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4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

COW Library : Cinematography : Debra Kaufman : 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
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CreativeCOW presents 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo -- Cinematography Feature


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©2011 CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


Re-teaming with director David Fincher after their successful collaboration on The Social Network, Michael Cioni and the team at Light Iron built 5K workflows for real time, full resolution post for Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The running time of the 4K print is 2:38, creating a data size larger than six 2K features combined. Cioni and Light Iron co-founder Ian Vertovec spoke to Creative COW's Debra Kaufman about how working that way in real time is even possible, working with David Fincher, and what frame sizes larger than 4K mean for all of us.



Re-teaming with director David Fincher after their successful collaboration on The Social Network, Michael Cioni and the team at Light Iron built 5K workflows for real time, full resolution post for Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The running time of the 4K print is 2:38, with a data size larger than six 2K features combined!

Michael Cioni, CEO of Light Iron, is a champion of 4K data-based workflows. Prior to starting Light Iron, he co-founded and built PlasterCITY Digital Post, a desktop-based post production facility in 2003. Michael has served as a Digital Intermediate supervisor on hundreds of feature films, and provided 2D and 3D data-centric post services and support for many film and TV projects.

As a founding member and instructor at REDucation, RED Digital Cinema's training program, Michael is a strong proponent of empowering clients through education. He sits on the Board of Directors of the Hollywood Post Alliance and Filmmakers Alliance and was an adjunct faculty member at USC's Annenberg School of Journalism.

Ian Vertovec, co-founder of Light Iron, is a supervising colorist. In addition to many music video and commercial credits, Ian has also been colorist on numerous feature films including The Social Network, Goats, and Street Kings 2.

Cioni and Vertovec spoke to Creative COW's Debra Kaufman about what it takes to work with full-res files larger than 4K in real time -- on multiple workstations no less - working with David Fincher, and what frame sizes larger than 4K mean for all of us.


Michael Cioni, CEO of Light Iron
Michael Cioni, CEO of Light Iron
MICHAEL CIONI:
To describe what Light Iron did on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I think the best place to start is to talk about our new facility in Hollywood. When we mastered The Social Network last year, we didn't have a facility, so we worked at RED Studios.

When planning the layout of our new facility, we wanted to build it so that individuals like David Fincher would feel creatively and technically comfortable. Looking towards the technological future as David does, and embracing the demands he places on facilities, we had to get down to the tiniest details to build this facility to be the highest fidelity. We wanted to build a future-proof facility with, for example, a network capable of moving multiple gigabytes of data per second, 4K projection and non-perf projection screens, which look a lot better than the more typical perforated screens.

Most importantly, our facility offers a fully viable 4K pipeline and the ability to master in 4K and beyond. Dragon Tattoo was shot on location in Sweden over 167 days, using the RED Epic MX and Epic, which shot 4.5K and 5K resolutions respectively. The shoot produced 483 hours of footage; they printed 443 hours of footage, which translates to over 1.9 million feet of film in 3-perf. This is among the largest 4K movies ever delivered, if not the largest. At 2 hours and 38 minutes, it consists of almost a quarter of a million frames at 45 megabytes each.

The post team that worked together on Fincher's The Social Network reunited on this picture: editors Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, assistant editor Tyler Nelson and colorist Ian Vertovec.

Ian Vertovec, co-founder of Light Iron
Ian Vertovec
Co-founder of Light Iron
IAN VERTOVEC: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the type of film we built the facility for. It's a purely data-centric movie with a very progressive workflow. A lot of people who design 4K equipment benchmark it at 4096; once it gets larger -- Dragon Tattoo was done at 4352x2176 -- things tend to slow down. This is why we initially designed Light Iron for a larger-than-4K pipeline.

The facility was also designed to be totally data-centric. We're working very traditionally in the DI theatre with the colorist and the cinematographer and director, all looking at the output of our 2K Christie DLP projector. We did all the color correction off that 2K Christie and then viewed the DCP on a 4K Barco, which is in the same projection booth.

CIONI: A common question I hear is, are we a 2K or 4K industry? Most people say we're 2K but we're going towards 4K. That is to say, the technology is in transition. To do a 4K movie now we temporarily need both projectors. The 4K technology hasn't matured enough to use it exclusively.

VERTOVEC: There are subtle differences between how each projector projects the images, like the subtle differences between Plasma and LCD displays. Even when the content has been captured at 2K resolution, it looks sharper in the 4K projection. We find the Christie 2K projector still has the deepest blacks and the best contrast. I haven't seen any digital projection that can beat the Christie 2K projector in that category.

