-profile x4 PCIe 3.0 adapter card that offers Mac, Windows and Linux users an easy-to-install and easy-to-manage solution for adding 10GbE fiber network connectivity to computers with PCIe card slots. This card is also suited for use in a multi-slot Thunderbolt-to-PCIe card expansion system connected to a Mac. The Solo10G SFP+ Thunderbolt 3 Edition adapter is a compact, rugged, bus-powered, fanless Thunderbolt 3 adapter for Mac and Windows computers with Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Sonnet’s Solo10G SFP+ products offer Mac users a plug-and-play experience with no driver installation required; Windows and Linux use only requires a simple driver installation. Both products are configured using operating system settings, so there’s no separate management program to install or run.

With its broad OS support and small form factor, the Solo10G SFP+ PCIe card allows companies to standardize on a single adapter and deploy it across platforms with ease. For users with Thunderbolt 3-equipped Mac and Windows computers, the Solo10G SFP+ Thunderbolt 3 Edition adapter is a simple external solution for adding 10GbE fiber network connectivity. From its replaceable captive cable to its bus-powered operation, the Thunderbolt 3 adapter is highly portable.

Solo10G SFP+ products were engineered with security features essential to today’s users. Incorporating encryption in hardware, the Sonnet network adapters are protected against malicious firmware modification. Any unauthorized attempt to modify the firmware to enable covert computer access renders them inoperable. These security features prevent the Solo10G SFP+ adapters from being reprogrammed, except by a manufacturer’s update using a secure encryption key.

Measuring a compact 3.1 inches wide by 4.9 inches deep by 1.1 inches tall — less than half the size of every other adapter in its class — the Solo10G SFP+ Thunderbolt 3 Edition adapter features an aluminum enclosure that effectively cools the circuitry and eliminates the need for a fan, enabling silent operation. Unlike every other 10GbE fiber Thunderbolt adapter available, Sonnet’s Solo10G SFP+ adapter requires no power adapter and instead is powered by the computer to which it’s connected.

The Solo10G SFP+ PCIe card and Solo10G SFP+ Thunderbolt 3 Edition adapter are available now for $149 and $249, respectively.

Cutters Studios promotes Heather Richardson, Patrick Casey

Cutters Studios has promoted Heather Richardson to executive producer and Patrick Casey to head of production. Richardson’s oversight will expand into managing and recruiting talent, and in maintaining and building the company’s client base. Casey will focus on optimizing workflows, project management and bidding processes.

Richardson joined Cutters in 2015, after working as a producer for visual effects studio A52 in LA and for editorial company Cosmo Street in both LA and New York for more than 10 years. On behalf of Cutters, she has produced Super Bowl spots for Lifewtr, Nintendo and WeatherTech, and campaigns including Capital One, FCA North America (Fiat, Dodge Ram, and Jeep), Gatorade, Google, McDonald’s and Modelo.

“I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some excellent executive producers during my career, and I’m honored and excited for the opportunity to expand the scope of my role on behalf of Cutters Studios, and alongside Patrick Casey,” says Richardson. “Patrick’s kindness and thoughtfulness in addition to his intelligence and experience are priceless.”

In addition to leading Cutters editors, Casey produced the groundbreaking Always “#LikeAGirl” campaign, Budweiser’s Harry Caray’s Last Call and Whirlpool’s “Care Counts” campaign that won top Cannes Lions, Clio, Effie and Adweek Project Isaac Awards.

NYC’s The-Artery expands to larger space in Chelsea

The-Artery has expanded and moved into a new 7,500-square-foot space in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Founded by chief creative officer Vico Sharabani, The-Artery will use this extra space while providing visual effects, post supervision, offline editorial, live action and experience design and development across multiple platforms.

According to Sharabani, the new space is not only a response to the studio’s growth, but allows The-Artery to foster better collaboration and reinforce its relationships with clients and creative partners. “As a creative studio, we recognize how important it is for our artists, producers and clients to be working in a space that is comfortable and supportive of our creative process,” he says. “The extraordinary layout of this new space, the size, the lighting and even our location, allows us to provide our clients with key capabilities and plays an important part in promoting our mission moving forward.”

Recent The-Artery projects include 2018’s VR-enabled production for Mercedez-Benz, their work on Under Armour’s “Rush” campaign and Beyonce’s Coachella documentary, Homecoming.

They have also worked on feature films like Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation, Wes Anderson’s Oscar-winning Grand Budapest Hotel and the crime caper Ocean’s 8.

The-Artery’s new studio features a variety of software including Flame, Houdini, Cinema 4D, 3ds Max, Maya, the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of tools, Avid Media Composer, Shotgun for review and approval and more.

The-Artery features a veteran team of talented team of artists and creative collaborators, including a recent addition — editor and former Mad River Post owner Michael Elliot. “Whether they are agencies, commercial and film directors or studios, our clients always work directly with our creative directors and artists, collaborating closely throughout a project,” says Sharabani.

Main Image: Vico Sharabani (far right) and team in their new space.

Picture Shop acquires Vancouver-based Finalé

Picture Shop has acquired Finalé Post in Vancouver. Burbank-based Picture Shop, which provides finishing and VFX work for episodic television, including The Walking Dead, NCIS, Hawaii Five-0 and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, had been looking to make an expansion into the Vancouver market. The company will be branded Finalé, a Picture Shop company.

“Having a Vancouver-based location has always been a strategy of ours, but it was very important to find the right company,” says Picture Shop president Bill Romeo. “We are thrilled to incorporate Finalé into the Picture Shop family. With the amount of content being produced, our goal is to always have strategic locations that support our clients’ needs but still maintain our company’s philosophy — creating an experience with the highest level of service and a creative partnership with our clients.”

Launched in 1988 by Finalé CEO and industry veteran Don Thompson, Finalé is located in the center of Vancouver and has served most major studios. Finalé offers a host of post production services, ranging from digital dailies and color, through 4K HDR finishing and editorial. It also offers mobile dailies and editorial rentals in Toronto and other major Canadian production centers. Finalé’s credits include Descendants 3, iZombie, Tomorrowland and The Magicians.

Main Image: ( L-R) Picture Shop’s Tom Kendall and Robert Glass, Finalé’s Don Thompson, Picture Shop’s Bill Romeo and Finalé’s Andrew Jha.

 

Atto’s FibreBridge now part of NetApp’s MetroCluster

Atto Technology has teamed with NetApp to offer Atto FibreBridge 7600N as a key component in the MetroCluster continuous data availability solution. Atto FibreBridge 7600N storage controller enables synchronous site-to-site replication up to 300km by providing low latency 32Gb Fibre Channel connections to NetApp flash and disk systems while maintaining high resiliency. FibreBridge 7600N supports up to 1.2 million IOPS and 6,400MB/s per controller.

NetApp MetroCluster enhances the built-in high availability and non-disruptive operations of NetApp systems with Ontap software, providing an additional layer of protection for the entire storage and host environment.

The Atto XstreamCore FC 7600 is a hardware protocol converter that connects 32Gb Fibre Channel ports to 12Gb SAS. It allows post and production houses to free up server resources normally used for handling storage activity and distribute storage connections across up to 64 servers with less than four micro seconds of latency. XstreamCore FC 7600 offers the flexibility needed for modern media production, allowing streaming of uncompressed HD, 4K and larger video, adding shared capabilities to direct attached storage and remotely locating direct attached disk or tape devices. This is a major advantage in workflow management, system architecting and layout of production facilities.

FibreBridge 7600N is one of Atto XstreamCore storage controller products, just one of Atto’s broad portfolio of connectivity solutions widely tested and certified for compatibility with all operating systems and platforms.

Goldcrest Post hires industry vet Dom Rom as managing director

Domenic Rom, a veteran of the New York post world, has joined Goldcrest Post as managing director. In this new role, he will oversee operations, drive sales and pursue growth strategies for Goldcrest, a provider of post services for film and television. Rom was most recently president/GM of Deluxe TV Post Production Services in LA.

“Domenic is a visionary leader who brings a client-centric approach toward facility management, and understands the industry’s changing dynamics,” says Goldcrest Films owner/executive director Nick Quested. “He inspires his team to perform at a peak level and deliver the quality services our clients expect.”

In his previous position, Rom led Deluxe’s global services for television, including its subsidiaries Encore and Level 3. Prior to that, he was managing director of Deluxe’s New York studio, which included East Coast operations for Encore, Company 3 and Method. He was SVP at Technicolor Creative Services for three years and an executive at Postworks for 11. Rom began his career as a colorist at DuArt Film Labs, eventually becoming executive VP in charge of its digital and film labs.

Rom says that he looks forward to working with Goldcrest Post’s management team, including head of production Gretchen McGowan and head of picture Jay Tilin. “We intend to be a very client-oriented facility,” he notes. “When clients walk in the door, they should feel at home, feel that this is their place. Jay and Gretchen both get that. We will work together very closely to ensure Goldcrest is a solid, responsive facility.”

He is also very happy about being back in New York City. “New York is my home,” says Rom. “When I decided to come back to the city just walking around town made me feel alive again. The New York market is so tight, the energy so high it just felt right. The people are real, the clients are amazing and the work is equal to anywhere in the world. I don’t regret a second of the past few years… I expanded my knowledge of other markets and made life-long friendships all over the world. At the end of the day though, my family and my work family are in New York.”

Recent projects for Goldcrest include the Netflix series Russian Doll and the independent features Sorry to Bother You, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Native Son and High Flying Bird.

EP Nick Strange Thye joins The Underground in New York

The Underground in New York City has hired executive producer Nick Strange Thye, who joins the boutique content company after four years at The Mill. Thye’s appointment comes on the heels of veteran production executive Hugh Broder being named as The Underground’s managing director/executive producer at the beginning of the year.

“Nick has an amazing depth of experience and knowledge in production and post production, both in the US market and overseas,” explains Broder. “I’m very excited to have him as a partner as we continue to expand and build our capabilities.”

Thye was most recently senior producer at The Mill, overseeing a range of projects, including spots for the NFL for Super Bowl 50, Cadillac for The Oscars and Samsung for the Olympics, as well as ads for Adidas, the US Marine Corps and PlayStation 4. He’s collaborated with such agencies as Johannes Leonardo, BBDO, Droga5, Rokkan and BBH. Thye, who’s from Denmark, previously worked in Europe as an international executive producer for several companies, including Chimney Group.

At The Underground, he’ll work closely with Broder as well as creative director/lead Flame artist Nic Seresin. Recent projects at the studio include extensive post production on a new Hyundai campaign for Innocean as well as a soon-to-be-released short film for Aston Martin.

“I believe in the flexibility of boutique companies,” says Thye. “They represent the future for this industry. The business is changing to be more project-based, and The Underground has the ability to build the right team for each project. Because of my European background, I have a lot of experience doing this, and I’m eager to put that expertise to work here.”

The Underground is part of the P2P Group, which also includes P2P Retouching, a leading presence in the beauty industry for the past two decades. The expansion of the umbrella group is a concerted effort led by company owner Ben Bettenhausen.

 

Little’s dailies-to-ACES finishing workflow via FotoKem

FotoKem’s Atlanta and Burbank facilities both worked on the post production — from digital dailies through finishing with a full ACES finish — for Universal Pictures’ and Legendary Entertainment’s film, Little.

From producer Will Packer (Girls Trip, Night School, the Ride Along franchise) and director/co-writer Tina Gordon (Peeples, Drumline), Little tells the story of a tech mogul (Girls Trip’s Regina Hall) who is transformed into a 13-year-old version of herself (Marsai Martin) and must rely on her long-suffering assistant (Insecure’s Issa Rae) just as the future of her company is on the line.

Martin, who stars in the TV series Black-ish, had the idea for the film when she was 10 and acts as an executive producer on the film.

Principal photography for Little took place last summer in the Atlanta area. FotoKem’s Atlanta location provided digital dailies, with looks developed by FotoKem colorist Alastor Arnold alongside cinematographer Greg Gardiner (Girls Trip, Night School), who shot with Sony F55 cameras.

Cinematographer Greg Gardiner on set.

“Greg likes a super-clean look, which we based on Sony color science with a warm and cool variant and a standard hero LUT,” says Arnold. “He creates the style of every scene with his lighting and photography. We wanted to maximize his out-of-the-camera look and pass it through to the grading process.”

Responding to the sharp growth of production in Georgia, FotoKem entered the Atlanta market five years ago to offer on-the-ground support for creatives. “FotoKem Atlanta is an extension of our Burbank team with colorists and operations staff to provide the upfront workflow required for file-based dailies,” says senior VP Tom Vice of FotoKem’s creative services division.

When editor David Moritz and the editorial team moved to Los Angeles, FotoKem sent EDLs to its nextLAB dailies platform, the facility’s proprietary digital file management system, where shots for VFX vendors were transcoded as ACES EXR files with full color metadata. Non-VFX shots were also automatically pulled from nextLAB for conform. The online was completed in Blackmagic Resolve.

The DI and the film conform happened concurrently, with Arnold and Gardiner working together daily. “We had a full ACES pipeline, with high dynamic range and high bit rate, which both Greg and I liked,” Arnold says. “The film has a punchy, crisp chromatic look, but it’s not too contemporary in style or hyper-pushed. It’s clean and naturalistic with an extra chroma punch.”

Gordon was also a key part of the collaboration, playing an active role in the DI, working closely with Gardiner to craft the images. “She really got into the color aspect of the workflow,” notes Arnold. “Of course, she had a vision for the movie and fully embraced the way that color impacts the story during the DI process.”

Arnold’s first pass was for the theatrical grade and the second for the HDR10 grade. “What I like about ACES is the simplicity of transforming to different color spaces and working environments. And the HDR grade was a quicker process,” he says. “HDR is increasingly part of our deliverables, and we’re seeing a lot more ACES workflows lately, including work on trailers.”

FotoKem’s deliverables included a DCP, DCDM and DSM for the theatrical release; separations and .j2k files for HDR10 archiving; and ProRes QuickTime files for QC.

Idris Elba and Gary Reich talk about creating Netflix’s Turn Up Charlie

By Iain Blair

Idris Elba has always excelled at playing uber-cool, uber-controlled characters — often villains and troubled souls, such as drug lord Stringer Bell on HBO’s The Wire, detective John Luther on the BBC’s Luther, and the war lord in the harrowing feature film Beasts of No Nation. No wonder everyone thinks he’d be perfect as the next uber-sexy Bond.

But there’s another, hidden side to the charismatic star. The actor has long been heavily involved in post production. Additionally, he moonlights as a DJ, the inspiration for his new Netflix show Turn Up Charlie. He trashes his super-cool image by starring as the titular Charlie, a decidedly uncool, struggling DJ and eternal bachelor, who finally gets a shot at success when he reluctantly becomes a “manny” to his famous best friend’s problem-child daughter.

The show also serves as a showcase for Elba’s self-described “nerdy” side behind the camera, his love of producing and his hands-on involvement in every aspect of post. The eight-part series is co-produced by Elba’s Green Door Pictures and Gary Reich’s Brown Eyed Boy Productions, with Elba and Reich serving as executive producers alongside Tristram Shapeero, who directs the series with Matt Lipsey.

And in a serious show of support for the show and its star, Netflix (which for the first time beat HBO in Emmy noms last year) officially launched an Emmy “For Your Consideration” campaign, with a screening and panel discussion featuring Elba.

Prior to the event, I spoke with the Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated Elba (whose credits also include the Avengers and Thor franchises, American Gangster, Star Trek Beyond, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, The Office and The Jungle Book) about his latest project, his real-life moonlighting gig as a DJ, his love of post and his upcoming role in Cats. We also spoke with his Turn Up Charlie co-creator Reich.

Let’s talk about post production on the show. How involved are you, considering you’re also starring and co-producing?
Idris Elba: We did it at The Farm in London, and I’m pretty involved in every aspect of post, though I’m not sitting in the edit suite all day long looking at every frame. But I really love the whole process, especially editing and, of course, the sound and music because of my background as a DJ. So I’ll be there checking the edits and how it’s being put together.

Then I’ll be there for all the sound mix stuff and also for the final grade, which I love too. I’m super-nerdy in that way, and I find it very satisfying to be involved in post. For most actors, post is this whole hidden, secret world that you never see or get involved in, but I’ve always been fascinated by how it all comes together… how you can manipulate a performance or the sound to totally change a scene and how it works and affects the audience. It’s really the most creative part of making a TV show or a movie, and hopefully I’ll be more and more involved in it all.

People think of you as an actor first and foremost, but you’ve been involved in producing and post for quite a while.
Elba: Yeah, I’ve always been interested in it, learning stuff as I go, and watching directors and how post works. When I directed my first film, Yardie, a couple of years ago, it was a real education, and I loved every minute of it — being involved in all the editing and working on all the elements that go into the sound mix and music. I’ve been involved in production with a lot of the shows I’ve done, like Luther and Five by Five and now this one, and I really enjoy it.

Gary, any surprises working with Idris? And what was the schedule like?
Gary Reich: For someone so busy across so many different mediums, it was amazing how he was always able to give 100% in the moment. He’s like a powerful lighthouse — when he shines on you and your production, you get a dazzling 150% of him. As a co-executive producer, he was involved across many surprisingly small details, as well as the larger picture. We edited at The Farm, and the offline was what you’d expect — a week for each half-hour episode. The music was extremely complex, so once the pictures were locked, there was a long process of auditioning tracks.

Who edited, and what were the main challenges?
Reich: Gary Dollner edited block 1 (Episodes 1-4) with the block 1 director, Tristram Shapeero. Pete Drinkwater edited block 2 (Episodes 5-8) with the block 2 director, Matt Lipsey. The main challenges were that Idris wanted us to approach the edit like a DJ, where the rhythm of each episode’s scene-to-scene transitions would be similar to what a DJ achieves mixing between tracks. Luckily, our editors more than rose to that challenge.

