Editors: Listen to cinematographers

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Before editors have to deal with codecs and files, TV and film camera teams have to capture scenes and footage. 

It is a good idea for editors to keep up with what they are thinking. Which cameras and codecs are preferred? For which jobs? What about on-set post services?

A good place to keep up to date is Geoff Boyle's Cinematography Mailing List site. Internet mailing lists have been around since before the web, but they still work well. You register your email address with the list, and if you or any member of the list send a message to the mailing list email address, everyone in the list gets a copy of the message.

Post is disarray right now

Recently, on-set equipment hire company Panavision bought workflow consultants Light Iron. Here's an example message from a CML mailing list discussion of the news:

Subject: Re: Panavision buys Light Iron
From: "Paul Sommers"
Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2014

I recently was made to do the full dog and pony and most of the major post houses to vet and build our pipeline from dailies to final. Right now it's a bit like the wild west. The on set to dailies solutions go from the full Ferrari solution, a DIT, loader and a Utility to maintain the gear and the pipeline. It involves an on set and cloud based dailies database and realtime color correction. This is Light Iron. Their system is really well thought out and has solutions to problems that I never knew I had. They want to offer solutions that run from set to final. My problem is that it requires too much care and feeding for the day to day hurly burly of multiple locations and no internet connection that I was afraid of the complexity. And who has the budget for a full time DIT in television?

Mike ran me through the multiple solutions at Technicolor, again well thought out and adaptable to different scales of production. One was very DIT-centric, one allowed all the LUT building to happen behind the curtain with the loader. I didn't go this way because I didn't feel like I had the time to learn the system. That's a shame, I do most of my final color sessions at Tech with Scott Klein. The appeal of one vendor handling the color science from shoot to post definitely has appeal.

Keep Me Posted has a good setup that is similar to Technicolor's

We ended up going with Bling. Mainly because I've been using them for the last three years and I didn't have to contend with a learning curve.

I was very involved every step of the way, but really it came down to price

Light Iron was by far the most expensive. I doubt they are going to compete on price. They are going to compete on service, just like Panavision. It's a good match.

Bling is owned by Sim Digital and you get a discount if you bundle camera and post, and it's substantial. They compete on price.

The trick as always is to find vendors who can provide good service at a reasonable cost so that we get what we need on set.

If Panavision and Light Iron offer this sort of bundling and both become cheaper and more fluid this helps everyone. If it pushes the market and we get better answers for better prices we look better to producers and maybe they will let us get on with the fun part, telling stories with images.

Post is disarray right now with the push to deliver in 4k (Amazon, Netflix, HBO). Even though we have been talking about 4k for years, and now it seems like it's really here for those of us who toil in TV. I hear a lot of different answers from a lot of different people about this. Technicolor and Light Iron seemed to have the best answers, and they were singing the same song. It's tough for post to suddenly make this 4k jump on the schedules we work with. A degree of integration might help soften the blow. It feels like when the HD storm hit, and everyone was scrambling.

I'm also wondering if Light Iron's experience with dealing with large amounts of data and pipeline management might help Panavision. The rumor mill is pretty thick with speculation about when/What/why it's taken so long to put this system out. Maybe Light Iron is helping with the new camera as well? Pure speculation, but the data rates and sheer size of the files the rumored camera puts out and release upon must be massive.
 
Paul M. Sommers
Cinematographer

Many of the mailing lists at CML are high-traffic: many messages per day. To prevent email from these lists interrupting personal email you get, you could set up an email rule the sends all messages from a CML list to a specific folder. Many list members view messages in 'Digest' mode: A compilation of all messages is sent once a day (At CML, click a list you are subscribed to, then go to 'My Account' and choose 'Digest' from the 'Membership type' pop-up menu).

There are many lists at CML:

List of Cinematography mailing lists

The 'Post production issues affecting the cinematographer' list is relatively quiet. For editors interested in crew discussions on complex workflows should subscribe to the 'RAW-Log-HDR' list (where Paul's sample post came from).

As well as being able to sign up at CML to read new discussions, there are some useful summaries of previous discussions.