Workflow: Gone Girl's 6K challenge
Issue: October 1, 2014

Workflow: Gone Girl's 6K challenge

20th Century Fox’s new film Gone Girl hit theaters on October 3rd, and is one of the first films to have been shot with Red’s 6K Dragon camera. Directed by David Fincher and based on Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, Gone Girl looks at secrets within a modern-day marriage, and whether they could have lead Nick Dunne (played by Ben Affleck) to have a hand in the disappearance of his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike). The film also stars Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris.

Kirk Baxter, ACE, cut the feature entirely within Adobe Premiere. Tyler Nelson served as assistant editor, with Jeff Brue acting as post engineer and Peter Mavromates working as post supervisor. FotoKem provided the production with its NextLab mobile dailies solution, a 150TB turnkey system that allowed the team to ready material for different lines in the picture supply chain. Freddy Goeske, FotoKem’s ( GM, production software, says NextLab has steadily evolved since its introduction five years ago, thanks in part to the demands of filmmakers such as David Fincher. 

“It’s our IP and allows for pretty quick turnaround for us to add new features and new SDKs for new cameras,” Goeske explains. “That was the big enabler that allowed us to do it for them. All the content goes into an asset manager/dailies creation system, and we make the dailies with all the metadata required for post. Not just for the Adobe side of it, but for anybody else who is in the picture supply chain that wants to watch content.”

Goeske says FotoKem had to integrate beta versions of Red’s SDK and Rocket X card into the turnkey system for use back in December and January. “Decoding that stuff is a pretty big mathematical task,” he says of the 6K footage. 

FotoKem also worked closely with Adobe. “We had to integrate writing QuickTime and XML files that would populate the Premiere project," he adds. "It was somewhat challenging. Tyler really wanted very extensive metadata from the camera and the syncing process to make it into Premiere — beyond QuickTime files and timecode. They wanted what settings were used in the camera.”

NextLab’s close integration with PIX allowed files, slightly larger than 2K, to be sent to editorial. Ethernet or shuttle drives were later used to move higher resolution footage.

“We meet with them during the pre-production process and talk about what all their needs are, what they want to do, and agree upon what we can actually pull off,” explains Goeske. “Every time we go through that cycle, we get closer to that vision [of] what is doable within the timeframe. We go through a testing process, then we deploy a solution and provide 24/7 support and work with third-party vendors if there are any issues.”

In Hollywood, Light Iron’s ( supervising DI colorist, Ian Vertovec, has a long working history with Fincher. He’s contributed to The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as well as on a recent series of b&w Gap spots that were directed by the filmmaker and shot by DP Jeff Cronenweth. This history gives a unique perspective on Fincher’s broad line of work.

“It’s much more of a neutral look than the last two films,” says Vertovec of Gone Girl. “It’s cleaner and more neutral. The skin tone comes out more when you go for a real neutral grade. There’s a lot more high dynamic range in the exteriors. The story takes place in the Midwest, so there are a lot of really nice Midwest cloudy skies. There’s a lot of high dynamic range in the exteriors. It’s a much more clean and neutral look overall.”

Light Iron handled Gone Girl’s final color correction and post production. “David has an advanced and complex post team, headed by Tyler Nelson, the assistant editor, who manages the whole workflow and the files,” Vertovec explains. “They debayer 6K files and we conform off of this 6K uncompressed [media]."
Since a 6K infrastructure didn’t exist at the time, Vertovec says they had to upgrade their Quantel Pablo Rio with additional GPUs to accommodate the workflow. “We have multiple GPUs in our Quantel Pablo Rio. It has a 4K output card and a 4K projector. Everything inside the computer is running in 6K. We are running a 5K sort of cut out. And that 5K cutout is being downconverted to 4K in realtime. What goes to the projector and is displayed on-screen is 4K. We are using a Christie 4K projector, but all the files we are coloring are 6K files, and we needed to string together 4GPUs in order to do that.”

In addition to the feature, Light Iron worked on Gone Girl's trailers and TV spots. Vertovec worked out of Light Iron’s large theater, which features a 24-x10-foot screen. “David really is looking for a high amount of polish on everything," he notes. "If I show him something with a background wall that is not matching in one shot, he’ll notice. I need to be meticulous about every detail. They really make sure to have enough time for the DI. It’s like a commercial, but one that is two-and-a-half-hours long.”