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July 2014
Issue: February 2006

A TUNNEL INDIES CAN GET INTO

By: Ken McGorry

SANTA MONICA - He specializes in Final Cut editorial and digital intermediate post for independent films and is himself an independent filmmaker. Now Kyle Jackson, a partner in the new Tunnel Post, has set up this 3,000-square-foot facility as a hotbed of democratized DI for the striving indie as well as a potential profit center for funding his own films.

Chasing Ghosts, a film directed and edited by Jackson to be released by Sony in March, served as a trial by fire and a trailblazing indie post experience for him and his writer/producer/partner Alan Pao. The result is a moody film noir starring Michael Madsen, shot in traditional 35mm and delivered as a traditional film negative.

The bad parts of the experience serve as lessons learned. The good parts are now the core of the new Tunnel Post (www.tunnelpost.com) pipeline including: edit in Apple Final Cut; scan your selects (don't do expensive telecine); maintain an all-Mac pipeline, including color grading in Silicon Color's Final Touch; and preserve your reels as DPX files so you can later transfer to any deliverable required.

Escaping Ghosts

Tunnel has acquired the first Cintel Ditto scanner in the US to get film frames into digital at a good clip: 4.5 frames per second. The sale was made by Adam Welsh, former head of Cintel, who now operates independently as Big Pic (www.bigpicmedia.net).

Another asset of Ditto is its ability to read film frame edge code. "The KeyKode/EDL database is something that Tunnel envisages as a way of automating most of the non-creative part of the DI workflow," says Welsh.

"That means we can pull our lists directly from Final Cut, feed it through our scanner, and that will create an integrated solution without the need for line-ups and all these intermediary processes we had to do on Chasing Ghosts," Jackson says. "We're scanning at 3K, not 2K - it oversamples and then downsamples," he says of the new Ditto. "We're getting higher res scans at 10 times the speed [of Chasing Ghosts] and we eliminate $10,000 of costs in line-up fees and negative cutting. We can directly feed EDLs into the scanner and do it like it's an HD online - something we've been trying to work out for a year and a half."

For dust-busting, however, he would steer you away from their decision to try it in Shake. As an Apple fan, Jackson says Shake "is a great compositing software but was not quick for dealing with [longform] film dust."

Jackson and crew appreciated Shake for doing "all the opticals - dissolves, transitions, any funky cuts that Silicon Color wasn't capable of doing at the time." Final Touch is the Mac-based color correction solution that Tunnel Post now offers in its latest version.

New ways

The new shop has a vibe and an ethos: "We wanted to create a niche place; a really hip, useful facility with all the technology we need, but we're not on hourly rate card."

Tunnel Post is sticking with Final Cut for good reason. "A lot of indie filmmakers have Final Cut for offline," Jackson says. "As long as we can integrate with that, we can save them money on editorial. They can keep their hands in editorial and hold onto control of their films if we can enable them."

Final Touch is new, too: "Once we've scanned with Ditto, we?re back in Silicon Color, which now has conform and EDL tools and all sorts of interesting stuff like downconversion. This makes it the guts of our DI platform."

Jackson has been talking to Apple people about a possible 2K or 4K version of Final Cut. That, he says, "will allow us to conform in Final Cut using the same project files and the same lists that our clients are cutting with." He also intends to convince Cintel, Silicon Color, AJA and "everybody to push together" to achieve an all-Mac DI workflow.

Deliverables

The traditional film-out route does not make sense for indies, he says: "They'd do the film-out and then telecine the film-out to HD to get their HD deliverables. Well, that's a whole lot of money. And you've got to color-time again. We thought, "We already have it color timed, we already have it digital, why can't we [skip telecine]?"

Jackson and company tested reels they had in DPX format using After Effects, then Shake, then Silicon Color, then AJA's tools. "We went through all the different tool sets trying to figure out just how we can get it from DPX to HD without big color shifts or other problems. Once we had that down it was really easy - it's not a crazy science - but I was surprised to hear that there were not that many people doing it."

Jackson expects Final Touch to be capable of SDI output of 2K files in realtime soon. "We will be able to output from Silicon Color to a 2K projector or a high-end screen that takes SDI input for client viewing. It also means we could make a quick dump to HD from the grading platform - good for indies who have a rush screening."

Tunnel is also busy doing trailers and graphics packages for indie films. And Jackson is editing and overseeing post on Hack! a comical/campy horror film. One project he is looking forward to - editing work on The Art of Travel - will likely have him on site with the filmmakers this summer in a South American jungle.