A new CBS drama starring David Boreanaz, SEAL Team, follows the lives of elite US Navy SEALs as they train, plan and execute dangerous, high-stakes military missions.
Encore Hollywood (www.encorepost.com) provides full post services for the series, including visual effects under Encore VFX supervisor Doug Ludwig. “All of our TV workflow is now similar to a typical DI, but there’s always some customization involved,” notes Pankaj Bajpai, senior colorist and senior vice president, business advancement at Encore, part of Deluxe Creative Services. “SEAL Team shoots on Red Dragon [cameras] with 6K files and anamorphic lenses akin to a theatrical feature, although the show is released in HD. Even though we’re extracting only part of the image for 16x9 HD, we want to take advantage of high resolution R3D files and the optical aesthetic of that set of lenses.”
Additional cameras and file formats are intercut with Red, including Sony A7s, GoPros and drone-mounted models.
“We preserve all Red R3D file data until we output the HD show,” says Bajpai. “We have increased our storage capacity to deal with very big files and expanded our bandwidth to run everything in real time and more. For TV, it’s critical with tight turnarounds.”
After receiving original Red R3D media from the show, Encore extracts all metadata including RMD files with its DITV Dailies system and puts the information on its SANs. The dailies colorist does a thorough matching of shots, then editors begin cutting the show on Avid Media Composers near the production offices.
“With dailies being with Encore, we are able to keep a detailed database of all color correction and associated ancillary metadata,” says Bajpai. “We don’t have to bother editorial for bins with CDL and LUT information. We take their EDL and link it to our database and do a virtual transfer to our color correction systems. All CDLs and LUTs used on set and in dailies are linked in an automated process. We don’t have to reinvent what people might have fallen in love with from the dailies — we work from there using the metadata but always sourcing the original camera raw files.”
For color grading, Bajpai primarily uses FilmLight’s Baselight with advanced tracking and paint tools, he says. Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve is also used for its own unique benefits.
Encore's Pankaj Bajpai
The pilot for SEAL Team has a “bold, rich and cinematic look, but always real, as determined by DP Gonzalo Amat,” says Bajpai. “For the series, I’ve spoken with DP Jim Muro about the concept in great detail and the look is quite ‘muscular.' But it's important to note that the look of the show begins with all the thoughtful choices made on set in cinematography long before final color.”
Encore offers a fully networked environment, which smooths and speeds post. Especially valuable for Encore VFX is the ability to see its shots in context. “VFX can pop into the theater with me and see their shots in context with the rest of the scene,” says Bajpai. “I can provide them with a LUT for a very specific shot then we can take a look at how it works with a full-on grade with all the Power Windows, mattes and keys. It gives them a closer approximation of final color than just working withCDLs.” He can also grade backgrounds, foregrounds and plates in the context of a scene then break them up and give them to VFX as color-timed plates. “That’s another huge advantage and time saver.”
Three Encore editors conform episodes on Avid Symphony; Autodesk Flame is also on hand if needed. “With everything networked and accessible to everyone, we can be platform agnostic. We try to structure our workflows to be extremely flexible,” notes Bajpai.
“My goal with all team members is to break hardware and software boundaries and use whatever tool is best suited to the job. The workflow should never be an impediment.
“When you work in a networked environment of shared media you can utilize the best tool for the client at any given moment. That’s a pretty exciting way to look at post.”