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Workflow for my S16-35mm project


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#1 Dave Boyle

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 08:05 PM

I am a director/producer, but I get much of my technical info off of these forums, so I fee like I should give back a little bit and share the workflow I used for my most recent feature. It was sort of a hybrid Photochemical/Quicktime based workflow.

We shot Super 16, 7201, 7205 and 7218. All footage was pull-processed 1 stop. Telecined to DVCAM for editing in Final Cut Pro.

Budgetary restrictions forced us to come up with some creative solutions to be able to finish on 35mm. We had some comparison tests done (Optical Blowup v. 2K DI v. HD-DI), and I was surprised how well the Optical Blowup held up in comparison to the digital processes. The image seemed to have richer color, and more pleasing contrast. There was also (much to my surprise) more natural looking grain.

Complicating matters was the number of FX shots (about 30) including animated titles, etc, and "optical effects" (we had some retro split screens, wipes, etc). At first, I thought we could scan those scenes at 2K, and conform for film-out. While the scans themselves were fairly inexpensive, managing all of that data on my home computer would have been impossible. (I have an old PowerPC Mac G5 and 3.5 TB xRaid---not fast enough for 2K footage). The estimates for conforming the FX shots at an FX house were far too expensive-- in the 20-30K range. So I really had no choice but to figure out a way to do it myself.

I had my negative cutter pull all of the FX shots (with head and tail frames), and I had them telecine'd direct to Quicktime on hard drive at HD resolution (in the uncompressed Blackmagic RGB codec). The files were very large, but I was still able to play them on my system working in both Final Cut and After Effects 6.0 (still haven't upgraded...). I conformed all of my effects, and rendered them to TIFF sequences with slates for the negative cutter. (The telecine was done by the NY based post house Heavy Light Digital--great place)

My Cut Lists for the neg cutter had each of the FX shots slugged out, and I made an additional cut list later with the FX shots only (gaps between each one).

When I went up to my lab (Alpha Cine-- they are amazing), I took the hard drive with my final image sequences on them. My DP and I watched our first answer prints in 16mm, and once we had seen the bulk of the movie on film, we went into the DI suite for about an hour or two to tweak the image sequences to match what we'd seen. (They handled the Lin-Log color space conversion in the Pablo). The final images had a little bit of digital noise, so they put it through the Teranex for noise reduction.

Alpha then did the optical blow-up, and also recorded out my FX shots to 35mm on the Arrilaser. I took the final DN and filmout portion back to the negative cutter, and he conformed based on my cut list.

I was nervous the whole time. I could not afford to do many of the "safety" precautions that you should usually do in this situation (like making a video dub of my answer print to check the sync of my final mix). I was also well aware of many of the shortcomings of Quicktime, and was worried that the difference would be obvious, or that i would get some sort of nasty surprise.

Alpha Cine printed my film on Kodak Premier, and it looked terrific! (And the sound was in sync). The FX shots matched well with the main body of the movie, and we got the "look" we were after with this movie. We did a couple of answer prints off of the composite DN to nail down the look.

Even factoring in HD mastering and deliverables, we saved well over 80K finishing the movie this way as opposed to a full 2K DI. In fact, we ended up with 35mm prints and HD master for less than the lowest bid we had for JUST an HD finish!

None of this would have been possible, however, if my DP Bill Otto had been "shooting for the DI." He didn't leave a bunch of mistakes to be fixed later. I also believe that the pull process helped to reduce grain.

Doing things this way has a downside. It has been 3.5 months of grueling, labor intensive work for me. And I was never sure my Quicktime-35mm stuff would work until the day I saw our print.

But I would love to do an Optical Blowup again. Next time on a project with no FX shots!

Anyway, just wanted to pass this along in case anyone else is facing a similar situation.
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#2 Kristian Schumacher

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 03:43 AM

Thank you so much for your post Dave. Very informative and inspirational.
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#3 Paul Bruening

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 09:02 AM

Hello Dave,

Welcome and thank you for your contribution.
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