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July 2014
Issue: September 1, 2003

Dailies to Go

By: By Claudia Kienzle


Cintel's DSX film scanners -- DSX (pictured) Millennium and C-Reality -- provide dailies in all standards and from any format. See sidebar for more.
The digital dailies market is steadily growing because there's a compelling business case to be made for adopting this technology. Digital dailies can streamline the whole workflow by speeding up client screenings and approvals, audience previews and the delivery of motion pictures. And digital dailies can impact the bottom line by eliminating such costs as film processing and audio syncing of film dailies, and the duplication and shipping of screening cassettes.

With digital dailies, freshly shot film is typically telecined to 2K data or HD video and screened using HD-grade playback and projection systems, as opposed to the conventional method where 35mm film is processed, printed and threaded onto a film projector for screening. Either way, the creative team - usually the DP, director, producers, studio executives and talent - gets to evaluate the technical and aesthetic qualities of what's been shot to determine if the production is on track or if changes need to be made.

While film dailies are projected onto a big screen for a select audience in a single screening location, digital dailies can be played back in a nonlinear manner from disk-based systems onto a big screen, or transferred onto (JVC) ProHD D-VHS cassettes, DVD, or other physical media that people can watch in their offices, conference rooms, screening areas, or anywhere the playback equipment is available.

While the term "digital dailies" generally refers to all dailies that are deliverable as a digital file, the term "HD dailies" often describes dailies on HD video. When in the form of a digital file, the most common formats for HD resolution imagery are MPEG-2, MPEG-4, JPEG-2000, Windows Media 9 and Wavelet. For SD resolution, formats can be Avid M-JPEG, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, JPEG-2000, H.323, Wavelet and Windows Media 9. The tape formats for HD dailies include Panasonic DVCPRO HD format, Panasonic HD D-5 and Sony HDCAM.

Once digital dailies are encoded as digital files, they can be streamed via Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or the public Internet to anyone's desktop anywhere for immediate review and approval at very high quality.

But, the potential downside is that once near-film rez imagery and cinema sound have been transformed to digital data files, the content can be copied, pirated, pilfered, misused and released in unauthorized ways. Without adequate security measures to prevent theft - which many vendors now incorporate into their digital dailies solutions - a studio or production company can stand to lose profits, and more importantly, control over the creative properties that sustain their business.

SCREENING DIGITAL DAILIES

"Demand for digital dailies has been increasing steadily," says Steven Cohen, president of Cohen Communications (www.cohencomm.net) in Hollywood. "The driving force behind this trend is the growing number of productions shooting outside of Hollywood. By using digital dailies, also known as HD dailies, instead of the time-consuming process of creating a film workprint and synching the mag track, a production can save about $300,000 over the course of an average movie."


Envivio's dailies solution includes the 4Coder MPEG-4 encoder and the 4Sight streaming server.
Cohen specializes in building digital dailies screening rooms at studios, on location or in trailers on location (the latter done with strategic partner Onsite Media). Among the productions for which he has installed digital dailies screening rooms are Man on Fire (20th Century Fox), Looney Tunes: Back in Action (Warner Bros.) and Underworld (Lakeshore Entertainment).

With another strategic partner, Advanced Media Networks, Cohen also provided remote HD/SD digital dailies systems to Around the World in 80 Days (Walden Media). For this movie, Cohen says, "after the film was sent to Babelburg Studio in Berlin for transfer, the director Frank Coraci and his crew, who were on location in Thailand, received the 5Mb resolution dailies over the Internet (at a dedicated E-1 connection speed of 2.2Mbps) nine hours after the telecine session, rather than waiting five or six days for the film to be processed, printed and shipped through customs. This connection also enabled realtime editorial collaboration between Coraci and the editor Tom Lewis in Berlin."