But the 4K projector is the only way we can look at every pixel. We also want to know if there is some noisy shot if we're pushing the limits of the exposure how it'll look at 4K. It's diversifying how we view the material and better informing us overall.

CIONI: It's also becoming very popular for audiences to see 4K projectors even though they're not seeing 4K content. Sony has sold 17,000 4K projectors, and several theatre chains have stated their intent to switch to these projectors. 2K content looks better on the 4K projector because the distance between pixels is reduced, so the perception of higher resolution goes up because there's less negative space. Dragon Tattoo was shot one-third with the RED Epic and the rest with the RED MX; these are essentially extremely low signal-to-noise-ratio cameras, very quiet, so they scale really well. So, although Dragon Tattoo will be released in 4K, it's worth noting that 4K sourced projects that master in 2K scale up well to 4K.

We're also doing tests for another film we're starting soon which was shot 3K RAW with the ARRI Alexa. We did the blow-ups to 4K for a 4K DCP output and it looks amazing. New content can handle the blow-up better because today's cameras start at greater pixel counts and are much quieter now.

VERTOVEC: David Fincher is a very post production-conscious director so he has a very strong post production team that manages the dailies all internally. Because they're so post conscious, they don't rely on us for front-end services. They only relied on us for color correction and finishing.

I think one of the most powerful techniques done was an intentional center extraction from the RED footage. The actual frame was probably 75 to 80 percent cut out of the center of the whole image they captured. We color corrected the full 4.5K plate, but only 3600x1500 made up the actual frame. We have almost 1,000 pixels horizontally to do repositions, stabilizations and blow-ups. David was able to come into the DI suite, look at a shot and then say, "...zoom in a little bit" or "pan left" without any resolution penalty.



This is the image extraction chart that Michael and Ian used to show how they did a center extraction from the RED file. Click on image above for larger view.


CIONI: This is a good way for people to think about shooting with high resolution data. With tape it was typical to shoot the full aperture or almost the full aperture and go to post from there. With high resolution cameras, people capture the full resolution. From David Fincher's point of view, he had enough resolution to spare and used that as a creative tool to adjust the framing with more precision in post rather than when it was shot.

I think there'll be a trend that people want to follow in that you shoot high resolution full aperture, but only intend to use 75 or 80 percent for finishing. Some people think that makes sense for 3D, to compensate for convergence. But David is saying why doesn't that make sense for 2D as well? There was no resolution penalty and we didn't scale down as much as you normally would, so you won't feel like the film is blown up.

VERTOVEC: There is also another benefit. Editorial did a large number of split screens; Angus and Kirk pick the takes they want for the best performance and Tyler builds a split screen. Sometimes there would be three- or four-way splits. One of the reasons you need that center extraction is to match all the plates together.

The bird's eye view of the workflow is that I talked to Tyler and we planned to use what they shot on set, unless we need to go back and re-bake it at different ISO settings. We get full reels at this 4.5 K resolution from Tyler, and sub-clip it out into shorter DPX sequences so what the conform in our Quantel Pablo refers to the original camera source time code.

There really are no more standards in terms of frame rates or frame sizes. For the longest time, the DI was only 2040x1586 and people designed tools specifically for that, but with data you can have any frame size and any frame rate. I think our non-standard resolution/extraction combination is the wave of the future. Post people and manufacturers have to be thinking in those terms.






Please click on individual images above for larger view.
CIONI: All those split screens created an issue, however, that we had to deal with. The connection to the original information for each shot gets lost because, when you do all those split screens and then conform and render it out, they don't have original file names. What's the timecode of a shot if it comes from 4 different takes? That level of metadata all goes away.

To solve this problem, Light Iron's Stevo Brock built an in-house custom app we call Sub-Clipper that allows the Pablo to treat the 4K DPX files as "camera original" footage. Because of the amount of visual effects, Red RAW files cannot be used in the DI. However, the cut may change well after VFX are already processed. With Sub-Clipper, all editing changes and VFX shots can smoothly ripple through to the composited 4K DPX files on the Pablo, even though the offline editorial list refers to an R3D source. It allows the final conform to automatically be in perfect sync with editorial, up to and including the latest revision.

