Silverdraft Rolling Out Mobile Digital Studio (Exclusive)

The L.A.-based company's 53-foot van is equipped with an extensive range of production, VFX and post tools.

L.A.-based company Silverdraft is rolling out a digital studio on wheels.

Dubbed the Silverdraft MobileViz, the 53-foot van is equipped with an extensive range of production, VFX and post tools and aims to bring more postproduction -- and visual effects -- on set. With this infrastructure, powered by a proprietary supercomputer, Silverdraft aims to create a faster, more collaborative approach to filmmaking.

The mobile digital studio could also displace existing technologies and shift on-set roles. It might even leapfrog some of the on-set tools now in development.

Manufacturers have started to offer smaller and lighter production tools. Post houses -- including Deluxe, Fotokem LightIron and Technicolor -- have meanwhile been offering portable "digital labs," which typically take the camera footage and create dailies, backups, files for editorial and the like. They offer a starting point for the color grading process.

Silverdraft is taking that concept even further by incorporating previz, motion capture and other sophisticated VFX tools along with editing, color grading and finishing. The company suggests that users in fact could record -- 2D or 3D -- from the digital camera directly into the truck, where work could begin immediately.

"This would replace (many) on-set tools," said Silverdraft's head of business development Michael Cooper, who is an EFILM Digital Laboratories alum. "It would be all inclusive. We're taking the digital facility on set. All of the key creatives can be there, making creative decisions. I think it can result in better collaboration."

He added: "I think overall, budgets will possibly come down -- I say possibly because producers might move the money (to different line items) to get more onscreen."

In addition to on-set or on a lot, MobileViz could also be used by VFX facilities if they need additional computer resources to render out VFX- or CG-heavy projects.

The MobileViz truck can be customized, though it already includes tools such as Autodesk MotionBuilder, Maya and 3ds Max; Mental Images' Mental Ray renderer; Chaos Group's Vray; Qube render management from PipelineFX; Apple Final Cut Pro and Avid editing; and on-set dailies and color management capabilities. It also has 20 terabytes of solid-state storage.

The computing technology within Silverdraft Mobileviz was developed by Srinidhi Varadarajan, who is director for the center of high-end computing systems and associate professor in the department of computer science at Virginia Tech University. In 2004, he received the MIT Technology Review Award.

According to Silverdraft, the first Mobileviz trailer offers 30 teraflops processing (plans for additional trailers include higher processing speeds).

In related news, Silverdraft has formed strategic partnerships with pre-visualization business the Third Floor; software developer Autodesk; VFX artist/director Alex Frisch; performance capture company Knight Vision; and Workflowers, a VFX and digital intermediate workflow consultancy.

Recent testing has included the use of proprietary technology from the Third Floor--whose previz credits include Avatar--and Knight Vision to find ways to make high-end motion capture techniques accessible by using the MobileViz trailer as a mobile control room.

"Filmmakers need the ability to direct the digital world in same way (and at the same time) as they are composing in the live action world," said Third Floor CEO Chris Edwards. "Filmmakers have not had the ability to do this simultaneously, outdoors and with a lightweight technology."