As part of his full-service digital dailies solutions, Cohen also offers proprietary Rushplay playback software, which imports metadata from the flex files generated during the telecine session and provides the user with a lot more information, plus an easy way to re-order scenes. "Nonlinear playback is one of the key reasons that movie productions switch from film to digital dailies," Cohen says.

Eyes Post in Toronto, Fotokem in Hollywood, Command Post/Toybox, Toronto, and Riot and LaserPacific in LA are among the facilities equipped with encoders that support Cohen's Rushplay. Cohen also has a Turnkey Facilities package, with a Tandberg encoder, ASI capture station and USB 2.0 hard drives, available for rent. If the production is acquiring with HD instead of film, Cohen works with Mindstar Productions to offer a product called Cinergy - script supervisor software that captures timecode off the HD cameras and creates an ALE (Avid Log Exchange) file of the circle takes, which are used to create a select HD daily roll on hard drives.

HD DAILY PLAYBACK

In Cohen's installations, the nonlinearity is enabled by Mediasonic's MS 9100D, a Windows 2000 PC-based HD playback device with a proprietary decoder card for up to 35Mbps of SD or HD video.

"Digital dailies represent a business opportunity for post houses that already provide telecine services," says Anthony Magliocco, manager of business development for Mediasonic (www.mediasonic. com). "Instead of making video screening cassettes, they can transfer the film or HD video onto our Mediasonic HD player. If users build an EDL for 90 minutes of content, our encode applications allow them to define the in and out points and our encoding station automatically captures those streams and puts them onto the hard disk."

The Mediasonic product line includes the Mediasonic encode capture station/player for realtime encoding of video and audio from film scanners and HD VTRs - captured as an MPEG transport stream file. These files can then be burned onto DVDs, moved over a network or saved onto an external USB 2.0 hard disk. Also, at this year's Infocomm, Mediasonic introduced the MS 9400 (HD FrEND), a compact, lightweight, Linux-based HD player that plays HD video or downconverts it to SD video. Studio execs, says Magliocco, "can get their digital dailies, screen them in the trailers or in the screening rooms, on large plasma monitors, projection screens or even small TVs."


Media.net allows for secure dailies online.
PASSWORD-PROTECTED HD DAILIES
Targeting the film and HD content creation market is JVC's Pro-HD D-VHS - an HD recording and playback system that includes password-protection and encryption to prevent illegal access to the tape's media contents. "Pro-HD D-VHS combines film-like image quality with the convenience of a videotape that can be viewed in user-familiar VCRs in virtually any surroundings," says Lawrence E. Librach assistant VP of broadcast and entertainment business development for JVC (www.jvc.com/pro).

"While Pro-HD D-VHS is very affordable, it can also save productions money by enabling pristine digital preview screenings at a fraction the cost by reducing the need for film dailies printing, conforming, creating temporary opticals and re-conforming the film work picture," reports Librach. JVC's PRO-HD D-VHS was used during the making of the summer hit Pirates of the Caribbean.

By using Pro-HD dailies (and JVC's D-ILA Cineline digital projector) on the set and in the screening rooms, the MGM movie Barbershop saved nearly $250,000 by using PRO-HD dailies and digital previews. MGM has also used the JVC system for A Guy Thing, Legally Blonde 2 and Agent Cody Banks JVC's Pro-HD D-VHS solution includes the DM-JV600 HD MPEG-2 encoder, the SR-VDA300US ASI mastering recorder with password-protected recording and the SR-VD400US distribution player. At $50,000, these high-end encoders have presented a barrier to entry for post houses, but Librach says Tandberg now has an HD MPEG-2 encoder for under $40,000. And JVC is bringing its own HD MPEG-2 encoder to market in October for under $25,000.


Frank Coraci, director of Around the World in 80 Days, checks out digital dailies on a system designed by Steve Cohen Communications in cooperation with Advanced Media Networks.
HIGH-SPEED WANS
Many movie and television productions are turning to secure, high-speed wide area network services to move their dailies from remote locations back to their studios for screening. As a leading provider of online media distribution, Media.net offers a complete service comprised of its own secure data centers, a private network (with bandwidth up to 3Gbps sufficient for live, realtime HDTV quality video), special software facilitating the editing of dailies and a global network of post houses throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and now Australia and New Zealand.

