Posts Tagged ‘digital intermediate’

The Hiero we deserve, not the Hiero we need…

The Foundry’s Hiero launched last month, after a public beta period. Described as “a pipeline in a box”, perhaps the best way to think about is a bells & whistles conforming system.

Here are some of the things it can do:

  • Conform media
  • Transcode or rename media
  • Track versions (to some extent)
  • Generate NUKE scripts

It’s fully extensible through python, so in theory a lot of features can be customised to specific workflows. Quite frankly, I would have killed for this on almost every production I’ve worked on. It would have made a lot of data management chores a breeze. There are a few notably absent features, such as the lack of scene detection, and the extremely limited notation functionality, but that will happen in time no doubt.

The Foundry view Hiero as a kind of post-production hub, managing shots coming in, and shots going out. A client can view the latest overall version of a show, before going into a grading room. On one hand this is a necessary step: colour grading is less often about colour and more about asset management and versioning. This fulfils a crucial need: to have a stage that exclusively deals with editorial issues prior to grading.  So with Hiero, the production team goes over to the Hiero system, reviews visual effect versions, checks editorial issues, delegates more work and so on. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that in the real world.

For starters, who’s responsible for maintaining this hub? In general, the production team would lack the expertise required to manage the process, and in any case, from their perspective, they are paying everyone else to ensure the various pieces fit together. At the launch event, there were talks by people who’d been using it at visual effects houses The Mill and Framestore. But even these are edge cases: it would be extremely unlikely to have a single facility responsible for doing the bulk of the post work on a major film. On a typical film, The Mill might be handing off a bunch of effects to a DI facility elsewhere, and not really care how it fits in with elements from other sources (let alone that the production might not want the Mill having such a level of control over the film). Likewise, the DI facility will expect to just conform everything in the grading suite, as they always do. There wouldn’t be much benefit to adding another link in the chain.

So it could fall to a third party, who would coordinate everything, but then who is going to pay for such a service? I agree with the principle of Hiero, and I’d argue that someone should be paying for such a service. But if there’s one thing we know about post, it’s that people hate having to change their workflows.

So where does that leave us? Currently Hiero is around $5,000 for a node-locked license, and that prohibits it from being considered a utility a freelancer could invest in, or that a facility would pay for “just in case”. I hope that the Foundry can crack this problem, because it can arguably make post easier for all of us.

The Foundry offer a 15-day trial of Hiero, as with all their products.

A problem of numbers…

Anyone working with digital intermediates will undoubtedly have experienced this situation.

You start off with a frame sequence, let’s say 090000.dpx through 180000.dpx. However, there are gaps in the sequence (maybe because these frames were captured using an EDL, or maybe they’ve been selectively exported from a more complete timeline). You process them in some processing application, but now you have something more like 0000.dpx through 7864.dpx.

Often it doesn’t matter how the modified files are named, such as if you are going to edit them into a timeline by eye, but sometimes you just really need the names to match and so you have to waste lots of time massaging all the filenames until they are just right.

I found myself in just that situation recently. We’d exported a bunch of frames from a timeline that needed some last-minute dust-busting. The quickest, most available option was to run through them all in After Effects. Great but then the problem was getting them back in. I imported the renders as a single, new reel, and then proceeded to cut and splice them back into the timeline shot by shot. That took around 2 hours. But we had time.

The next time we were in the same situation, I decided I would make like easy for myself. I essentially had a list of filenames I needed to use (from the original exported folder), so surely there had to be an easy way to automate renaming them. Well there wasn’t, so I made one.

One of the things that I’ve come to love about working with OS X is AppleScript. The process of writing some AppleScript, testing and running it can be done (in this case) much more quickly than just doing everything manually. Granted, there’s a learning curve, but the other good thing is that even if you can’t program AppleScript yourself, you can benefit from someone else’s.

With that in mind, I’ve released the AppleScript I made on Google Code. If you find it useful, let me know.


Posted: November 15th, 2010
Categories: Tools
Tags: , , , , , ,
Comments: No comments

Introducing Synaesthesia…

Synaesthesia is the new software product by Surreal Road. It’s been in development for around four years now, and is almost at a point where it is production-ready.

But what is it?

Having worked on all sorts of film and TV productions in different capacities (of greatly varying budgets), it often amazed me how “disconnected” every role seems. This is especially true in areas like post-production, where people employed to enhance or otherwise change particular shots would do so without any knowledge of the history of that shot. It might be possible to find out the camera and lighting setup used for a particular shot in some cases, but what about the intent behind that setup? What was the cinematographer aiming for, and how can I better enhance that, as opposed to the more usual practices of (at best) attempting to reverse-engineer a shot in order to understand it, or (at worst) changing things in a more haphazard manner until something looks good.

This was a problem I’ve encountered on almost every production, and in part it’s unavoidable. The reality is that just as the writers are often left outside the gates of production, so too are the production crew long-gone when it comes to post. This also becomes a practical and logistical problem. Where is a particular reel of film? What was the time and date of a particular shot? On a very organised production, it is likely that the editor would be armed with most of this information, but in all other cases, there is simply no one around to ask.

