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Monday, 08 November 2010 23:17

Posting Against the Clock

Written by  Debra Kaufman
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When indie Filmmaker Gregg Araki found out that his new feature, Kaboom, was accepted to Cannes, the film wasn’t ready. The picture was locked but it still needed visual effects, a conform, color grading and output to a 4K DCP (Digital Cinema Protocol) master –– and he only had two weeks to turn it around.

The idea of shooting an independent film can conjure up images of all kinds of budget-crunching tricks, from recruiting actors for deferred payment to using free locations. But when it comes to postproduction, creating the best picture trumps scrimping on dollars and cents. Based on a recommendation from his producer, Andrea Sperling, Araki brought Kaboom to Picture Head, a post house established in Hollywood in 2000. “We have a RED camera workflow with Baselight, so I agreed to help them out,” says Picture Head VP Matthew Flint.

Flint suggested an unusual workflow that would conform and color grade the film, which had been shot with the RED, on the Baselight HD. While the Baselight isn’t a cheap software-based solution, it enabled a workflow that saved time (read: money) and produced the high-quality result required for a Cannes debut.

Picture Head brought the native RED files onto Baselight’s local storage and linked to the picture via an XML of the cut from Kaboom’s editorial. Online Editor Chuck Crews conformed the picture all night, while DI Colorist Adam Nazarenko took over in the morning, grading the material that Crews had conformed. Meanwhile, visual effects — including an extensive sequence in which a character melts away like the Wicked Witch of the West — was going on in another room.PostCol_PicturePost1

The conform was no walk in the park. “This was a very aggressively cut film, with time warps, resizes, split screens and so on,” says Flint, “so Chuck had to do a lot of rebuilding.” And the back-and-forth conform/color grade wasn’t an entirely linear process. Although Nazarenko started color grading immediately, Crews was able to add visual effects and tweak the edit throughout. “You can replace the shot, but the color grade information is still there and continues to apply to it,” says Flint. Working in this way might sound potentially confusing but it simplified the process for Flint. “We were working with the material all in one environment,” he says. “We didn’t have to wait for the conform to be done to move it over to another system. It was a real time-saver for us.”


The Baselight, which contains robust conform tools, may cost more per hour, but the time-savings for a lower-budget film like Kaboom made it the perfect solution. Flint notes that the right mix of hardware and software can vary from film to film: “I work with people to come up with solutions.” But completing Kaboom — which won Cannes’ first-ever Queer Palm, awarded to an LGBT film at the Festival — proved that Picture Head’s pipeline works well under pressure. And that creates the best word of mouth for a post house looking for more long-form work.

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