"Our specialty is large-scale, blockbuster movies, and we've done over 100 such projects in just the last few years. Among these were The Lord of the Rings movies," says Scott Tolleson, Chairman/CEO of Media.net (www.media.net) in El Segundo, CA. Media. net's customer list includes Warner Bros., Fox, MGM, Universal Studios, Paramount, LaserPacific in Hollywood), Command Post/Toybox and Rainmaker in Vancouver.

With the expansion of its Australia and New Zealand service, Media.net just announced that the Disney Channel MOW You Wish! will upload its dailies from the shooting location and post facility Digital Post Limited (DigiPost) in Auckland, New Zealand, onto Media.net, and send them directly into the editing and dub rooms in LA. "Media.net creates an interesting time warp for us," says Terry Stokes, ACE, the LA-based independent editor for the project. "With Media.net, I have access to the dailies content much sooner. In effect, due to the tremendous time difference between New Zealand and Los Angeles, we're reviewing tomorrow's dailies today. We're staying close to camera and spending more time on the creative front, which creates a tremendous advantage for editors and producers during production and post production." Media.net is also providing two applications, called Digital Dailies and Edit System Dailies, which offer nonlinear access and online tools that streamline the review and approval process.

"Media.net allows creative executives to look at digital images projected onto a big screen, as well as on a PC or TV, and see DVD-quality or even HD-quality images that enable them to really evaluate what the viewer will see and make good creative decisions," says Media.net's Tolleson.

SECURE WORKFLOW

"The fact that many productions are in a 'time crunch' is driving the demand for digital dailies," says Tom Ohanian, VP of product development for DMOD (www.dmod.com) in Burlington, MA. "With today's compressed production cycles, we're seeing films go from the 'greenlight' stage to cinema release in just 12 months, and oftentimes, the time saved was shaved off of post production."


Chart 1.
With products like the DMOD WorkSpace, DMOD (Digital Media On Demand) provides secure digital media workflow and distribution solutions that prevent pre-release leaks and piracy that can be financially devastating to entertainment properties. It also pays for itself by streamlining workflow inefficiencies and reducing travel, duplication, shipping and other production expenses.

"Not only can DMOD send digital dailies to multiple parties and global locations to facilitate review and approval our users can send any type of content - visual effects, crew sheets, edited versions, whatever media they want to share - with a high quality of service. Fast, easy media sharing results in more efficient project management and operational savings," Ohanian adds. The software is impervious to the content's type, frame rate, format, compression scheme, size or resolution.

DMOD's latest solution, the DMOD WorkSpace 3.0, is available as either an enterprise software package for behind the firewall applications or as an ASP service rented on a month-to-month project basis. DMOD solutions are in use at NYC's Sterling Sound and at LA-based film/video production studio MOSSync.

"Since our system is as easy as sending e-mail, the key to making it work is providing very sophisticated encryption on the fly and media access control features that prevent piracy, especially during production," says Ohanian. "Our open systems solutions give users the ability to assign, restrict, revoke and control access to the content, even after it's been sent. With videotapes, people can simply pick them up and walk out the door, leaving the content owner powerless to control where or how they will be used."


DMOD's Tom Ohanian: "The fact that many productions are in a 'time crunch' is driving demand for digital dailies."
But, DMOD includes user-friendly tools that enable users to define any conditions to media access, even after the recipient has viewed it. After the access is no longer required, it can be revoked, causing that file to simply vanish from the recipient's in-box. The control over that media continues even after the digital file has been sent, and an audit trail remains should the sender ever want to investigate which people were given access and export rights. Because of DMOD's highly secure, password-protected access, productions are now free to send electronic press kits, trailers, audio clips, marketing elements and other promotional items to distributors and the press.

REALTIME DIGITIZED MEDIA

"Whether the content was acquired on video or film, our Select Media Software facilitates dailies, works in progress and review and approval for creative collaboration by distributing realtime digitized media (a.k.a. data) - via DVD, CD, hard disk drives, databases, the Internet and more - along with timecode, simple audio and advanced metadata," says Mark Kapczynski, CEO of MESoft Partners (www.mesoft.com) in Burbank. "We like to say that we are all-digital from the set to distribution. Since this media is now digitized data, it allows us to transform it into the form necessary for input into an Avid or Final Cut Pro editing workstation. So it keeps the digital pipeline flowing, facilitating reviews, revisions and approvals. The solution pays for itself by reducing the time-consuming, costly process of laying media off to screening cassettes and keeping track of them."

Adds Kapczynski, "The whole philosophy behind our Select software product is to be flexible and to connect people, regardless of the disparate software, hardware or media player formats they prefer to use. Select is a media-independent collaboration system that is media format and platform agnostic."

"Recipients don't just receive the media, they receive an applet with the metadata providing helpful production details, version and workflow data - and distribution of the content is very secure," he adds. A cross-platform, flexible solution (with support for ALE, DPX, Flex File and more), MESoft's Select accepts video output from a telecine, Thomson Viper camera, hard disk drives, HD cameras, HDCAM tape, DV or other video sources. It then digitizes it according to Avid OMF, MPEG-2, QuickTime or virtually any major format and bit rate required. It then sends the data in an email-like fashion. Because the media and metadata can be easily tracked as they move along the pipeline, the project can be managed more closely to ensure that progress is on track, creating a realtime workflow. MESoft Select is being used by Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, the production company for The Whoopi Show.

PICK A REZ THAT'S RIGHT FOR YOU

"Digital dailies can be low-rez proxies [in QuickTime, Windows Media or MPEG, etc.], but while this facilitates distribution to remote clients, they incur an encoding overhead and introduce compression artifacts," says Lin Sebastian Kayser, CEO of Iridas (www.iridas.com) in Munich, Germany. "But, low-rez proxies are an ideal way for animation supervisors to check lipsyncs, timing, shot succession and scene composition."

Iridas's SequencePublisher can automate the generation of low-rez digital video files to facilitate offsite review or archiving, as well as the collection, downsampling and encoding of frame sequences to digital video formats. With features like burn-in timecode, frame information, safe area and support for industry formats like Cineon, DPX and IFF, the cross-platform SequencePublisher generates batch tasks that collect frames off renderfarms and offload the resulting video files to an Intranet.

"However, for cinematographers or VFX supervisors, film-rez dailies are ideal for quality control, test screenings and spotting defects in the source material because they give a much more accurate impression of the finished movie, especially for those with their own in-house theatres and 2K projectors," Kayser says.

For high-resolution dailies review, Iridas's FrameCycler Digital Daily System (DDS) can generate XML and text-based playlists, then play the movie off a RAID array in full resolution instantly without any encoding overhead or loss of quality. FrameCycler DDS has an inexpensive sister product called FrameCycler Professional that can be used to review footage at any workstation in a post house. Customers can review high-rez footage everywhere using RAM-based playback, then deploy FrameCycler DDS disk-based review stations at crucial points of the pipeline (for compositors, after film scanning and before the film out).

Since traditional film outs are too costly and time consuming to do regularly, Kayser recommends a combination of low-rez dailies for remote distribution and high-rez dailies for evaluating movies at full quality. "Eliminating film outs, the traditional way of checking your movie, saves money and, more importantly, time. Usually a FrameCycler DDS set-up has paid for itself after only a few weeks of dailies cycles," he says. "Together, our products result in a comprehensive review workflow that enhances the quality of the overall work by giving any artist in the pipeline frame-accurate, high-resolution review."