4K Isn’t the Problem

August 21, 2014 Tags: , ,
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Sam here… Came across this article and I think it’s a symptom of a larger problem:

Basically, the long and short is that the DP is worried that higher resolutions and the ability to make alterations to images further down the line in post is going to take control away from DP’s over their images.

On the one hand, I can totally understand where he’s coming from, and he’s totally right. I’ve seen quite a few projects butchered in color correction, and I imagine it must be very difficult to go out and put your heart and soul into shooting/lighting something only to have it completely reworked in a way that’s entirely not what was imagined… and then be credited as if that was how you wanted it. That sucks.

However, this is not the fault of the resolution, RAW, or improvements in technology. The fault lies with the way that departments work together, and it’s my biggest pet peeve in the entire industry.

No one talks to each other.

Departments don’t talk about workflow before the shoot starts. Production rarely asks what post wants. Post rarely checks in with the DP or sound department after the shoot is over. VFX lives on its own island and is expected to push the “make it better” button on whatever production hands them. Everyone is just trying to get through the day, and get through the gig.

There’s no process and no blueprint. There’s no workflow.

Actually… that’s not even really true. There’s too many workflows, and every department/individual has their own specific way they think things should be done/delivered to them. Rarely do these different workflows sync up across departments. Even rarer than that does one department ask the other department how they want to do things before the production starts. Usually there’s a list of delivery requirements on how a vendor wants things that is discovered after the critical production decisions have been made.

A few examples that illustrate this:

– An anamorphic lens is chosen because Production likes the widescreen look. Post is never consulted. However, no one in post knows how to transcode/desqueeze the anamorphic footage correctly. Footage is processed slightly warped and then edited this way. Conform becomes a nightmare. Also, turns out the distributor needs a full frame 1080 master (no bars on it), however the movie wasn’t framed in many cases to live in a 16:9 master. Massive pan and scan work needs to be done. Post budgets go up.

LUT’s are created for each shot but no discussion has been had over how these will be applied to the RAW footage when it’s time to do the conform. No one bothered to run this workflow past the editor or colorist who have no how any of this was handled, and the production had a falling out with the DIT who made all of the looks. In the end, LUTs are applied incorrectly or not at all and no one has any idea what LUT goes with what shot or how to sync all of these LUTs up in a way that isn’t ridiculously time consuming. Post budgets go up.

– RED footage will be transcoded down to prores at a random resolution with letterboxing added on to the prores. No one in post has any idea how to correctly get back to the original R3D’s with proper transforms from the edit applied to the RAW footage. Post budgets go up.

– No one asks the VFX department how they want their greenscreen shots done. Tracking marks are not used and yet the camera is moving during the shot. Posts budgets go up.

– VFX works in RED Color3 and delivers DPX plates. The colorist is using REDlogfilm and grading everything from the RAW. Things don’t match shot to shot. Post budgets go up.

– Editors need to deliver their picture to a Sound house. They’ve never delivered to this sound house before, and the Producer picked them because they had the cheapest bid. Lots of ADR work is expected. Post budgets are about to go up.

Anyway, you take things like the above and then throw in the fact that, in most cases, especially on smaller commercial jobs, most of the people involved are working with each other for the first time. Chemistry and trust are non-existent. Bids have gone out to the lowest bidder and not to the most qualified teams. CYA (Cover-Your-A$$) attitude becomes prevalent. Fingers become ready to be pointed. Accountability becomes nonexistent. People get angry. People get fired.

Someday, I want to live in a world where the DP knows the editor and both of them know the colorist. They’ve all worked with the director before. Also, before they’ve shot, each of these people sat down in a meeting with the VFX and sound departments and talked through how the imaging pipeline was going to go from set to edit to VFX to sound to color to mastering. Then, someone would come up with a diagram based on what cameras were being used, how sound was being recorded, what resolution needed to be delivered, and in what color space(s). Then, they’d also write down how metadata would be managed, VFX would be roundtripped, sound would be turned over for the mix, video would be conformed for color, and how, in general, the project would be set up and delivered to the distributor based on pre-agreed upon sound, color, and mastering specs. The departments would then take this diagram home, decide what needed to be changed based on their needs, and then come back and finalize their process, compromising where necessary for the greater good of the project.

This would all be done before a single frame of footage was shot.

A man can dream.

Anyway, until people start working this way and figuring out their process ahead of time, people will continue to write blogs like the one I linked to above and blame things like resolution and RAW for why their footage doesn’t look right in the end.

Departments need to communicate about workflow more. That’s not technology’s fault.


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