NEW YORK — Passionate independent producers eagerly seeking high production values at cost-effective prices are headed for a new renaissance as desktop technology, pioneering multi-talented individuals and visionary vendors are joining forces and providing some practical, new realizations.
A prime example of dynamic new post production workflows is CAVU Pictures’ upcoming release Lbs. Shot on Super 16mm, the award-winning feature, directed by Matthew Bonifacio, was conformed for theatrical release and distribution using Adobe Premiere Pro and technology vendors involved in the OpenHD initiative, including Cineform, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard.
Two years ago in New York City at the Adobe HD road show — a multi-city tour showcasing Adobe post production workflows — CAVU Pictures executives Mike Sergio and Isil Bagdadi watched Jacob Rosenberg talk about the desktop digital intermediate pipeline he pioneered on the feature documentary Dust to Glory. Listening to the presentation Sergio, an Emmy award-winning director, was at first skeptical, but then Rosenberg played the Dust to Glory digital file and Sergio was “blown away” by the quality of the projected image. “I’m sitting at the back of this room and it’s a full theatrical-sized screen with a really good throw,” he recalls. “I could not tell it was not 35mm. That to me was a real pivotal moment.”
Excited by the potential of what he saw, after the demonstration Sergio approached Microsoft senior business development manager Tim Harader, Adobe exec Kristan Jiles and Cineform president Dave Taylor. They all listened intently to Sergio’s pitch about looking for a more economical way to finish an indie feature he picked up at Sundance called Lbs. about a man who loses more than 170 pounds and “finds himself” along the way. There and then they decided to collaborate to take desktop digital intermediate to a whole new level.
A desktop DI film heads to theaters
Lbs. originated on Super 16, explains Sergio. Done the traditional way, he’d blow that up to 35mm optically to do a theatrical release, but be forced to go back and make separate masters for everything else. Lbs. is now the first theatrical feature originating entirely on film to be color corrected and mastered for theatrical release, theatrical trailers and domestic and foreign video distribution using a single 2K DI built in Adobe Premiere Pro and Cineform Prospect 2K.
Rosenberg was quickly drafted to take on the job of conforming Lbs. and was immediately stoked by the project. An accomplished director in his own right, Rosenberg (www. formikafilms.com) saw this as a fresh opportunity to work with Cineform Prospect 2K 10-bit log files, Adobe Premiere Pro and the 2.0 upgrade, and further refine the desktop DI workflow he innovated on Dust to Glory.
Tim Harader from Microsoft put Sergio in touch with veteran ILM visual effects engineer Les Dittert. Dittert, a scientific and technical Academy Award winner for scanners he used for visual effects on projects at PDI, had started a new scanning facility called Pixel Harvest Inc.
Earlier in 2005 Dittert met David Newman, chief technology officer of Cineform, who introduced him to the Cineform Prospect 2K technology. Dittert was so impressed that he designed a proprietary system, currently the only one in Los Angeles, that scans 16mm or 35mm film directly into the Cineform Prospect 2K format. The resulting AVI file is immediately available for editing on Adobe Premiere Pro.
The compression ‘stigma’
Dittert says there’s an unwarranted stigma surrounding the use of compressed footage to master digital intermediates. “Compression is okay if it’s done right,” he says. “The Cinform 2K transfer is a 10-bit AVI file. There’s no visible loss in resolution or color depth. The loss to the Cineform compression is a factor ten lower than the differences to film grain.” Cineform’s president Dave Taylor points out that Cineform can also make 4K files and says in a nutshell, “you just have to see it” and judge for yourself.
Sergio had the negative of Lbs. cut with head and tail frames, cleaned and scanned at full aperture 2048x1336 at Pixel Harvest. An Adobe Premier Pro system running on an HP workstation was set up at CAVU Pictures offices at the Film Center in Manhattan. Rosenberg flew out to NYC and spent 10 days conforming the footage to the Sundance edit, visually matching the work he’d done on Dust to Glory. The entire 93-minute feature cut of Lbs. took 64 gigs and fit on a $300 Maxtor drive.
Once Rosenberg had his cut he easily copied the entire 2K movie and the Premiere Pro project files and flew back to Los Angeles. With this identical clone of the project, and the system, he could easily make any tweaks to the edit remotely and email project files to Sergio and update the New York version. Rosenberg is currently color correcting the feature in Premiere Pro 2.0. When that’s completed Pixel Harvest will output the DI to 35mm film on their proprietary film recorder directly from the Cineform Prospect 2K files.
Sergio is thrilled with the results. Beyond the immediate savings of tens of thousands of dollars, he’s is buoyed by the fact that this creates a new business model for film completion. He says CAVU (www.CAVUpictures.com) went from being filmmakers to distributors after being disillusioned with the system when they tried to market their own films. Now available anytime in his office, he has a technology he feels achieves virtually the same results as any high-end post house. Sergio says the Adobe and Cineform products puts him in a prime position with potential investors because he can guarantee a high quality, cost effective, post production and finishing system for his worldwide distribution channels.