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Popular Postproduction System Manufacturer to Support Dolby Vision: Are HDR Versions of 'Star Wars,' 'The Hobbit' on the Way?

Dolby Vision displays high-dynamic range (HDR), which is getting attention in Hollywood for its ability to expand the range between the darkest and brightest images a TV can produce.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Freeman Still - H 2013
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

SGO, the maker of the Mistika postproduction system tapped by Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post to make The Hobbit trilogy, is working with Dolby to support the new Dolby Vision format. Presumably this means that that Dolby Vision versions of Star Wars: Episode VII and The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies are at least being considered.

Dolby Vision was developed in order to display high-dynamic range, which is getting attention in Hollywood as it effectively expands the range between the darkest and brightest images a TV or other display can produce, and has a wider color gamut. It’s already been tested by remastering certain material, including Rob Marshall’s Chicago and clips from The Great Gatsby and Oblivion.

Specifically, SGO is working on an option for its Mistika color-grading and finishing system that would allow projects to be graded and completed in Dolby Vision.

The company expects to select postproduction facilities for a beta test some time in the next couple months. Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post, J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, postproduction company Fotokem and 2D-to-3D conversion company Legend3D are among the current sites that use Mistika for postproduction.

Park Road Post is already a close development partner with SGO -- a collaboration that made possible the high-frame-rate capabilities in Mistika used for The Hobbit trilogy. Dolby, too, has a relationship with Park Road, whose sound division was among the earliest to install Dolby Atmos capabilities.

The Hollywood Reporter previously revealed that Dolby expects to see as many as 25 new movies on board for a Dolby Vision finish before the end of the year, so with SGO planning support, presumably Jackson is at least considering a Dolby Vision finish for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, which opens Dec. 17.

With Mistika already at Bad Robot, Star Wars: Episode VII might also be a likely candidate for a Dolby Vision finish.

According to SGO, Mistika has inherently supported HDR for some time now.

The key challenge is therefore on the display end, to ensure that a colorist can accurately check his or her work. Dolby has already previewed prototype HD reference monitors for production and post that support Dolby Vision. The company also confirmed that it is working on developmental displays that would support 2K and 4K and accommodate high frame rates.

SGO’s current plan is to offer the Dolby Vision option for use with Mistika starting with its version 8.2, which is slated to enter a beta test period during the summer and become available in the fall. At this point, it looks like the Dolby Vision option -- with pricing not yet determined -- could be available before the end of the year depending somewhat on the availability of monitors. “We want to make sure it’s very well integrated into a Mistika workflow,” SGO director of global sales and operations Geoff Mills tells The Hollywood Reporter.

SGO and Dolby noted that Dolby Vision-supported consumer displays also could be used to check the color grading. Vizio, Sharp and TCL have all revealed plans to offer Dolby Vision-supported TVs, expected to be available no earlier than the end of the year.

Such displays are needed for consumers to be able to view Dolby Vision at home.

In addition to SGO, postproduction manufacturer FilmLight is also working on Dolby Vision support for its Baselight color-grading and finishing system. (Presumably, Blackmagic Design will also develop support for its Resolve color-grading system.)

A working group at the International Telecommunication Union is examining Dolby Vision and other proposals with an eye toward possibly adding HDR to its recommended Ultra HD technical specification.

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA