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going big time: the DI game


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#1 EricUlbrich

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 04:56 AM

Hello,
Chapman University is just opening its new film school and we just got a DI system. I wanted to know if anybody has used a DI system and what to expect? What to look for and how I should adjust my telecine sessions to accomidate for the best look in DI? Also and tips and or tricks that you have personally learned from going through the DI process.
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#2 David Cox

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 06:13 AM

Hello,
Chapman University is just opening its new film school and we just got a DI system. I wanted to know if anybody has used a DI system and what to expect?


The DI process is an aesthetic, artistic one. So expect whatever you want to achieve! Don't look on DI as a corrective process. Used by a skilled and creative operator, see it as an extension to the abilities and desires of the DOP (which is why DOP's should be involved in the DI process.)


What to look for and how I should adjust my telecine sessions to accommodate for the best look in DI?


The best way to work is consider that a film scanner and a DI solution replace the telecine. In order for the DI system to work most effectively, all the data from the film should be scanned to digital file so that the DI system has the whole film range to start with. Telecine-ing film normally suggests restricting or modifying the image data and this should be avoided prior to DI. If you have to use a telecine rather than a scanner, then anything other than a 4:4:4 10bit+ transfer to file will restrict your ability in DI.


Also and tips and or tricks that you have personally learned from going through the DI process.


Technically speaking, the DI process can only be as good as the data it is given and the formats used throughout. Lack of technical knowledge or doing things on the cheap will directly lead to lack of final image quality.

Artistically speaking, DI systems don't do anything. Just like pens don't right good novels or paintbrushes don't make great works of art. The people controlling them do that. So the creative boost you get from using a DI system will be directly proportional to the operator skill, just like using a good DP, camera operator etc.

David Cox
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#3 Michael Most

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 09:01 AM

Hello,
Chapman University is just opening its new film school and we just got a DI system. I wanted to know if anybody has used a DI system and what to expect? What to look for and how I should adjust my telecine sessions to accomidate for the best look in DI? Also and tips and or tricks that you have personally learned from going through the DI process.


There is no such thing as "a DI system", at least not as a product one can buy. There are scanners, conforming systems, color correction systems, color management systems, projection systems, and film recorders, as well as, of course, film labs. All of these things work together to create a DI pipeline. If what you mean is that they acquired a color correction system that is commonly used for digital intermediate work, that's a different story. It sounds to me like what you're describing is a situation where you already have a telecine, and that they're setting up a video projection environment with a color corrector. If that's the case, unless you're recording to HDCam SR or creating DPX files from the telecine, you probably shouldn't "adjust" anything beyond what you would do for "normal" dailies transfers. What you're calling "a DI system" is really a software based color corrector feeding a projector, which means that the results look a bit different than on a CRT, and that some of the features available on the color corrector are different than, say, a DaVinci. Everybody that's set up this type of environment has invented their own rules for it. My guess is you'll wind up doing the same after some experimentation.
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#4 Chris Pritzlaff

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 03:52 PM

My understanding of the new system and workflow from the school is that we will now be doing a quick transfer for telecine (no color correction at that point with the DOP involved) and then the editing will be done. Once picture is locked, the key code is used from the editor and the film will be scanned using the 4K spirit scanner. Then the DoP can come in and use the DI suite to preform final color correction and image control. Hopefully the school will be getting a good operator and not relying on the students to understand the complexities of the system. The finished product can then either be burned out to film with an arrilaser (right?) or transferd to HD.

Does this sound right to everyone else?
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#5 Michael Most

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 06:21 PM

My understanding of the new system and workflow from the school is that we will now be doing a quick transfer for telecine (no color correction at that point with the DOP involved) and then the editing will be done. Once picture is locked, the key code is used from the editor and the film will be scanned using the 4K spirit scanner. Then the DoP can come in and use the DI suite to preform final color correction and image control. Hopefully the school will be getting a good operator and not relying on the students to understand the complexities of the system. The finished product can then either be burned out to film with an arrilaser (right?) or transferd to HD.

Does this sound right to everyone else?


Well yes, it basically sounds right. My question is, however, how can a school afford a $1.5 million datacine and a $600K laser film recorder, let alone all the other pieces? And build a theater to house it? Seems like one hell of a luxury for what essentially amounts to a relatively small piece of the production puzzle.
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#6 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 08:26 PM

Well yes, it basically sounds right. My question is, however, how can a school afford a $1.5 million datacine and a $600K laser film recorder, let alone all the other pieces? And build a theater to house it? Seems like one hell of a luxury for what essentially amounts to a relatively small piece of the production puzzle.

I think I'm at the wrong school! :blink:
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#7 Roberflowers

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 09:45 PM

yes chris I believe that is the same workflow I have been hearing from the faculty. I'm shooting a super16mm thesis film in two weeks, and I've talked to Dan about the workflow, so I'm sure I'll be one of the guinea pigs...I am still awaiting to hear about the operator situation. It seems that there is a reason that operators exist for such complex systems, and having just us students involved sounds questionable.

As far as our school being able to afford such systems. Lets just say it isn't cheap to attend, I just walked through the building, and saw the 500 seat state of the art theatre, and it is amazing. Also apprarently all the data will be on a main server, and there will be a time limit for projects placed upon it. Also, we have the ability to project 35mm film prints and a 4K digital projector, which may be used to screen films directly off the server.

its pretty insane....I'm looking forward to it...not to mention the sound stages, the mixing rooms...
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 11:43 PM

It seems nuts to buy students D.I. technology that half the Hollywood studio films out there still can't afford, not to mention the techs & operators to set-up and maintain the 4K Spirit, any large data storage devices, audio, decks, monitors, digital projectors, laser recorders, etc. -- has anyone walked around a typical HD/D.I. post facility, the central control rooms? The servers? The wiring? You'd have more people running that equipment than you'd have faculty teaching classes in the film school.

It doesn't make any sense, especially not to post student work. It seems they are missing the point of film school, unless they are creating a trade school for post people. Average grad program is three years long, and hopefully the students will shoot their thesis in the second year and edit it during their third year, so a really complex post system, and coursework to go with it, seems like it would take away from some of the basic time to shoot & cut the thesis.

What's next, trade in some Arri-S and Bolexes and give the students Arricams and D20's to work with? IMAX cameras?

Sounds like the school wants to get into the post business.

With some substantial money spent, I could see a film school getting a used HDTV Spirit, an HDCAM-SR deck, a basic color-corrector, and maybe a used Celco film recorder. Most film students would be lucky to get THAT level of post work. It makes no sense to buy a new 4K Spirit, 4K projector, and Arrilaser for film students. Do they expect their graduates to go right into shooting major studio films? Because the LOW-tech film school experience is the perfect training to go into the low-tech world of low-budget indie filmmaking.
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#9 Tom Banks

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 12:09 AM

I am also a student at Chapman. From what I've heard from Bob Basset and Bill Dill A.S.C., I believe their aim of an in-house telecine is more of an convience factor, as well as eliminating the price of a third party telecine. But yes, I've heard rumors from Dill that the program is looking into either a DaVince 2K or a few Scratch systems. I have only heard talk of an Arrilaser (same convience/cost factor) although I don't think its for sure yet.
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 12:46 AM

I am also a student at Chapman. From what I've heard from Bob Basset and Bill Dill A.S.C., I believe their aim of an in-house telecine is more of an convience factor, as well as eliminating the price of a third party telecine. But yes, I've heard rumors from Dill that the program is looking into either a DaVince 2K or a few Scratch systems. I have only heard talk of an Arrilaser (same convience/cost factor) although I don't think its for sure yet.


Fine, so get a regular Spirit or Millenium TK -- why spend the money on a 4K Spirit?
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#11 Michael Collier

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 02:12 AM

My problem with a school having a DI suite is the cost of the lab could finance several scholarships. Find the best candidates and maybe progress the art a bit through oppourtunity and diversity. Instead they want to attract people on the wow factor.

