film reporter

LaserPacific provides case study on digital

As digital technology becomes more prevalent, filmmakers are viewing images on different display mechanisms and in different color spaces during the course of production and post. This creates challenges in generating a consistent look and results in more work and more worries, says Steve Gaub, associate producer on Rogue Pictures' upcoming comedy "Balls of Fury."

Says Leon Silverman, president of postproduction house LaserPacific Media Corp.: "The ability to carry a creative vision and look from the beginning of production through delivery is a prime focus of both the creative and technical communities. Whether something is shot digitally or on film, the importance of image and color calibration and consistency is clear."

Different productions and companies are approaching this challenge from different directions. The "Balls of Fury" team, including DP Tom Ackerman and talent from LaserPacific, created its own unique approach and also had an outing with Panavision's Genesis digital-cinematography camera, recording to HDCAM SR in Panalog. Some film also was used during production.

Focus Features vp postproduction Jeff Roth relates that the team identified the need to first understand how the digital camera behaves. To reach this level of understanding, a series of tests were lensed by Ackerman, who used the Genesis camera to shoot "Scary Movie 4."

"The (Genesis) chip set captures a very wide dynamic range," Roth says. "(We shot) two stops under, two stops over and figured out grading in various lighting conditions." This work included experimentation in one of Laser Pacific's digital intermediate color-timing theaters, which features a 33x13-foot screen, 2k projection and Autodesk's Lustre color-grading system.

Dave Cole, who was the colorist on the feature, explains that following the testing, the team developed a "generalized" Look Up Table that was used to apply consistent color values to the images during production.

Roth explains that with the work behind them, they knew how the camera behaved and what they were getting. "The big thing to me was the use of the LUT," he says, noting that the application of the LUT helped the production to move faster and focus on creativity. "On-set grading can get in the way," he says. "You can waste a lot of time and energy testing on-set. if you test ahead of time, you know where you are going."

Adds Cole: "It was good because we were all on the same page. When we went to the DI, we didn't have to start again."

The team was pleased with the results. "This was a substantial difference from past projects," Gaub says of the workflow. "There was incredible continuity from point A to point B (based on) the look that we set up. This made everyone's lives easier, including mine.

"The viewing experience was as close as possible to what we were seeing in film," he adds. "I've never had a facility nail it as close as Laser did on this project."

Adds Roth, "The moment when we switched to the film, we didn't realize we weren't looking at the digital anymore. That how good-looking it was."

Cole, Gaub, Roth, Silverman and Panavision vp product management Nolan Murdock are scheduled to present a case study on the "Balls of Fury" workflow this weekend during the National Association of Broadcasters Digital Cinema Summit. The film is slated for a September release.
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