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Friday, 20 May 2011 23:01

DI Comes in All Sizes

Written by  Debra Kaufman
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di_company3_post-house_sfwThe digital intermediate (DI) has become an accepted part of the workflow for feature films ─ from the biggest blockbusters to smaller-budget independents. There are currently an enormous number of tools to get the job done, including software-based systems and the DI systems with the most bells and whistles. P3 Update has taken a look at some recent DI work to see the challenges that DI artists are facing and the tools they use to complete the job.

At Company 3 in Santa Monica, Calif., DI Colorist Stephen Nakamura color-corrects using the DaVinci Resolve (a Blackmagic Design company). He recently graded The Tourist, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and shot by Cinematographer John Seale, ASC. “Part of the cinematographer’s skill is to light the actor properly, but they might end up with spill on the wall,” says Nakamura, adding that the film was scanned to 4K and he graded 2K proxies. “In the past, they had to sacrifice what they wanted to do, but now they know they can reshape the lights in the DI. It allows the cinematographer much more cinematic freedom.” For one difficult scene, Seale shot in very tight quarters on a boat. “When I got to that scene, I could see we had a lot of mismatching going on,” notes Nakamura. “With windows and sometimes a luminance or chroma key and tracking, there are many things we can do to smooth that out.”

Oasis Imagery has a range of color correction tools — from color on Apple’s Final Cut Pro to IRIDAS SpeedGrade and the Autodesk Lustre — with all systems hooked up on an Avid Unity SAN or 300-terabyte Xsan. “There’s a range of color correction choices to serve all different kinds of projects,” says Chief Technology Officer Adam Green, who notes that most projects are shot with high-end digital cameras, such as the ARRI ALEXA or RED. “We even have solutions for indie producers who might be shooting on the Panasonic VariCam.” Green says that some producers might have the budget to shoot on a RED camera, but don’t necessarily conform to it.These producers are fine with going to ProRes, out to SR or straight to file distribution of Bluray,” he explains. Oasis Imagery also specializes in doing dailies and DIs for 3D projects, including a string of recent commercials. “When you’re doing dailies, we can auto-correct vertical alignment and check convergence with the IRIDAS SpeedGrade,” notes Green. “For 3D DI projects, we use Lustre.”

di_oasis_-edit-109_sfwLustre is also the tool of choice at Technicolor Creative Services, where DI Colorist Michael Hatzer and Second Colorist Chris Jensen recently worked on The Adjustment Bureau. “I love the functionality of it,” says Hatzer. “The Lustre allows me to work quickly and have access to all the different menus very quickly. It’s designed for a long-format color correcting.”

The challenge in color grading The Adjustment Bureau, which incorporated hundreds of visual effects, was that Director George Nolfi, Cinematographer John Toll, ASC and Visual Effects Supervisor Mark Russell were in New York while Hatzer and Jensen were working in Los Angeles. But Technicolor’s proprietary Tech2Tech made the job a breeze. “We’re making the color correction here and they’re simultaneously seeing the same image we’re seeing,” recalls Hatzer. “You have everyone virtually in the room with you making creative decisions and approving shots. It’s a seamless experience.” One particularly tricky scene was when Matt Damon and Emily Blunt run up flights of stairs to the rooftop of the Rockefeller Center — and then back down again. “Mark gave us a lot of mattes, and with the Lustre we could put them into our alpha channels and link them together,” says Hatzer. “The challenge was combining all of these elements into one shot.”

One thing has become clear in today’s DI suite: With the right DI talent and a mix of powerful systems and proprietary tools, there’s no challenge that a good DI facility can’t meet. And that’s a good thing for today’s action-packed, visual-effects-laden movies.

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