'Karate Kid' DVD gets 4K master at Colorworks
Issue: October 1, 2010

'Karate Kid' DVD gets 4K master at Colorworks

Colorworks kicks off 4K mastering with 'The Karate Kid'
CULVER CITY, CA — When Sony Pictures Studios (www.spe.sony.com)  launched its Colorworks facility last year, one of its goals was to build a digital intermediate workflow that would make 4K film mastering a practical reality. This past summer, the facility put the concept into practice with “The Karate Kid,” which is being released this month on Blu-ray.

“The Karate Kid” was the first film to go through the digital intermediate process at Colorworks entirely in 4K. The process began by scanning film negative at 4K with a Digital Film Technology (DFT) Scanity film scanner. Scans were made at a rate of 15fps, with electronic pin registration, and delivered to the facility’s SAN as full aperture 4K digital files. The files were dust-busted and conformed to match the editorial cut. The film was then graded with FilmLight’s Baselight Eight color grading system and final outputs for film, digital cinema and video were rendered.

Colorworks’ workflow is designed to handle 4K media with high efficiency and so make 4K mastering commercially viable. “4K mastering has been possible for a long time, but it hasn’t been especially practical,” explains Jim Houston, vice president, technology and engineering for Sony Pictures Entertainment. “Five years ago, I did a test for the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers), and it took six weeks to do ten minutes of material.”

Recent technology advances have sped up the process considerably, allowing Colorworks to manage 4K media in a manner approaching routine. One key development was the appearance in 2009 of Scanity, which can scan film at 4K at speeds up to three times faster than other 4K scanners. Baselight Eight provided another important element as it can grade 4K media in realtime.

Colorworks was also built with the kind of infrastructure 4K production demands. The network that feeds its three DI theaters can play as many as ten streams of 4K media simultaneously. The movement of data between suites is accomplished via the facility’s proprietary Digital Backbone, featuring one petabyte of disc and 2.5 petabytes of tape storage.

Additionally, Colorworks provides working environments that allow filmmakers to fully explore the creative possibilities of 4K. Each grading theater, for example, is equipped with a 4K Sony digital projector allowing the directors, DPs and colorists to view films in the same format as they will be seen in theaters.

Roger Pratt, director of photography for “Karate Kid,” notes that he was at first unsure of what to expect from the 4K process. “But it was fantastic,” he says, adding that the difference in sharpness was especially apparent as the film had been shot without filters. “It’s a fight movie, so everything has a sharp edge.”

“Everyone remarked on the amazingly clarity,” adds Colorworks colorist Steve Bowen. “When someone is wearing a jacket, you don’t just see the color, you can feel the texture.”

Colorworks is about to embark on several more 4K mastering projects including the much anticipated action film “Priest” due for release next year, and Houston says they’re ready. “When you put together technology in the right way,” he notes, “you can do a lot of things you couldn’t do a few years ago.”