Talk about the importance of sound and music for you and Idris on this. Where did you mix?
Reich: We also mixed at The Farm. Sound and music were extremely key to the show as it is, after all, a show about, created by and scored by a DJ. The score was composed by DJ James Lavelle, so Idris and he had various meetings in the edit where it was clear they spoke the same language. It was important to Idris that the character themes were all electronic rather than acoustic, even the very emotional beats. James and his team adapted accordingly, and we have some amazing new sounds in the show.

Also, one of the key series arcs was a track that Idris’ character Charlie had had a big one-off hit with in the ’90s, that then gets remixed across three episodes by our female Calvin Harris character, played by Piper Perabo, and then gets dropped at the Latitude Festival. It was key that we were authentic, as we showed the track coming together at different stages across different scenes. The mix was all done at The Farm.

I noticed some VFX credits. What was involved, who did them?
Reich: We had a lot of mobile phone and some Skype screens that needed shots compositing in, and some posters too, as well as needing to build a nightclub onto the back of a beach bar. They were all done by The Farm.

Who was the colorist and what was involved?
Reich: Perry Gibbs was the colorist. Because we shot on anamorphic lenses, but also had to use the Red cameras in order to meet certain Netflix technical requirements, there were challenges in the grade, but they were worth it, as the end result was particularly deep.

Idris, Charlie is a major U-turn from your usual self-assured characters. You co-created this show with Gary for yourself, so is this actually the real you?
Elba: (Laughs). Yeah, it is the closest to the real me. I’m not anything like Luther or the other characters I’m best known for. I’m closer to Charlie than anything else. I really wanted to show what the real world of DJs is like, and we spent a lot of time in post working on the music. But the truth is, no one really cares about what DJs go through as long as the music’s good, so I needed to add some heart and other elements to it, and it gradually became more about parenting and all those challenges. I’m a parent, so I brought all those experiences and stories to it and merged the two worlds. It ended up being a bit about the world of music and a lot about people.

Many people probably don’t know that you actually started out as a DJ in London before you got into acting.
Elba: Right, and partly thanks to this, I seem to be getting a lot more exposure for my DJ’ing these days, especially after doing “the wedding” [Elba was asked by Prince Harry to DJ at his wedding to Meghan Markle], and now I’ll be DJ’ing at Coachella, and then I’m doing the Electric Daisy Carnival in Vegas and some other gigs. So if the acting thing falls apart, I’m all set!

DJ’ing was really my first love, and by the time I was 13, 14, I was DJ’ing for house parties and whatnot, and then I met my drama teacher, and DJ’ing went out the window. But the truth is, I kept DJ’ing alongside my acting career, and I just love doing it. It grounds me, and I love music. What I chose not to do is market my DJ’ing as part of my acting career, but recently it’s become this crazy crossroads of all this stuff happening, what with this show and Coachella and so on. It all looks like a brilliant marketing plan, but it’s not. I’m just not that clever!

When you get back to London, you’ll keep filming Tom Hooper’s movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, which is due out later this year. What can you tell us about it?
Elba: I can’t reveal too much, but it’s going great. I get to play another villain, Macavity, which is always fun for me. Tom’s got a really interesting look and take on it, and he’s assembled this amazing cast: Taylor Swift, who I got on great with, and Jennifer Hudson and James Corden. He’s so funny. And Ian McKellen. It’s going to be pretty special.

Aren’t you playing another villain in Hobbs & Shaw, the Fast & Furious spinoff due out in August?
Elba: Yeah, I play Brixton Lore, this cyber-enhanced criminal mastermind who’s going at it with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Director David Leitch did Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, and we did some really wild stuff. I’m really excited about it. It’s been a busy year.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Colorist Peter Doyle joins Warner Bros. De Lane Lea’s picture services division

World-renown and respected supervising colorist Peter Doyle, whose large body of work includes The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has joined London’s Warner Bros. De Lane Lea’s (WBDLL) new picture services division. Doyle brings with him extensive technical and creative expertise acquired over a 40-year career.

Doyle has graded 12 of the 100 highest-grossing films of all time including the Harry Potter film series. His recent credits include Darkest Hour (see our interview with him here), The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and both Fantastic Beasts films.

Doyle will be working alongside BAFTA-winning colorist Asa Shoul (Mission Impossible: Fallout, Baby Driver, Amazon’s Tin Star), who joined WBDLL at the end of last year. The additions of Doyle and Shoul beef up WBDLL’s picture division to match the studio’s sound facilities De Lane Lea.

Speaking of joining the company, Doyle says, “I first worked with Warner Bros. on The Matrix in 1999. Since then, grading and delivering films to Warner Bros. for filmmakers such as Tim Burton, David Yates, Dick Zanuck and David Heyman has always felt like a partnership. Warner Bros. always brought tremendous passion to the projects and a deep desire to best represent the creative intent of the filmmakers. WBDLL represents a third-generation post facility; it’s been conceived with the philosophy that origination and delivery are part of the same process. It’s managed by a newly assembled crew that over the course of their careers have answered some of the most complex post production challenges the industry has devised. WBDLL is an environment and indeed a concept I feel London has needed for many years.”

The new facilities at WBDLL include two 4K HDR FilmLight Baselight X grading theatres, Autodesk Flame online suites, digital dailies facilities, dark fiber connectivity and a mastering and QC department. WBDLL has additional facilities based at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, including a 50-seat 4K screening room, 4K VFX review theater and in-facility and on-location digital dailies, offering clients a full end-to-end service.

WBDLL has been the choice for many large features including Dumbo, Wonder Woman, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Fantastic Beasts, Early Man, Mission Impossible: Fallout and Outlaw King. Its roster of high-end TV clients include Netflix, Amazon, Starz, BBC and ITV.

Last year the company announced it was cementing its future in Soho by moving to the purpose-built Ilona Rose House in 2021, which is currently under construction.

Collaboration company Pix acquires Codex

Pix has reached an agreement to acquire London-based Codex, in a move that will enable both companies to deliver a range of new products and services, from streamlined camera capture to post production finishing.

The Pix System  is a collaboration tool that provides industry pros with secure access to production content on mobile devices, laptops or TVs from offices, homes or while traveling. They won an Oscar for its technology in 2019.

Codex products include recorders and media processing systems that transfer digital files and images from the camera to post, and tools for color dynamics, dailies creation, archiving, review and digital asset management.

“Our clients have relied on Pix to protect their material and ideas throughout all phases of production. In Codex, we found a group that similarly values relationships with attention to critical details,” explains Pix founder/CEO Eric Dachs. “Codex will retain its distinct brand and culture, and there is a great deal we can do together for the benefit of our clients and the industry.”

Over the years, Pix and Codex have seen wide industry adoption, delivering a proven record of contributing value to their clients. Introduced in 2003, Pix soon became a trusted and widely used secure communication and content management provider. The Pix System enables creative continuity and reduces project risk by ensuring that ideas are accurately shared, stored, and preserved throughout the entire production process.

“Pix and Codex are complementary, trusted brands used by leading creatives, filmmakers and studios around the world,” says Codex managing director Marc Dando. “The integration of both services into one simplified workflow will deliver the industry a fast, secure, global collaborative ecosystem.”

With the acquisition of Codex, Pix will expand its servicing reach across the globe. Pix founder Dachs will remain as CEO, and Dando will take on the role of chief design officer at Pix, with a focus on existing and new products.

NAB 2019: An engineer’s perspective

By John Ferder

Last week I attended my 22nd NAB, and I’ve got the Ross lapel pin to prove it! This was a unique NAB for me. I attended my first 20 NABs with my former employer, and most of those had me setting up the booth visits for the entire contingent of my co-workers and making sure that the vendors knew we were at each booth and were ready to go. Thursday was my “free day” to go wandering and looking at the equipment, cables, connectors, test gear, etc., that I was looking for.

This year, I’m part of a new project, so I went with a shopping list and a rough schedule with the vendors we needed to see. While I didn’t get everywhere I wanted to go, the three days were very full and very rewarding.

Beck Video IP panel

Sessions and Panels
I also got the opportunity to attend the technical sessions on Saturday and Sunday. I spent my time at the BEITC in the North Hall and the SMPTE Future of Cinema Conference in the South Hall. Beck TV gave an interesting presentation on constructing IP-based facilities of the future. While SMPTE ST2110 has been completed and issued, there are still implementation issues, as NMOS is still being developed. Today’s systems are and will for the time being be hybrid facilities. The decision to be made is whether the facility will be built on an IP routing switcher core with gateways to SDI, or on an SDI routing switcher core with gateways to IP.

Although more expensive, building around an IP core would be more efficient and future-proof. Fiber infrastructure design, test equipment and finding engineers who are proficient in both IP and broadcast (the “Purple Squirrels”) are large challenges as well.

A lot of attention was also paid to cloud production and distribution, both in the BEITC and the FoCC. One such presentation, at the FoCC, was on VFX in the cloud with an eye toward the development of 5G. Nathaniel Bonini of BeBop Technology reported that BeBop has a new virtual studio partnership with Avid, and that the cloud allows tasks to be performed in a “massively parallel” way. He expects that 5G mobile technology will facilitate virtualization of the network.

VFX in the Cloud panel

Ralf Schaefer, of the Fraunhofer Heinrich-Hertz Institute, expressed his belief that all devices will be attached to the cloud via 5G, resulting in no cables and no mobile storage media. 5G for AR/VR distribution will render the scene in the network and transmit it directly to the viewer. Denise Muyco of StratusCore provided a link to a virtual workplace: https://bit.ly/2RW2Vxz. She felt that 5G would assist in the speed of the collaboration process between artist and client, making it nearly “friction-free.” While there are always security concerns, 5G would also help the prosumer creators to provide more content.

Chris Healer of The Molecule stated that 5G should help to compress VFX and production workflows, enable cloud computing to work better and perhaps provide realtime feedback for more perfect scene shots, showing line composites of VR renders to production crews in remote locations.

The Floor
I was very impressed with a number of manufacturers this year. Ross Video demonstrated new capabilities of Inception and OverDrive. Ross also showed its new Furio SkyDolly three-wheel rail camera system. In addition, 12G single-link capability was announced for Acuity, Ultrix and other products.

ARRI AMIRA (Photo by Cotch Diaz)

ARRI showed a cinematic multicam system built using the AMIRA camera with a DTS FCA fiber camera adapter back and a base station controllable by Sony RCP1500 or Skaarhoj RCP. The Sony panel will make broadcast-centric people comfortable, but I was very impressed with the versatility of the Skaarhoj RCP. The system is available using either EF, PL, or B4 mount lenses.

During the show, I learned from one of the manufacturers that one of my favorite OLED evaluation monitors is going to be discontinued. This was bad news for the new project I’ve embarked on. Then we came across the Plura booth in the North Hall. Plura as showing a new OLED monitor, the PRM-224-3G. It is a 24.5-inch diagonal OLED, featuring two 3G/HD/SD-SDI and three analog inputs, built-in waveform monitors and vectorscopes, LKFS audio measurement, PQ and HLG, 10-bit color depth, 608/708 closed caption monitoring, and more for a very attractive price.

Sony showed the new HDC-3100/3500 3xCMOS HD cameras with global shutter. These have an upgrade program to UHD/HDR with and optional processor board and signal format software, and a 12G-SDI extension kit as well. There is an optional single-mode fiber connector kit to extend the maximum distance between camera and CCU to 10 kilometers. The CCUs work with the established 1000/1500 series of remote control panels and master setup units.

Sony’s HDC-3100/3500 3xCMOS HD camera

Canon showed its new line of 4K UHD lenses. One of my favorite lenses has been the HJ14ex4.3B HD wide-angle portable lens, which I have installed in many of the studios I’ve worked in. They showed the CJ14ex4.3B at NAB, and I even more impressed with it. The 96.3-degree horizontal angle of view is stunning, and the minimization of chromatic aberration is carried over and perhaps improved from the HJ version. It features correction data that support the BT.2020 wide color gamut. It works with the existing zoom and focus demand controllers for earlier lenses, so it’s  easily integrated into existing facilities.

Foot Traffic
The official total of registered attendees was 91,460, down from 92,912 in 2018. The Evertz booth was actually easy to walk through at 10a.m. on Monday, which I found surprising given the breadth of new interesting products and technologies. Evertz had to show this year. The South Hall had the big crowds, but Wednesday seemed emptier than usual, almost like a Thursday.

The NAB announced that next year’s exhibition will begin on Sunday and end on Wednesday. That change might boost overall attendance, but I wonder how adversely it will affect the attendance at the conference sessions themselves.

I still enjoy attending NAB every year, seeing the new technologies and meeting with colleagues and former co-workers and clients. I hope that next year’s NAB will be even better than this year’s.

Main Image: Barbie Leung.


John Ferder is the principal engineer at John Ferder Engineer, currently Secretary/Treasurer of SMPTE, an SMPTE Fellow, and a member of IEEE. Contact him at john@johnferderengineer.com.

The Kominsky Method‘s post brain trust: Ross Cavanaugh and Ethan Henderson

By Iain Blair

As Bette Davis famously said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies!” But Netflix’s The Kominsky Method proves that in the hands of veteran sitcom creator Chuck Lorre — The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and many others — there’s plenty of laughs to be mined from old age… and disease, loneliness and incontinence.

The show stars Michael Douglas as divorced, has-been actor and respected acting coach Sandy Kominsky and Alan Arkin as his longtime agent Norman Newlander. The story follows these bickering best friends as they tackle life’s inevitable curveballs while navigating their later years in Los Angeles, a city that values youth and beauty above all. Both comedic and emotional, The Kominsky Method won Douglas a Golden Globe.

Ethan Henderson and Ross Cavanaugh

The single-camera show is written by Al Higgins, David Javerbaum and Lorre, who also directed the first episode. Lorre, Higgins and Douglas executive produce the series, which is produced by Chuck Lorre Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television.

I recently spoke with associate producer Ross Cavanaugh and post coordinator Ethan Henderson about posting the show.

You are currently working on Season 2?
Ross Cavanaugh: Yes, and we’re moving along quite quickly. We’re already about three-quarters of the way through the season shooting-wise, out of the eight-show arc.

Where do you shoot, and what’s the schedule like?
Cavanaugh: We shoot mainly on the lot at Warner Bros. and then at various locations around LA. We start prepping each show one week before we start shooting, and then we get dailies the day after the first shooting day.

Our dailies lab is Picture Shop, which is right up the street in Burbank and very convenient for us. So getting footage from the set to them is quick, and they’re very fast at turning the dailies around. We usually get them by midnight the same day we drop them off,  then our editors start cutting fairly quickly after that.

Where do you do all the post?
Cavanaugh: Mainly at Picture Shop, who are very experienced in TV post work. They do all the post finishing and some of the VFX stuff — usually the smaller things, like beauty fixes and cleanup. They also do all the final color correction since DP Anette Haellmigk really wanted to work with colorist George Manno. They’ve been really great.

Ethan Henderson: We’re back and forth from the lot to Picture Shop, and once we get more heavily involved in all the post, I spend a lot of time there while we are onlining the show, coloring and doing the VFX drop-ins, and when we start the final deliverables process, since everything for Netflix comes out of there.

What are the big challenges of post production on this show, and how closely do you work with Chuck Lorre?
Cavanaugh: As with any TV show, you’re always on a very tight deadline, and there are a lot of moving parts to deal with very quickly. While our prolific showrunner Chuck Lorre is busy with all the projects he has going — especially with all the writing — he always makes time for us. He’s very passionate about the cut and is extremely on top of things.

I’d say the challenges on this show are actually fairly minimal. Basically, we ran a pretty tight ship on the first season, and now I’d say it’s a well-oiled machine. We haven’t had any big problems or surprises in post, which can happen.

Let’s talk about editing. You had two editors for Season 1 in Matthew Barbato and Gina Sansom. I assume that’s because of the time factor. How does that work?
Cavanaugh: Each editor has their own assistant editor — that was true in Season One (Matthew with Jack Cunningham and Gina with Barb Steele) and in Season two (Steven Lang with Romeo Rubio and Gina with Rahul Das). They cut separately and work on an odds-and-evens schedule, each doing every other episode. We all get together to watch screenings of the Director’s Cut, usually in the editorial bay.

What are the big editing challenges?
Cavanaugh: We have a pretty big cast, and there’s a ton of jokes and stuff going on all the time. In addition to Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, the actors are so experienced. They give such great performances — there’s a lot of material for the editors to cut from. To be honest, the scripts are all so tight that I think one of the challenges is knowing when to cut out a joke, to serve the pacing of an episode.

This isn’t a VFX-driven show, but there are some visual effects shots. Can you explain?
Cavanaugh: We do a lot of driving scenes and use 24frame.com, who have this really good wraparound HD projection technology, so we pretty much shoot all our car scenes on the stage.

Henderson: Once in a while, we’ll pick up some exterior or establishing shots on a freeway using doubles in the cars. All the plates are picked ahead of time. Occasionally, for the sake of continuity, we’ll have to replace a plate in the background and put a different section of the plate in because too many cars ran by, and it didn’t match up in the edit.

That’s one of the things that comes up every so often. The other big thing is that both of the leads wear glasses, so reflections of crew and equipment can become an issue; we have to deal with all that and clean it up.

Cavanaugh: We don’t use many big VFX shots, and we can’t reveal much about what happens in the new season, but sometimes there’s stuff like the scene in season one where one of the characters threw some firecrackers at Michael Douglas’ feet. We obviously weren’t going to throw real ones at Michael Douglas, although I think he’d have sucked it up if we’d done it that way! We were shooting in a residential neighborhood at night and we couldn’t set off real ones because they are very loud, so we ended up doing it all with VFX. FuseFx handled the workload for the heavier VFX work.

Henderson: There was a big shot in the pilot where we did a lot of shot extensions in a restaurant where Sandy Kominsky (Douglas) and Nancy Travis’ character are having coffee. It was this big sweeping pan down over the city.