I look at software created for the visual effects industry, and it is staggering: the functionality and capabilities of VFX software is advanced to the point where it’s possible to use these tools to quickly create shots that are indistinguishable from reality. But when it comes to the actual production process, we’re in a technological drought. Even popular writing software, such as Final Draft, is only slightly more useable than TextEdit, even with years of industry experience and development put into it. What was I supposed to use in my capacity as data manager on various things to stay on top of everything? Excel?

The solution of course, is that (those computer-savvy enough) people tend to cobble together some sort of database (usually in the ubiquitous FileMaker Pro) which serves the immediate needs of the production. Much of the time this works out rather well, the production ends up with a bespoke system that covers most of the bases, something “good enough”. But what about those people who haven’t the time or the resources to create something from scratch, or those people who just want to hit the ground running? Well, you are who Synaesthesia was designed for.

At its core, Synaesthesia is about keeping track of things about a production, from start to finish. Here’s a typical scenario:

  1. You have a production. You add notes, storyboards, descriptions of characters, of sets, all to get a sense of what it’s about.
  2. At some point you have a screenplay. You import that and it links all the scenes with sets and characters you’ve previously created, and adds anything that’s missing.
  3. You refine the script, importing new versions as you go along, further fleshing out what you want to shoot and so on.
  4. You create a database of people and equipment  you’re going to need, and assign them to different parts of the production.
  5. You start shooting. You log what’s shot as it happens, along with notes, things like whether the take was good or not, what was recorded and making last-minute script updates.
  6. You import data directly from digital footage (such as RED camera footage), in order to accurately log timecodes, and shooting parameters.
  7. You start editing, having access to all your previous notes for each clip of footage that was shot. You can import sequences from an editing system and have Synaesthesia tell you which shot is used where. You can make changes to the edit from within Synaesthesia, and save those back to your editing system.
  8. You can designate certain shots as needing effects work, and update those shots as new effects versions are completed.
  9. Finally you can archive all the reels of footage, noting their locations, in case they’re ever needed again.

That’s quite a broad overview, and it assumes you’re going to use Synaesthesia from start to finish. But perhaps the best part of it is that you don’t have to. Maybe you’re only concerned with pre-production, and just want a place to keep storyboards, concept art, and screenplay versions organised? Maybe you just want to log continuity during a shoot? Or maybe you just want to tweak a couple of edits? Well then, Synaesthesia can help you.

It’s probably also helpful to mention what Synaesthesia (at least, in its current form) isn’t for:

  • It’s not for budgeting or scheduling
  • It’s not a replacement for software such as Final Draft
  • It’s not a replacement for systems such as Final Cut Studio
  • It’s not a server-based system, (it’s not possible for multiple people to make changes to the data at the same time).

A more detailed list of features is available  here. As I’ve said, Synaesthesia isn’t quite finished yet. It’s capabilities are still being worked out. But there are several key principles that we’ll always try to adhere to:

  • It will be simple to use
  • It will integrate with software you already use
  • It will give you the information you need

But more than anything else, I want it to be for whatever you (the user) need. With that in mind, we will be inviting people to try out pre-release versions in order to tell us what you like, what you don’t, and what’s missing. You can sign up for an invitation here.

Fix It In Post available for pre-order…

Fix It In Post coverMy latest book, “Fix It In Post” is available for pre-order now on Amazon.

Thanks to everyone who let me pick their brains over the course of the last few months.

The blurb:

“Finally!  A well-written software agnostic guide to fixing common problems in post ranging from shaky camera to film look!”

—Jerry Hofmann, Apple Certified Trainer; FCP Forum Leader, Creative Cow; Owner, JLH Productions

Fix It In Post provides an array of concise solutions to the wide variety of problems encountered in the post process. With an application-agnostic approach, it gives proven, step-by-step methods to solving the most frequent postproduction problems. Also included is access to a free companion website, featuring application-specific resolutions to the problems presented, with fixes for working in Apple’s Final Cut Studio suite, Avid’s Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, as well as other applications.

Solutions are provided for common audio, video, digital, editorial, color, timing and compositing problems, such as, but not limited to:
* automated dialogue recording, adjusting sync, and creating surround sound
* turning SD into HD (and vice-versa) and restoration of damaged film and video
* removing duplicate frames, reducing noise, and anti-aliasing
* maintaining continuity, creating customized transitions, and troubleshooting timecodes
* removing vignettes, color casts, and lens flare
* speeding shots up, slowing shots down, and getting great-looking timelapse shots
* turning day into night, replacing skies and logos and changing camera motion

Fix It in Post: Solutions for Postproduction Problems

Red Seminar Slides…

Some people have requested a copy of the slides used for the Red camera post workflow I was involved in, so I’ve made a PDF version available for download.

Get it here…

Posted: December 23rd, 2008
Categories: News
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No comments