UNIT SEES POTENTIAL IN APPLE'S COLOR
LONDON - The release of Apple’s Final Cut Pro Studio 2 (FCS2) saw Color
being bundled with FCP for the first time. Color is a grading tool that
harnesses the power of the modern Apple Mac for the demanding job of
realtime colour-correction. It aims to do the same job as its
competitors, which are based on bespoke hardware and have been,
traditionally, colossally expensive. Unit Post Production has 18 Final
Cut Pro suites, all running FCS2. We have two dedicated grading suites,
with the remainder largely being used for online and finishing work.
Our rapidly growing visual effects division, Unit Effects, takes up the
top floor of our building on Carlisle St. in Soho.
When Color got bundled into FCS2 it’d be true to say, technically
speaking, that each one of our edit suites became a grading suite. We
resisted that temptation; we only offer grading in a properly-
controlled environment. This is what makes the difference at Unit: the
tool is treated in a professional context. Someone could install Color
on a laptop or a Mac at home if they wanted, but – as any colourist
will tell you – any colour decisions made in a non-controlled
environment are meaningless. Both our grading suites offer hardware
control panels, calibrated monitors and projectors, and carefully
controlled lighting. We also use dedicated colourists, as opposed to
onliners who can grade. Nigel Collins and Peter Lynch are popular
choices, but we also offer a wider selection if asked by our clients.
With our central storage model, Unit prides itself on being able to
offer a truly tapeless workflow. A suite change can be achieved by
simply logging out of one suite, and into another; whilst the VFX
department can drop completed shots straight onto the editor’s
timeline. Color slots in seamlessly to this workflow: clients can send
their FCP projects straight to grade with the click of a button. This
process is not yet as foolproof as it should be, but with a correctly-
prepared project, it works well. At Unit, our technical assistants are
well-versed in these particular peculiarities, and take an active role
in this kind of project management.
Offering support for SD, HD and 2K, Color as a grading tool is
enormously powerful. It is far more flexible than the standard colour
correction available in Avid or FCP. In fact, when coupled with the
correct lighting environment, hardware control panels and properly
calibrated monitors, its feature set is comparable to most of the
top-flight grading systems. It doesn’t yet offer quite the same amount
of realtime performance, and grades do have to be rendered, but with
computers getting faster and faster each year, the gap has already
narrowed dramatically. Color looks set to offer even more interesting
possibilities in the future. Amongst other projects, Unit has recently
completed a 4:4:4 grade for a cinema commercial, as well as four
60-minute full HD grades for National Geographic.
We think it’s only going to get better.
Luke Colson is the Facility Director
at Unit (www.unit.tv). Tom Bridges is Head of Operations and a
co-founder of the Soho-based studio.