Tag Archives: Utopic

Utopic editor Suzie Moore on cutting Nissan film for different screens

Utopic editor Suzie Moore has been tasked with cutting a two-minute film for Nissan called Red Thread, out of agency inVNT, that plays on large screens at Worldwide Auto Shows in six cities across the globe. Each show offers a different stage, screen size and shape. For example, the screen in Frankfurt is rectangular while at the Detroit show the screen is 6K and wraps around.

This is Moore’s third season working on the film, the purpose of which is to grab attention at an event packed with competing auto manufacturers revealing concept cars and new technologies to the press. The prepro started in August 2015 and delivery of content began at the end of September and will run through April 2016. Moore and her team are on call day and night throughout the project to trouble shoot and make sure the film plays as expected in each city.

Chicago-based Utopic’s job is shepherding the large-screen format film from prepro to graphics to edit. Moore and team will be in constant contact with the Nissan production teams in all six cities — Frankfurt, Tokyo, Detroit, Geneva, New York and Beijing.

We reached out to editor Moore to find out more about the project, her work and the specific challenges of a project like this one.

What was the project shot on, who shot it and who directed?
We received finished/generic masters for the spots that we used in the film. When the film features executives speaking about the cars, it was typically shot on Red at 4K and directed by the creatives from InVNT.

Interviews were filmed at Nissan’s corporate offices in Japan with the help of TBWA/Hakuhodo. They were also shot in La Jolla, California, at the Nissan Design Center and in various locations in Europe and South America with the help of the Nissan Newsroom team. We source content/commercial spots from all over the world. It’s interesting to see how the brand is represented in South Africa, China, Russia and Brazil.

What did you use for the edit and can you talk about resolutions?
I use Adobe Premiere Pro. It’s the perfect program for this material because I set my sequence setting to whatever size the screen is. For example, the Detroit screen is 5760×896 — so long and thin. Coming from the standard 16×9 rectangle, this is a totally different window, which necessitates a different process. Especially because the material that we are using is 16×9. So the challenge is taking all these parts and making them into a new whole while maintaining the integrity of the brand story that we are telling for each specific region.

How did you work with the client on the edit? Were you mostly left alone to do the edit or was the client with you?
We’re on our own a lot. The agency comes in for a few days in August when we brainstorm. We then have a kickoff for each show about six weeks out, followed by conference calls and postings. The creative/account teams for InVNT are always on the move. When we supervised one of the interview shoots, the shoot was in Japan, the creative was in Russia, the producer was in Detroit, and I was in Chicago. The global reach that this project has is one of the reasons why I love it.

What were the challenges of working on a project of this scale?
As mentioned above, while I do love the global reach, the time zones present a challenge. Japan is 14 hours ahead, so that shoot I mentioned was at 4am for me (6pm Japan).

For the Sao Paulo video last year, we collaborated with a CG team in Japan. This also presented a language barrier. I would get emails first in Japanese, then we would have a translator translate.

The biggest challenge though, by far, is the edit itself. Making 16×9 footage fill a 6K screen without blowing it up, then delivering the final piece in puzzle pieces to be reassembled on site because the screen is different every for show — so it’s never the same video twice. It might have similar elements, but it’s always changing, so it’s a challenge to keep evolving it and making it better and better each time.

The edit at times is layers upon layers and nests within nests. I feel like sometimes I hit the “end of the equation.” Like what I want to accomplish pushes the program to its limit. It’s a different kind of editing… very process driven. The creativity comes once I figure out the process for the edit.

What kinds of VFX were involved and how many shots?
We decide on the graphic treatment at the beginning of each year in August. We typically have a mix of 2D and 3D elements that we use which are created in Maxon Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects. Last year the concept was based on the lines of the car, so we used 3D strokes and lens flares along with some 3D shape elements. This year, it’s 3D tendrils and chevrons. So these graphics elements open and close the film and are used as transition moments throughout.

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Other credits on the film include Yessian, which provided sound design, music and audio post.

Quick Chat: Utopic editor Kat Pryor on Porsche film

By Randi Altman

Utopic editor Katherine Pryor didn’t grow up a racing fan, but a recent short film for an iconic car company turned her head. New York City-based production company ADDigital and Chicago edit house Utopic teamed up on a documentary-style film for Porsche. Director Sam Ciaramitaro and Pryor worked side by side on the web offering, via agency Cramer-Krasselt Chicago.

The five-minute-plus film, called The Enduring Bondis the first of two long-form projects Ciaramitaro and Pryor are slated to collaborate on. The second one will shoot at Road Atlanta this fall. The Enduring Bond, which shot over four days this past March, offers a “fly-on-the-wall style and features two personal stories: one showing how much the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race means to the crews and drivers from Porsche, and another following a family that attends the race year after year.

We reached out to Pryor to find out more about editing the project, and working through 25 hours of footage, as well as her collaboration with the director.

How early did you get involved in the project? 
I had several conversations with director Sam Ciaramitaro prior to production. I had worked with him before, so when we knew we were teaming up again for this one, he would send me ideas and we would discuss things like music, style and pacing.