Without Sub-Clipper, it's like having a picture of North America but not knowing where all the state lines are. With Sub Clipper, we see where all the edits are and the names of the visual effects. Now when we load it into Pablo, it looks like the original files. We see it organized as if in an offline.

VERTOVEC: It's analogous to a standard tape-to-tape correction suite where you have the timecode of the long-play tape but not the source code or original footage. Sub Clipper reverts the whole DI to a simpler form of itself.

If you do a standard DI, the conform system looks for the camera rolls and loads the shots in. The problem is that we're destroying the relationship of the clips to the original camera reels. If you move the shot, you're changing its position in the reel and negating any relationship it originally had in the sequence.

Sub-Clipper re-establishes that, so we can leapfrog the metadata over the assistant editors. We can now spit out all those frames into smaller sequences and then re-stripe the timecode of every single one of those sequences. So we have actual VFX shot names and the actual timecode of the original camera timecode. The advantage is if there were a re-conform or editorial changes - which there always are -- we reload the new edit and it'll just move the shot to the new place in the timeline. With the long play timecode, color correcting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in such high resolution was a big deal. Being at 4.5K is about five times the file size of 2K and five times the processing power needed to calculate the color correction. Even if we had tripled our infrastructure and tripled our throughput, it would still be twice as slow as a regular 2K DI.

We're working at full resolution in the Pablo at all times. The way I work with David, which we did before and was very successful, is that he'll come in and set key frames with me. So we won't work through the entire scene. He'll show me the shots, we work on them together, and then he'll ask me to match the whole scene to one shot.

This method saves David's time and allows me to finish a reel unsupervised. Then when he comes in to review the reel that I've worked on, I'll record our thoughts on a Flip camera and use this as my director's commentary. That gives me a day or two's worth of notes to address without monopolizing David's time.

CIONI: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is 9 reels long, which is long for a movie. The fact that it's 4K means the files are 45 megabytes per frame. If you think about that, the original source files from the RED camera are about 40 megabytes per second. So this is more than 25 times larger than the original source file, plus it's 4K, plus it's nine reels long. The data footprint of this DI, when you add it all together, is the equivalent of about six 2K 120-minute movies.

It's really important to understand that when you're engaging in 4K at this level, the data footprint is huge. It's not twice or even quadruple 2K. On a linear scale, it's five times the render, transfer, drives, waiting…there are so many levels that that can bite you. There were areas where it nearly did bite us - and areas where we were totally prepared.


Rooney Mara stars in Columbia Pictures' THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO also starring Daniel Craig. Photo by Giles Keyte. (c)2011 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.
Rooney Mara.


VERTOVEC: We had a traditional structure with an assist station loading files and out-loading files and doing conform operations while I was coloring in another room. Monique Eissing was responsible for loading and prepping all the material, utilizing the Sub-Clipper application to carry over color corrections to newly revised VFX or stabilized sequences.

One pleasant surprise was how well Pablo with Gene Pool, Quantel's shared storage solution, worked. Gene Pool allows our two Pablos sharing the same media to have 4K or greater playback at all times. We never reviewed anything at less than 24 fps. Most systems struggle to play back even a single stream of uncompressed 4K at 24 fps.

CIONI: With Gene Pool and Monique, we could multi-task. It's like having two colorists working at the same time. We also enlisted the help of two other additional components; we have multiple DVS Clipsters equipped with 4K acceleration boards that allowed us to encode different types of files in 4K in virtually real time. That helped us tremendously. Also, we had a 10-gigabit Ethernet link between the Clipsters and Pablos.



Daniel Craig.


We also used Shoeboxes, which is Light Iron's version of a shuttle drive, but on steroids. We could push files around via "sneaker-net" or we could move them at greater than 500 megabytes per second. When we delivered the digital master -- all 230,000 frames, properly organized -- to Deluxe for film-out, the only way to move that number of terabytes and check it was to use Shoeboxes and a very fat pipe, a SAS connection. The solution is never just one component -- it's a series of steps that need to be planned.

On a purely technical level, the color correction was the easiest part of working on Dragon Tattoo. Delivering this film -- which was invisible to Fincher -- was the most difficult thing we've ever done as a facility: getting the footage into the facility and delivering it out of the facility.