Can you talk about the importance of sound and music?
Cavanaugh: They both play a key role, and we have a great team that includes music editor Joe Deveau, supervising sound editor Lou Thomas, and sound mixers Yuri Reese and Bill Smith. The sound recording quality we get on set is always great, so that means we only need very minimal ADR. The whole sound mix is done here on the lot at Warners.

Our composer, Jeff Cardoni, worked with Chuck on Young Sheldon, and he’s really on top of getting all the new cues for the show. We basically have two versions of our main title sequence music cues — one is very bombastic and in-your-face, and the other is a bit more subtle — and it’s funny how it broke down in the first season. The guy who cut the pilot and the odd episodes went with the more bombastic version, while the second editor on the even episodes preferred the softer cues, so I’ll be curious to see how all that breaks down in the new season.

How important is all the coloring on this?
Cavanaugh: Very important. After we do all the online, we ship it over to George at Picture Shop and spend about a day and a half on it. The DP either comes in or gets a file, and she gives her notes. Then we’ll play it for Chuck. We’re in the HDR world with Dolby Vision, and it makes it look so beautiful — but then we have to do the standard pass on it as well.

I know you can’t reveal too much about the new season, but what can fans expect?
Henderson: They’re getting a continuation of these two characters’ journey together — growing old and everything that comes with that. I think it feels like a very natural extension of the first season.

Cavanaugh: In terms of the post process, I feel like we’re a Swiss watch now. We’re ticking along very smoothly. Sometimes post can be a nightmare and full of problems, so it’s great to have it all under control.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

HP shows off new HP Z6 and Z8 G4 workstations at NAB

HP was at NAB demoing their new HP Z6 and Z8 G4 workstations, which feature Intel Xeon scalable processors and Intel Optane DC persistent memory technology to eliminate the barrier between memory and storage for compute-intensive workflows, including machine learning, multimedia and VFX. The new workstations offer accelerated performance with a processor-architecture that allows users to work faster and more efficiently.

Intel Optane DC allows users to improve system performance by moving large datasets closer to the CPU so it can be assessed, processed and analyzed in realtime and in a more affordable way. This will allow for no data loss after a power cycle or application closure. Once applications are written to take advantage of this new technology, users will benefit from accelerated workflows and little or no downtime.

Targeting 8K video editing in realtime and for rendering workflows, the HP Z6 G4 workstation is equipped with two next-generation Intel Xeon processors providing up to 48 total processor cores in one system, Nvidia and AMD graphics and 384GB of memory. Users can install professional-grade storage hardware without using standard PCIe slots, offering the ability to upgrade over time.

Powered by up to 56 processing cores and up to 3TB of high-speed memory, the HP Z8 G4 workstation can run complex 3D simulations, supporting VFX workflows and handling advanced machine learning algorithms. They are certified for some of the most-used software apps, including Autodesk Flame and DaVinci Resolve.

HP’s Remote Graphics Software (RGS), included with all HP Z workstations, enables remote workstation access from any Windows, Linux or Mac device.

Avid is collaborating with HP to test RGS with Media Composer|Cloud VM.

The HP Z6 G4 workstation with new Intel Xeon processors is available now for the base price of $2,372. The HP Z8 G4 workstation starts at $2,981.

NAB 2019: First impressions

By Mike McCarthy

There are always a slew of new product announcements during the week of NAB, and this year was no different. As a Premiere editor, the developments from Adobe are usually the ones most relevant to my work and life. Similar to last year, Adobe was able to get their software updates released a week before NAB, instead of for eventual release months later.

The biggest new feature in the Adobe Creative Cloud apps is After Effects’ new “Content Aware Fill” for video. This will use AI to generate image data to automatically replace a masked area of video, based on surrounding pixels and surrounding frames. This functionality has been available in Photoshop for a while, but the challenge of bringing that to video is not just processing lots of frames but keeping the replaced area looking consistent across the changing frames so it doesn’t stand out over time.

The other key part to this process is mask tracking, since masking the desired area is the first step in that process. Certain advances have been made here, but based on tech demos I saw at Adobe Max, more is still to come, and that is what will truly unlock the power of AI that they are trying to tap here. To be honest, I have been a bit skeptical of how much AI will impact film production workflows, since AI-powered editing has been terrible, but AI-powered VFX work seems much more promising.

Adobe’s other apps got new features as well, with Premiere Pro adding Free-Form bins for visually sorting through assets in the project panel. This affects me less, as I do more polishing than initial assembly when I’m using Premiere. They also improved playback performance for Red files, acceleration with multiple GPUs and certain 10-bit codecs. Character Animator got a better puppet rigging system, and Audition got AI-powered auto-ducking tools for automated track mixing.

Blackmagic
Elsewhere, Blackmagic announced a new version of Resolve, as expected. Blackmagic RAW is supported on a number of new products, but I am not holding my breath to use it in Adobe apps anytime soon, similar to ProRes RAW. (I am just happy to have regular ProRes output available on my PC now.) They also announced a new 8K Hyperdeck product that records quad 12G SDI to HEVC files. While I don’t think that 8K will replace 4K television or cinema delivery anytime soon, there are legitimate markets that need 8K resolution assets. Surround video and VR would be one, as would live background screening instead of greenscreening for composite shots. No image replacement in post, as it is capturing in-camera, and your foreground objects are accurately “lit” by the screens. I expect my next major feature will be produced with that method, but the resolution wasn’t there for the director to use that technology for the one I am working on now (enter 8K…).

AJA
AJA was showing off the new Ki Pro Go, which records up to four separate HD inputs to H.264 on USB drives. I assume this is intended for dedicated ISO recording of every channel of a live-switched event or any other multicam shoot. Each channel can record up to 1080p60 at 10-bit color to H264 files in MP4 or MOV and up to 25Mb.

HP
HP had one of their existing Z8 workstations on display, demonstrating the possibilities that will be available once Intel releases their upcoming DIMM-based Optane persistent memory technology to the market. I have loosely followed the Optane story for quite a while, but had not envisioned this impacting my workflow at all in the near future due to software limitations. But HP claims that there will be options to treat Optane just like system memory (increasing capacity at the expense of speed) or as SSD drive space (with DIMM slots having much lower latency to the CPU than any other option). So I will be looking forward to testing it out once it becomes available.

Dell
Dell was showing off their relatively new 49-inch double-wide curved display. The 4919DW has a resolution of 5120×1440, making it equivalent to two 27-inch QHD displays side by side. I find that 32:9 aspect ratio to be a bit much for my tastes, with 21:9 being my preference, but I am sure there are many users who will want the extra width.

Digital Anarchy
I also had a chat with the people at Digital Anarchy about their Premiere Pro-integrated Transcriptive audio transcription engine. Having spent the last three months editing a movie that is split between English and Mandarin dialogue, needing to be fully subtitled in both directions, I can see the value in their tool-set. It harnesses the power of AI-powered transcription engines online and integrates the results back into your Premiere sequence, creating an accurate script as you edit the processed clips. In my case, I would still have to handle the translations separately once I had the Mandarin text, but this would allow our non-Mandarin speaking team members to edit the Mandarin assets in the movie. And it will be even more useful when it comes to creating explicit closed captioning and subtitles, which we have been doing manually on our current project. I may post further info on that product once I have had a chance to test it out myself.

Summing Up
There were three halls of other products to look through and check out, but overall, I was a bit underwhelmed at the lack of true innovation I found at the show this year.

Full disclosure, I was only able to attend for the first two days of the exhibition, so I may have overlooked something significant. But based on what I did see, there isn’t much else that I am excited to try out or that I expect to have much of a serious impact on how I do my various jobs.

It feels like most of the new things we are seeing are merely commoditized versions of products that may originally have been truly innovative when they were initially released, but now are just slightly more fleshed out versions over time.

There seems to be much less pioneering of truly new technology and more repackaging of existing technologies into other products. I used to come to NAB to see all the flashy new technologies and products, but now it feels like the main thing I am doing there is a series of annual face-to-face meetings, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Until next year…


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with over 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.

AJA intros Ki Pro Go, Corvid 44 12G and more at NAB

AJA was at NAB this year showing the new Ki Pro Go H.264 multichannel HD/SD recorder/player, as well as 14 openGear converter cards featuring DashBoard software support, two new IP video transmitters that bridge HDMI and 3G-SDI signals to SMPTE ST 2110 and the Corvid 44 12G I/O card for AJA Developers. AJA also introduced updates featuring improvements for its FS-HDR HDR/WCG converter, desktop and mobile I/O products, AJA Control Room software, HDR Image Analyzer and the Helo recorder/streamer.

Ki Pro Go is a genlock-free, multichannel H.264 HD and SD recorder/player with a flexible architecture. This portable device allows users to record up to four channels of pristine HD and SD content from SDI and HDMI sources to off-the-shelf USB media via 4x USB 3.0 ports, with a fifth port for redundant recording. The Ki Pro Go will be available in June for $3,995.

A FS-HDR v3.0 firmware update features enhanced coloring tools and support for multichannel Dynamic LUTs, plus other improvements. The release includes a new integrated Colorfront Engine Film Mode offering a rich grading and look creation toolset with optional ACES colorspace, ASC color decision list controls and built-in look selection. It’s available in June as a free update.

Developed with Colorfront, the HDR Image Analyzer v1.1 firmware update features several new enhancements, including a new web UI that simplifies remote configuration and control from multiple machines, with updates over Ethernet offering the ability to download logs and screenshots. New remote desktop support provides facility-friendly control from desktops, laptops and tablets on any operating system. The update also adds new HDR monitoring and analysis tools. It’s available soon as a free update.

The Desktop Software v15.2 update offers new features and performance enhancements for AJA Kona and Io products. It offers psupport for Apple ProRes capture and playback across Windows, Linux and macOS in AJA Control Room, at up to 8K resolutions, while also adding new IP SMPTE ST 2110 workflows using AJA Io IP and updates for Kona IP, including ST 2110-40 ANC support. The free Desktop Software update will be available in May.

The Helo v4.0 firmware update introduces new features that allow users to customize their streaming service and improve monitoring and control. AV Mute makes it easy to personalize the viewing experience with custom service branding when muting audio and video streams, while Event Logging enables encoder activity monitoring for simpler troubleshooting. It’s available in May as a free update.

The new openGear converter cards combine the capabilities of AJA’s mini converters with openGear’s high-density architecture and support for DashBoard, enabling industry-standard configuration, monitoring and control in broadcast and live event environments over a PC or local network on Windows, macOS or Linux. New models include re-clocking SDI distribution amplifiers, single-mode 3G-SDI fiber converters plus Multi-Mode variants and an SDI audio embedder/ disembedder. The openGear cards are available now, with pricing dependent upon the model.

AJA’s new IPT-10G2-HDMI and IPT-10G2-SDI mini converters are single-channel IP video transmitters for bridging traditional HDMI and 3G-SDI signals to SMPTE ST 2110 for IP-based workflows. Both models feature dual 10 GigE SFP+ ports for facilities using SMPTE ST 2022-7 for redundancy in critical distribution and monitoring. They will be available soon for $1,295.

The Corvid 44 12G is an 8-lane PCIe 3.0 video and audio I/O card featuring support for 12G-SDI I/O in a low-profile design for workstations and servers and 8K/UltraHD2/4K/UltraHD high frame rate, deep color and HDR workflows. Corvid 44 12G also facilitates multichannel 12G-SDI I/O, enabling either 8K or multiple 4K streams of input or output. It is compatible across macOS, Windows and Linux and used in high-performance applications for imaging, post, broadcast and virtual production. Corvid 44 12G cards will be available soon.

Facilis Launches Hub shared storage line

Facilis Technology rolled out its new Hub Shared Storage line for media production workflows during the NAB show. Facilis Hub includes new hardware and an integrated disk-caching system for cloud and LTO backup and archive designed to provide block-level virtualization and multi-connectivity performance.

“Hub Shared Storage is an all-new product based on our Hub Server that launched in 2017. It’s the answer to our customers’ requests for a more compact server chassis, lower-cost hybrid (SSD and HDD) options and integrated cloud and LTO archive features,” says Jim McKenna, VP of sales and marketing at Facilis. “We deliver all of this with new, more powerful hardware, new drive capacity options and a new look to both the system and software interface.”

The Facilis shared storage network allows both block-mode Fibre Channel and Ethernet connectivity simultaneously with the ability to connect through either method with the same permissions, user accounts and desktop appearance. This expands user access, connection resiliency and network permissions. The system can be configured as a direct-attached drive or segmented into various-sized volumes that carry individual permissions for read and write access.

Facilis Object Cloud
Object Cloud is an integrated disk-caching system for cloud and LTO backup and archive that includes up to 100TB of cloud storage for an annual fee. The Facilis Virtual Volume can display cloud, tape and spinning disk data in the same directory structure on the client desktop.

“A big problem for our customers is managing multiple interfaces for the various locations of their data. With Object Cloud, files in multiple locations reside in the same directory structure and are tracked by our FastTracker asset tracking in the same database as any active media asset,” says McKenna. “Object Cloud uses Object Storage technology to virtualize a Facilis volume with cloud and LTO locations. This gives access to files that exist entirely on disk, in the Cloud or on LTO, or even partially on disk and partially in the cloud.”

Every Facilis Hub Shared Storage server comes with unlimited seats in the Facilis FastTracker asset tracking application. The Object Cloud Software and Storage package is available for most Facilis servers running version 7.2 or higher.

Behind the Title: Nice Shoes animator Yandong Dino Qiu

This artist/designer has taken to sketching people on the subway to keep his skills fresh and mind relaxed.

NAME: Yandong Dino Qiu

COMPANY: New York’s Nice Shoes

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Nice Shoes is a full-service creative studio. We offer design, animation, VFX, editing, color grading, VR/AR, working with agencies, brands and filmmakers to help realize their creative vision.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Designer/Animator

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Helping our clients to explore different looks in the pre-production stage, while aiding them in getting as close as possible to the final look of the spot. There’s a lot of exploration and trial and error as we try to deliver beautiful still frames that inform the look of the moving piece.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Not so much for the title, but for myself, design and animation can be quite broad. People may assume you’re only 2D, but it also involves a lot of other skill sets such as 3D lighting and rendering. It’s pretty close to a generalist role that requires you to know nearly every software as well as to turn things around very quickly.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE?
Photoshop, After Effects,. Illustrator, InDesign — the full Adobe Creative Suite — and Maxon Cinema 4D.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Pitch and exploration. At that stage, all possibilities are open. The job is alive… like a baby. You’re seeing it form and helping to make new life. Before this, you have no idea what it’s going to look like. After this phase, everyone has an idea. It’s very challenging, exciting and rewarding.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Revisions. Especially toward the end of a project. Everything is set up. One little change will affect everything else.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
2:15pm. Its right after lunch. You know you have the whole afternoon. The sun is bright. The mood is light. It’s not too late for anything.

Sketching on the subway.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would be a Manga artist.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
La Mer. Frontline. Friskies. I’ve also been drawing during my commute everyday, sketching the people I see on the subway. I’m trying to post every week on Instagram. I think it’s important for artists to keep to a routine. I started up with this at the beginning of 2019, and there’ve been about 50 drawings already. Artists need to keep their pen sharp all the time. By doing these sketches, I’m not only benefiting my drawing skills, but I’m improving my observation about shapes and compositions, which is extremely valuable for work. Being able to break down shapes and components is a key principle of design, and honing that skill helps me in responding to client briefs.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
TED-Ed What Is Time? We had a lot of freedom in figuring out how to animate Einstein’s theories in a fun and engaging way. I worked with our creative director Harry Dorrington to establish the look and then with our CG team to ensure that the feel we established in the style frames was implemented throughout the piece.

TED-Ed What Is Time?

The film was extremely well received. There was a lot of excitement at Nice Shoes when it premiered, and TED-Ed’s audience seemed to respond really warmly as well. It’s rare to see so much positivity in the YouTube comments.

NAME SOME TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My Wacom tablet for drawing and my iPad for reading.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I take time and draw for myself. I love that drawing and creating is such a huge part of my job, but it can get stressful and tiring only creating for others. I’m proud of that work, but when I can draw something that makes me personally happy, any stress or exhaustion from the work day just melts away.

Quick Chat: Lord Danger takes on VFX-heavy Devil May Cry 5 spot

By Randi Altman

Visual effects for spots have become more and more sophisticated, and the recent Capcom trailer promoting the availability of its game Devil May Cry 5 is a perfect example.

 The Mike Diva-directed Something Greater starts off like it might be a commercial for an anti-depressant with images of a woman cooking dinner for some guests, people working at a construction site, a bored guy trimming hedges… but suddenly each of our “Everyday Joes” turns into a warrior fighting baddies in a video game.

Josh Shadid

The hedge trimmer’s right arm turns into a futuristic weapon, the construction worker evokes a panther to fight a monster, and the lady cooking is seen with guns a blazin’ in both hands. When she runs out of ammo, and to the dismay of her dinner guests, her arms turn into giant saws. 

Lord Danger’s team worked closely with Capcom USA to create this over-the-top experience, and they provided everything from production to VFX to post, including sound and music.

We reached out to Lord Danger founder/EP Josh Shadid to learn more about their collaboration with Capcom, as well as their workflow.

How much direction did you get from Capcom? What was their brief to you?
Capcom’s fight-games director of brand marketing, Charlene Ingram, came to us with a simple request — make a memorable TV commercial that did not use gameplay footage but still illustrated the intensity and epic-ness of the DMC series.

What was it shot on and why?
We shot on both Arri Alexa Mini and Phantom Flex 4k using Zeiss Super Speed MKii Prime lenses, thanks to our friends at Antagonist Camera, and a Technodolly motion control crane arm. We used the Phantom on the Technodolly to capture the high-speed shots. We used that setup to speed ramp through character actions, while maintaining 4K resolution for post in both the garden and kitchen transformations.

