HPA 2020 Tech Retreat, Part 3

On the second day of the Hollywood Professional Association Tech Retreat’s Supersession, several scenes were shot for a short film. It demonstrated several technologies now being used on set and in post-production. Last time, I wrote about in-camera effects, but there was a lot more. Maybe not as flashy but still important.

Digital dailies and extensive use of the cloud enabled access to footage by various artists. Interestingly, they ended up shooting about 1.5 TBs of footage for this 11-minute film. By the end of the project, that had grown to about 12 TBs of data.

With any discussion about using the cloud (or moving footage by any means), security is an issue. During the tech retreat, this was evident. One technology discussed was how to secure the media at the source. Rather than security methods that vary from facility to facility, data is encrypted at the beginning. Put it another way, the data protects itself.

Part of the data being protected is metadata. During the HPA Supersession shoot, lens data—including lens distortion and shading—was captured on set. During visual effects work, a shot’s lens information could be used to remove the distortion and shading prior to compositing, then later to reapply it to create a composite that matches the look and feel of non-composited shots.

ACES, the Academy Color Encoding System, was used as the way of managing color throughout the workflow. The open system uses input and output transforms to allow a standard interchange of footage throughout the post workflow. This approach eliminates the dozens of different formats typically coming from a variety of cameras and software.

Important to any management of color during workflow is monitor calibration. This was evident at HPA as the on-set monitors and projection were calibrated. Any talk of displays these days will, of course, bring up the topic of high dynamic range (HDR).

One side note that I picked up during a breakfast session was that some productions may not have an HDR display on set. Not only are they expensive, but some cinematographers might not want to look at them. Instead, those cinematographers’ experience at capture—both lighting and exposure—guides them to the results they want, HDR or SDR.

Getting the right results during finishing brought up another rather new technology and new position: motion grader. More about that next time.