Produced By: Endless Production Choices and When High Res Can Be too Much

Speakers included Victoria Alonso, Dion Beebe, Rob Legato, Stephen Lighthill, Lori McCreary and Steve Scott.

Start early, plan and communicate.

That was a key message from the PGA Produced By panel “Where The State of the Art Resides,” which I moderated this morning. During the session, speakers also debated the pros and cons of high-resolution imagery.

Hosted by ARRI and Technicolor, the panelists were Victoria Alonso, executive vp VFX and postproduction, Marvel Studios; Dion Beebe, Oscar-winning cinematographer for Memoirs of a Geisha; Rob Legato, two-time Oscar-winning VFX supervisor for Hugo and Titanic; Stephen Lighthill, past president of the ASC and chair of AFI’s cinematography program; Lori McCreary, co-founder and CEO of Revelations Entertainment; and Steve Scott, award-winning colorist from Technicolor, whose credits include Iron Man.

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Production’s state of the art is a fast-moving topic today. When film was prevalent, we’d shoot on film, finish on film and distribute on film. But now the norm is seemingly endless workflow choices with new digital tools developing at every stage.

Among the session topics was 4K resolution — that is, four times the amount of picture information as is found in a 2K file — and panelists shared their perspectives.

Noting that this can “future proof” content, Scott and other said they want to capture as much information as possible, not just for today’s displays but for whatever systems are developed down the road.

But Alonzo pointed out that this can mean large amounts of data to manage, so it also needs to be “portable and affordable.”

Beebe and Legato — citing close-ups in particular — pointed out that from an aesthetic standpoint, there needs to be a limit to the amount of detail we need or want to see.

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Legato suggested that 3K or 4K is probably as high you want to go. After all, do we want to see a close up at 16K?

Beebe and Lighthill said they look at all of the characteristics of an image (resolution being just one of them) when choosing the camera and format for a given project — but it comes down to what is right for the story.

During the panel, a running theme was the advantages of involving the key creative team from preproduction. Calling the director of photography the “author of the image,” Scott and others emphasized that the DP also needs to be involved throughout grading and finishing.

Maintaining consistent color — and communicating that to all collaborators — is a top priority. McCreary sees real promise in ACES, the Academy Color Encoding Specification being developed under AMPAS’ Science and Technology Council.

Underscoring the importance of this color management, Alonzo said on Iron Man 3 “our data was touched globally,” including 17 different visual effects facilities.

Scott discussed how he and Technicolor are working with software developer Autodesk to bring together tools used in digital compositing and color grading.