LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

Adventures in 6K with Jackson, Wyoming's Brain Farm Cinema

COW Library : Cinematography : Kylee Peña : Adventures in 6K with Jackson, Wyoming's Brain Farm Cinema
CreativeCOW presents Adventures in 6K with Jackson, Wyoming's Brain Farm Cinema -- Cinematography Editorial


CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


Credit John Schnack
Photo Credit John Schnack


Nestled in the wilderness of Jackson, Wyoming on the edge of Grand Teton National Park you might not expect to find a high end production house. Staffed with a small team of outdoor sport enthusiasts and adventure-seekers and fortified with the latest in 5K or 6K cameras and technology, the Jackson Hole Valley becomes a perfectly logical place for Brain Farm Digital Cinema, known for such work as the snowboarding film 'The Art of Flight', filled with the craziest of snow sports stunts by snowboarder Travis Rice, all captured and cut in house.


Photo by Scott Serfas.
Travis Rice. Photo by Scott Serfas.


Whether it's a ski jump flyby or getting up close and personal to Jackson's native wildlife, getting the shot comes at great cost to Brain Farm, financially and mentally, especially when you put 6K acquisition into the mix. Pushing at the edges of growth in technology to make great films isn't without its growing pains. But by developing great relationships with companies like HP and experimenting with workflow changes, Brain Farm is beginning to shift its approach to dealing with the massive amounts of massive footage.

Shooting these athletes in the field is sometimes about luck, and sometimes about planning. "There is quite a bit of choreography between the team and athletes," said Brain Farm's head of production Chad Jackson. And there would have to be, considering teams are dragging equipment through miles of terrain, sometimes even by snowmobile. "These aren't Hollywood budgets. We do a lot more with less."


Brain Farm's head of production Chad Jackson
Brain Farm's head of production Chad Jackson


Whether the team's job is to execute a planned shot or be there to capture the moment when it happens, the talent behind the cameras is important because Brain Farm isn't shooting on just anything. Their arsenal includes the Red Dragon, Phantom Flex and Phantom Flex 4K, and Shotover F1, among other tools. Brain Farm also has specialty vehicles for traveling and shooting on the road, like a customized Ford F250 with a Shotover F1 camera, or from the air, with various unmanned aerial cameras. Fujinon ultra wide lens, Arri Ultra and Master Primes, and Canon cinema lenses are within the team's rotation.


Credit Danny Zaplac
Photo Credit Danny Zaplac


Besides the expected challenges of shooting on a snow-covered mountain, media management becomes a concern, Jackson explains. Many of the cameras have a special process for offloading media and shoot a lot of big files, so manpower and hard drives are a must in the field.


Post production supervisor Danny Holland
Post production supervisor Danny Holland


Back in the climate-controlled Brain Farm headquarters, post production supervisor Danny Holland keeps things running in an offline to online workflow. All the media acquired in the field is transcoded to ProRes proxies and reconformed at the end – or that's how it's been so far. Holland says "Things are changing so quickly right now, I think there's a thought process like an old crochety IT guy like 'here's what works, what we're sticking with because we know it'll work.' And trying to be open to change and embracing new stuff as fast as you can has its advantages."



The edit bay


Brain Farm has been a Mac-centric facility until recently, when HP's Z820 Workstation was introduced to the mix. Holland, a long-time Apple user, was skeptical. "It really was like this alien in our environment for me," he explains only half-joking. One of the main concerns? How to actually integrate the Windows machine into the facility's ethernet-based shared storage. Turns out it wasn't so hard: an update to Mavericks and switching from AFP to SMB for connecting to the server, and a little intervention from Maxx Digital's Bob Zelin, and everything was working as expected.

Another question for Apple users moving to Windows: but what about my ProRes? For the last several years, ProRes has come to be at the center of acquisition, editorial, delivery and archival. It's a comfortable and ubiquitous codec -- for Macs. For Holland, the issue was a little confusing at first, jumping to Google at first and getting no good answers. Then he connected with Open Drives CTO Jeff Brue, who had been experiencing a similar issue. Brue recommended a plug-in from Miraizon. Holland commented, "For the most part, the ProRes Codec from Miraizon is pretty much 'plug and play.' Once installed, it just shows up in the drop down menu when exporting. It's pretty simple." He noted that Da Vinci Resolve doesn't currently support the plug-in, but his other apps including Adobe Creative Cloud are working smoothly.


Credit Cameron Strand
Photo Credit Cameron Strand


"Consistency tends to keep things running smoothly in an offline to online workflow. Starting this integration with 80% of our media being in ProRes, it felt like the right decision to keep working with it as a mezzanine codec," Holland added. And while the solution is working well for Brain Farm, Holland hasn't dismissed the idea of building workflows around a different codec, like GoPro Cineform or Avid's newly announced DNxHR, which was previously not a contender since it was limited to HD resolutions.

