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'Amazing Spider-Man 2:' Behind the Scenes of Sony's 4K Web

Sony used its advancing infrastructure to give Spidey a 4K finish with the hope of making Ultra HD a more commonly used format.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 -- which was finished in 4K resolution -- marks another step in Sony Pictures Entertainment’s effort to make Ultra HD a more commonly used format in Hollywood.

Ultra HDTVs are already available in stores but there’s still a limited amount of native 4K  content and even fewer platforms to support delivery of the format. So far, those are limited to select services such as Netflix and Sony's Video Unlimited 4K download service (which already offers The Amazing Spider-Man in Ultra HD).

4K, or Ultra HD, means four times as much picture information as HD, and a key issue with the format is that production needs an efficient workflow to move and work with the larger files.

For production of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony relied—more extensively than on prior projects —on its evolving SPE "production backbone," a large scale storage infrastructure that accommodates 4K.

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The tentpole was shot primarily on film, and to start postproduction, all 1.5 million feet of 35 mm was scanned in 4K, 16-bit, consuming 2.4 Petabytes of storage in the backbone, according to Sony Pictures Entertainment senior vp of technology Bill Baggelaar. It also stored associated production notes and other information, and made all of the materials accessible to sound and picture editors, visual effects artists and others, as needed and in appropriate file formats.  

Multiple Sony businesses were connected including Sony Pictures Imageworks, the lead visual effects house; Colorworks, Sony’s postproduction unit; Sony marketing as well as additional vendors including VFX houses such as MPC, Blur and Pixel Playground. The Sony divisions are already on the network, while outside vendors accessed the backbone through secure transfer systems such as Aspera.

Led by Sony Pictures Imageworks’s VFX supervisor Jerome Chen,  the VFX effort included roughly 1,600 visual effects shots--which were created in 2K resolution (which is still the norm for VFX work, even for projects that involve a 4K finish). Colorworks then did the conforming, color grading and mastering in 4K.

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The backbone was also used to get the picture into the sound bay. For The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the film’s sound team – led by supervising sound editors/designers Addison Teague and Eric Norris, and re-recording mixers Paul Massey and David Giammarco —worked in Sony Pictures Post Production’s newly-renovated William Holden Theater, which now supports Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro 11.1. (Massey and Giammarco mixed the soundtrack natively in Dolby Atmos and finished in Atmos, Auro and 5.1 formats.)

Baggelaar noted that the backbone was earlier used to  finish Sony Picture’s Animation’s Smurfs 2, but the pipeline wasn’t as automated and efficient as it has become. He confirmed that all upcoming Sony projects are using the technology in some way, including its sequel 22 Jump Street and remake of Annie.

E-mail: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA