For motion-picture production, film has been the dominant format for the past 100 years. Although technology has modified the film workflow—especially with the emergence of faster computers, cheaper storage, film scanning, the digital intermediate, etc.—the workflow has generally remained the same. On-set digital workflow has been around for a number of years, but with the explosion of file-based digital cameras and, more importantly, the demise of film, it has grown exponentially with a number of large postproduction companies reinventing their businesses while moving their services directly to the set. The line between production and post has become even more transparent, and like the production industry, the post industry has been turned upside down. In a near David vs. Goliath competition, two companies that are leading the charge for on-set digital workflow are Deluxe and Light Iron.
THE DELUXE TREATMENT
Founded in 1919 by William Fox, who also launched the Fox Film Corp., Deluxe is one of the powerhouses of the post industry. No longer just a film lab, over the years Deluxe has transitioned itself into a digital entertainment company by acquiring digital postproduction companies such as EFILM, Company 3, Encore and others. One company that has been garnering a lot of attention underneath the Deluxe banner is EC3, which provides on-set location services to EFILM and Company 3 clients by creating custom-configured hardware and software, in addition to sending out its own field technicians to help meet the needs of a production. Some recent shows EC3 has worked on include This Is 40, The Five-Year Engagement, The Lone Ranger, Pain & Gain and many more.
"The idea is, what used to take a million dollars and a facility to do is now smaller, lighter and more portable now that we don't need to go to a film lab and use telecine machines," explains Company 3's Director of Non-Linear Workflow Dylan Carter. "We're able to build up a cart, or multiple carts, and go on set with trained people who are able to help out the production, making sure that their data is not only safe, but what they captured they meant to capture and that it all looks good."
With new digital cameras and formats being implemented and productions shooting in multiple locations per day, today's modern workflow has become very complicated. One of EC3's strongest suits is the ability to adapt to any situation. According to Carter, there's almost nothing that can't be mobile these days. Depending on location and environment, EC3 custom-tailors the workflow for each job, with content security and overall efficiency being the key factors to consider. On most jobs, that means Raided disks on set and a copy of the content going back to one of EFILM's or Company 3's brick-and-mortar buildings for safekeeping and LTO creation.
Instead of transporting drives from the set to a Deluxe post facility, EC3 will often have its colorists travel to the location and set them up in a custom-configured temporary color-grading environment. For example, on The Avengers, EFILM and EC3 were able to set up a color facility in empty office spaces on the same lot as they were filming, in New Mexico.