Produced By: Speakers Weigh In on High Dynamic Range, 4K and Maintaining Creative Intent

Lori McCreary

Producer, Co-Founder and CEO, Revelations Entertainment

Producers Guild president Lori McCreary admitted that with an expanding number of formats — for instance with high dynamic range (HDR) and higher resolution gaining more attention — she’s concerned about what productions will look like when they are displayed in eight or 10 years.

Director of photography Oliver Bokelberg (Scandal) added that he worries even today, saying, “No theaters are the same. They are too dark or too bright.”

They and other speakers on a "Picture Clarity" panel (which I moderated), Saturday at the PGA Produced By conference, agreed that creative intent is an issue as technology continues to change. But they also reported that workflows are systematic and understood, and work is being done toward maintaining consistency.

ARRI president and CEO Glenn Kennel related that studio and manufacturer coalition UHD Alliance, for instance, is working on establishing more standardization around the characteristics in developing TV displays. And he’s hopeful that this will result in more consistent reproduction of images.

Gareth Cook, senior broadcast colorist at Technicolor (Scandal), acknowledged that for now, “unfortunately, things will look different” on different displays, and said he has found that an Apple iPad can be among the most consistent displays for checking image reproduction. (He also got a laugh when he confirmed, “the dress was white and gold, I checked [in the grading suite].”)

Speakers gave high marks to the creative potential of HDR — the range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks — though it currently isn’t standardized. For instance, professional and consumer displays can vary greatly in brightness, anywhere from 200-4000 nits (a measure of brightness).

This is one example of the reasons why multiple versions of productions are being made to support different display technologies. Kennel reported that efforts are being made to simplify this issue, for instance saying that Technicolor and Dolby are working on technology that would enable a production to create one master and then use the metadata to get the intended look on different displays.

McCreary, who is CEO of Revelations Entertainment, urged the production community to adopt the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES), a color management and image interchange system. Other speakers, though, pointed out that aspects of the workflow for the recently released ACES version 1.0 are still being worked out.

She also warned producers that 4K — four times the amount of data used in HD — will cost more and will add time to the production schedule. But she added that even if you aren’t delivering 4K today, it’s a good idea to keep the data for possible future needs.

Dave Waters, vp on location services at Technicolor, discussed procedures for recording and storing a digital "camera negative," starting on set, and when it’s safe to wipe the recording media.