We used the Alexa Mini on the rest of the spot. It’s our preferred camera for most of our shoots because we love the combination of its size and image quality. The Technodolly allowed us to create frame-accurate, repeatable camera movements around the characters so we could seamlessly stitch together multiple shots as one. We also needed to cue the fight choreography to sync up with our camera positions.

You had a VFX supervisor on set. Can you give an example of how that was beneficial?
We did have a VFX supervisor on site for this production. Our usual VFX supervisor is one of our lead animators — having him on site to work with means we’re often starting elements in our post production workflow while we’re still shooting.

Assuming some of it was greenscreen?
We shot elements of the construction site and gardening scene on greenscreen. We used pop-ups to film these elements on set so we could mimic camera moves and lighting perfectly. We also took photogrammetry scans of our characters to help rebuild parts of their bodies during transition moments, and to emulate flying without requiring wire work — which would have been difficult to control outside during windy and rainy weather.

Can you talk about some of the more challenging VFX?
The shot of the gardener jumping into the air while the camera spins around him twice was particularly difficult. The camera starts on a 45-degree frontal, swings behind him and then returns to a 45-degree frontal once he’s in the air.

We had to digitally recreate the entire street, so we used the technocrane at the highest position possible to capture data from a slow pan across the neighborhood in order to rebuild the world. We also had to shoot this scene in several pieces and stitch it together. Since we didn’t use wire work to suspend the character, we also had to recreate the lower half of his body in 3D to achieve a natural looking jump position. That with the combination of the CG weapon elements made for a challenging composite — but in the end, it turned out really dramatic (and pretty cool).

Were any of the assets provided by Capcom? All created from scratch?
We were provided with the character and weapons models from Capcom — but these were in-game assets, and if you’ve played the game you’ll see that the environments are often dark and moody, so the textures and shaders really didn’t apply to a real-world scenario.

Our character modeling team had to recreate and re-interpret what these characters and weapons would look like in the real world — and they had to nail it — because game culture wouldn’t forgive a poor interpretation of these iconic elements. So far the feedback has been pretty darn good.

In what ways did being the production company and the VFX house on the project help?
The separation of creative from production and post production is an outdated model. The time it takes to bring each team up to speed, to manage the communication of ideas between creatives and to ensure there is a cohesive vision from start to finish, increases both the costs and the time it takes to deliver a final project.

We shot and delivered all of Devil May Cry’s Something Greater in four weeks total, all in-house. We find that working as the production company and VFX house reduces the ratio of managers per creative significantly, putting more of the money into the final product.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 

Western Digital adds NVMe to its WD Blue solid state drive

Western Digital has added an NVMe model to its WD Blue solid state drive (SSD) portfolio. The WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD offers three times the performance of its SATA counterpart and is optimized for multitasking and resource-heavy applications, providing near-instant access to files and programs.

Using the scalable in-house SSD architecture of the WD Black SN750 NVMe SSD, the new WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD is also built on Western Digital’s 3D NAND technology, firmware and controller, and delivers sequential read and write speeds up to 1,700MB/s and 1,450MB/s respectively (for 500GB model) with efficient power consumption as low as 2.7W.

Targeting evolving workflows, the WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD features high sustained write performance over SATA, as well as other emerging technologies on the market today, to give that performance edge.

“Content transitioning from 4K and 8K means it’s a perfect time for video and photo editors, content creators, heavy data users and PC enthusiasts to transition from SATA to NVMe,” says Eyal Bek, VP, data center and client computing, Western Digital. “The WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD will enable customers to build high-performance laptops and PCs with fast speeds and enough capacity in a reliable, rugged and slim form factor.”

The WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD will be available in 250GB and 500GB capacities in a single-sided M.2 2280 PCIe Gen3 x2 form factor. Pricing is $54.99 USD for 250GB (model WDS250G1B0C) and $77.99 USD for 500GB (model WDS500G1B0C).

Vickie Sornsilp joins 1606 Studio as head of production

San Francisco-based 1606 Studio, formerly Made-SF, has hired veteran post producer Vickie Sornsilp to head of production. Sornsilp, whose background includes senior positions with One Union Recording and Beast Editorial, will oversee editorial and post finishing projects for the studio, which was launched last month by executive producer Jon Ettinger, editor/director Doug Walker and editors Brian Lagerhausen and Connor McDonald.

“Vickie represents what 1606 Studio is all about…family,” says Ettinger. “She trained under me at the beginning of her career and is now ready to take on the mantle of head of production. Our clients trust her to take care of business. I couldn’t be prouder to welcome her to our team.”

A graduate of San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, Sornsilp began her career as a copywriter with agency DDB. She got her start in post production in 2014 with Beast Editorial, where she produced work for such brands as Amazon, Clorox, Doritos, HP, Round Table Pizza, Mini Cooper, Toyota, Visa, Walmart and Yahoo! She joined One Union Recording as executive producer in 2018.

Sornsilp is excited to reunite with 1606 Studio’s founders. “It feels like coming home,” she says. “Jon, Doug, Brian and Connor are legends in the business and I look forward to doing more great work with them.”

Launched under the interim name Made-SF, the company is rebranding as 1606 Studio in anticipation of moving into permanent facilities in April at 1606 Stockton Street in San Francisco’s historic North Beach neighborhood. Currently undergoing a build-out, that site will feature five Adobe Premiere editorial suites, two motion graphics suites, and two Flame post finishing suites with room for further expansion.

“We want to underscore that we are a San Francisco-centric company,” explains Walker. “Service companies from outside the area have been moving into the city to take advantage of the boom in advertising and media production. We want to make it clear that we’re already here and grounded in the community.”

Signiant intros Jet SaaS solution for large, automated, fast file transfers
 

Signiant will be at NAB next month showing Jet, its new SaaS solution that makes it easy to automate and accelerate the transfer of large files between geographically dispersed locations. Targeted at simple “lights-out” use cases, Signiant Jet meets the growing need to replace scripted FTP with a faster, more reliable and more secure alternative.

Jet uses Signiant’s innovative SaaS platform, which also underpins the company’s Media Shuttle solution. Jet’s feature set and price point allow small- and mid-sized companies to easily automate system-to-system workflows, as well as recurring data exchange with partners.

Like all Signiant products, Jet uses a proprietary transport protocol that optimizes network performance for fast, reliable movement of large files under all network conditions. Coupled with enterprise-grade security and features tuned for media professionals, Signiant products are designed to enable the global flow of content, within and between companies, in a hybrid cloud world. The Signiant portfolio is now comprised of the following offerings:

• Manager+Agents – advanced enterprise software for complex networks and workflows
• Jet – SaaS solution for simple system-to-system automated file transfer
• Media Shuttle – SaaS solution that enables the sending and sharing of large files
• Flight – SaaS solution for transfers to and from AWS and/or Azure public cloud services

Media companies can deploy a single Signiant product to solve a specific problem or combine them for managing access to content that is located in various storage types worldwide. Signiant products interoperate with each other, as well as with third-party products in the media technology ecosystem.

Digital services company Mission hires Mirek Sochor

UK-based Mission, which provides DIT and digital lab/dailies services, has hired Mirek Sochor as manager for Central Europe. Sochor joins Mission from Universal Production Partners (UPP) in Prague where he was the associate producer and supervisor of the film and TV services department. UPP is one of the biggest post facilities in mainland Europe.

Sochor’s recent credits include Crazy Rich Asians, Carnival Row and Genius. Additionally, in 2013 he was named by the Czech Republic’s Minister of Culture as an advising expert in economical and technological aspects in the field of technical development and innovation in cinematography, and in the field of preserving the national film heritage and making it accessible to the public.

At Mission, he will head business and production in Central Europe, spearheading the company’s expansion into Prague and beyond. For the last few months Mission’s DIT Nick Everett has been supporting cinematographers David Moxness, ASC, and Sid Sidell, ASC, on the ABC TV series Whiskey Cavalier. ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier stars Scott Foley and Lauren Cohan.

Mark Purvis, Mission’s managing director, saw the opportunities in Prague and other locations in Central Europe, explaining, “We are strongly committed to providing the same high level of support to productions as we have in the United Kingdom, with a focus on streamlining workflows, adding the best staff in key locations and continually training our technicians to better service our clients.”

Mission continues to grow, with offices in London and Wales and an ever-expanding roster of world-class DITs and digital dailies lab operators. They have recently worked on feature films Yesterday, Mary Queen of Scots and Downton Abbey, TV shows A Discovery of Witches, His Dark Materials and Whiskey Cavalier plus many more. They are a key partner to many cinematographers, working with them from pre-production onwards, safeguarding their color decisions as a project moves from production into post.

Netflix hires Leon Silverman to enhance global post operation

By Adrian Pennington

Veteran postproduction executive Leon Silverman was pondering the future when Netflix came calling. The former president of Laser Pacific has spent the last decade building up Disney’s in-house digital post production wing as general manager, but will be taking on what is arguably one of the biggest jobs in the industry — director, post operations and creative services at Netflix.

“To tell you the truth, I wasn’t looking for a new job. I was looking to explore the next chapter of my life,” said Silverman, announcing the news at the HPA Tech Retreat last month.

“The fact is, if there is any organization or group of people anywhere that can bring content creators together with creative technology innovation in service of global storytelling, it is Netflix. This is a real opportunity to work closely with the creative community and with partners to create a future industry worthy of its past.”

That final point is telling. Indeed, Silverman’s move from one of the titans of Hollywood to the powerhouse of digital is symbolic of an industry passing the baton of innovation.

“In some ways, moving to Netflix is a culmination of everything I have been trying to achieve throughout my career,” says Silverman. “It’s about the intersection of technology and creativity, that nexus where art and science meet in order to innovate new forms of storytelling. Netflix has the resources, the vision and the talent to align these goals.”

L-R: Leon Silverman and Sean Cooney

Silverman will report to Sean Cooney, Netflix, director worldwide post production. During his keynote at the HPA Tech Retreat, Cooney introduced Silverman and his new role. He noted that the former president of the HPA (2008-2016) had built and run some of the most cutting-edge facilities on the planet.

“We know that there is work to be done on our part to better serve our talent,” says Cooney. “We were looking for someone with a deep understanding of the industry’s long and storied history of entertainment creation. Someone who knows the importance of working closely with creatives and has a vision for where things are going in the future.”

Netflix global post operation is centered in LA where it employs the majority of its 250 staff and will oversee delivery of 1,000 original pieces of programming this year. But with regional content increasingly important to the growth of the organization, Cooney and Silverman’s tricky task is to streamline core functions like localization, QC, asset management and archive while increasing output from Asia, Latin America and Europe.

“One of the challenges is making sure that the talent we work with feel they are creatively supported even while we operate on a such a large scale,” explains Cooney. “We want to continue to provide a boutique experience even as we expand.”

There’s recognition of the importance to Netflix of its relationship with dozens of third-party post houses, freelance artists and tech vendors.

“Netflix has spent a lot of time cultivating deep relationships in the post community, but as we get more and more involved in upstream production we want to focus on reducing the friction between the creative side of production and the delivery side,” says Silverman. “We need to redesign our internal workflows to really try to take as much as friction out of the process as possible.”

Netflix: Black Mirror – Bandersnatch

While this makes sense from a business point of view, there’s a creative intent too. Bandersnatch, the breakthrough interactive drama from the Black Mirror team, could not have been realized without close collaboration from editorial all the way to user interface design.

“We developed special technology to enable audience interaction but that had to work in concert with our engineering and product teams and with editorial and post teams,” says Cooney.

Silverman likens this collapse of the traditional role of post into the act of production itself as “Post Post.” It’s an industry-wide trend that will enable companies like Netflix to innovate new formats spanning film, TV and immersive media.

“We are at a time and a place where the very notion of a serial progression from content inception to production to editorial then finish to distribution is anachronistic,” says Silverman. “It’s not that post is dead, it’s just that ‘post’ is not ‘after’ anything as much as it has become the underlying fabric of content creation, production and distribution. There are some real opportunities to create a more expansive, elegant and global ability to enable storytellers of all kinds to make stories of all kinds — wherever they are.”


UK-based Adrian Pennington is a professional journalist and editor specializing in the production, the technology and the business of moving image media.

Posting director Darren Lynn Bousman’s horror film, St. Agatha

Atlanta’s Moonshine Post helped create a total post production pipeline — from dailies to finishing — for the film St. Agatha, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV, Repo the Genetic Opera). 

The project, from producers Seth and Sara Michaels, was co-edited by Moonshine’s Gerhardt Slawitschka and Patrick Perry and colored by Moonshine’s John Peterson.

St. Agatha is a horror film that shot in the town of Madison, Georgia. “The house we needed for the convent was perfect, as the area was one of the few places that had not burned down during the Civil War,” explains Seth Michaels. “It was our first time shooting in Atlanta, and the number one reason was because of the tax incentive. But we also knew Georgia had an infrastructure that could handle our production.”

What the producers didn’t know during production was that Moonshine Post could handle all aspects of post, and were initially brought in only for dailies. With the opportunity to do a producer’s cut, they returned to Moonshine Post.

Time and budget dictated everything, and Moonshine Post was able to offer two editors working in tandem to edit a final cut. “Why not cut in collaboration?” suggested Drew Sawyer, founder of Moonshine Post and executive producer. “It will cut the time in half, and you can explore different ideas faster.”

“We quite literally split the movie in half,” reports Perry, who, along with Slawitschka, cut on Adobe Premiere “It’s a 90-minute film, and there was a clear break. It’s a little unusual, I will admit, but almost always when we are working on something, we don’t have a lot of time, so splitting it in half works.”

Patrick Perry

Gerhardt Slawitschka

“Since it was a producer’s cut, when it came to us it was in Premiere, and it didn’t make sense to switch over to Avid,” adds Slawitschka. “Patrick and I can use both interchangeably, but prefer Premiere; it offers a lot of flexibility.”

“The editors, Patrick and Gerhardt, were great,” says Sara Michaels. “They watched every single second of footage we had, so when we recut the movie, they knew exactly what we had and how to use it.”

“We have the same sensibilities,” explains Gerhardt. “On long-form projects we take a feature in tandem, maybe split it in half or in reels. Or, on a TV series, each of us take a few episodes, compare notes, and arrive at a ‘group mind,’ which is our language of how a project is working. On St. Agatha, Patrick and I took a bit of a risk and generated a four-page document of proposed thoughts and changes. Some very macro, some very micro.”

Colorist John Peterson, a partner at Moonshine Post, worked closely with the director on final color using Blackmagic’s Resolve. “From day one, the first looks we got from camera raw were beautiful.” Typically, projects shot in Atlanta ship back to a post house in a bigger city, “and maybe you see it and maybe you don’t. This one became a local win, we processed dailies, and it came back to us for a chance to finish it here,” he says.

Peterson liked working directly with the director on this film. “I enjoyed having him in session because he’s an artist. He knew what he was looking for. On the flashbacks, we played with a variety of looks to define which one we liked. We added a certain amount of film grain and stylistically for some scenes, we used heavy vignetting, and heavy keys with isolation windows. Darren is a director, but he also knows the terminology, which gave me the opportunity to take his words and put them on the screen for him. At the end of the week, we had a successful film.”

John Peterson

The recent expansion of Moonshine Post, which included a partnership with the audio company Bare Knuckles Creative and a visual effects company Crafty Apes, “was necessary, so we could take on the kind of movies and series we wanted to work with,” explains Sawyer. “But we were very careful about what we took and how we expanded.”

They recently secured two AMC series, along with projects from Netflix. “We are not trying to do all the post in town, but we want to foster and grow the post production scene here so that we can continue to win people’s trust and solidify the Atlanta market,” he says.

Uncork’d Entertainment’s St. Agatha was in theaters and became available on-demand starting February 8. Look for it on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango Now, Xbox, Dish Network and local cable providers.

Warner Bros. Studio Facilities ups Kim Waugh, hires Duke Lim

Warner Bros. Studio Facilities in Burbank has promoted long-time post exec Kim Waugh to executive VP, worldwide post production services. They have also hired Duke Lim to serve as VP, post production sound at the studio.

In his new role, Waugh will be reporting to Jon Gilbert, president, worldwide studio facilities, Warner Bros. and will continue to lead the post creative services senior management team, overseeing all marketing, sales, talent management, facilities and technical operations across all locations. Waugh has been instrumental in expanding the business beyond the studio’s Burbank-based headquarters, first to Soho, London in 2012 with the acquisition of Warner Bros. De Lane Lea and then to New York in the 2015 acquisition of WB Sound in Manhattan.

The group supports all creative post production elements, ranging from sound mixing, editing and ADR to color correction and restoration, for Warner Bros.’ clients worldwide. Waugh’s creative services group features a vast array of award-winning artists, including the Oscar-nominated sound mixing team behind Warner Bros. Pictures’ A Star is Born.

Reporting to Waugh, Lim is responsible for overseeing the post sound creative services supporting Warner Bros.’ film and television clients on a day-to-day basis across the studio’s three facilities.

Duke Lim

Says Gilbert, “At all three of our locations, Kim has attracted award-winning creative talent who are sought out for Warner Bros. and third-party projects alike. Bringing in seasoned post executive Duke Lim will create an even stronger senior management team under Kim.”

Waugh most recently served as SVP, worldwide post production services, Warner Bros. Studio Facilities, a post he had held since 2007. In this position, he managed the post services senior management team, overseeing all talent, sales, facilities and operations on a day-to-day basis, with a primary focus on servicing all Warner Bros. Studios’ post sound clients. Prior to joining Warner Bros. as VP, post production services in 2004, Waugh worked at Ascent Media Creative Sound Services, where he served as SVP of sales and marketing, managing sales and marketing for the company’s worldwide divisional facilities. Prior to that, he spent more than 10 years at Soundelux, holding posts as president of Soundelux Vine Street Studios and Signet Soundelux Studios.

