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September 2014
Issue: January 1, 2010

FINCHER'S 'THE SOCIAL NETWORK' EMPLOYS DATACENTRIC WORKFLOW

STUDIO CITY, CA — David Fincher, the director of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac and Fight Club, is using a new data management system for his latest project The Social Network, which tells the story behind the development of the social media platform Facebook.

Fincher’s technical team, headed by Joe Wolcott, is using Media Distributors’ Archive Station R-2, to provide safe and simple archive of the production’s most critical media, creating a tapeless workflow that is saving time and money, while providing safe LTO-4 backup of Red camera media files.

Archive Station is designed as a media archive and asset management system for tapeless productions. This Mac-based system provides secure LTO-4 back-up, media conversions and rapid access to archived and disk-based video content.

Wolcott was tasked with creating a workflow that allowed Fincher to shoot on multiple Red One cameras, archive the media quickly and safely to duplicate LTO-4 tapes, and process the files in realtime to Apple’s ProRes for Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, David Fincher’s long-time editors. Since production took place in Boston, Baltimore and LA, the solution also needed to be portable, powerful and stable.

“Red was great — they upgraded our camera sensors, built custom cameras and collaborated with us to provide David with the ability to over-crank to 36fps at 4K, on a very short schedule,” says Wolcott. “We then quickly needed a new data management system optimized for Red, but able to incorporate the best features we designed into the Zodiac and Button ViperCam workflows. Media Distributors was equally helpful and collaborative. The Archive Station is a great product, and their engineering team customized it to suit us perfectly, including a ‘stripped down’ single editor version for Boston locations and a full-blown four-station XSAN-based system for the balance of production and post in Los Angeles.”

Wolcott’s team shipped the rented Archive Station and a Final Cut Pro system from Media Distributors’ LA offices to a hotel in Boston, where Media Distributors’ chief engineer, Tony Cahill, worked with assistant editor Tyler Nelson to ensure the operation went smoothly and to provide insight into the depths of Constellation, the asset and storage management software at the heart of Archive Station.

“We engineered the location workflow so that everything in Boston could be completed by a single editor. Even with four cameras rolling, Tyler was able to keep up with production and have everything archived to duplicate LTO-4s, processed to ProRes for editorial, and processed to h.264 and uploaded to PIX System for dailies, well within a 24-hour period,” says Cahill. “Tyler was able to do the ingest, cloning, processing, picture QC and all the offline editorial. He even did split-screen with camera motion control all by himself. The typical day involved Red CF cards coming into the workflow around midday and, within 12-14 hours, editorial drives were shipped to LA and dailies were posted to PIX”.

The initial shoot in Boston lasted two weeks before moving to Baltimore for a few days and then returning to LA for the final 14 weeks of shooting. The  set-up at Fincher’s No. 13 offices incorporates 64TB of Active Storage’s XRAID storage into a powerful XSAN solution with Archive Stations handling ingest and RedRocket cards handling file conversion for editorial.

Fincher’s location team primarily shot with two units, using two Red cameras each. The Archive Station system processed between 50 to 80 Red CF cards every day without losing a frame.

“Collaboration between filmmakers and digital workflow providers is essential, and Red is more efficient, communicative and expedient than any company we have worked with,” says Cean Chaffin, producer of The Social Network.