Issue: July 1, 2010


LOS ANGELES – While Baselight’s reputation as a grading platform may be well known, its powerful compositing and visual effects tools are sometimes overlooked. Director Gregg Araki’s unconventional sci-fi comedy Kaboom recently called on the system at LA’s Picture Head (www.picturehead.com) in order to make the Cannes Film Festival.

Kaboom is a quirky, surreal tale of a libidinous film student. Picture Head had just two weeks to complete visual effects, color grading and editorial finishing, and ultimately deliver a 4K master for the screening in France.

To meet the deadline, Picture Head opted to both grade and conform the film, which had been shot with a Red camera and edited in Final Cut Pro, in its DI theatre with their Baselight HD. That resulted in a simple workflow and saved considerable time that would otherwise have been required to transfer 4K files had separate color grading and editorial systems been used.

“We’ve used Baselight as a grading tool for many projects, but this was the first time that we also employed it for editorial,” recalls Picture Head VP Matthew Flint. “Kaboom was an unusually rigorous film to grade and conform. The director went for a radical editorial approach using a lot of editorial effects, time warps and resizings.”

To begin the process, Picture Head imported all of the native 4K Red camera files into Baselight. XML files related to the Final Cut offline were also brought into the system. DI Colorist Adam Nazarenko and online editor Chuck Crews were then able to proceed simultaneously with grading and editorial finishing.

“We were able to bring over all the metadata from the Final Cut timeline and link it back to the native 4K files, and bring the show online very quickly,” recalls Crews. “It was stunning how smoothly and accurately Baselight interpreted the XML file.”

Doing all of the work in Baselight was useful not only given the time constraints, but also because the creative demands of the film were so great. Nazarenko had his hands full in trying to achieve the look that Araki wanted. The film is an over-the-top fantasy that makes hairpin turns between the real, the unreal and the surreal, and all those perceptual shifts are reflected in the film’s kinetic visual style.

“Gregg had a very specific, radical look in mind,” Nazarenko says. “It’s aggressive and much of the film has a dreamy quality, it’s definitely not rooted in reality.”

For his part, Crews was busy using Baselight’s compositing toolkit to integrate visual effects shots and to replicate editorial effects created during the offline process. The latter ranged from split screen composites to intricate time compressions.

“Baselight had a lot of VFX tools that we were able to use, including glow effects and camera shakes,” Crews says. “There is a car chase near the end of the film where the editors used a FinalCut plug-in called Earthquake to produce a particular shaky camera effect and we were able to process all those shots — there were about 100 of them — in Baselight. It was a huge time saver.”

Picture Head’s drive to meet the deadline was also aided by FilmLight’s international support system, which provided a way to overcome technical issues no matter when they occurred. “We were under the gun, but if we had an issue or a question arose, there was always someone we could reach,” recalls Crews. “The extended support provided by FilmLight’s worldwide support at all hours was rare indeed. I can’t express how much peace of mind it gave us.”

Reviewers are already hailing Kaboom as an instant cult classic. The film proved a sensation in Cannes, drawing a 15-minute standing ovation from an overflow crowd of 3,000 at its midnight screening debut. IFC Films subsequently snapped up the US distribution rights. That has resulted in more work for Picture Head, according to Flint. “We’re preparing film deliverables for the theatrical release,” he says.

Flint added that his team was impressed by the extent of Baselight’s editorial capabilities and that without them it would have been difficult to deliver Kaboom in time for its debut.

“If we had done this in a more traditional manner, building it in an editorial box, we would have had to complete the conform and then move it over to the DI theatre,” he notes. “An hour and a half of 4K material is a lot data to move over our network. In this workflow, we were able to color and conform in the same room, and that made it easy for us to accommodate new material when it arrived and to experiment with effects and transitions. It gave us tremendous flexibility.”