Lim has worked in the post production industry for more than 25 years, most recently posted at the Sony Sound Department, which he joined in 2014 to help expand the creative team and total number of mix stages. He began his career at Skywalker Sound South serving in various positions until their acquisition by Todd-AO in 1995, when Lim was given the opportunity to move into operations and began managing the mixing facilities for both its Hollywood location and the Todd-AO West studio in Santa Monica.

HPA Tech Retreat 2019: An engineer’s perspective

By John Ferder

Each year, I look forward to attending the Hollywood Professional Association’s Tech Retreat, better known as the HPA Tech Retreat. Apart from escaping the New York winter, it gives me new perspectives, a chance to exchange ideas with friends and colleagues and explore the latest technical and creative information. As a broadcast engineer, I get a renewed sense of excitement and purpose.

Also, as secretary/treasurer of SMPTE, the Board of Governors meetings as well as the Strategy Day held each year before the Tech Retreat energize me. This year, we invited a group of younger professionals to tell us what SMPTE could do to attract them to SMPTE and HPA, and what they needed from us as experienced professionals.

Their enthusiasm and honesty were refreshing and encouraging. We learned that while we have been trying to reach out to them, they have been looking for us to invite them into the Society. They have been looking for mentors and industry leaders to engage them one-on-one and introduce them to SMPTE and how it can be of value to them.

Presentations and Hot Topics
While it is true that the Hollywood motion picture community is behind producing this Tech Retreat, it is by no means limited to the film industry. There was plenty of content and information for those of us on the broadcast side to learn and incorporate into our workflows and future planning, including a presentation on the successor to SMPTE timecode. Peter Symes, formerly director of standards for SMPTE and a SMPTE Fellow, presented an update on the TLX Project and the development of what is to be SMPTE Standard ST2120, the Extensible Time Label.

This suite of standards will be built on the work already done in ST2059, which describes the use of the IEEE1588 Precision Time Protocol to synchronize video equipment over an IP network. This Extensible Time Label will succeed, not replace ST12, which is the analog timecode that we have used with great success for 50 years. As production moves increasingly toward using IP networks, this work will produce a digital time labeling system that will be as universal as ST12 timecode has been. Symes invited audience members to join the 32NF80 Technology Committee, which is developing and drafting the standard.

Phil Squyres

What were the hot topics this year? HDR, Wide Color Gamut, AI/machine learning, IMF and next-generation workflows had a large number of presentations. While this may seem to be the “same old, same old,” the amount of both technical and practical information presented this year was a real eye-opener to many of us.

Phil Squyres gave a talk on next generation versus broadcast production workflows that revealed that the amount of time and storage needed to complete a program episode for OTT distribution versus broadcast is 2.2X or greater. This echoed the observations of an earlier panel of colorists and post specialists for Netflix feature films, one of whom stated that instead of planning to complete post production two weeks prior to release, plan on completing five to six weeks prior in order to allow for the extra work needed for the extra QC of both HDR and SDR releases.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Perhaps the most surprising presentation for me was given by Rival Theory, a company that generates AI personas based on real people’s memories, behaviors and mannerisms. They detailed the process by which they are creating a persona of Tony Robbins, famous motivational speaker and investor in Rival Theory. Robbins intends to have a life-like persona created to help people with life coaching and continue his mission to end suffering throughout the world, even after he dies. In addition to the demonstration of the multi-camera storing and rendering of his face while talking and displaying many emotions, they showed how Robbins’ speech was saved and synthesized for the persona. A rendering of the completed persona was presented and was very impressive.

Many presentations focused on applications of AI and machine learning in existing production and post workflows. I appreciated that a number of the presenters stressed that their solutions were meant not to replace the human element in these workflows, but to instead apply AI/ML to the redundant and tedious tasks, not the creative ones. Jason Brahms of Video Gorillas brought that point home in his presentation on “AI Film Restoration at 12 Million Frames per Second,” as did Tim Converse of Adobe in “Leveraging AI in Post Production.”

Broadcasters panel

Panels and Roundtables
Matthew Goldman of MediaKind chaired the annual Broadcasters Panel, which included Del Parks (Sinclair), Dave Siegler (Cox Media Group), Skip Pizzi (NAB) and Richard Friedel (Fox). They discussed the further development and implementation of the ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard, including the Pearl Consortium initiative in Phoenix and other locations, the outlook for ATSC 3.0 tuner chips in future television receivers and the applications of the standard beyond over-the-air broadcasting, with an emphasis on data-casting services.

All of the members of the panel are strong proponents of the implementation of the ATSC 3.0 standard, and more broadcasters are joining the evolution toward implementing it. I would have appreciated including on the panel someone of similar stature who is not quite so gung-ho on the standard to discuss some of the challenges and difficulties not addressed so that we could get a balanced presentation. For example, there is no government mandate nor sponsorship for the move to ATSC 3.0 as there was for the move to ATSC 1.0, so what really motivates broadcasters to make this move? Have the effects of the broadcast spectrum re-packing on available bandwidth negatively affected the ability of broadcasters in all markets to accommodate both ATSC 3.0 and ATSC 1.0 channels?

I really enjoyed “Adapting to a COTS Hardware World,” moderated by Stan Moote of the IABM. Paul Stechly, president of Applied Electronics, noted that more and more end users are building their own in-house solutions, assisted by manufacturers moving away from proprietary applications to open APIs. Another insight panelists shared was that COTS no longer applies to data hubs and switches only. Today, that term can be extended to desktop computers and consumer televisions and video displays as well. More and more, production and post suites are incorporating these into their workflows and environments to test their finished productions on the equipment on which their audience would be viewing them.

Breakfast roundtables

Breakfast Roundtables, which were held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, are among my conference “must attends.” Over breakfast, manufacturers and industry experts are given a table to present a topic for discussion by all the participants. The exchange of ideas and approaches benefits everyone at the tables and is a great wake-up exercise leading into the presentations. My favorite, and one of the most popular of the Tech Retreat, is on Friday when S. Merrill Weiss of the Merrill Weiss Group, as he has for many years, presents us with a list of about 12 topics to discuss. This year, his co-host was Karl Paulsen, CTO of Diversified Systems, and the conversations were lively indeed. Some of the topics we discussed were the costs of building a facility based on ST2110, the future of coaxial cable in the broadcast plant, security in modern IP networks and PTP, and the many issues in the evolution from ATSC 1.0 to ATSC 3.0.

As usual, a few people were trying to fit in at or around the table, as it is always full. We didn’t address every topic, and we had to cut the discussions short or risk missing the first presentation of the day.

Final Thoughts
The HPA Tech Retreat’s presentations, panels and discussion forums are a continuing tool in my professional development. Attending this year reaffirmed and amplified my belief that this event is one that should be on each broadcasters’ and content creators’ calendar. The presentations showed that the line between the motion picture and television communities is further blurring and that the techniques embraced by the one community are also of benefit to the other.

The HPA Tech Retreat is still small enough for engaging conversations with speakers and industry professionals, sharing their industry, technical, and creative insights, issues and findings.


John Ferder is the principal engineer at John Ferder Engineer, currently Secretary/Treasurer of SMPTE, an SMPTE Fellow, and a member of IEEE. Contact him at john@johnferderengineer.com.

Review: HP’s double-hinged ZBook Studio x360 mobile workstation

By Mike McCarthy

I recently had the opportunity to test HP’s ZBook Studio x360 mobile workstation over the course of a few weeks. HP’s ZBook mobile workstation division has really been thinking outside the box lately, with the release of the ZBook X2 tablet, the HP Z-VR backpack-mounted system and now the ZBook Studio x360.

The ZBook Studio x360 is similar in design functionality to HP’s other x360 models — the Pavilion, Spectre, Envy, ProBook and Elitebook x360 — in that the display is double-hinged. The keyboard can be folded all the way behind the screen, allowing it to be used similarly to a tablet or placed in “tent” or “presentation” mode with the keyboard partially folded behind it. But the ZBook is clearly the top-end option of the systems available in that form factor. And it inherits all of the engineering from the rest of HP’s extensive product portfolio, in regards to security, serviceability, and interface.

Performance-wise, this Studio x360 model sits somewhere in the middle of HP’s extensive ZBook mobile workstation lineup. It is above the lightweight ZBook 14U and 15U and X2 tablet with their low-voltage U-Series CPUs and the value-oriented 15v. It is similar to the more traditional clamshell ultrabook ZBook Studio, and has less graphics power and RAM than the top-end ZBook 15 and 17.

It is distinguished from the ZBook Studio by its double-hinged 360 folding chassis, and its touch and pen inking capability. It is larger than the ZBook X2 with more powerful internal hardware. This model is packed with processing power in the form of a 6-core 8th generation Xeon processor, 32GB RAM and an Nvidia Quadro P1000 GPU. The 15-inch UHD screen boosts up to 400 nits at full brightness and, of course, supports touch and pen input.

Configuration Options
The unit has a number of interesting configuration options with two M.2 slots and a 2.5-inch bay allowing up to 6TB of internal storage, but most users will forgo the 2.5-inch SATA bay for an extended 96whr battery. There is the option of choosing between a 4G WWAN card or DreamColor display, giving users a wide selection of possible capabilities.

Because of the work I do, I am mostly interested in answering the question: “How small and light can I go, and still get my work done effectively?” In order to answer that question, I am reviewing a system with most of the top-end options. I started at a 17-inch Lenovo P71 last year, then tried a large 15-inch PNY PrevailPro and now am trying out this much lighter 15-inch book. There is no compromise with the 6-core CPU, as that is the same as in a 17-inch beast. So the biggest difference is in the GPU, with the mobile Quadro P1000 only having the 512 CUDA core, one third the power of the Quadro P4000 I last tested. So VR is not going to work, but besides heavy color grading, most video editing tasks should be supported. And 32GB of RAM should be enough for most users, but I installed a second NVMe drive, giving me a total of 2TB of storage.

Display
The 15.6-inch display is available in a number of different options, all supporting touch and digital pen input. The base-level full-HD screen can be upgraded to a Sure View screen, allowing the user to selectively narrow the viewing angle at the press of a key in order to increase their privacy. Next up is the beautiful 400-nit UHD screen that my unit came with. And the top option is a 600-nit DreamColor calibrated UHD panel. All of the options fully support touch and pen input.

Connectivity
The unit has dual-Thunderbolt 3 ports, supporting DisplayPort 1.3, as well as HDMI, dual-USB3.1 Type-A ports, an SDXC card slot and an audio jack. The main feature I am missing is an RJ-45 jack for Gigabit Ethernet. I get that there are trade-offs to be made in any configuration, but that is the item I am missing from this unit. On the flip side, with the release of affordable Thunderbolt-based 10GbE adapters, that is probably what I would pair with this unit if I was going to be using it to edit assets I have stored on my network. So that is a solvable problem.

Serviceability
Unlike the heavier ZBook 15 and 17 models, it does not have a tool-less chassis, but that is an understandable a compromise to reduce size and weight, and totally reasonable. I was able to remove the bottom cover with a single torx screwdriver, giving me access to the RAM, wireless cards, and M.2 slots I was populating with a second NVMe drive to test. The battery can also be replaced that way should the need arise, but the 96whr long-life battery is fully covered by the system warranty, be that three or five years depending on your service level.

Security
There are a number of unique features that this model shares with many others in HP’s lineup. The UEFI-based HP Sure Start BIOS and pre-boot environment provide a host of options for enterprise-level IT management, and make it less likely that the boot process will get corrupted. HP Sure Click is a security mechanism that isolates each Chromium browser tab in its own virtual machine, protecting the rest of your system from any malware that it might otherwise be exposed to. Sure Run and Sure Recover are designed to prevent and recover from security failures that render the system unusable.

The HP Client Security Manager brings the controls for all of this functionality into one place and uses the system’s integrated fingerprint reader. HP Workwise is a utility for integrating the laptop with one’s cell phone, allowing automatic system lock and unlock when the cell phone leaves or enters Bluetooth range and phone notifications from the other “Sure” security applications.

Thunderbolt Dock
HP also supplied me with their new Thunderbolt dock. The single most important feature on that unit from my perspective is the Gigabit Ethernet port, since there isn’t one built into the laptop. It also adds two DisplayPorts and one VGA output and includes five more USB ports. I was able to connect my 8K display to the DisplayPort output and it ran fine at 30Hz, as is to be expected from a single Thunderbolt connection. The dock should run anything smaller than that at 60Hz, including two 4K displays.

The dock also supports an optional audio module to facilitate better conference calls, with a built-in speaker, microphone and call buttons. It is a nice idea but a bit redundant since the laptop has a “world-facing” microphone for noise cancellation or group calling and even has “Collaboration Keys” for controlling calls built into the top of the keyboard. Apparently, HP sees this functionality totally replacing office phones.

I initially struggled to get the dock to work — besides the DisplayPorts — but this was because I connected it before boot-up. Unlike docking stations from back in the day, Thunderbolt is fully hot-swappable and actually needs to be powered on the first time it is connected in order to trigger the dialog box, which gives it low-level access to your computer for security reasons. Once I did that, it has worked seamlessly.

The two-part cable integrates a dedicated power port and Thunderbolt 3 connection, magnetically connected for simple usage while maintaining flexibility for future system compatibility. The system can receive power from the Thunderbolt port, but for maximum power and performance uses a 130W dedicated power plug as well, which appears to be standardized across much of HP’s line of business products.

Touchscreens and Pens
I had never seriously considered tablets or touchscreen solutions for my own work until one of HP’s reps showed me an early prototype of the ZBook X2 a few years ago. I initially dismissed it until he explained how much processing power they had packed into it. Only then did I recognize that HP had finally fulfilled two of my very different and long-standing requests in a way that I hadn’t envisioned. I had been asking the display team for a lightweight battery-powered DreamColor display, and I had been asking the mobile workstation team for a 12- or 14-inch Nvidia-powered model — this new device was both.

I didn’t end up reviewing the X2 during its initial release last year, although I plan to soon. But once the X2 shifted my thinking about tablet and touch-based tools, I saw this ZBook Studio x360 as an even more powerful implementation of that idea, in a slightly larger form factor. While I have used pens on other people’s systems in the past, usually when doing tech support for other editors, this is my first attempt to do real work with a pen instead of a mouse and keyboard.

One of the first obstacles I encountered was getting the pen to work at all. Unlike the EMR-based pens from Wacom tablets and the ZBook X2, the x360 uses an AES-based pen, which requires power and a Bluetooth connection to communicate with the system. I am not the only user to be confused by this solution, but I have been assured by HP that the lack of documentation and USB-C charging cable have been remedied in currently shipping systems.

It took me a while (and some online research) to figure out that there was a USB-C port hidden in the pen and that it needed to be charged and paired with the system. Once I did that, it has functioned fine for me. The pen itself works great, with high precision and 4K levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support. I am not much of a sketcher or painter, but I do a lot of work in Photoshop, either cleaning images up or creating facial expressions for my Character Animator puppets. The pen is a huge step up from the mouse for creating smooth curves and natural lines. And the various buttons worked well for me once I got used to them. But I don’t do a lot of work that benefits from having the pen support, and trying to adapt other tasks to the pen-based input was more challenging than I anticipated.

The other challenge I encountered was with the pen holder, which fits into the SD card slot. The design is good and works better than I would have expected, but removing the original SD plug that protects the slot was far more difficult than it should be. I assume the plug is necessary for the system to pass the 13 MilSpec type tests that HP runs all of its ZBooks through, but I probably won’t be wedging it back in that slot as long as I have the system.

Inking
I am not much of a tablet user as of yet since this was my first foray into that form factor, but the system is a bit large and bulky when folded back into tablet mode. I have hit the power button by accident on multiple occasions, hibernating the system while I was trying to use it. This has primarily been an issue when I am using it in tablet mode and holding it with my left hand in that area by default. But the biggest limitation I encountered in tablet mode was recognizing just how frequently I use the keyboard during the course of my work. While Windows Inking does allow for an onscreen keyboard to be brought up for text entry, functions like holding Alt for anchor-based resizing are especially challenging. I am curious to see if some of these issues are alleviated on the X2 by the buttons they built into the edge of the display. As long as I have easy access to Shift, Ctrl, Alt, C, V and a couple others, I think I would be good to go, but it is one of those things that you can’t know for sure until you try it yourself. And different people with varying habits and preferences might prefer different solutions to the same tasks. In my case, I have not found the optimal touch and inking experience yet.

Performance
I was curious to see what level of performance I would get from the Quadro P1000, as I usually use systems with far more GPU power. But I was impressed with how well it was able to handle the animating and editing of the 5K assets for my Grounds of Freedom animated series. I was even able to dynamically link between the various Adobe apps with a reasonable degree of interactive feedback. That is where you start to see a difference between this mobile system and a massive desktop workstation.

eGPU
Always looking for more power, I hooked up Sonnet’s Breakaway Box 550 with a variety of different Nvidia GPUs to accelerate the graphics performance of the system. The Quadro P6000 was the best option, as it used the same Quadro driver and Pascal architecture as the integrated P1000 GPU but greatly increased performance.

It allowed me to use my Lenovo Explorer WMR headset to edit 360 video in VR with Premiere Pro, and I was able to playback 8K DNxHR files at full resolution in Premiere to my Dell 8K LCD display. I was also able to watch 8K HEVC files in Windows movie player smoothly. Pretty impressive for a 15-inch convertible laptop, but the 6-Core Xeon processor pairs well with the desktop GPU, making this an ideal system to harness the workflow possibilities offered by eGPU solutions.

Media Export Benchmarks
I did extensive benchmark testing, measuring the export times of various media at different settings with different internal and external GPU options. The basic conclusion was that currently simple transcodes and conversions are not much different with an eGPU, but that once color correction and other effects are brought into the equation, increasing GPU power makes processing two to five times faster.

