Tag Archives: Red Dragon

Netflix’s ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ gets crisper look via UHD

NYC’s Technicolor Postworks created a dedicated post workflow for the upgrade.

Having compiled seven Emmy Award nominations in its debut season, Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returned in mid-April with 13 new episodes in a form that is, quite literally, bigger and better.

The sitcom, from co-creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, features the ever-cheerful and ever-hopeful Kimmy Schmidt, whose spirit refuses to be broken, even after being held captive during her formative years. This season the series has boosted its delivery format from standard HD to the crisper, clearer, more detailed look of Ultra High Definition (UHD).

L-R: Pat Kelleher and Roger Doran

As with the show’s first season, post finishing was done at Technicolor PostWorks New York. Online editor Pat Kelleher and colorist Roger Doran once again served as the finishing team, working under the direction of series producer Dara Schnapper, post supervisor Valerie Landesberg and director of photography John Inwood. Almost everything else, however, was different.

The first season had been shot by Inwood with Arri Alexa, capturing in 1080p, and finished in ProRes 4444. The new episodes were shot with Red Dragon, capturing in 5K, and needed to be finished in UHD. That meant that the hardware and workflow used by Kelleher and Doran had to be retooled to efficiently manage UHD files four times larger than ProRes.

“It was an eye opener,” recalls Kelleher of the change. “Obviously, the amount of drive space needed for storage is huge. Everyone from our data manager through to the people who did the digital deliveries had to contend with the higher volume of data. The actual hands-on work is not that different from an HD show, but you need the horses to do it.”

Before post work began, engineers from Technicolor PostWorks’ in-house research unit, The Test Lab, analyzed the workflow requirements of UHD and began making changes. They built an entirely new hardware Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidtsystem for Kelleher to use, running Autodesk’s Flame Premium. It consisted of an HP Z820 workstation with Nvidia Quadro K6000 graphics, 64GB of RAM and dual Intel Xeon Processor E5-2687Ws (20M Cache, 3.10 GHz, 8.00 GT/s Intel QPI). Kelleher described its performance in handling UHD media as “flawless.”

Doran’s color grading suite got a similar overhaul. For him, engineers built a Linux-based workstation to run Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, V11, and set up a dual monitoring system. That included a Panasonic 300 series display to view media in 1080p and a Samsung 9500 series curved LED to view UHD. Doran could then review color decisions in both formats (while maintaining a UHD signal throughout) and spot details or noise issues in UHD that might not be apparent at lower resolution.

While the extra firepower enabled Kelleher and Doran to work with UHD as efficiently as HD, they faced new challenges. “We do a lot of visual effects for this show,” notes Kelleher. “And now that we’re working in UHD, everything has to be much more precise. My mattes have to be tight because you can see so much more.”

Doran’s work in the color suite similarly required greater finesse. “You have to be very, very aware,” he says. “Cosmetically, it’s different. The lighting is different. You have to pay close attention to how the stars look.”

Doran is quick to add that, while grading UHD might require closer scrutiny, it’s justified by the results. “I like the increased range and greater detail,” he says. “I enjoy the extra control. Once you move up, you never want to go back.”

Both Doran and Kelleher credited the Technicolor PostWorks engineering team of Eric Horwitz, Corey Stewart and Randy Main for their ability to “move up” with a minimum of strain. “The engineers were amazing,” Kelleher insists. “They got the workflow to where all I had to think about was editing and compositing. The transition was so smooth, you almost forgot you were working in UHD, except for the image quality. That was amazing.”

Quick Chat: Wildlife DP Andy Casagrande

Andy Brandy Casagrande IV, (a.k.a., ABC4) is a two-time Emmy Award-winning cinematographer, field producer and television presenter who specializes in wildlife documentaries.

From king cobras and killer whales to great whites sharks and polar bears, Casagrande’s cinematography and unorthodox Continue reading

MPC Creative provides film, VR project for Faraday at CES 2016

VR was everywhere at CES earlier this month, and LA’s MPC played a role. Their content production arm, MPC Creative, produced a film and VR experience for CES 2016, highlighting Faraday Future’s technology platform and providing glimpses of the innovations consumers can expect from their product. The specific innovation shown in the CES VR film was a concept car — the FFZERO1 high-performance electric dream car — and the inspiration around Faraday Future’s consumer-based cars.

