How David Fincher and 'Panic Room' Helped Launch a SciTech Award Recipient

David Fincher Headshot - Getty - H 2017
Koki Nagahama/Getty Images

The familiar Pix app is one of the early tools with security features developed to improve communication and collaboration during production, which was initially conceived as filmmaking became more distributed geographically. After being used on more than 5,000 film and TV projects including Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody and Mindhunter, its developers will be among those honored Saturday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Scientific and Technical Awards.

Pix founder/CEO Eric Dachs — who, along with director of R&D Erik Bielefeldt, technical director Craig Wood and Paul McReynolds, will receive Technical Achievement Awards — started his career in sound, and it was while working as an assistant to seven-time Oscar-nominated sound designer Ren Klyce on David Fincher’s 2002 film Panic Room that the idea for Pix was born.

"I got a look at how digital technology was changing motion picture postproduction, but I also saw the inefficiency from faxing notes when the work was distributed geographically," Dachs tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I started writing a really simple prototype application for capturing David’s spotting notes and getting them distributed to the crew via a simple web application. So that [composer Howard Shore] could get the music notes in real time, and the different departments within sound were no longer having to wait for faxes."

One afternoon during the final mix, Klyce showed Fincher the app, and the technically savvy director was impressed. In fact, he continues to use it today.

Dachs relates that some of the Panic Room crew then went to work on The Lord of the Rings and were running into similar obstacles with communication from New Zealand to the U.S. "They called up and asked, 'Could you add this feature or that feature?' We just organically kept adding features," he says.

The early Pix team also showed the system to Oscar-winning sound and picture editor Walter Murch. "Like David, he was very interested in how technology could better serve his creative work. Walter was just starting Jarhead for [director] Sam Mendes and they agreed to give it a try to send cuts from location in New Mexico to Murch’s cutting room. They also used it for cut reviews during postproduction."

Fincher’s next project was 2007's Zodiac, and he additionally used Pix to distribute dailies to Paramount. The studio again employed the system on Fincher’s next film, 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

In short, Pix was on its way. Today it is being used in numerous ways by departments including editorial, sound, production design and marketing. Dachs says all of the major studios, as well as Netflix and Amazon, have employed Pix on projects.

As technology continues to evolve, Dachs says he sees further potential through emerging 5G networks: "We have a couple shows starting in the middle of this year that are shooting likely in Atlanta, and there are going to be some opportunities to use 5G. The low latency quality is interesting for real-time collaboration." He also intends to grow the use of HDR (high dynamic range) playback for dailies and editorial reviews.