I also tested DCP exports with Quvis’ Wraptor plugin for AME and found the laptop took less than twice as long as my top-end desktop to make DCPs, which I consider to be a good thing. You can kick out a 4K movie trailer in under 10 minutes. And if you want to export a full feature film, I would recommend a desktop, but this will do it in a couple of hours.

Final Observations
The ZBook Studio x360 is a powerful machine and an optimal host for eGPU workflows. While it exceeded my performance expectations, I did not find the touch and ink solution to be optimal for my needs as I am a heavy keyboard user, even when doing artistic tasks. (To be clear, I haven’t found a better solution. This just doesn’t suitably replace my traditional mouse and keyboard approach to work.) So if buying one for myself, I would personally opt for the non-touch ZBook Studio model. But for anyone to whom inking is a critical part of their artistic workflow, who needs a powerful system on the go, this is a very capable model that doesn’t appear to have too many similar alternatives. It blends the power of the ZBook Studio with the inking experience of HP’s other x360 products.


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with over 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.

Lowepost offering Scratch training for DITs, post pros

Oslo, Norway-based Lowepost, which offers an online learning platform for post production, has launched an Assimilate Scratch Training Channel targeting DITs and post pros. This training includes an extensive series of tutorials that help guide a post pro or DIT through the features of an entire Scratch workflow. Scratch products offer dailies to conform, color grading, visual effects, compositing, finishing, VR and live streaming.

“We’re offering in-depth training of Scratch via comprehensive tutorials developed by Lowepost and Assimilate,” says Stig Olsen, manager of Lowepost. “Our primary goal is to make Scratch training easily accessible to all users and post artists for building their skills in high-end tools that will advance their expertise and careers. It’s also ideal for DaVinci Resolve colorists who want to add another excellent conform, finishing and VR tool to their tool kit.”

Lowepost is offering three-month free access to the Scratch training. The first tutorial, Scratch Essential Training, is also available now. A free 30-day trial offer of Scratch is available via their website.

Lowepost’s Scratch Training Channel is available for an annual fee of $59 (US).

Molinare hires Nigel Bennett as commercial director

Nigel Bennett will be joining London’s Molinare as commercial director. He was most recently at Pinewood Studios and starts in May. 

Bennett brings experience managing creative, technical and financial pressures within post production.

At Pinewood Studios, Bennett was the group director of creative services, a position he had held since 2014, where he oversaw the opening of Pinewood Digital in Atlanta. With a career in post, Nigel worked his way up from re-recording mixer, through operations management across film, TV and games, head of operations of digital content services, up to his most recent role.

As a re-recording mixer at Shepperton Studios, he worked on a range of titles such as Nanny McPhee, Troy, Love Actually, Gosford Park and Last Orders. 

The London facility looks to build on the success of award-winning dramas Killing Eve and Bodyguard, the Primetime Emmy award-nominated Patrick Melrose, the documentary Three Identical Strangers and feature Mission: Impossible – Fallout, all from last year.

Method Studios adds Bill Tlusty joins as global head of production

Method Studios has brought on veteran production executive and features VFX Producer Bill Tlusty on board in the new role of global head of production. Reporting to EVP of global features VFX, Erika Burton, Tlusty will oversee Method’s global feature film and episodics production operation, leading teams worldwide.

Tlusty’s career as both a VFX producer and executive spans two decades. Most recently, as an executive with Universal Pictures, he managed more than 30 features, including First Man and The Huntsman: Winter’s War. His new role marks a return to Method Studios, as he served as head of studio in Vancouver prior to his gig at Universal. Tlusty also spent eight years as a VFX producer and executive producer at Rhythm & Hues.

In this capacity he was lead executive on Snow White and the Huntsman and the VFX Oscar-winning Life of Pi. His other VFX producer credits include Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, The Mummy: Tomb of the Emperor Dragon and Yogi Bear, and he served as production manager on Hulk and Peter Pan and coordinator on A.I Artificial Intelligence. Early in his career Tlusty worked as a production aAssistant at American Zoetrope, working for its iconic filmmaker founders, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. His VFX career began at Industrial Light & Magic where he worked in several capacities on the Star Wars prequel trilogy, first as a VFX coordinator and later, production  manager on the series. He is a member of the Producers Guild of America.

“Method has pursued intelligent growth, leveraging the strength across all of its studios, gaining presence in key regions and building on that to deliver high quality work on a massive scale,” Tlusty. “Coming from the client side, I understand how important it is to have the flexibility to grow as needed for projects.”

Tlusty is based in Los Angeles and will travel extensively among Method’s global studios.

Industry vets open editorial, post studio Made-SF

Made-SF, a creative studio offering editorial and other services, has been launched by executive producer Jon Ettinger, editor/director Doug Walker and editors Brian Lagerhausen and Connor McDonald, all formerly of Beast Editorial. Along with creative editorial (Adobe Premiere), the company will provide motion graphic design (After Effects, Mocha), color correction and editorial finishing (likely Flame and Resolve). Eventually, it plans to add concept development, directing and production to its mix.

“Clients today are looking for creative partners who can help them across the entire production chain,” says Ettinger. “They need to tell stories and they have limited budgets available to tell them. We know how to do both, and we are gathering the resources to do so under one roof.”

Made is currently set up in interim quarters while completing construction of permanent studio space. The latter will be housed in a century-old structure in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood and will feature five editorial suites, two motion graphics suites, and two post production finishing suites with room for further expansion.

The four Made partners bring deep experience in traditional advertising and branded content, working both with agencies and directly with clients. Ettinger and Walker have worked together for more than 20 years and originally teamed up to launch FilmCore, San Francisco. Both joined Beast Editorial in 2012. Similarly, Lagerhausen and McDonald have been editing in the Bay Area for more than two decades. Collectively, their credits include work for agencies in San Francisco and nationwide. They’ve also helped to create content directly for Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Salesforce and other corporate clients.

Made is indicative of a trend where companies engaged in content development are adopting fluid business models to address a diversifying media landscapes and where individual talent is no longer confined to a single job title. Walker, for example, has recently served as director on several projects, including a series of short films for Kelly Services, conceived by agency Erich & Kallman and produced by Caruso Co.

“People used to go to great pains to make a distinction about what they do,” Ettinger observes. “You were a director or an editor or a colorist. Today, those lines have blurred. We are taking advantage of that flattening out to offer clients a better way to create content.”

Main Image Caption: (L-R) Doug Walker, Brian Lagerhausen, Jon Ettinger and Connor McDonald.

Beautiful Boy director Felix Van Groeningen

By Iain Blair

Belgian filmmaker Felix Van Groeningen — director of Amazon’s Beautiful Boy — may not be a household name in America, yet, but among cineastes he’s already a force to be reckoned with. His last film, Belgica, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where he won the Directing Award (Dramatic World Cinema). His The Broken Circle Breakdown earned a 2014 Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and a César for Best Foreign Film.

L-R: Felix van Groeningen and Timothée Chalamet on set.

For his first English language film, Van Groeningen jumped right into the deep end when he took on Beautiful Boy, a harrowing family drama about drug addiction. Based on two memoirs — one from journalist David Sheff (Steve Carell) and one from his son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet) — it unsparingly chronicles the repeated relapses and the harsh reality that addiction is a disease that does not discriminate and can hit any family at any time.

To tell the story, Van Groeningen reunited with his longtime collaborators, cinematographer Ruben Impens and editor Nico Leunen. It marks their fifth film with the director.

I spoke with Van Groeningen about making the film and his process.

Why did you choose this for your first English language film?
It just sort of happened. I’d been thinking about making an English language film for quite a while but took my time in choosing the right project. After The Broken Circle Breakdown got an Oscar nomination, I got a lot of offers but never found the right one. I read some scripts that were very good, but I always asked myself, ‘Am I the best director for this?’ And I never felt I was, until  Beautiful Boy.

I read both books and immediately fell in love with the family. I could really relate to the father figure and to Nic, and all their struggles. It was also a big plus that Plan B — Brad Pitt’s company with producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, who did Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave — would be producing it. So it all came together.

So it all resonated with you?
It had a lot of elements and themes that really interest me, such as the passage of time, family dynamics and loss, as well as the illusion that we can control things. I’d explored these in my previous films, and I’d also dealt with addiction and substance abuse. Plus, the whole father-son element was also something I could really relate to — I lost my father when I was in my ‘20s, and in a way he still lives on in me through my movies.

So even though my family was very different, I knew this was the perfect project for me to spend several years on, which is what it took, since this was an epic journey. It’s a father trying to understand his son, and I knew right away it would be a big challenge. I also knew it would take a lot of work to combine the two books into one story and one film. I learned just how easy it is to relapse and about the whole cycle of shame that pulls you down.

Do you feel there’s far more responsibility as a filmmaker when a film is based on real people and real events?
I do, and I don’t. I really love the Sheffs, and that first love is genuine and everything comes from that. I met them very early on and really liked them, and they got involved and it happened very organically. They were both very open and honest and let me into their lives. We became friends, they met with the actors and really trusted me. But I had to make this film my own. This is my sixth film, and I’ve learned that at some point you always have to betray the original story and material in order to get a grip on it. You can’t be afraid of that.

Obviously, casting the right lead actors was crucial. What did Timothee and Steve bring to the roles?
Steve has this great Everyman relatability and sincerity, and while people tend to see him mainly as a comedic actor, he has this huge range. This role needed all that — from rage to despair to laughter. And Timothee is so charming and open, and you needed that so you could follow him on this very dark journey. He was always true to the character.

Where did you shoot?
We did some of the exteriors in the real locations in Northern California, along with bits in LA. We shot around Marin County and San Francisco, and at the real beach where David and Nic surfed, as well in and around Inverness, where they lived. And then we used sets for the interiors and shot them on stages in Hollywood. I don’t usually like to shoot on stages, but it worked out really well as we designed the rooms so we could take them apart and then put them back together in different ways.

Where did you post?
All in LA at The Post Group Production Suites. We did all the editing there. Nico was busy on another project when we began, so we started with another editor on location but not on set. It makes me feel a little insecure to look at what I’ve done, as I don’t do reshoots, and I like to go with my gut.  Nico came on board a bit later.

Do you like the post process?
I love post, but it’s also really the hardest part of any project since it’s where it all comes together. There’s always a phase where you’re really happy and super-excited about it, and then there’s always a phase where you panic and start re-thinking things and feeling that nothing is working. You have to let go. For years you’ve dreamed about what the movie could be, and now you have to realize, “This is it.” That’s scary.

As they say, you make a movie three times, and I really embrace post and all that goes with it, but sometimes you just can’t let go and you’re just too close to the movie. This is when you have to step back and leave for a week or two, then come back.

What were the big editing challenges?
You have to find the right balance between the two stories and points of view, and that was the big one — and in the script too. How long do you spend with each character separately? How much time together? It was tricky, finding the right rhythm and the balance.

Can you talk about the importance of music and sound in the film?
They’re both vital. Nico lays stuff out and helps me shape ideas, and then we finish it all together with the sound editor and sound designer Elmo Weber, and the mixers. Elmo and the sound effects editor Marc Glassman recorded a lot of material at all the locations — things like insects and birds and the wind in the trees and the sound of waves, so it was very naturalistic and very detailed.

We actually had a whole score for the film, but the songs were always so important to the story and a key part of the movie, as David and Nic loved music, but the score just wasn’t working. So Nico suggested having no score and using songs instead, and that worked far better. So we ended up using a mix of weird electronic music, sort of half-way between sound design and music. The songs were great, like the scene where Steve is singing to Nic and it breaks away into John Lennon singing. We also used tracks by Nirvana, Neil Young and Icelandic rockers Sigur Rós.

Felix van Groeningen and Steve Carell on set.

Were there any VFX?
Not many. Shade VFX did them, and it was mainly clean up. I really don’t know much about VFX since I’m far more interested in actors.

Where did you do the DI?
At Efilm with colorist Tim Stipan, who’s fantastic. I love the DI. I was there with Tim and our DP Ruben. It’s so fascinating to see your film get to the next level, and being able to refine the look.

Did it turn out the way you hoped?
It did. It’s been a long journey and I still need time to digest it.

What’s next?
I’ve got several projects I’m developing but I’ll take my time. I just became a father and I like to focus on one thing at a time.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Quick Chat: Crew Cuts’ Nancy Jacobsen and Stephanie Norris

By Randi Altman

Crew Cuts, a full-service production and post house, has been a New York fixture since 1986. Originally established as an editorial house, over the years as the industry evolved they added services that target all aspects of the workflow.

This independently-owned facility is run by executive producer/partner Nancy Jacobsen, senior editor/partner Sherri Margulies Keenan and senior editor/partner Jake Jacobsen. While commercial spots might be in their wheelhouse, their projects vary and include social media, music videos and indie films.

We decided to reach out to Nancy Jacobsen, as well as EP of finishing Stephanie Norris, to find out about trends, recent work and succeeding in an industry and city that isn’t always so welcoming.

Can you talk about what Crew Cuts provides and how you guys have evolved over the years?
Jacobsen: We pretty much do it all. We have 10 offline editors as well as artists working in VFX, 2D/3D animation, motion graphics/design, audio mix and sound design, VO record, color grading, title treatment, advanced compositing and conform. Two of our editors double as directors.

In the beginning, Crew Cuts primarily offered only editorial. As the years went by and the industry climate changed we began to cater to the needs of clients and slowly built out our entire finishing department. We started with some minimal graphics work and one staff artist in 2008.

In 2009, we expanded the team to include graphics, conform and audio mix. From there we just continued to grow and expand our department to the full finishing team we have today.

As a woman owner of a post house, what challenges have you had to overcome?
Jacobsen: When I started in this business, the industry was very different. I made less money than my male counterparts and it took me twice as long to be promoted because I am a woman. I have since seen great change where women are leading post houses and production houses and are finally getting the recognition for the hard work they deserve. Unfortunately, I had to “wait it out” and silently work harder than the men around me. This has paid off for me, and now I can help women get the credit they rightly deserve

Do you see the industry changing and becoming less male-dominated?
Jacobsen: Yes, the industry is definitely becoming less male-dominated. In the current climate, with the birth of the #metoo movement and specifically in our industry with the birth of Diet Madison Avenue (@dietmadisonave), we are seeing a lot more women step up and take on leading roles.

Are you mostly a commercial house? What other segments of the industry do you work in?
Jacobsen: We are primarily a commercial house. However, we are not limited to just broadcast and digital commercial advertising. We have delivered specs for everything from the Godzilla screen in Times Square to :06 spots on Instagram. We have done a handful of music videos and also handle a ton of B2B videos for in-house client meetings, etc., as well as banner ads for conferences and trade shows. We’ve even worked on display ads for airports. Most recently, one of our editors finished a feature film called Public Figure that is being submitted around the film festival circuit.

What types of projects are you working on most often these days?
Jacobsen: The industry is all over the place. The current climate is very messy right now. Our projects are extremely varied. It’s hard to say what we work on most because it seems like there is no more norm. We are working on everything from sizzle pitch videos to spots for the Super Bowl.

What trends have you seen over the last year, and where do you expect to be in a year?
Jacobsen: Over the last year, we have noticed that the work comes from every angle. Our typical client is no longer just the marketing agency. It is also the production company, network, brand, etc. In a year we expect to be doing more production work. Seeing as how budgets are much smaller than they used to be and everyone wants a one-stop shop, we are hoping to stick with our gut and continue expanding our production arm.

Crew Cuts has beefed up its finishing services. Can you talk about that?
Stephanie Norris: We offer a variety of finishing services — from sound design to VO record and mix, compositing to VFX, 2D and 3D motion graphics and color grading. Our fully staffed in-house team loves the visual effects puzzle and enjoys working with clients to help interpret their vision.

Can you name some recent projects and the services you provided?
Norris: We just worked on a new campaign for New Jersey Lottery in collaboration with Yonder Content and PureRed. Brian Neaman directed and edited the spots. In addition to editorial, Crew Cuts also handled all of the finishing, including color, conform, visual effects, graphics, sound design and mix. This was one of those all-hands-on-deck projects. Keeping everything under one roof really helped us to streamline the process.

New Jersey Lottery

Working with Brian to carefully plan the shooting strategy, we filmed a series of plate shots as elements that could later be combined in post to build each scene. We added falling stacks of cash to the reindeer as he walks through the loading dock and incorporated CG inflatable decorations into a warehouse holiday lawn scene. We also dramatically altered the opening and closing exterior warehouse scenes, allowing one shot to work for multiple seasons. Keeping lighting and camera positions consistent was mission-critical, and having our VFX supervisor, Dulany Foster, on set saved us hours of work down the line.

For the New Jersey Lottery Holiday spots, the Crew Cuts CG team, led by our creative director Ben McNamara created a 3D Inflatable display of lottery tickets. This was something that proved too costly and time consuming to manufacture and shoot practically. After the initial R&D, our team created a few different CG inflatable simulations prior to the shoot, and Dulany was able to mock them up live while on set. Creating the simulations was crucial for giving the art department reference while building the set, and also helped when shooting the plates needed to composite the scene together.

Ben and his team focused on the physics of the inflation, while also making sure the fabric simulations, textures and lighting blended seamlessly into the scene — it was important that everything felt realistic. In addition to the inflatables, our VFX team turned the opening and closing sunny, summer shots of the warehouse into a December winter wonderland thanks to heavy compositing, 3D set extension and snow simulations.

New Jersey Lottery

Any other projects you’d like to talk about?
Jacobsen: We are currently working on a project here that we are handling soup to nuts from production through finishing. It was a fun challenge to take on. The spot contains a hand model on a greenscreen showing the audience how to use a new product. The shoot itself took place here at Crew Cuts. We turned our common area into a stage for the day and were able to do so without interrupting any of the other employees and projects going on.

