Going with the work flow

AMPAS strives for digi solution

A range of dissimilar film and digital work flows are now used to create motion pictures, and the result can be inefficiency, increased cost and reduced image quality.

Addressing this far-reaching problem, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences spent more than three years developing what it calls an Image Interchange Framework — a set of components to help facilitate work flows in motion picture production and mastering.

Here at the Hollywood Post Alliance annual Technology Retreat, the Academy on Tuesday night called for industry participation as it enters the next stage of development: an evaluation period.

The IIF could have significant impact by addressing work flow issues.

"These problems didn't exist with film because the entire imaging system — film stocks, processing chemicals and procedures — was developed and standardized by two or three film manufacturing companies and a similar number of film labs," said Ray Feeney, chair of AMPAS' Science and Technology Council's advanced technology programs subcommittee.

"With digital imaging technology, every company can develop its own proprietary approach — and that is largely what happened. Given that today's motion pictures are collaborative efforts — generally involving many visual effects, postproduction and mastering facilities — the challenges faced by these facilities are made even more difficult when digital images can come to them in any one of a dozen or more file formats and encoding schemes."

A key benefit from developing the IIF, Feeney said, might be progress toward a method of archiving digital material in a meaningful way, a huge industry concern.

Additional goals for the IIF are to merge the film and digital sourced materials; eliminate image conversion errors; preserve the cinematographer's intent; improve color management within pipelines and across different facilities; and offer a framework that will accommodate custom and future work flows.

The Academy said that it is making the developing IIF tool kit available free to studios and others in exchange for feedback on the architecture.

"This is your time of maximum influence," Feeney noted to the crowd that included studio and postproduction executives as well as manufacturers. "This is a really good time to start participating.

"The work on this has been intense, and we think we have something that is novel and unique. … The underlying science is sound," Feeney said, adding that more than 50 key technologists already have been involved in the IIF development process and that Kodak and Fujifilm have been key participants.