Category: Post-Production

Mixing Light & Sound

How To Think Like A Post-Production Supervisor

Tonight I’m teaming up with Peter Levin of Splash Studios to do a free seminar, “Mixing Light & Sound: Strategies for Finishing Your Project”.

It could also be called, How To Think Like a Post Production Supervisor.

Peter is a terrific audio mixer, his wife Barbara a talented Dialog Editor. Their recent projects include the festival circuit’s acclaimed My Peristroika (nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year) and the upcoming You Tube Symphony Orchestra (it’s a doc commissioned by You Tube following musical proteges culminating in a gala symphony).

Mixing Light & Sound

Peter and I have been working together for over a year (we were introduced by our dear departed friend, Michael Vitti): He’s the ears of the operation, I’m the eyes (and our wives are the brains!). When comparing notes we found are clients are consistently confused by the same technicalities of the last few steps in finishing their projects.

The two of us decided it was time to get in front of producers, directors, editors, documentarians – filmmakers – and start answering all the questions we both get asked, day in / day out. Such as:

  • What should you expect from your color correction, when should you do it, how should you prepare for it?
  • What is a 5.1 audio mix? What is an LtRt? What’s the best way to prepare your audio for your sound edit? What is Dolby E encoding and why should you be thinking about it?
  • What are the different tape formats and what are festivals and networks going to require? What’s the best way to upconvert NTSC to HD? What about mixing HD formats and Frame Rates?
  • How do your decisions to these (and many more) questions affect the finishing pipeline?

Our number 1 piece of advice: Begin at the end. You need to define where your project will most likely be seen. Once defined, your roadmap becomes very clear – and allows for unexpectedly happy detours (like, getting picked up by HBO).

We did our first free seminar 3 weeks ago. A total success. It ran almost 3 hours, an hour longer than planned. The group was small, 15 people. The questions came from all parts of the room. Tonight’s session is (again) a sellout. This time around we’re adding a ‘recommended workflow’ that should cover about 80% of the projects out there.

Building Out The Concept

We’re excited about this seminar and plan to take it on the road and evangelize these strategies. We’re  developing a website / forum specifically devoted to finishing strategies.

Our goal: Demystify the complexities of finishing picture and sound – resulting in educated clients making informed decisions in pre-productions saving them time, money, and frustration. Stay tuned for more details as the website goes live.

If you think you might be interested in attending one of these NYC seminars (we’re still developing the content based on how the early seminars progress), contact me and we’ll keep you in the loop. Or just subscribe to this RSS feed. Or Fini’s Facebook page… or…

– pi

 

“What Would James Cameron Do” & Prime Time Mediocrity

James Cameron "Avatar" Production Still

Lying in bed, sick, watching Prime Time televsion in NTSC for the first time in years – I couldn’t help to juxtapose the train wreck I was seeing on the screen with an article in The Hollywood Reporter concerning the deliverables for Avatar: (stay with me on this…)

“No studio has ever faced what we faced on this,” says Ted Gagliano, president of postproduction at Fox. “Jim wanted the best, most immersive experience possible. So he pushed us to have a multiple-version inventory that would give each theater the best experience it could possibly deliver for that given theater.”

“The best experience it could possibly deliver”

According to the article, the end result:

Cameron made the decision to complete the movie in three aspect ratios: Scope (2:39:1), flat (1:85:1) and Imax (1:43:1). “You are not going to see many directors releasing in different aspect ratios, as most pick their canvas and that is their format,” Fox vp postproduction Steve Barnett says.

The article is a great read about one man’s pursuit and dedication to ensuring his film is seen in its best possible light… staying as true to the director’s original intent as possible. In my mind, there’s no doubt this type of pursuit of excellence can be attributed to much of the film’s success.

But I digress…

So. I’m shivering under my heating blanket and I can’t believe what I was seeing on Prime-Time network television. They made consistently terrible decisions as to how to present their wide-screen originated television on NTSC screens.

Rather than adding an extra few hours to their post pipelines to properly reformat their 16:9 HD pictures to fit into a 4:3 NTSC screen ABC, NBC and CBS made identical decisions, they chopped off the sides of the picture and called it a day. They traded excellence for expediency resulting in a terrible viewing experience for the home viewer. Here’s the type of framing I kept seeing all night long (special thanks to Mike Mazur for the image):

720p Still Image with 4:3 centercut overlay

16:9 HD image with 4:3 NTSC Center Cut. Notice the discombobulated nose.

Of course, the networks could decide to follow the direction of almost every cable station and letterbox the image – maintaining the intent and storytelling authenticity of their programs. But rather than doing a shot-by-shot Pan & Scan, re-framing shots so they fit best in the 4:3 screen, the major Nets all seem to be happy to have noses talking to each other, network bugs covering key pieces of information, and generally showing a complete lack of caring for their audience or the visual quality of their content.

Need another example of network carelessness? Take a look at this post with a screenshot from the March 30, 2010 episode of Lost. The first thing to notice, the image they’re showing is from the 4:3 centercut. Notice how half the words on the notebook are cut off? The entire sentence is readable on the 16:9 version. Except, of course, that the V countdown clock takes this in-camera subtitle, already difficult to decode due to the center cut, and renders the conversation unreadable.

How mad were the fans of Lost?

“I try to avoid Twitter around 6 p.m. PT on Tuesdays, in order to steer clear of Lost spoilers from eager East Coast Tweeps. But tonight, with the Tweet Deck still on, I couldn’t help but notice the increasing anger from Lost viewers, as an on-screen clock counted down the minutes until the return of V.” – Michael Schneider, Variety

Counterpoint: Here’s one more excerpt demonstrating James Cameron’s pursuit of excellence:

Creative decisions involving light levels also led to additional versions. 3D projection and glasses cut down the light the viewer sees, so “Avatar” also had separate color grades at different light levels…

“If we had just sent out one version of the movie, it would have been very dark (in the larger theaters),” Barnett says.