We are now working on editorial and finishing. The edit is coming along nicely. What really drives the piece here is the graphic icons. Our team is having a lot of fun designing these elements and implementing them into the spot. We are so proud because we budgeted wisely to make sure to accommodate all of the needs of the project so that we could handle everything and still turn a profit. It was so much fun to work in a different setting for the day and has been a very successful project so far. Clients are happy and so are we.

Main Image: (L-R) Stephanie Norris and Nancy Jacobsen

Company 3 to open Hollywood studio, adds Roma colorist Steve Scott

Company 3 has added Steve Scott as EVP/senior finishing artist. His long list of credits includes Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-nominated Roma and Gravity; 19 Marvel features, including The Avengers, Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy franchises; and many Academy-Award-winning films, including The Jungle Book, Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance and The Revenant (both took Oscars for director Alejandro Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki).

Roma

The addition of Scott comes at a time when Company 3 is completing work on a new location at 950 Lillian Way in Hollywood. This new space represents the first phase of a planned much larger footprint in that area of Los Angeles. This new space will enable the company to significantly expand its capacity while providing the level of artistry and personalized service the industry expects from Company 3. It will also enable them to service more East Side and Valley-based clients.

“Steve is someone I’ve always wanted to work with and I am beyond thrilled that he has agreed to work with us at Company 3,” says CEO Stefan Sonnenfeld. “As we continue the process of re-imagining the entire concept of what ‘post production’ means creatively and technically, it makes perfect sense to welcome a leading innovator and brilliant artist to our team.”

Sonnenfeld and Scott will oversee every facet of this new boutique-style space to ensure it offers the same flexible experience clients have come to expect when working at Company 3. Scott, a devoted student of art and architecture, with extensive professional experience as a painter and architectural illustrator, says, “The opportunity to help design a new cutting-edge facility in my Hollywood hometown was too great to pass up.”

Scott oversees a team of additional artists to offer filmmakers the significantly increased ability to augment and refine imagery as part of the finishing process.

“The industry is experiencing a renaissance of content,” says Sonnenfeld. “The old models of feature film vs. television, long- vs. short-form are changing rapidly. Workflows and delivery methods are undergoing revolutionary changes with more content, and innovative content, coming from a whole array of new sources. It’s a very exciting and challenging time and I think these major additions to our roster and infrastructure will go a long way towards our goal of continuing Company 3’s role as a major force in the industry.”

Main Image Credit: 2018 HPA Awards Ceremony/Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

HPA releases 2019 Tech Retreat program, includes eSports

The Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) has set its schedule for the 2019 HPA Tech Retreat, set for February 11-15. The Tech Retreat, which is celebrating its 25th year, takes place over the course of a week at the JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, California.

The HPA Tech Retreat spans five days of sessions, technology demonstrations and events. During this week, important aspects of production, broadcast, post, distribution and related M&E trends are explored. One of the key differentiators of the Tech Retreat is its strict adherence to a non-commercial focus: marketing-oriented presentations are prohibited except at breakfast roundtables.

“Once again, we’ve received many more submissions than we could use,” says Mark Schubin, the Program Maestro of the HPA Tech Retreat. “To say this year’s were ‘compelling’ is an understatement. We could have programmed a few more days. Rejecting terrific submissions is always the hardest thing we have to do. I’m really looking forward to learning the latest on HDR, using artificial intelligence to restore old movies and machine learning to deal with grunt work, the Academy’s new software foundation, location-based entertainment with altered reality and much more.”

This year’s program is as follows:

Monday February 11: TR-X
eSports: Dropping the Mic on Center Stage
Separate registration required
A half day of targeted panels, speakers and interaction, TR-X will focus on the rapidly growing arena of eSports, with a keynote from Yvette Martinez, CEO – North America of eSports organizer and production company ESL North America.
Tuesday February 12: Supersession
Next-Gen Workflows and Infrastructure: From the Set to the Consumer

Tuesday February 12: Supersession
Next-Gen Workflows and Infrastructure: From the Set to the Consumer

Wednesday February 13: Main Program Highlights
• Mark Schubin’s Technology Year in Review
• Washington Update (Jim Burger, Thompson Coburn LLP)
The highly anticipated review of legislation and its impact on our business from a leading Washington attorney.

• Deep Fakes (Moderated by Debra Kaufman, ETCentric; Panelists Marc Zorn, HBO; Ed Grogan, Department of Defense; Alex Zhukov, Video Gorillas)
It might seem nice to be able to use actors long dead, but the concept of “fake news” takes a terrifying new turn with deepfakes, the term that Wikipedia describes as a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake.” Although people have been manipulating images for centuries – long before the creation of Adobe Photoshop – the new AI-powered tools allow the creation of very convincing fake audio and video.

• The Netflix Media Database (Rohit Puri, Netflix)
An optimized user interface, meaningful personalized recommendations, efficient streaming and a high-quality catalog of content are the principal factors that define theNetflix end-user experience. A myriad of business workflows of varying complexities come together to realize this experience. Under the covers, they use computationally expensive computer vision, audio processing and natural language-processing based media analysis algorithms. These algorithms generate temporally and spatially dynamic metadata that is shared across the various use cases. The Netflix Media DataBase (NMDB) is a multi-tenant, data system that is used to persist this deeply technical metadata about various media assets at Netflix and that enables querying the same at scale. The “shared nothing” distributed database architecture allows NMDB to store large amounts of media timeline data, thus forming the backbone for various Netflix media processing systems.

• AI Film Restoration at 12 Million Frames per Second (Alex Zhukov, Video Gorillas)

• Is More Media Made for Subways Than for TV and Cinema? (and does it Make More $$$?) (Andy Quested, BBC)

• Broadcasters Panel (Moderator: Matthew Goldman, MediaKind)

• CES Review (Peter Putman, ROAM Consulting)
Pete Putman traveled to Las Vegas to see what’s new in the world of consumer electronics and returns to share his insights with the HPA Tech Retreat audience.

• 8K: Whoa! How’d We Get There So Quickly (Peter Putman, ROAM Consulting)

• Issues with HDR Home Video Deliverables for Features (Josh Pines, Technicolor)

• HDR “Mini” Session
• HDR Intro: Seth Hallen, Pixelogic
• Ambient Light Compensation for HDR Presentation: Don Eklund, Sony Pictures Entertainment
• HDR in Anime: Haruka Miyagawa, Netflix
• Pushing the Limits of Motion Appearance in HDR: Richard Miller, Pixelworks
• Downstream Image Presentation Management for Consumer Displays:
• Moderator: Michael Chambliss, International Cinematographers Guild
• Michael Keegan, Netflix
• Annie Chang, UHD Alliance
• Steven Poster, ASC, International Cinematographers Guild
• Toshi Ogura, Sony

• Solid Cinema Screens with Front Sound: Do They Work? (Julien Berry, Delair Studios)
Direct-view displays bring high image quality in the cinema but suffer from low pixel fill factor that can lead to heavy moiré and aliasing patterns. Cinema projectors have a much better fill factor which avoids most of those issues even though some moiré effect can be produced due to the screen perforations needed for the audio. With the advent of high contrast, EDR and soon HDR image quality in cinema, screen perforations impact the perceived brightness and contrast from the same image, though the effect has never been quantified since some perforations had always been needed for cinema audio. With the advent of high-quality cinema audio system, it is possible to quantify this effect.

Thursday, February 14: Main Program Highlights

• A Study Comparing Synthetic Shutter and HFR for Judder Reduction (Ianik Beitzel and Aaron Kuder, ARRI and Stuttgart Media University (HdM))

• Using Drones and Photogrammetry Techniques to Create Detailed (High Resolution) Point Cloud Scenes (Eric Pohl, Singularity Imaging)
Drone aerial photography may be used to create multiple geotagged images that are processed to create a 3D point cloud set of a ground scene. The point cloud may be used for production previsualization or background creation for videogames or VR/AR new-media products.

• Remote and Mobile Production Panel (Moderator: Mark Chiolis, Mobile TV Group; Wolfgang Schram, PRG; Scott Rothenberg, NEP)
With a continuing appetite for content from viewers of all the major networks, as well as niche networks, streaming services, web, eGames/eSports and venue and concert-tour events, the battle is on to make it possible to watch almost every sporting and entertainment event that takes place, all live as it is happening. Key members of the remote and mobile community explore what’s new and what workflows are behind the content production and delivery in today’s fast-paced environments. Expect to hear about new REMI applications, IP workflows, AI, UHD/HDR, eGames, and eSports.

• IMSC 1.1: A Single Subtitle and Caption Format for the Entertainment Chain (Pierre-Anthony Lemieux, Sandflow Consulting (supported by MovieLabs); Dave Kneeland, Fox)
IMSC is a W3C standard for worldwide subtitles/captions, and the result of an international collaboration. The initial version of IMSC (IMSC 1) was published in 2016, and has been widely adopted, including by SMPTE, MPEG, ATSC and DVB. With the recent publication of IMSC 1.1, we now have the opportunity to converge on a single subtitle/caption format across the entire entertainment chain, from authoring to consumer devices. IMSC 1.1 improves on IMSC 1 with support for HDR, advanced Japanese language features, and stereoscopic 3D. Learn about IMSC’s history, capabilities, operational deployment, implementation experience, and roadmap — and how to get involved.

• ACESNext and the Academy Digital Source Master: Extensions, Enhancements and a Standardized Deliverable (Andy Maltz, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences; Annie Chang, Universal Pictures)

• Mastering for Multiple Display and Surround Brightness Levels Using the Human Perceptual Model to Insure the Original Creative Intent Is Maintained (Bill Feightner, Colorfront)
Maintaining a consistent creative look across today’s many different cinema and home displays can be a big challenge, especially with the wide disparity in possible display brightness and contrast as well as the viewing environments or surrounds. Even if it was possible to have individual creative sessions, maintaining creative consistency would be very difficult at best. By using the knowledge of how the human visual system works, the perceptual model, processing source content to fit a given displays brightness and surround can be automatically applied while maintaining the original creative intent with little to no trimming.

• Cloud: Where Are We Now? (Moderator: Erik Weaver, Western Digital)

• Digitizing Workflow – Leveraging Platforms for Success (Roger Vakharia, Salesforce)
While the business of content creation hasn’t changed much over time, the technology enabling processes around production, digital supply chain and marketing resource management among other areas have become increasingly complex. Enabling an agile, platform-based workflow can help in decreasing time and complexity but cost, scale and business sponsorship are often inhibitors in driving success.

Driving efficiency at scale can be daunting but many media leaders have taken the plunge to drive agility across their business process. Join this discussion to learn best practices, integrations, workflows and techniques that successful companies have used to drive simplicity and rigor around their workflow and business process.

• Leveraging Machine Learning in Image Processing (Rich Welsh, Sundog Media Toolkit)
How to use AI (ML and DL networks) to perform “creative” tasks that are boring and humans spend time doing but don’t want to (working real world examples included)

• Leveraging AI in Post Production: Keeping Up with Growing Demands for More Content (Van Bedient, Adobe)
Expectations for more and more content continue to increase — yet staffing remains the same or only marginally bigger. How can advancements from machine learning help content creators? AI can be an incredible boon to remove repetitive tasks and tedious steps allowing humans to concentrate on the creative; ultimately AI can provide the one currency creatives yearn for more than anything else: Time.

• Deploying Component-Based Workflows: Experiences from the Front Lines (Moderator: Pierre-Anthony Lemieux, Sandflow Consulting (supported by MovieLabs))
The content landscape is shifting, with an ever-expanding essence and metadata repertoire, viewing experiences, global content platforms and automated workflows. Component-based workflows and formats, such as the Interoperable Master Format (IMF) standard, are being deployed to meet the challenges brought by this shift. Come and join us for a first-hand account from those on the front lines.

• Content Rights, Royalties and Revenue Management via Blockchain (Adam Lesh, SingularDTV)
The blockchain entertainment economy: adding transparency, disintermediating the supply chain, and empowering content creators to own, manage and monetize their IP to create sustainable, personal and connected economies. As we all know, rights and revenue (including royalties, residuals, etc.) management is a major pain point for content creators in the entertainment industry.

Friday, February 15: Main Program Highlights

• Beyond SMPTE Time Code: The TLX Project: (Peter Symes)
SMPTE Time Code, ST 12, was developed and standardized in the 1970s to support the emerging field of electronic editing. It has been, and continues to be, a robust standard; its application is almost universal in the media industry, and the standard has found use in other industries. However, ST 12 was developed using criteria and restrictions that are not appropriate today, and it has many shortcomings in today’s environment.

A new project in SMPTE, the Extensible Time Label (TLX) is gaining traction and appears to have the potential to meet a wide range of requirements. TLX is designed to be transport-agnostic and with a modern data structure.

• Blindsided: The Game-Changers We Might Not See Coming (Mark Harrison, Digital Production Partnership)
The world’s number one company for gaming revenue makes as much as Sony and Microsoft combined. It isn’t American or Japanese. Marketeers project that by 2019, video advertising on out-of-home displays will be as important as their spending on TV. Meanwhile, a single US tech giant could buy every franchise of the top five US sports leagues. From its off-shore reserves. And still have $50 billion change.

We all know consumers like OTT video. But that’s the least of it. There are trends in the digital economy that, if looked at globally, could have sudden, and profound, implications for the professional content creation industry. In this eye-widening presentation, Mark Harrison steps outside the western-centric, professional media industry perspective to join the technology, consumer and media dots and ask: what could blindside us if we don’t widen our point of view?

• Interactive Storytelling: Choose What Happens Next (Andy Schuler, Netflix)
Looking to experiment with nonlinear storytelling, Netflix launched its first interactive episodes in 2017. Both in children’s programming, the shows encouraged even the youngest of viewers to touch or click on their screens to control the trajectory of the story (think Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 1980s). How did Netflix overcome some of the more interesting technical challenges of the project (i.e., mastering, encoding, streaming), how was SMPTE IMF used to streamline the process and why are we more formalized mastering practices needed for future projects?

• HPA Engineering Excellence Award Winners (Moderator: Joachim Zell, EFILM, Chair HPA Engineering Excellence Awards; Joe Bogacz, Canon; Paul Saccone, Blackmagic Design; Lance Maurer, Cinnafilm; Michael Flathers, IBM; Dave Norman, Telestream).

Since the HPA launched in 2008, the HPA Awards for Engineering Excellence have honored some of the most groundbreaking, innovative, and impactful technologies. Spend a bit of time with a select group of winners and their contributions to the way we work and the industry at large.

• The Navajo Strategic Digital Plan (John Willkie, Luxio)

• Adapting to a COTS Hardware World (Moderator: Stan Moote, IABM)
Transitioning to off-the-shelf hardware is one of the biggest topics on all sides of the industry, from manufacturers, software and service providers through to system integrators, facilities and users themselves. It’s also incredibly uncomfortable. Post production was an early adopter of specialized workstations (e.g. SGI), and has now embraced a further migration up the stack to COTS hardware and IP networks, whether bare metal, virtualized, hybrid or fully cloud based. As the industry deals with the global acceleration of formats, platforms and workflows, what are the limits of COTS hardware when software innovation is continually testing the limits of general-purpose CPUs, GPUs and network protocols? Covering “hidden” issues in using COTS hardware, from the point of view of users and facility operators as well as manufacturers, services and systems integrators.

• Academy Software Foundation: Enabling Cross-Industry Collaboration for Open Source Projects (David Morin, Academy Software Foundation)
In August 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and The Linux Foundation launched the Academy Software Foundation (ASWF) to provide a neutral forum for open source software developers in the motion picture and broader media industries to share resources and collaborate on technologies for image creation, visual effects, animation and sound. This presentation will explain why the Foundation was formed and how it plans to increase the quality and quantity of open source contributions by lowering the barrier to entry for developing and using open source software across the industry.

Full-service creative agency Carousel opens in NYC

Carousel, a new creative agency helmed by Pete Kasko and Bernadette Quinn, has opened its doors in New York City. Billing itself as “a collaborative collective of creative talent,” Carousel is positioned to handle projects from television series to ad campaigns for brands, media companies and advertising agencies.

Clients such as PepsiCo’s Pepsi, Quaker and Lays brands; Victoria’s Secret; Interscope Records; A&E Network and The Skimm have all worked with the company.

Designed to provide full 360 capabilities, Carousel allows its brand partners to partake of all its services or pick and choose specific offerings including strategy, creative development, brand development, production, editorial, VFX/GFX, color, music and mix. Along with its client relationships, Carousel has also been the post production partner for agencies such as McGarryBowen, McCann, Publicis and Virtue.

“The industry is shifting in how the work is getting done. Everyone has to be faster and more adaptable to change without sacrificing the things that matter,” says Quinn. “Our goal is to combine brilliant, high-caliber people, seasoned in all aspects of the business, under one roof together with a shared vision of how to create better content in a more efficient way.”

According to managing director Dee Tagert comments, “The name Carousel describes having a full set of capabilities from ideation to delivery so that agencies or brands can jump on at any point in their process. By having a small but complete agency team that can manage and execute everything from strategy, creative development and brand development to production and post, we can prove more effective and efficient than a traditional agency model.”

Danielle Russo, Dee Tagert, AnaLiza Alba Leen

AnaLiza Alba Leen comes on board Carousel as creative director with 15 years of global agency experience, and executive producer Danielle Russo brings 12 years of agency experience.
Tagert adds, “The industry has been drastically changing over the last few years. As clients’ hunger for content is driving everything at a much faster pace, it was completely logical to us to create a fully integrative company to be able to respond to our clients in a highly productive, successful manner.”

Carousel is currently working on several upcoming projects for clients including Victoria’s Secret, DNTL, Subway, US Army, Tazo Tea and Range Rover.