The other problem I have with it is it can fix too many mistakes. A mistake on a project when your starting out will happen and you should have to take your lumps. A DI could hide valuable lesons that might be forgotten.
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#12 Chris Pritzlaff

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 02:25 AM

Fine, so get a regular Spirit or Millenium TK -- why spend the money on a 4K Spirit?



I don't know, but they did according to Todd Baker, Technical Director for the school.


Post Production Facilities include:
"4K Digital intermediate capabilities with the Grass Valley Spirit 4K scanner"


The post production facilities take up the entire second floor of the complex. The school spent $41million on the facility. To be honest, I think it is far more than what is necessary, but the school does want to show off as much as possible.

Edited by Chris Pritzlaff, 30 July 2006 - 02:27 AM.

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#13 David Cox

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 05:34 AM

Its very unlikely the school paid full price, or anywhere near for the equipment.

What manufacturers do is supply their systems to schools at vastly reduced rates, in some cases as low as 15% of the "street price". In return, the school churns out students who don't know that any other type of equipment / workflow exists and so specify that manufacturers systems when their "out" working for real. The schools also warrants that it will not use the products for commercial work.

The up side is that schools get up to date technology to learn with, rather than yesterdays second hand stuff.

The down side happens if schools then don't give a balanced education as to (1) the vast variety of equipment types around and (2) the speed at which technology comes and goes.

Avid have been very successful with this marketing strategy over the last few years. The problem is that we get loads of applications from people who want to "do avid". Does that mean edit films, drama, commercials or music videos - cos their all different! Or editing, compositing, grading or graphics - cos Avid has something that does each of those? Does it mean that they have been taught how to operate an Avid and not taught the more transferable skills of editing?

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#14 David Sweetman

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 06:05 AM

Because the LOW-tech film school experience is the perfect training to go into the low-tech world of low-budget indie filmmaking.


Good point...but here's my question - if I use a DP to shoot my film who happens to go to Chapman, could I get all that stuff for my movie? any takers? I wanted to go to Chapman, but those jerks never got my transcript.
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#15 Michael Most

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 09:06 AM

Post Production Facilities include:
"4K Digital intermediate capabilities with the Grass Valley Spirit 4K scanner"


I have to say, I think that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard regarding a film school and its choices in terms of what is truly valuable in learning the art and craft of filmmaking. It's also ultimately very detrimental to the industry as a whole, in that students are basically being taught that all of this unaffordable stuff is essentially free. They carry this with them and spread the gospel, thus making all of the "lesser" approaches - namely, the ones that are used in the real world every day by most professional facilities and are actually affordable under a normal budgetary situation - seem unacceptable to them. Those in the world of education need an education themselves, in which they can re-learn what they actually should be emphasizing in trying to get students ready for the real world of budget driven filmmaking. And here's a hint: it's not about whiz-bang 4K digital intermediate finishing - which, by the way, very few facilities in the world are doing, and very, very few pictures can afford.

The only way any of this makes sense is if they're planning, as someone else pointed out, to market the facility for outside work. Of course, that would also mean that any educational discounts they're getting for this stuff are out the window.
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#16 Dirk DeJonghe

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 10:49 AM

I also know a school that 'overbought' on equipment.
The have the finest audio mixing equipment available, and some very high priced Discreet products that only top of the line postproduction houses would consider.
I know first hand they now have to cut back severely on student film productions because of 'no money left'.

Ridiculous. Wrong priorities.
What will the poor student learn by looking at the equipment instead of making films with it?
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#17 Tom Banks

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 06:00 PM

Ridiculous. Wrong priorities.
What will the poor student learn by looking at the equipment instead of making films with it?


I think you guys might be going overboard on this just a bit.

