Edit This!: Vampires at 'The Gates'
SHREVEPORT, LA — Vampires are all the rage these days, and ABC took a bite of the genre with its summer series The Gates. While the show is set in what looks like a Utopian gated community in the suburbs, it is really a haven for dark secrets and pretty bloodsuckers.
The Gates was shot on location in Shreveport on a Red camera. Post was done at Burbank’s Next Element Studios, which set up a workflow specific to the series. We caught up with associate producer Paul D. Goldman as he was working on episode 11 of the series, whose season ends on September 19. He talks to us about the Red, a file-based workflow, cutting on the Avid Media Composer and the look of the show.
POST: What made you choose the Red for production?
PAUL D. GOLDMAN: “It was a creative choice by the studio, Ftvs. We try for a lot of movement on the show, and want to keep things as fluid as possible. The cameras size and flexibility helps to accomplish this style. Cost was also a factor, as was the workflow process — we tested a lot of equipment and cameras and decided this would allow us the most options being up against airdates. Talking to Avid and Next Element by Deluxe, they have a complete set-up for file-based workflow. We sat with them and designed a workflow that was best for our show, so it seemed the right way to go on this production.”
POST: Did you use a DIT on set?
GOLDMAN: “We had a DIT (Evin Grant) who has worked with our DP (Arthur Albert) for a while. We did some tests before hand and established various looks. The good thing with the LUTs settings in the Red is you can always go back to the original raw R3D files. No matter what settings you use during production, it’s basically layers that can come off, so we had the flexibility based on this camera to go ahead and do a variety of looks.
“Once we found ones we liked, we set it. We’d adjust accordingly depending on how the storylines go — from day and night and specific locations — then it transfers pretty seamlessly over to when we do final color correction. For visual effects we can go back to the original files and have the complete latitude of the 4K files to do whatever is needed, so it really worked out well for us.”
POST: Have you worked this way in the past or is this new for you personally?
GOLDMAN: “I have shot the Red as second unit camera on production in other places, but I’ve never used it as the primary camera for a series, so that was one of the things we needed to get up to speed on. Working with Ftvs, Avid and Next Element, we created a workflow tailored to our needs. There are little bugs that you get used to working through coming from a tape-based environment to a file-based environment, but it’s been pretty seamless so far. The workflow allows us to expedite the online and digital effects processes and any subsequent changes that might come down from the studio or the network, without the limitation and time constraints that a tape-based system forces you to go through.”
POST: So more flexibility. That helps with the creative process as well?
GOLDMAN: “It does. For instance, we lock the show, online and color. If something isn’t working right, a shot needs to be changed, VFX fixed, restructuring, etc., in a traditional tape-based workflow it is a hassle to go back in time-wise and schedule-wise, and it’s a complete re-conform and output. On a file-based system we don’t have to go back in and pull the tapes. We make the changes, send the EDL back over to the facility, they adjust it in their timeline, then we are ready to output. Changes can happen up until the last minute and not put us behind.”
POST: Can you talk about working with Next Element?
GOLDMAN: “They do all our dailies and our full post process, except for sound, which is done by Larson Studios. We get the dailies transferred to a drive on set, get it on a plane and to Next Element that evening. They sync everything, convert the Red files to Avid files and we get the drive back the next morning. Our assistant editors don’t have to worry about referencing back to the original Red files due to the proprietary software Next uses. Drives go into the system and it’s seamless to our editors. We are using Media Composer 4.0.5 systems. One of the benefits of the workflow is if we need B-negative, it’s already synced. It can be uploaded immediately on the FTP site. We download it in editorial and are back up with no stoppage at all.”
POST: Do you have any plans to upgrade to the Media Composer 5.0, considering how seamlessly it works with native Red files?
GOLDMAN: “If we get picked up a second season we would, but right now, we are shooting episode 11 and in a couple of weeks these shows are delivering two days before air. It’s been working so seamlessly and Avid has been so supportive of us, I am not changing a thing right now.”
POST: What are you using for color?
GOLDMAN: “We do our color on the Baselight. With the Red it works out well because if we really need to push it, I can blow the shot up 200 percent and there is no degradation of the image. The Red allows us a lot of flexibility that some other cameras don’t. The way the Baselight and the Avid talk to each other — if I have to go back in and change a shot, they dump it in the Avid, render into their server, Baselight accesses it and for the most part the color transfers over, with minor tweaking if necessary. It doesn’t bake anything in. You can put 10-12 looks on something on set and nothing is locked in.”
POST: Is the look of the show set ahead of time or does it change based on a particular episode?
GOLDMAN: “When we are in the houses, the look stays the same, but as the stories grow and they become more intertwined with different characters, it changes a bit. So the look is set pretty much in the five or six main locations we have. We are shooting in Shreveport, seven-day episodes, which is quick. We’ll do a lot of day for night, and the 4K files help immensely with this cheat. In the cutting room, with the Media Composer, there is a lot of latitude in there with color correction to give us a sense of where we are going to be. Can we do a day for night? Are we going to have to re-shoot this? Let’s see what we can do. The system pops it up, we play with it and if we have it in the Media Composer, I obviously have even more latitude in my Red files.”
POST: Speaking of the cutting room, who edits the show?
GOLDMAN: “We have three editors: Bill Johnson, Michael Stern and Peter Ellis. Plus, two of the best assistants — Mike Koz and Lauren Schweitzer — I’ve worked with in 20 years. They make everything work and are experts on the Media Composer.”
POST: Can you talk a bit more about the editing process a bit?
GOLDMAN: “We are cutting in DNx36. For any opticals or color correction, the Media Composer with the various plug-ins is great. The realtime timecode generator is extremely helpful. The system has been completely stable. The biggest issue with any file-based camera is going to be the amount of footage shot, so storage is the only issue. And that is not expensive.”
POST: What kind of storage are you using?
GOLDMAN: “Avid Unity. 4.2.4”