Main Image: Bernadette Quinn and Pete Kasko

Rohde & Schwarz’s storage system R&S SpycerNode shipping

First shown at IBC 2018, Rohde & Schwarz’s new media storage system, R&S SpycerNode, is now available for purchase. This new storage system uses High Performance Computing (HPC), a term that refers to the system’s performance, scalability and redundancy. HPC is a combination of hardware, file system and RAID approach. HPC employs redundancy using software RAID technologies called erasure coding in combination with declustering to increase performance and reduce rebuild times. Also, system scalability is almost infinite and expansion is possible during operation.

According to Rohde & Schwarz, in creating this new storage system, their engineers looked at many of the key issues that impact on media storage systems within high-performance video editing environments — from annoying maintenance requirements, such as defraging, to much more serious system failures, including dying disk drives.

R&S SpycerNode features Rohde & Schwarz‘s device manager web application that makes it much easier to set up and use Rohde & Schwarz solutions in an integrated fashion. Device manager helps to reduce setup times and simplifies maintenance and service due to its intuitive web-based UI-operated through a single client.

To ensure data security, Rohde & Schwarz has introduced data protection systems based on erasure coding and declustering within the R&S SpycerNode. Erasure coding means that a data block is always written including parity.

Declustering is a part of the data protection approach of HPC setups (formerly known as RAID). It is software based, and in comparison to a traditional RAID setup the spare disk is spread over all other disks and is not a dedicated disk. This will decrease rebuild times and reduce performance impact. Also, there are no limitations with the RAID controller, which results in much higher IOPS (input/output operations per second). Importantly, there is no impact on system performance over time due to declustering.

R&S SpycerNode comes in multiple 2U and 5U chassis designs, which are available with NL-SAS HDD and SAS SSDs in different capacities. An additional 2U24 chassis design is a pure Flash system with main processor units and JBOD units. A main unit is always redundant, equipped with two appliance controllers (AP). Each AP features two 100Gb interfaces, resulting in four 100Gbinterfaces per main unit.

The combination of different chassis systems makes R&S SpycerNode applicable to a very broad range of applications. The 2U system represents a compact, lightweight unit that works well within mobile productions as well as offering a very dense, high-speed storage device for on-premise applications. A larger 5U system offers sophisticated large-scale storage facilities on-premise within broadcast production centers and post facilities.

Storage for Post Studios

By Karen Moltenbrey

The post industry relies heavily on storage solutions, without question. Facilities are jugging a variety of tasks and multiple projects all at once. And deadlines are always looming. Thus, these studios need a storage solution that is fast and reliable. Each studio has different needs and searches to find the right system to fit their particular workflow. Luckily, there are many storage choices for pros to choose from.

For this article, we spoke with two post houses about their storage solutions and why they are a good fit for each of their needs.

Sugar Studios LA
Sugar Studios LA is one-stop shop playground for filmmakers that offers a full range of post production services, including editorial, color, VFX, audio, production and finishing, with each department led by seasoned professionals. Its office suites in the Wiltern Theater Tower, in the center of LA, serve an impressive list of clients, from numerous independent film producers and distributors to Disney, Marvel, Sony, MGM, Universal, Showtime, Netflix, AMC, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and others.

Jijo Reed and Sting in one of their post suites.

With so much important data in play at one time, Sugar needs a robust, secure and reliable storage system. However, with diverse offerings come diverse requirements. For its online and color projects, Sugar uses a Symply SAN with 200TB of usable storage. The color workstations are connected via 10Gb Ethernet over Fibre with a 40Gb uplink to the network. For mass storage and offline work, the studio uses a MacOS server acting as a NAS, with 530TB of usable storage connected via a 40Gb network uplink. For Avid offline jobs, the facility has an Avid Nexis Pro with 40TB of storage, and for Avid Pro Tools collaboration, a Facilis TerraBlock with 40TB of usable storage.

“We can collaborate with any and all client stations working on the same or different media and sharing projects across multiple software platforms,” says Jijo Reed, owner/executive producer of Sugar. “No station is limited to what it can do, since every station has access to all media. Centralized storage is so important because not only does it allow collaboration, we always have access to all media and don’t have to fumble through drives. It is also RAID-protected, so we don’t have to be concerned with losing data.”

Prior to employing the centralized storage, Sugar had been using G-Technology’s G-RAID drives, changing over in late 2016. “Once our technical service advisor, Zach Moller, came on board, he began immediately to institute a storage network solution that was tailored to our workflow,” says Reed.

Reed, an award-winning director/producer, founded the company in 2012, using a laptop (running Final Cut Pro 7) and an external hard drive he had purchased on sale at Fry’s. His target base at the time was producers and writers needing sizzle trailers to pitch their projects — at a time when the term “sizzle trailer” was not part of the common vernacular. “I attended festivals to pitch my wares, producing over 15 sizzles the first year,” he says, “and it grew from there.”

Since Reed was creating sizzles for yet-to-be-made features, he was in “pole position” to handle the post for some of these independent films when they got funded. In 2015, he, along with his senior editor, Paul Buhl, turned their focus to feature post work, which was “more lucrative and less exhausting, but mostly, we wanted to tell stories – the whole story.” He rebranded and changed the name of the company from Sizzlepitch to Sugar Studios, and brought on a feature post producer, Chris Harrington. Reed invested heavily in the company, purchasing equipment and acquiring space. Soon, one bay became two, then three and so on. Currently, the company spans three full floors, including the penthouse of the Wiltern Theater Tower.

As Reed proudly points out, the studio space features 21 bays and workstations, two screening theaters, including a 25-seat color and mix DI stage with a Barco DP4K projector and Dolby Atmos configuration. “We are fully staffed, all under one roof, with editorial, full audio services, color correction/grading, VFX and a greenscreen cyclorama stage with on-site 4K cameras, grip and lighting,” he details. “But, it’s the people who make this work. Our passion is obvious to our clients.”

While Sugar was growing and expanding, so, too, was its mass storage solution. According to Zach Moller, it started with the NAS due to its low price and fast (10Gb) connection to every client machine. “The Symply SAN solution was needed because we required a high-bandwidth system for online and color playback that used Fibre Channel technology for the low latency and local drive configuration,” he says.

Moreover, the facility wanted flexibility with its SAN solution; it was very expensive to have every machine connected via Fibre Channel, “and frankly, we didn’t need that bandwidth,” Reed says. “Symply allowed us to have client machines choose whether they connected via Fibre Channel or 10Gb. If this wasn’t the case, we would have been in a pickle, having to purchase expansion chassis for every machine to open up additional PCI slots.” (The bulk of the machines at Sugar connect using the pre-existing 10Gb Ethernet over Fibre network, thus negating the need to use another PCI slot on a Fibre Channel card.)

American Dreamer

At Sugar, the camera masters and production audio are loaded directly to the NAS for mass storage. Then, the group archives the camera masters to LTO for deep archival, for an additional backup. During LTO archival, the studio creates the dailies for the offline edit on either Avid Media Composer (where the MXFs are migrated to the Avid Nexis server) or Adobe Premiere (where the ProRes dailies continue to live on the NAS).

When adding visual effects, the artists render to the Symply SAN when preparing for the online, color and finishing.

The studio works with a wide range of codecs, some of which are extremely taxing on the systems. And, the SAN is ideal, especially for the raster image files (EXRs), since each frame has such a high density — and there can be 100,000 frames per folder. “This can only be accomplished with a premium storage solution: our SAN,” Reed says.

When the studio moved to the EXR codec for the VFX on the American Dreamer feature film, for example, its original NAS solution over 10Gb didn’t have enough bandwidth for playback on its systems (1.2GB/sec). Once it upgraded the SAN solution with dual 16Gb Fibre Channel, they were able to play back uncompressed 4K EXR footage without the headache or frustration of stuttering.

“We have created an environment that caters to the creative process with a technical infrastructure that is superfast and solid. Filmmakers love us, and I couldn’t be prouder of my team for making this happen,” says Reed.

Mike Seabrooke

Postal
Established in 2015, Postal is a boutique creative studio that produces motion graphics, visual effects, animation, live action and editorial, with the vision of transcending all mediums — whether it’s short animations for social media or big-budget visual effects for broadcast. “As a studio, we love to experiment with different techniques. We feel strongly that the idea should always come first,” says Mike Seabrooke, producer at New York’s Postal.

To ensure that these ideas make it to the final stage of a project, the company uses a mixture of hard drives, LTO tapes and servers that house the content while the artists are working on projects, as well as for archival purposes. Specifically, the studio employs the EditShare Storage v.7 shared storage platform and EditShare Ark Tape for managing the LTO tape libraries that serve as nearline and offline backup. This is the system setup that Postal deployed initially when it started up a few years ago, and since then Postal has been continuously updating and expanding it based on its growth as a studio.

Let’s face it, hard drives always have the possibility of failing. But, failure is not something that Postal — or any other post house — can afford. That is why the studio keeps two instances per job on archive drives: a master and a backup. “Organized hard drives give us quick access to previous jobs if need be, which sometimes can be quite the lifesaver,” says Seabrooke.

 

Postal’s Nordstrom project.

LTO tapes, meanwhile, are used to back up the facility’s servers running EditShare v7 – which house Postal’s editorial jobs — on the off chance that something happens to that precious piece of hardware. “The recovery process isn’t the fastest, but the system is compact, self-contained and gives us peace of mind in case anything does go wrong,” Seabrooke explains.

In addition, the studio uses Retrospect backup and restore software for its working projects server. Seabrooke says, “We chose it because it offers a backup service that does not require much oversight.”

When Postal began shopping for a solution for its studio three years ago, reliability was at the top of its list. The facility needed a system it could rely on to back up its data, which would comprise the facility’s entire scope of work. Ease of use was also a concern, as was access. This decision prompted questions such as: Would we have to monitor it constantly? In what timeframe would we be able to access the data? Moreover, cost was yet another factor: Would the solution be effective without breaking our budget?

Postal’s solution indeed enabled them to check off every one of those boxes. “Our projects demand a system that we can count on, with the added benefit of quick retrieval,” Seabrooke says.

Throughout the studio’s production process, the artists are accessing project data on the servers. Then, once they complete the project, the data is transferred to the archival drives for backup. This frees up space on the company servers for new jobs, while providing access to the stored data if needed.

“Storage is so important in our work because it is our work. Starting over on a project is an outcome we cannot allow, so responsible storage is a necessity,” concludes Seabrooke.


Karen Moltenbrey is a long-time VFX and post production writer.

Post house Cinematic Media opens in Mexico City, targets film, TV

Mexico City is now home to Cinematic Media, a full-service post production finishing facility focused on television and cinema content   Located on the lot at Estudios GGM, the facility offers dailies, look development, editorial finishing, color grading and other services, and aims to capitalize on entertainment media production in Mexico and throughout Central and South America.

Scot Evans

In its first project, Cinematic Media provided finishing services for the second season of the Netflix series Ingobernable.

CEO Scot Evans brings more than 25 years of post experience and has managed large-scale post production operations in the United States, Mexico and Canada. His recent posts include executive VP at Technicolor PostWorks in New York, managing director of Technicolor in Vancouver and managing director of Moving Picture Company (MPC) in Mexico City.

“We’re excited about the future for entertainment production in Mexico,” says Evans. “Netflix opened the door and now Amazon is in Mexico. We expect film production to also grow. Through its geographic location, strong infrastructure and cinematic history, Mexico is well-positioned to become a strong producer of content for the world market.”

Cinematic Media has been built from the ground up with a workflow modeled after top-tier facilities in Hollywood and geared toward television and cinema finishing. Engineering design was supervised by John Stevens, whose four decades of post experience includes stints at Cinesite, Efilm, The Post Group, Encore Hollywood, MTI Film and, currently, the Foundation.

Resources include a DI theater with DaVinci Resolve, 4K projection and 7.1 surround sound, four color suites supporting 2K, 4K and HDR, multiple editorial finishing suites, and a Colorfront On-Set Dailies system. The facility also offers look development services to assist productions in creating end-to-end color pipelines, as well as quality control and deliverable services for streaming, broadcast and cinema. Plans to add visual effects services are in the works.

“We can handle six or seven series simultaneously,” says Evans. “There is a lot of redundancy built into our pipeline, making it incredibly efficient and virtually eliminating downtime. A lot of facilities in Hollywood would be envious of what we have here.”

Cinematic Media features high-speed connectivity via the private network Sohonet. It will be employed to share media with studios, producers and distributors around the globe securely and efficiently. It will also be used to facilitate remote collaboration with directors, cinematographers, editors, colorists and other production partners.

Evans cites as a further plus Cinematic Media’s location within Estudios GGM, which has six sound stages, production and editorial office space, grip and lighting resources and more. Producers can take projects from concept to the screen from within the confines of the site. “We can literally walk down a flight of stairs to support a project shooting on one of the stages,” he says. “Proximity is important. We expect many productions to locate their offices and editorial teams here.”

Managing director Arturo Sedano will oversee day-to-day operations. He has supervised post for thousands of hours of television and cinema content on behalf of studios and producers from around the globe, including Netflix, Telemundo, Sony Pictures, Viacom, Lionsgate, HBO, TV Azteca, Grupo Imagen and Fox.

Other key staff includes senior colorist Ana Montaño whose experience as a digital colorist spans facilities in Mexico City, Barcelona, London, Dublin and Rome; producer and post supervisor Cyntia Navarro, previously with Lejana Films and Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía (IMCINE). Her credits span episodic television, feature film and documentaries, and include projects for IFC Films, Canal Once, UPI, Discovery Channel, Netflix and Amazon.

Additional staff includes chief technology officer Oliver De Gante, previously with Ollin VFX, where his credits included the hit films Chappie, Her, Tron: Legacy and The Social Network, as well as the Netflix series House of Cards; technical director Gabriel Kerlegand, a workflow specialist and digital imaging technologist with 18 years of experience in cinema and television; and coordinator and senior conform editor Humberto Flores, formerly senior editor at Zenith Adventure Media.

Post production in the cloud

By Adrian Pennington

After being talked about for years, the capacity to use the cloud for the full arsenal of post workflows is possible today with huge ramifications for the facilities business.

Rendering frames for visual effects requires an extraordinary amount of compute power for which VFX studios have historically assigned whole rooms full of servers to act as their renderfarm. As visual quality has escalated, most vendors have either had to limit the scope of their projects or buy or rent new machines on-premises to cope with the extra rendering needed. In recent times this has been upended as cloud networking has enabled VFX shops to relieve internal bottlenecks to scale, and then contract, at will.

The cloud rendering process has become so established that even this once groundbreaking capability has evolved to encompass a whole host of post workflows from previz to transcoding. In doing so, the conventional business model for post is being uprooted and reimagined.

“Early on, global facility powerhouses first recognized how access to unlimited compute and remote storage could empower the creative process to reach new heights,” explains Chuck Parker, CEO of Sohonet. “Despite spending millions of dollars on hardware, the demands of working on multiple, increasingly complex projects simultaneously, combined with decreasing timeframes, stretched on-premise facilities to their limits.”

Chuck Parker

Public cloud providers (Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure) changed the game by solving space, time and capacity problems for resource-intensive tasks. “Sohonet Fastlane and Google Compute Engine, for example, enabled MPC to complete The Jungle Book on time and to Oscar-winning standards, thanks to being able to run millions of Core hours in the cloud,” notes Parker.

Small- to mid-sized companies followed suit. “They lacked the financial resources and the physical space of larger competitors, and initially found themselves priced out of major studio projects,” says Parker. “But by accessing renderfarms in the cloud they can eliminate the cost and logistics of installing and configuring physical machines. Flexible pricing and the option of preemptible instances mean only paying for the compute power used, further minimizing costs and expanding the scope of possible projects.”

Milk VFX did just this when rendering the complex sequences on Adrift. Without the extra horsepower, the London-based house could not have bid on the project in the first place.

“The technology has now evolved to a point where any filmmaker with any VFX project or theatrical, TV or spot editorial can call on the cloud to operate at scale when needed — and still stay affordable,” says Parker. “Long anticipated and theorized, the ability to collaborate in realtime with teams in multiple geographic locations is a reality that is altering the post production landscape for enterprises of all sizes.”

Parker says the new post model might look like this. He uses the example of a company headquartered in Berlin — “an innovative company might employ only a dozen managers and project supervisors on its books. They can bid with confidence on jobs of any scale and any timeframe knowing that they can readily rent physical space in any location, anywhere in the world, to flexibly take advantage of tax breaks and populate it with freelance artists: 100 one week, say, 200 in week three, 300 in week five. The only hardware (rental) costs would be thin-client workstations and Wacom tablets, plus software licenses for 3D, roto, compositing and other key tools. With the job complete, the whole infrastructure can be smoothly scaled back.”

The compute costs of spinning up cloud processing and storage can be modelled into client pitches. “But building out and managing such connectivity independently may still require considerable CAPEX — one that might be cost-prohibitive if you only need the infrastructure for short periods,” notes Parker. “Cloud-compute resources are perfect for spikes in workload but, in between those spikes, paying for bandwidth you don’t need will hurt the bottom line.

Dedicated, “burstable” connectivity speeds of 100Mbit/s up to 50Gbit/s with flexibility, security and reliability are highly desirable attributes for the creative workflow. Price points, as ever, are a motivating concern. Parker’s offerings “move your data away from Internet bandwidth, removing network congestion and decreasing the time it takes to transfer your data. With a direct link to the major cloud provider of your choice, customers can be in control of how their data is routed, leading to a more consistent network experience.

“Direct links into major studios like Pinewood UK open up realtime on-set CGI rendering with live-action photography for virtual production scenarios,” adds Parker. “It is vital that your data transits straight to the cloud and never touches the Internet.”

With file sizes set to continue to increase exponentially over the next few years as 4K and HDR become standard and new immersive media like VR emerges to the mainstream, leveraging the cloud will not only be routine for the highest budget projects and largest vendors, it will become the new post production paradigm. In the cloud creative workflows are demystified and democratized.