And for a post supervisor, that's pretty much the extent of the technical difficulties. A little bit of codec questioning and some disk format concerns, and the integration has been happily unremarkable except for what it's added to Brain Farm's power. The first test came for Holland on a massive 4K conform in DaVinci Resolve. "It was a life saver for me to be able to work at that resolution and grade in Resolve, and I don't think any of the Mac Pros I had in house could have done that. Having the power of the Z820 was vital to the success of that work in 4K. That turned me, and I became a lot more open to the performance we got there," Holland explained.


Photo Credit Greg Wheeler
Photo Credit Greg Wheeler


[For the sake of comparing Apples to ... non-Apples, Brain Farm's in house Mac Pros are the legacy style: 2x2.26Ghz quad core with 52GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD boot drive, and a GTX580 3GB RAM with a Red Rocket card. The HPZ820, now the previous generation in the Z workstations, was loaded with a dual Intel Zeon E5-2680 2.280Ghz processor, 64GB of RAM, 4 3TB drives as RAID5, Z Turbo Drive 256, an NVIDIA K5000 and Thunderbolt card. If you're the type that likes to keep score at home with all this.]

Windows being the biggest hurdle for getting historically Mac people to make the jump, Holland remarked that the adjustment wasn't as profound as he originally expected. "The software is where the creative aspects are happening, so if that's working okay and functioning as it should, the power and performance just allows for us to work at a high resolution with less difficulty. So whether it's rendering something out in a matter of minutes versus 30 minutes, that can make all the difference when you're trying to upload something to send to a client in time. Those little 30 minute renders for a five minute video can add up quickly. The speed gains have been nice because we can keep working and not have to worry about the time lag to deliver or watch something."


Credit John Rodosky
Photo Credit John Rodosky


With the kinks working out and the staff warmed up to the HP Workstation, what's next for Brain Farm now that they have more power on their side? For one thing, they're going to keep doing what they're doing with a little less worry. Jackson says, "We're less hesitant to shoot a lot in the field now that we have a faster, more powerful machine to transcode." And with the transcode bottleneck alleviated, Holland suggests maybe native editing is on the horizon as the team contemplates multiple 4K finishes in the coming months, an especially promising outlook for Brain Farm considering the power behind the newly released Z840 Workstations.

"I think everyone has to evaluate their budget and goals as they make decisions [about their system needs.] As we evaluate and look to the future and try to find a tool that could grow with us, I think we've got a nice solution with the HP Workstation....Working with [them] has been really nice because we have a dialogue for trying to solve things, and we get the space and expandability in which to do that."

Technology aside, Jackson and Holland are happy to continue shooting and cutting extreme sports in extreme places whatever the trade-offs. "I feel very fortunate. It could be drier content for sure," Holland laughed. Jackson added, "It's lots of work. Sometimes you ask if it's worth it, but then there's always a pay off."


Credit Ryan Sheets
This photo and top title graphic credit Ryan Sheets



Comments

Re: Adventures in 6K with Jackson, Wyoming's Brain Farm Cinema
by Ian Mapleson
Excellent article thanks!!

Small performance point btw, the CUDA power of a K5000 is actually
slightly less than a GTX 580 (I've tested both), so most likely the
better speed of the HP is from the much larger no. of CPU cores,
quicker RAM, etc., though driver differences should make some ops
faster on the Quadro by default (hard to tease out these issues
when comparing).

While doing your work, do you know to what extent the GPU is being
utilised? ie. is upgrading the Macs to something like a 780 Ti,
Titan or GTX 980 a viable option? (or the 980 Ti or Titan2 when
they're out) Any of these would be a big step up over a 580. I have
a 3930K setup (4.7GHz) with four 580 3GB cards; two 980s would
be the same speed but use a lot less power. I'm getting a 980 next
week to test.

Also, is the transcoding process something that only uses the main
CPU cores? Or can it be accelerated by the GPU? And how do you find
the 64GB RAM capacity for working with 4K? Is 64GB enough?

Ian.

PS. If you have AE, feel free to try this benchmark aep (just Frame 96;
scene created by a friend of mine). Takes about 15 mins to crunch with
four 3GB 580s. Looks like this once complete. Don't try to render the
entire 4s sequence, that's only for stress testing. It's a CUDA-only test,
doesn't tax the main CPU cores much at all.

--------
SGI Guru
Re: Adventures in 6K with Jackson, Wyoming's Brain Farm Cinema
by Jake Hawkes
You guys are like Keith Richards passing the batton to Derek Trucks~haha!

You've Had Our Potatoes!
Re: Adventures in 6K with Jackson, Wyoming's Brain Farm Cinema
by Bob Zelin
it is an honor to be mentioned in this article, but the real star here is Danny Holland of Brain Farm. I am just a cockroach, but without Danny Holland, none of this would be possible.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
bobzelin@icloud.com
@Bob Zelin
by Danny Holland
It's most definitely a team effort. We were privileged to have Bob working with us, someone who is highly skilled and knowledgeable about the space.