When both Pablos and Clipsters were working -- non-stop 24 hours -- the facility was playing back 4 gigabytes per second. Our network operated at that level for days and days, and we're impressed with that. It's all due to due to SAS, fiber and 10-gigabit in unique configurations for each step, harmoniously working together

SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) is a protocol based off of E-SATA, but it moves the data 12 times faster than Firewire. It's like taking four E-SATA cables and threading them together. It's a very small connector that can push data almost up to 1.5 gigabytes per second on its own (provided the attached storage can support the bandwidth). That's important for us with the Sony F65 because its files are enormous. And SAS is a connection that a lot of people need to take a serious look at. We're still surprised that most facilities use antiquated protocols to move data around.


Rooney Mara stars in Columbia Pictures THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO also starring Rooney Mara. Photo by Giles Keyte. (c)2011 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group Inc.
Rooney Mara.


VERTOVEC: People are used to film and videotape, which only runs at 24 fps. If you had to transfer footage from one place to another, it always transferred at real time. With 4K data, and files over 40 megabytes a frame -- that's 800 megabytes a second, and that's the challenge. Few people have technology that runs at 800 megabytes per second.

CIONI: In a data-centric world, clients have looked into our machine room, saw a couple of Mac towers and thought they could do it on their own. But the complexity of technology has increased. In actuality, their ability to do it themselves is as out of touch as when we printed film. Working in 4K is like 2K was several years ago, only four times bigger and six times more dynamic.

Over the course of working on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I re-learned that every time technology comes out that advances something, an artist will use it. It's our job as a facility to make that new technology as transparent as possible to the client. Directors like David Fincher will never stop pushing the boundaries, and companies like ours should always operate outside of our comfort zone. We need to keep inventing ways to make this technology as transparent -- and available -- and empowering as possible.


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo images ©2011 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group Inc. Images with Rooney Mara by Giles Keyte. Daniel Craig in the snow photo by Baldur Bragason. Title image background photo by Merrick Morton. Please click on individual images above for larger views.






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Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Met Hrovat
Feels kind of a mess with all these different formats, frame rates, etc.

Met Hrovat
http://www.CamDolly.com
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Eli Goldstein
What was the Redcode / compression ratio they shot?

Thanks,

EG
@Eli Goldstein
by michael cioni
REDCode was 42 (7.5:1) on the MX and 5:1 on the EPIC.

Most of the EPIC films I've worked on are comfortable at 5:1, even though the camera is capable of 3:1 recording. To ensure films get the best quality in combination with data footprint and speed, 6:1 is my favorite codec. At 4K on SCARLET you can average 7:1/6:1 and EPIC you can do 6:1/5:1.
m
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Larry Ray Causey II
So is the amount of information in one frame of 4.5k larger than the amount of information in one frame burned into a 35mm piece of film? I don't know how one could compare amounts of info with film anyway? It can't break down in pixels right? It's a complete image. Will this movie be printed onto a roll of film for projection as well after it was digitally shot and produced? Forgive my ignorance on the subject just trying to keep up.

Great technical article. A bit over my head but great to be challenged by part of the production that can be so overlooked and unappreciated by viewers. Can't wait to see the film!

Larry Ray Causey II
3933 County Rd. 317
Mckinney Tx
75069

817-800-4101
@Larry Ray Causey II
by michael cioni
Interestingly enough, film does give us a way to measure it's resolution, and it's fairly accurate!
Everyone knows that the tiny visible components that make up a picture on a film frame is thanks to it's "grain." This characteristic (can be measured in size) is largely what the "speed" of the film is based on. Faster film has smaller grain and needs less light to capture an image. Slower, more sensitive film has larger grain and sees better in the dark. -Think of it like a bucket capturing light. The bigger the bucket, the more light it can see in the dark, but the fewer buckets you can fit in a room, hence the lower resolution.

As the physical sizes of grain changes, so does the amount of grain elements on a single piece of film. So here's how we can begin to accurately measure the resolution of a non-digital format:
When we scan a negative, if the pixels you scan it with can fit inside of a single element or spec of grain, then we have run out of resolution.
In other words, if you have 4 pixels small enough in a digital scan that can all fit inside of a film grain, then no real resolution is added because the grain is giving it's genetic profile to 4 identical pixels.
This means that making a general statement that "film is 4K" isn't an accurate statement. The truth is, film can be 4k. It can be 5k. It can also be 2k. Much of how many specs of grain can be equally translated in a digital scan depends on the type of film stock and the nature of the initial exposure during photography. All of these components together makeup a measurable resolution, but it varies greatly. The other element that people always forget about is that film lives in 2 compartments: acquisition and distribution. Capturing a negative with fast film outside will yield a lot more measurable resolution. Let's say 4.5K. But when it is then printed through the chain to a release composite print in theaters, the generational loss from format-to-format is likely to knock that resolution down to 1.5K.
This is why digital is so superior especially in large venues. People rarely see 4K film in a projection environment. In fact, without 65mm, it's nearly impossible to have a 35mm release print that contains 4K resolution. But take that film and digitize it, or better yet: shoot 4K or 5K digitally and one can easily maintain those pixels and the resolution will almost always out perform that of 35mm film.

