Going The Distance

Executive producer Mike Young hangs up the phone in the production office and walks 20 feet to the soundstage door. As I follow Young through the doorway, a large greenscreen stage unfolds before us. The crew readies the next setup. Actors dressed in superhero costumes have their makeup touched up between takes. Two RED ONE cameras flank the stage, their outputs fed to multiple LED monitors distributed throughout the set.

We’re on the set of a new television series called Super Sportlets. Aimed at kids between the ages of five and nine, the project is a coproduction between Paris-based animation specialists Moonscoop, Holland’s Kids Workout Factory and Ireland’s Telegael. Super Sportlets is a live-action series shot primarily on greenscreen, with elaborate CGI backgrounds and special effects. The show features four college-aged aliens whose mission on Earth is to stop a bad guy from stealing energy from a group of kids and turning them into inactive couch potatoes.

When asked about the overall concept of the show, Young replies, “We call this ‘live-mation’ because it stars live-action characters, but with an animated feel. The series introduces kids to sports and physical activities in a very superhero and comedic sort of way, hopefully without smashing it over people’s heads.”

As for the postproduction workflow for the show, says Young, “We’re using a studio in India and another in China for all of the virtual sets and compositing.”

Super Sportlets is a truly international production shooting on RED ONE cameras at 4K. So how does the show share, collaborate and move all of this media around the world?

The new series Super Sportlets is a truly international project shot on green stages in China and India and then sent to Los Angeles to be edited.

Eric Kirby, Director of Technology and Visual Effects Supervisor for Moonscoop’s Los Angeles office, explains the post workflow for the show. “As an animation studio, we’ve been partnering with overseas studios for the last couple of decades,” he says. “We work from a locked cut, generated on our Avid Media Composers here in Los Angeles. We send a locked sequence, along with our direction for backgrounds, visual effects and set design, to the studios in Asia. At the same time, the studio in Ireland is working on the sound design, music and, at the end of the postproduction schedule, they also perform the color correction and online.”

How is all of this data and postproduction work transported and shared between their post houses that are located all over the world? “Generally, we’re shipping hard drives,” he answers. “FTP is good in a pinch for certain shots. But we’re shipping drives on this project because of cost efficiency.”

There are as many different workflow needs as there are people producing content. Some projects need a method for transporting dailies and raw footage to editorial in another location. Other productions need an efficient way of screening cuts with a director or producer who still may be shooting in a remote location while editorial speeds to make a deadline. Some projects require collaboration between editorial, graphics or visual effects, sound, scoring or other departments simultaneously. From the high end to the most basic, let’s look at some of the most exciting solutions for a global collaborative workflow.