Related Articles / Tutorials:
Cinematography
Through The Lens: Alex Strohl

Through The Lens: Alex Strohl

The "why" of Alex Strohl's work as a nature photographer: to inspire people to get outside. In this presentation from Adorama TV, Alex talks about what led him to the American West, the mysteries of our interaction with water, and the magic that can happen when things go wrong.

Tutorial
Adorama TV
Cinematography
RBG's DP: Claudia Raschke, Ruth Ginsburg & Canon C300 Mk II

RBG's DP: Claudia Raschke, Ruth Ginsburg & Canon C300 Mk II

In his conversation with Claudia Raschke, the cinematographer of the acclaimed documentary "RBG" featuring Supreme Court Justice and folk hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg, DP Jimmy Matlosz speaks to her about the Canon C300, the challenges of shooting such a high-profile subject, and the influence of dance on her approach to documentary filmmaking. A truly remarkable conversation about multiple remarkable subjects.

Feature, People / Interview
Jimmy Matlosz
Cinematography
Get The Shot Without Getting Shot: Adventures in Stock Video

Get The Shot Without Getting Shot: Adventures in Stock Video

Rick Ray of DVArchive has traveled the world, lived in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, played ragtime piano for money in Australian bars, and both been arrested in Ethiopa and recruited those same police to be in his videos the very next day. In his NAB Show presentation for Adobe Stock, Rick gets specific about how to make real money in stock video following your passion around the world, what kind of equipment to choose and avoid, and yes, some advice about talking your way out of trouble.


Cow News
Cinematography
Go Creative Show: The Cinematography of A Quiet Place

Go Creative Show: The Cinematography of A Quiet Place

Charlotte Bruus Christensen is the Danish cinematographer behind the lens of the horrifying and beautifully shot film A Quiet Place. Charlotte joins commercial director and Go Creative Show host Ben Consoli to discuss the camera, lighting, and lensing choices for A Quiet Place, its unique sound design and how show created its horrifying yet warm look.


Ben Consoli
Cinematography
How Kubrick Achieved the Cinematography of Barry Lyndon

How Kubrick Achieved the Cinematography of Barry Lyndon

Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon is often lauded as one of the greatest achievements in the history of cinematography. And in a decade or even a year with some of the toughest competition imaginable, Barry Lyndon always seems to stick out just a little bit more. What sets the cinematography of Barry Lyndon apart from other movies? And how was it done? Let's explore the story...

Tutorial, Feature
Tyler Knudsen
Cinematography
Robert McLachlan: Cinematographer for Game of Thrones

Robert McLachlan: Cinematographer for Game of Thrones

Robert McLachlan is the cinematographer of Game of Thrones, Westworld and Ray Donovan, and he joins commercial director and Go Creative Show host Ben Consoli to share behind the scenes stories from some of his most iconic scenes including The Red Wedding and The Loot Train Battle.

Feature, People / Interview
Ben Consoli
Cinematography
DJI Mavic Pro In Depth Review - The Best 4K Drone?

DJI Mavic Pro In Depth Review - The Best 4K Drone?

VFX guru Tobias Gleissenberger was so delighted with the DJI Mavic Pro 4K drone that he bought (yes, bought) that he was inspired to take a break from making tutorials to create an in-depth review of this compact, lightweight, consumer drone offering terrific value. No, it's not a platform for your digital cinema camera, but if you're looking for a fast, fun, integrated 4K camera drone packed with features, the Mavic Pro might be for you. This review is delivered Surfaced Studio-style, with wit, high energy, and details you won't find anywhere else.

Review
Tobias Gleissenberger
Cinematography
Beautiful 8K Timelapse of Norway's Four Seasons

Beautiful 8K Timelapse of Norway's Four Seasons

One year of planning, one year of shooting, and four months of post-production is a lot of time to spend on a single timelapse, but photographer Morten Rustad‘s creation SEASONS of NORWAY captured this 8K masterpiece by travelling a total of 20,000


Morten Rustad
Cinematography




Join Go Creative Show host, Ben Consoli and his special guest, David Klein, ASC, cinematographer of Homeland and True Blood. David is here to talk all about it all. His love of realism has defined a generation of filmmaking and he continues to execute it flawlessly with his work on Homeland. David talks with us about all his gear and lighting choices, shooting hand-held effectively and how the best film education is to simply shoot something.

Feature, People / Interview
Ben Consoli
Cinematography
All Eyes on IBC 2016 for Cameras and Lenses Galore

All Eyes on IBC 2016 for Cameras and Lenses Galore

What’s that you say? An IBC that’s not only relevant, but downright exhilarating? This used to not be news, of course. However, in recent years, IBC has too often become simply an opportunity for European audiences to see products already announced at NAB. In 2016, however, the focus swings sharply to Amsterdam, especially when it comes to cameras and lenses. IBC 2016 is shaping up to be one of the most dramatic trade shows for cinematographers, broadcasters, and videographers in years. Join Creative COW Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a speedy overview of some of the highlights.

Feature
Tim Wilson
MORE
© 2018 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]