“We wanted it to feel elemental. Faraday Future is a sophisticated brand that aims for a seamless connection between technology and transportation,” explains MPC Creative CD Dan Marsh, who also directed the film. “We tried to make the film personal, but natural in the landscape. The car is engineered for the racetrack, but beautiful, in the environmental showcase.”

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To make the film, MPC Creative shot a stand-in vehicle to achieve realistic performance driving and camera work. “We filmed in Malibu and a performance racetrack over two days, then married those locations together with some matte painting and CG to create a unique place that feels like an aspirational Nürburgring of sorts. We match-moved/tracked the real car that was filmed and replaced it with our CG replica of the Faraday Future racecar to get realistic performance driving. Interior shots were filmed on stage. We chose to bridge those stage shots with a slightly stylized appearance so that we could tie it all back together with a full CG demo sequence at the end of the film.”

MPC Creative also produced a Faraday Future VR experience that features the FFZERO1 driving through a series of abstract environments. The experience feels architectural and sculptural, and ultimately offers a spiritual versus visceral journey. Using Samsung’s Gear VR, CES attendees sat in a position similar to the angled seating of the car for their 360-degree CES_Faraday_MASTER.0001174tour.

MPC Creative shot the pursuit vehicle with an Arri Alexa and  used a Red Dragon for drone and VFX support. “We also mounted a Red, with a 4.5mm lens pointed upwards on a follow vehicle that allowed us to capture a mobile spherical environment, which we used to map moving reflections of the environment back onto the CG car,” explains MPC Creative executive producer Mike Wigart.

How did working on the film versus the VR product differ? “The VR project was very different from the film in the sense that it was CG rendered,” says Wigart. “We initially considered the idea of a doing a live-action VR piece, but we started to see several in-car live-action VR projects out in the world, so we decided to do something we hadn’t seen before — an aesthetically driven VR piece with design-based environments. We wanted a VR experience that was visually rich while speaking to the aspirational nature of Faraday Future.”

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Adds Marsh, “Faraday Future wanted to put viewers in the driver’s seat but, more than that, they wanted to create a compelling experience that points to some of the new ideas they are focusing on. We’ve seen and made a lot of car driving experiences, but without a compelling narrative the piece can be in danger of being VR for the sake of it. We made something for Faraday Future that you couldn’t see otherwise. We conceived an architectural framework for the experience. Participants travel through a racetrack of sorts, but each stage takes you through a unique space. But we’re also traveling fast, so, like the film, we’re teasing the possibilities.”

Tools used by MPC Creative included Autodesk Maya, Side Effects Houdini, V-Ray by Chaos Group, The Foundry’s Nuke and Nuke Studio and Tweak’s RV.

Red debuts Weapon

Leveraging the 6K Red Dragon sensor, Red Digital Cinema introduced Weapon at NAB, their smallest and most lightweight camera Brain to date — the Brain refers to the part of the camera where the sensor lives. Combining a refined color science with the dynamic range of the 19-megapixel Red Dragon sensor, Weapon features a variety of performance enhancements over its siblings, including simultaneous on-board RedCode Raw and Apple ProRes recording (4444 XQ, 4444, 422 HQ, 422 and 422 LT) as well as 1D and 3D LUTs for precise color matching.

The brain itself has been completely redesigned for modular performance, with on-board audio recording, improved thermal management, new interchangeable OLPFs with smart detection, an integrated top plate and built-in Wi-Fi functionality. Capable of faster data rates with the Red Mini-Mag SSD cards, Weapon also offers tethered streaming of ProRes content via Ethernet while concurrently archiving R3D masters. Among Weapon’s operating improvements are automatic sensor calibration with a wider operating band for sensor temperature and improved low light performance.

Offered in magnesium or carbon fiber editions, Weapon is available as a new camera option or as an upgrade for existing customers.