As network and cable companies attempt to compete more effectively with the Internet and video games, their willingness to accept mediocrity is their single greatest challenge.

Here’s a new mantra for Network Execs making these bone-headed decisions:

What would James Cameron do?

– pi

 

NAB 2010 – Initial Thoughts

What are the big items that have caught my eye watching Twitter feeds and reading Press Releases on Day 1 of NAB? Here are my (purely selfish) top three:

DaVinci Resolve on Mac

DaVinci Resolve Control Surface

When BlackMagic bought DaVinci last year here’s what I wished for this NAB:

  • DaVinci Resolve.
  • For Mac.
  • Under $15k.

I figured that BlackMagic would price the Resolve near Smoke on a Mac. I underestimated Grant Petty, CEO of BlackMagic. Grant has built his company by pursuing disruptive technologies that are  priced aggressively.

Man, he got disruptive big-time.

Here’s what Grant delivered to me this NAB:

  • DaVinci Resolve.
  • For Mac.
  • Under $1k.

Even better, Resolve on Mac (unlike Smoke) when compared to its full-blown Linux counterpart doesn’t hobble the software. It doesn’t hold back features. It doesn’t require a Support Contract. It’s only restriction – 1 GPU; according to the Press Release, the GPU limitation is due to lack of support for InfiniBand for Mac.

Fini, my color correction company, has a 9-month roadmap that I’m executing as I re-tool the company and better position it to compete in the market I’ve targeted (more on that as The Plan moves forward). Resolve on a Mac couldn’t fit in more perfectly. I’m beyond stoked.

The only question I haven’t gotten an answer to: Will Resolve on Mac support RED natively in 2K and HD workflows? It really needs to.

Avid Buys Euphonix

The other news that grabbed my attention was Avid’s announcement of their intention to buy Euphonix – maker of outboard control surfaces.

I’m not yet sure if this is a good thing or not.

I’ve read a few people opine on this topic – but I think most are missing the point of this acquisition. The Euphonix secret sauce is their EuCon protocol. It’s the protocol that controls the interaction between the hardware control surface and the software being controlled. Their product that most interests me, MC Color, is buttery smooth… and it’s EuCon that’s responsible for the feeling that the software, via their hardware, is an extension of your brain. The immediacy of even the most subtle inputs is fantastic.

In the past, an acquisition by Avid was where great products went to wither away. Avid over the last two years seems to have turned over a new leaf and this year has had a great new release.

So now? What is the future of EuCon? I’m nervous. I just don’t know.

I can only hope that Avid decides to continue offering the amazing value that Euphonix seems to be built around.

Me -> Apple: In ProApps, Silence Is Not Golden

Apple doesn’t get it. I don’t build my business based on if I want to operate a Linux-based business or a Mac-based business. I don’t really care what new features the next version of the Mac OS is going to offer. Or when. On this count, Apple can be as secretive as they want.

I build my business with software products designed to allow me to provide amazing value to my clients. If I’m going to plan the direction of my business, I need an understanding of where I think the software I use is going to go. Currently, my software happens to be owned by Apple.

Apple, extending it’s corporate Cone Of Silence around the Pro Apps division, offers me nothing but a blank expression and puckered lips.

And a frustratingly long 2 year development cycle.

So what am I to make of Apple’s silence concerning their ProApps products?

Is it because they’re ready to leap-frog the competition?

Or does de-coupling Final Cut Studio from big events like NAB go counter to Steve Job’s excellent quote: “Real Artists Ship”? With no more external target dates, is shipping Final Cut Studio becoming internally de-valued?

Here’s what’s so surprising to me after Day 1 of NAB 2010:

More and more I’m caring less and less about those answers.

– pi

 

Patrick interviewed about grading & finishing

I just wrapped a 14 minute interview on Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordon and his trusty sidekick Michael Horton. It seems I’ll never kick those pre-stage jitters that always haunted from the earliest time I acted on stage in junior high.

I’ll update with a link to audio once it’s up.

UPDATE: Here’s the iTunes feed – the interview is March 18, 2010.

UPDATE 2: Here’s the link to my specific interview.

 

Errata – BluRay & Compressor 3

In this previous post I lamented how Apple seemed to be dragging its heels on providing BluRay authoring tools in its Pro Apps suite.

I got at least one fact wrong: Compressor 3 does export for BluRay.

Compressor4_000

Where did I go to find this out? Adobe!

Specifically, the DAV TechTable blog – which is filled with useful how-to’s on BluRay authoring and I’ve placed into my RSS reader (now that I’m an owner of the Adobe Production Suite CS3 bundle, which supports BluRay authoring on the Mac).

Here’s the post which gives explicit instructions on how to export from Compressor for BluRay authoring in Encore DVD. It’s not a built-in preset in Compressor, so you’ll want to build and save these settings as a Custom Preset.

If you’re a glass half empty person, you’ve got to wonder why this setting isn’t shipping as a preset in Compressor. Is it an ominous sign of Apple trying to keep its boot on the neck of BluRay? If you’re a glass half full person, hopefully this is a positive omen that the next version of Final Cut Studio will have much more explicit support for BluRay authoring.

– pi

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Meet Your Colorist: Patrick talks Color Grading, Finishing, Workflows, Final Cut Color
via Digital Production Buzz

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Fini

verb
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