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Can you talk about how you worked with them before the edit process began?
I was given some “homework” before production. There were a few docs I watched as examples of great techniques for fly-on-the-wall-style documentaries. In addition to that, I had a learning curve for what endurance racing actually is. I had never seen a car race or understood the culture with fans and drivers, so I watched the feature film Le Mans (Steve McQueen) and Senna, a documentary composed entirely of found footage about Formula 1 driver Ayerton Senna. This all helped to get me into the driver’s seat POV, so to speak.

You mentioned that you and the director had worked together in the past. That must have made things a bit easier?
Sam and I have a great short hand. There was a lot of collaboration back and forth during post. Also, it was great to be on set and see him come back from a location excited to tell me what they just captured and what to keep my eyes open for as I looked through footage.

So you were on set, not near set?
The set was the entire track — 3.74 miles — and the surrounding areas where fans were camped out all weekend. We were set up in a room where media and TV people were stationed, behind the grandstand. I was editing on set with my assistant Christen Nehmer. On several occasions we were able to hop in a golf cart and head out to a location for parts of the shoot. I really couldn’t have done this without her there – she was syncing interviews and logging wild sounds right alongside me so I could focus on pulling selects.

It was essential to be there to have a grasp on where and how everything was shot, and how sound was captured. We were also able to go into the pit area to observe. Having been at a race track for four days, I can now distinguish the sound of a Porsche engine from any other race car!

L-R: DP Steven Huber and director Sam Ciaramitaro.

What was the piece shot on, and how did they come to that specific format/camera?
We had two very agile and talented DPs — Anthony Arendt and Steve Huber — who shot on Sony A7s combined with Atomos Shogun 4K. These cameras are great for their small size and ease with getting around quickly. The footage looks fantastic. And with everything at 4K, I had a lot of opportunity to blow shots up and move around the frame.

When did you start getting footage, and what was the workflow like?
We started getting footage on the second day of the four-day shoot. We were set up near the DIT, and as he transcoded the footage, we would then copy to our drives. We worked off of 15-inch Apple MacBook Pros, running Adobe Premiere CC, with 4TB G-Tech G-RAID Thunderbolt drives.

It was a 12-hour race on Saturday, day four of the shoot, so we had lots of footage trickling in as the day went on. We spent most of Saturday organizing the three days of footage we had already gotten. By Sunday morning, we had everything in hand, which was around 25 hours of footage. Then we got on a plane and flew back to Chicago. Sunday night Christen and Jarrad Quadir, another rockstar Utopic assistant, transferred all the footage over so I could continue editing on Monday without missing a beat. Sam came to town Tuesday and by Thursday we had about a nine-minute working cut.

What kind of direction did you get about the edit?
The race itself was never the focus of the piece. Nor was the goal to sell Porsches. The focus was to tell the human side of motorsports. To let the personal stories unfold, side by side. I knew that the meat of this was going to be the family’s story, followed by the driver, Jörg Bergmeister. With this kind of documentary style, there are always surprises. There was no traditional board or script to work from, so I started with the director’s treatment.

How would you describe your creative process on this one?
I watched every frame before I started laying anything into a timeline. I was extremely disciplined. With 25 hours of footage, it would be tempting to skip through a lot of it, but I made sure to screen everything, pull selects and really just digest all of it. With that amount of footage, I wanted to be sure of everything we had to work with.

Next, I started with Sam’s treatment as my roadmap. Everything in his treatment was captured. It came down to finding the most essential and best moments to tell the family’s story, and to balance that with the driver’s perspective leading up to the race. It was also important to fill it in with cinematic moments — like Jörg shaving and then driving to the track with a fellow race car driver. The goal was to create tension and build up the characters, then end with the beginning of the race.

Was there a part that was most challenging?
I think the challenge was what to do once we got to the actual race! Since it was not a focal point, I wasn’t quite sure how to wrap it all up. I felt like we could just keep building and building. Once I saw what an emotional story we had from the Diaz family, I knew we had to end with that. In fact, Sam discussed it with me on set immediately after he shot it — that was the ending…  Javier’s tears. So I definitely had that in mind from the beginning when I started cutting.

The actual race result was a bit of a surprise. Porsche ended up having a rough last hour of the 12 hours and they lost despite holding leads throughout the day. Later in the post process it became important to get their message across, which ultimately ties back into the theme of Enduring Bond. Creating the drama of this losing moment but still maintaining their will to win was a bit of a challenge.

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What are you most proud of?
I absolutely love this piece. I’m so thrilled to have been brought into this project by Sam, ADD and CK. I would say I am most proud of the sound design that I built with the variety of elements I had — original music, ambience, pit-to-car radio communication, track announcer voices, wild track audio of the race and sync sound from interviews. It was definitely outside of how I normally work on projects. I really pushed myself to build and layer the audio especially during the rough-cut stage. Then, of course, I worked closely with Brian Leitner, Utopic’s sound designer and music composer.

Can you talk more the music?
Before production we created an original music track, based on direction that Sam had given us. I wanted a track to cut with that could eventually be post scored. Instead of doing a traditional music search or getting hooked on a song from a band or soundtrack, I asked Brian Leitner to create something. It turned out to be an amazing piece of music, and perfect for this film.