DP Phedon Papamichael gets flexible with Codex Action Cams for Infiniti

For an Infiniti QX50 SUV branding film, Oscar-nominated cinematographer Phedon Papamichael ASC, GSC, called on dual Codex Action Cam point, shoot and record packages to capture handheld location and road footage that was then intercut with 4K footage from the principal Red Dragon cameras on the production.

Papamichael, known for big-screen cinematography on movies including The Descendants, The Ides of March, The Monuments Men and Nebraska (a 2014 Oscar nom), often shoots and directs commercials, where he can focus his attention on each moment and try out the vary latest gear. It was in that vein that he shot and co-directed this film for the Infiniti QX50.

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In the film, Chinese superstars Archie Kao and Zhou Xun portray a couple who decide to break the rules during a typical car shoot and get a taste of freedom in the new SUV. Chased by paparazzi on motorcycles, they make their way to the Griffith Observatory and evade capture by going off-road in Griffith Park. Other scenes were shot in the high desert near the Mojave Desert and at Zuma Beach north of Malibu, where they frolic on the sand, shooting movies on their cellphones. They eventually return the car to the soundstage, where the frustrated director looks at the cellphone footage of their escapades.

The film was directed by Jaume Collet-Sera, through production company Bullitt. Papamichael took over directing duties on the final day of the five-day shoot, which involved beauty stage work of the vehicle. The toolkit, mainly provided by CamTec in Burbank, included two Red Dragon cameras, a drone mounted with a Panasonic Lumix GH4, an Edge vehicle and crane, three Canon 6Ds shooting timelapse footage, plus two Codex Action Cams.

“We initially added the Codex Action Cams to our camera package for traveling car logo/badge shots and other moving details,” reports first AC Jeff Porter. “But when Phedon and Jaume saw that you can literally hold the Action Cam head in the palm of your hand, they wanted to play. They saw an opportunity to shoot unscripted, spontaneous moments with the actors driving in the Infiniti SUV.”

However, limited space inside the car meant there was no room for camera operators or focus pullers. Consequently, Papamichael and Collet-Sera were given small, handheld monitors, and quickly instructed in how operate the Codex Camera Control Recorder.

“We literally held the cameras with one hand and went free-driving with the actors,” says Papamichael. “Because we used these small cameras, we were able to get probably 100 set-ups on a 30-minute drive. It was great. From the back seat, I could hold Action Cam out the window and point it through the side window of the front seat, getting a hostess-tray-type shot. I could rake the car and get the actress’ reflection in the rear-view mirror. We were working quickly and winging it. There’s a lot of shaking and bumps in there, but it definitely made for some usable shots that we could never have gotten otherwise.”

The Action Cam is a tiny remote camera head that shoots up to 60fps. With a single co-ax cable to the Codex Camera Control Recorder, it delivers a proven workflow. It uses a 2/3-inch single-chip sensor with a global shutter to capture 1920×1080 HD images with wide dynamic range. Papamichael appreciated the Action Cam’s compatibility with professional grade cine lenses — in this case he opted for Super 16-format Zeiss, with a C-mount-to-PL-mount adaptor.

“I could roll the iris with one finger,” adds Papamichael. “The little monitor was lying on my lap and I could pull my own focus to a degree. I would open it up and get the image flared out, or we’d come out of a tunnel and I’d roll the iris closed. People are excited about the footage we got. I’m thinking that with short edits, it will integrate pretty well with the Red footage we shot. Action Cam gives you a lot of possibilities —and it’s certainly a fun option to play with.”

Phedon Papamichael

Phedon Papamichael

The Action Cams recorded 1920×1080 imagery that Codex tech Nick Lantz converted to 10-bit DPX files. For the most part, a rate of 25fps was called for, as the commercial is meant for broadcast in China, although Papamichael sometimes shot up to 50fps. The Red cameras were set up to capture images at 4K resolution with 5:1 compression. Papamichael used Optimo zooms on these cameras in part because he likes the way they flare.

“The beautiful moments that Phedon and Jaume captured of Archie and Xun with the Action Cams could not have been achieved with a process trailer, or with a camera operator and focus puller jammed into the front seat,” says Porter.