In the microcosm world of ‘running a business with a RED camera’, some are happy to rent their camera while others see the future as the de-tangler of the workflow. There are some that do both including a company grandly calling themselves 4K London. They bought one of the first REDs in the UK and made a name for themselves demoing at the BBC and holding seminars for those who wanted to know more about the RED revolution. Their RED camera now presides at Panavision who package the camera up with those lovely Panavision lenses, grip equipment and accessories.
4K London are now concentrating on providing the means to make RED content, which could be providing DITs (Digital Image Technicians) for the shoot, FCP packages for the transfer of data to the edit, or editing services for the whole project, or indeed all of the above. Their camera rental through Panavision should look after itself. Also they feel that the RED rental business is perhaps now over subscribed and that post houses are way up the learning curve of how to deal with data. What’s missing is the bit in the middle, the handling of the data from the sensor possibly all the way to the grade.
Tormented came about through another member of 4K London, Director Jon Wright, their production and distribution partners include Slingshot Films, BBC Films, Forward Films, Screen West Midlands and the distributor Pathe. The film’s producers needed a certain amount of persuading to commit to using the RED camera and 4K London had to draw out workflow documents and spec the shoot and post route down to the smallest detail. But the momentum was with the RED and not the HDCAM route that was planned for. Demo footage was sought and found and once the producers could see what they may get the RED was green lit. The RED route was to cost a little bit more than the HDCAM route already decided on but the improvement in quality clinched the deal.
Tormented is part of the first rung of RED independent movies from the UK, others include Lesbian Vampire Killers and Splintered (HD Magazine Issue 31). All RED movies and all with lashings of gore, night shoots and tongue in cheek comedy. Technically Tormented broke the mould and decided to update their firmware one day before shooting to the famous Build 16 – officially the first non-beta release. Other films stuck with previous builds.
The workflow was to be based on Final Cut Pro which is now quite familiar with an export of 10-bit log DPX files as if they were film scans. Jon Wright: “We tested at Molinaire and The Look the optimum way to export those files. RED is 12 bit linear so you’re fitting a bigger colourspace in to a different colourspace. We’d shoot things with blown highlights and export them two or three different ways and we’d check how much highlight detail we were keeping, what keeps noise in the shadows to a minimum, that kind of thing.”
As this kind of data housekeeping becomes more commonplace with producers buying the benefits, the emphasis will move towards the skill set that carries it out. Cleverly 4K London are becoming a nursery ground for this new job description. 4K London feel that a DIT should be able to forewarn a DoP about potential sensor problems and other not so pressing errors, but the question is does the DoP want anymore diminishing of their art with someone else making decisions on set.
Even diehard film supporters are predicting that soon more and more editorial work will be on-set and even soon after a film wraps a DCI master could be ready for sending anywhere in the world via satellite, all possible from the desktop.
The fascinating thing about this non-tape, data based workflow is that it is evolving per project, Director Jon Wright with an example: “This was a low budget feature with some very pressurised situations where we had to cut some things out or amalgamate shots. Essentially we were shooting the edit and with that comes an element of risk.
“If we were in location for two days before I went to the set I would have a quick look at Matt’s assembly, he would have cut the previous days footage already. I would check if we were missing anything and sometimes realise that we needed a ‘get out of jail free’ shot which we could quickly do when I got to the set. So we kind of did our pick ups as we went along. So we shot the edit knowing that I could check the edit at the location.”
Ironically on-set compilations have other benefits especially on long shoots in not so great weather. Just when morale was dipping Jon dragged people in to the edit suite to show them a couple of compiled scenes. “Instantly crew members remembered why they wanted to be part of something like this.”
Tormented was released in the UK on May 22nd 2009.