We’ve been hearing about how digital acquisition and workflow would be overtaking film as the predominant production workflow for several years. Postproduction made the leap to digital a few years ago with the popularity of the DI (digital intermediate) process, but the past few years have finally seen the production side of the business following suit. As typically happens in production technology, the shift to digital acquisition occurred in fits and starts with little industrywide acceptance of common workflow standards. I’ve noticed that over the past three or four years, there has been little mindshare in the industry when it comes to cameras, capture media, codecs and, most significantly, workflows. Film and television production have been seemingly evolving to digital from film, but in a crazy patchwork quilt of different and incompatible solutions for acquisition, DI and postproduction.
Fast-forward to 2012. In reviewing credits for recent features, television series and high-end commercials, though, one name keeps appearing with unwavering regularity: Codex Digital. The credits speak for themselves—Codex recorders, in conjunction with ARRI ALEXA cameras, have been used on around 100 feature films in the last year, including Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Avengers, R.I.P.D., Gravity, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Trance. Films currently in production include Skyfall, The Lone Ranger, The Seventh Son and Hummingbird. Codex also has made inroads in television, with implementation on HBO’s Game of Thrones and the BBC’s Grandpa in My Pocket, as well as the FOX series Bones.
In the feature film world, ARRI has been a strong partner with Codex in providing the workflow systems that have captured many of the past few years’ highest-grossing feature films. Cinematographer David Eggby, ACS, recently utilized the Codex workflow to shoot the long-anticipated feature-film sequel to The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black, tentatively titled Riddick. "Being able to record up to 46 minutes at 23.98 fps on a single 512 GB datapack was a major plus," notes Eggby, "especially as we were using a Technocrane every day. We didn’t have to stress about running out of space."
Attesting to the ruggedness of the system, Eggby adds, "The recorders held up well under unusual shooting conditions, including sand and rainstorms. We encountered zero events in either situation, even with recorders that were on the Technocrane, underwater, banged up and subject to very little ventilation over long stretches of time. They never failed, never shut off and never lost data. The Codex recorders performed without a glitch. They were dirty, but that was it."
For capture, Codex offers three different recorders. The Onboard S Recorder records uncompressed HD or wavelet-encoded HD material, plus audio and metadata. The Onboard M Recorder can record ARRIRAW, uncompressed HD or wavelet-encoded HD or Canon 4K RAW, plus audio and metadata. The ARRIRAW recorder was codeveloped with ARRI to specifically record ARRIRAW from the ARRI ALEXA or ARRIFLEX D-21.
For the transfer of files, the Codex Transfer Station M for Mac OS X can be configured to manage your dailies and archiving workflow automatically by producing everything you need for editorial, archiving, visual effects and viewing, whether the material was captured with a Codex Datapack or a Codex Capture Drive. The Codex Digital Lab is a powerful, stand-alone platform for archiving digital camera originals and creating dailies. It’s the hub of a file-based workflow, using the Codex Virtual File System to create a variety of industry-standard deliverables such as ARI, DPX, Avid DNxHD and Apple ProRes files, with or without lookup tables and burn-ins. The datapacks can be archived to two LTO-5 tape drives.