To ensure color consistency from dailies to DI for Skyfall, Company 3 London and EFILM collaborated to create an integrated pipeline, newly branded EC3. Skyfall cinematographer Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC was able to enjoy dailies graded by his long-time CO3 Santa Monica colorist working out of London, and the two facilities coordinated color science and calibration for an overall consistent look throughout the process.
As in any James Bond movie in the franchise, Skyfall takes its hero from one exotic locale to the next, from Shanghai to Istanbul. Likewise, in the post production arena, far-flung post facilities -- Company 3 London and EFILM in Hollywood, with some help from Company 3 Santa Monica -- joined forces to support the film's needs from dailies to DI. The collaborative location service, branded EC3, leveraged the technology and personnel of both post houses and ensured that Skyfall, the first digitally-shot film in the James Bond franchise, could rely on a complete, integrated post workflow, with calibrated color consistency from beginning to end.
According to Kevin Dillon, General Manager of EFILM and EVP, Deluxe Creative Services, this was not the first collaboration between EFILM and Company 3. "But Skyfall is one of the first we've collaborated on from dailies through DI," he says. This is the first show that we incorporated some of the tools we use on set in a collaborative workflow."
EFilm's General Manager | EVP Deluxe Creative Services, Kevin Dillon
Skyfall cinematographer Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC (True Grit) has a long-standing relationship with EFILM, where he has worked exclusively for a number of years, including on his first digitally shot feature In Time. "I always enjoy working with EFILM, not only for the quality of their work but for their enormous support," says Deakins. "They become a partner in the filmmaking process and work with us to make the film as best as possible."
At Company 3 in London, Head of Digital Intermediates Patrick Malone reports that Deakins wanted to work with Marc Lulkin, his dailies colorist from Company 3 in Santa Monica, who flew into London to work on the job. Meanwhile, CO3 London got busy building a suite to handle the work. "We needed to have a room that was at the disposal of the production during the shoot and it needed to be a room in which we could project dailies," says Malone. "We didn't have enough redundancy to allocate an existing room for nine months so we built a room specifically for the purpose. We already had the real estate, so it happened pretty quickly. In about three weeks, we gutted one of the rooms here, re-fit it and refabricated walls and carpet it to make a black room and then hung a projector and a screen and put the infrastructure in."
At the same time, CO3 London sent personnel to be trained at EFILM in the usage of the dailies system. "We sent a team of established dallies people who understood the requirements of deliverables," says Malone. "They did a week's training in Los Angeles to familiarize themselves with the kit, and found that it's a pretty simple, well designed and intuitive system to use. They adapted quickly to it."
"EFILM shipped over the Colorfront On Set Dailies system, Colorstream color correction toolset and the E-View calibrated dailies playback system," he continues. "We installed it all and we were off to the races. It happened pretty quickly." EFILM's Dillon notes the specifications of each part of the system are what guarantee a consistency in the workflow. "Colorstream is a calibrated system that takes the feed from the camera and allows you to apply LUTS that are developed before-hand and then be able to use the Colorstream metadata to send to the colorist so he knows the look Roger was trying to provide on set," he says. "E-View is calibrated to our system. Both EFILM and Company 3 London use the same LUTs and we're completely integrated from a color science approach."
Director Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig on the set of SKYFALL.
Part of what enables such a tight integration of calibrated color is the fact that, as film becomes more of a secondary delivery, Digital Cinema allows more standardization. "People are now color timing to Digital Cinema, and Digital Cinema has specific color characteristics," Dillon adds. "We have color scientists at both companies who meet on a regular basis. Now that were under one management, we make sure we're working in tandem."
Deakins shot Skyfall with the ARRI Alexa in the camera's ARRIRAW format. The ARRIRAW files were captured to Codex drives via T-link connection. Company 3 and EFILM had built customized LUTs, so that everyone in the post chain could view identical images regardless of differences in the color space and display technology used.
"The camera magazines from the set were delivered to us every evening by a production driver," says Malone. "We de-bayered the ARRIRAW files and transcoded the imagery to DPX files. We loaded the files onto the OSD system and Marc timed them. From those timed dailies we created a backup, an archive copy for later use in the DI, the Avid media for the offline and the E-View viewing packages for the director [Sam Mendes] and cinematographer."
Judi Dench (left) and Director Sam Mendes on the set of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions' action adventure SKYFALL. Photo by Francois Duhamel.
The CDL (Color Decision List) metadata remained intact, to be augmented or revised during the final DI, which was done under Deakins' supervision by colorists Mitch Paulson and Adam Glasman at Company 3 London.
The same dailies system was also brought to Turkey, enabling Deakins to enjoy the same dailies service while he shot there. "We had a mini-version of this in Turkey," says Malone. "We sent a couple of extra personnel who went out there with the kit and processed the dailies on set."
He emphasizes that the EC3 dailies system is built to travel. "The EC3 division could have been done on location anywhere," says Malone. "It's mobile, with the same equipment and technology that they are using in hotel rooms or on locations." He reports that the dailies system was subsequently used on Disney's Maleficent at Pinewood Studios. "We went in production on that hard on the heels of Bond," Malone says. "The whole system is very portable; we used it in a couple of rooms at Pinewood Studios."
Both CO3 London's Malone and EFILM's Dillon are enthused about the collaboration that resulted in EC3. "This has been a great collaboration," says Malone. "You have very good people here and in the States. It's a natural progression to combine the two and offer this dailies service under the EC3 umbrella. It's a completely bespoke service; we can be completely versatile and adaptable. Whatever you need, whatever camera or format you use and whatever you need at the end, we can accommodate it."
Dillon agrees. "Being able to offer that kind of flexibility is what we're really focused on," he says. "We've always offered location services, and we're expanding it to service our other companies - Deluxe NY and Company 3 NY, Company 3 London and Atlanta -- so we can now support shoots wherever they're happening."
"We're always looking forward to future plans but we're fully operational -- it's just a matter of scalability on how big we need to grow it," he continues. "Staying current with all the digital capture and streamlining dailies process and viewing process is important. The interesting thing is that part of the collaboration have now, we can provide creative requests regardless of the facility. We used to have to say, you have to go to EFILM. Now, the client can work with any artist at any facility."
Skyfall's use of EC3 was so successful that Malone says he told another interested filmmaker that the system functions seamlessly, without flaws. Deakins apparently agrees with that assessment. "All movies create challenges and this was no exception with Skyfall," says Deakins. "I was impressed that EFILM, with its British counterparts, was able to offer their usual support and exceptional service in the U.K."
Consolidation in the post production industry hasn't always given birth to happy collaborations and new capabilities. With the success of this collaboration between EFILM, CO3 London and CO3 Santa Monica, the Deluxe companies seem determined to mine the best from their individual facilities to create one-of-a-kind offerings. That's smart thinking in an era in which filmmakers expect ever more from digital technology.
First official shot released from SKYFALL of James Bond (DANIEL CRAIG) from a scene set in Shanghai.
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