The majority of film students at Chapman, or at least the ones that will make an effort to take advantage of this equipment, have their heads on straight and realize that this is not the only way to go about making a film. We are not so tunnelvisioned to think that the equipment we use at Chapman is the only thing and the only way out there. Our teachers' priorities are to teach the art of storytelling, not to teach us the technicalities. If any of you know or have studied under Bill Dill A.S.C.(our cinematograhy department head), you know he is a fairly levelheaded and practical guy. While the "wow factor" might attract some incoming freshman who actually know what the equipment is, I have a strong feeling that the students really utilizing this will be the upper level grad. students.

As for where this money is better spent, Chapman already offers a large amount of scholarships to its students. Myself and a number of colleagues are on scholarship given to us based on our creative portfolio. The money spent on the new filmschool wasn't from taking a cut out of our tuition; it was a very generous donation given specifically to the new facility, so why not use the money? The student film production budget will still be the same (as its out of tuition), as will our methods of going about production and learning the craft.

Again, the students with their heads on straight will hopefully realize its a privelage, not a standard; so why not take advantage of it while we can?
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#18 Dominic Case

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 06:26 PM

The amount of money floating about in uneven lumps in parts of the US never ceases to amaze me. If the "DI system" was paid for out of a "donation", I wonder who made the donation and why.

Going back to earlier discussion about whether there would be an "operator" for the system, this once again points out some confused priorities. Colour correction is a highly skilled craft, and if there is even a concept around that students (or others) might be expected to do it all themselves, then it needs to be sorted out now. Sure, you may be able to play with an image on Photoshop and get what you want. That's not the same as getting ten, twenty or a hundred minutes of images to balance with a chosen and consistent look.

So, don't even imagine you will be able to grade the job yourself - and don't even think of calling the person who does it, the "operator".
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#19 Chris Pritzlaff

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 11:08 PM

"I know first hand they now have to cut back severely on student film productions because of 'no money left'."


They won't cut back on student production because they never funded student production in the first place. Most student films are paid for out of the student's pocket - rarely with any help from the school unless it is one of the six "Location Films"

"if I use a DP to shoot my film who happens to go to Chapman, could I get all that stuff for my movie?"

You could probably get camera and lighting packages if the DP requested them far enough in advance under an independent study, but forget about getting access to the post facilities. It was hard enough reserving time in them under a class registration.



I really don't understand why everyone is frustrated about this. The school happened to get a piece of equipment that is rapidly becomeing another valuable tool for cinematographers in the industry. I understand that relying on the system will become a crutch and that those who graduate from the school may not get another oppertunity to work with it again for some time, at least we will have an oppertunity to learn the system and be prepared to work with it again in the future.
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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 12:13 AM

We're not "frustrated" we're just confused. It seems like giving a high school biology class a gene sequencer device.

It's SO overkill to give students a 4K D.I. facility when most of us ASC members, for example, don't get to use one, that besides the personal jealousy factor, I just don't understand the point when a student would learn just as much about making D.I.'s using a 2K facility. And the average Hollywood studio movie is still using 2K mostly, so why is that quality level not good enough for student work???

So it goes way beyond teaching students to some other realm.

I mean, if I had 42 million donated to a film school that I ran, I would spread more of it into production needs (cameras, lights, stages), or editorial & sound, or even animation and efx, more than D.I. work. So it sounds like a lot of money donated on the condition it be spent in this way, and the question is why.

I mean, consider that a 4K D.I. implies 35mm production, so now they also seem to feel that all student work should be shot in 35mm? Or are they buying a couple of 4K Dalsa Origins while they are at it?

We're all just perplexed, that's all. Since it doesn't really make sense from a teaching angle (since you can learn about D.I. usings 2K or HD) or an economic angle (they can't make back the costs by posting student films), we're trying to figure out why a film school would set-up a 42 million dollar post facility. I'm guessing partially as a way to draw more students to enroll, and maybe to set-up professional production and post work with students working as interns, but still.... I'd love to hear the straight story from Bill Dill, the next time I see him.
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