| m |

Michael Cioni
CIO Light Iron
michael@lightiron.com
http://www.lightiron.com
blog@ michaelcioni.tumblr.com
@michael cioni
by Barend Onneweer
To avoid confusion: I think you meant to say faster (more sensitive) film has larger grain and and slower (less sensitive) film has smaller grain.

Raamw3rk - independent colourist and visual effects artist
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Rob Paterson
Peter Jackson is shooting The Hobbit at 48fps with Epics in 3D. Does this mean they'll have to process 192mbs per frame?
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by John Rehberger
what I find most fascinating is......
a 200 to 1 shooting ratio and he's still
reframing and split screening so many shots

no comment
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by John-Michael Seng-Wheeler
Wilmar, they're using DPX, which is kinda like the film equivalent of DNG files for photographers.

ProRes is a lossy format, which doesn't really fly for this level of work. ProRes 4444 would be at the low end of the codecs they might use for this.
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Erik Freid
Fincher uses these guys for their on-set and post asset management: http://www.cetuniverse.com/constellation.php

Combination of spinning disk for proxy files & LTO for mezzanine files. Great set up

Erik Freid | MediaSilo, Inc
207 South Street | Third Floor | Boston, MA 02111
t. 617.423.6200, m. 617.306.8632, f. 617.507.8577
http://www.mediaSilo.com erik@mediasilo.com
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Wilmar Luna
Wow, very impressive!

As someone who has never been able to edit on a huge feature film that used such enormous resolutions, how the heck is all this data getting stored?

Are these all going on huge servers, hard drives, or LTO tapes? I'm really curious to know about the various storage methods they used to keep all those terabytes of data.

Also, as a complete noob what are the final export files colorists and VFX guys are using? Are we talking AppleProRes 422? I have never worked in a facility like this, so I'm really curious to know the additional technical details. :)
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Barend Onneweer
Not sure if Michael Cioni reads along here, but one thing I wonder:

If the final frame is a 3600x1500 pixel crop from the source footage, do they blow up to achieve the 4096x1716 for DCP?

I'm sure most of the theaters showing the movie will show it in 2k (or worse: film) so nothing lost, but general consensus seems that a Bayer image's theoretical resolution maxes out at around 80% of the pixel count (which would put the 3600 down to below 3k)... So the 4k DI would be more of a 3k-ish image blown up to 4k.

Not trying to be pedantic here, just would be interested to hear Michael's point of view on this.

Raamw3rk - digital storytelling and visual effects
@Barend Onneweer
by Ian Vertovec
The 3600 extraction is merely just the initial framework for how the DI was set up. Things moved around quite a bit within this. Some shots we blew up to crop something out, others we scaled down to reveal a wider frame. This would increase or decrease effective resolution, so it really changes on a shot by shot basis.

It's interesting to note that the 178 version has the potential for more resolution because of a taller frame.

Ultimately, the elements IN the scene are more important then the resolution OF the scene, so framing will always dictate how much something is blown up or not.
@Ian Vertovec
by Barend Onneweer
Thanks for the reply Ian.

Raamw3rk - independent colourist and visual effects artist
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Michael Locke
If there's one thing I like about higher and higher technology in movies, it's that it forces pre, production, and post to TALK.

Collaboration doesn't exist without communication, and departments acting separately is hopefully a thing of the past.

I have such respect for anyone who cares about the work they do, and it's so important that everyone feels included in the conversation to care.

Nice work Debra, thanks.

ML
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Malcolm Matusky
I was not going to see this film, as I saw all the originals and loved them! I will see it as this article has intrigued me, now if I can find the film projecting in digital in Phoenix, that would be great.

M

Malcolm
http://www.malcolmproductions.com
Re: 4K DI on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Richard Cooper
Wow Great article!
Thanks!

Richard Cooper
FrostLine Productions, LLC
Anchorage, Alaska
http://www.frostlineproductions.com


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