LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed


CreativeCOW presents Jump! --  Editorial

Provo Utah USA All rights reserved.

Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D may be one of the craziest films you'll ever see. A lot of people describe it as X Games meets Jackass, but instead of just doing silly, stupid stunts, these are athletes. They're as acrobatic as a circus could be. It just happens to be a circus where sometimes things go wrong.

Color Mill, which specializes in color grading, 3D mastering and Digital Cinema Package creation, had already cut its teeth on many feature films as well as commercials, TV series and IMAX projects. One of our more high profile jobs was designing the digital workflow for the film 127 Hours. We also backed up all their data, provided dailies, set up all their editors on Avid Media Composer, made sure all the metadata was handled properly, and interfaced with Technicolor U.K.

Nitro Circus is a series that began airing on MTV in 2009. When its producers, Godfrey Entertainment, decided to make a stereoscopic 3D film, a lot of people in the industry told them that they needed at least $20 million to shoot a 3D feature, and that no one outside Los Angeles could pull off the post. We wanted to prove them wrong.

We had already made a conscious decision to explore 3D, and we're big fans of research and development. We used RED ONEs we owned, got a side-by-side rig, and we quickly learned some of the basic rules in 3D. We also experimented with editing and finishing workflows. Our advance preparation gave us a lot of confidence that when somebody approached us with a 3D job, we'd be ready.

To our credit, we didn't oversell ourselves to Godfrey. We said, "You know, Quantel Pablo's 3D capabilities are awesome. It's designed to do everything very, very quickly. We might not be able to do it as fast, but with The Foundry's NUKE and the Ocula plug-in, along with ASSIMILATE SCRATCH, we feel like we can do the same kinds of things.

They were really intrigued, and after a test shoot, they were completely convinced. We created an 11-minute segment to show to potential distributors, who told us it was the best 3D they'd seen. We knew that we could make the movie happen, even with the $10 million budget they settled on.

A 3D film doesn't have to be 3D from beginning to end. We decided that the interviews and stunt set-ups would work fine in 2D. Having the audience watch them in 2D also let their eyes relax so that, when we got to the stunts in 3D, we could push further than we might have otherwise. The money we saved by shooting part of the film in 2D was also put into making the experience of the 3D stunts even better.

After telling RED about the project, Godfrey Entertainment was able to get six of the first EPIC cameras that weren't going to Peter Jackson and James Cameron. The higher resolution of the EPICs offered us more flexibility to scale and reposition the shots, and their ability to shoot 96 frames per second gave us more control over the timing of the shots, including gorgeous slo-mo. We also needed something that was a lot smaller than the RED ONEs just in order to be manageable in the field.


The higher resolution of the EPICs offered more flexibility to scale and reposition the shots, and their ability to shoot 96 frames per second gave more control over the timing of the shots, including gorgeous slo-mo. Click images for larger views.

There were certainly a lot of technical things to figure out. These were essentially beta rigs when we got them, but looking back, there's not another camera we would have chosen. The majority of the film was shot at 96 frames a second, which gave us a chance to make awesome moments from these stunts last as long as possible, and really let people explore the image -- but here's what it meant in post. With two cameras in a rig, shooting at 96 frames per second, that's eight times the footage created by a single camera shooting 24 fps. So for every minute you roll, you wind up with eight minutes of footage.

On a single day, we generated four and half terabytes of footage. Moving that type of data is very, very difficult, especially when you're talking about a film with a $10 million budget.

HP Z800 & Mac Pro
working side by side
Our 3D workflow started with taking the EPIC R3D files through SCRATCH, to double-check sync and adjust basic color parameters. We rendered them out to DPX, and then used NUKE and Ocula for complete alignment between right and left eye, as well as color matching between the eyes. This was on our HP Z800 workstation and two Mac Pros. In the end, we returned to SCRATCH on the HP Z800 for final conform, color grading and 3D adjustments and convergence.

From the beginning, we had been an all-Mac shop, starting with Mac editorial on Final Cut Pro. We've got a lot invested into it, and it has worked really well for us. As we got more and more into color correction, we purchased SCRATCH three years ago. It was then Windows-only, but we went ahead anyway, because there just was not anything anywhere close to comparable power on a Mac. Even when SCRATCH became available on Mac, we didn't see any workflow advantages, and it was simply not as fast or powerful. We ran NUKE on both Windows and Mac for Nitro Circus 3D, but when it came down to the finishing work and taking advantage of the power on the best graphics cards out there, Windows was the right choice for us.

Nitro Circus 3D
Several features made the HP Z800 workstation in particular the right decision for us. First, we needed a lot of PCI express card slots. The Mac is glamorous but it only gives you four slots. Our system consists of an NVIDIA Quadro 6000, the NVIDIA SDI card, two RED Rocket cards, an eSATA/USB 3.0 card and an ATTO R680 RAID adapter. That tallies up to six PCIe cards in one computer!

It's made a huge difference for us to have the top-of-the-line NVIDIA Quadro 6000 (which the Mac does not support), especially when grading 4K or 3D material in real-time. We also connected the HP Z800 with a 48 TB Maxx Digital RAID and 48 GB of RAM as well, which is more RAM than the Mac Pro supports. For a project like Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D, this combination has really freed us creatively to try new things.

Maybe the best feature of the Z800 is how HP has taken extreme measures to make it rock-solid stable. The Z800 has been completely reliable for us. HP has really tuned this system to make sure that all the components are optimized to work at peak performance. They even have their own application that monitors program and system efficiency to help us get the most power out of the system. Being stable is something we value tremendously, and HP has provided that for us.

We believe that cross-platform facilities are the future. We've been a Mac shop for a long time and FCP 7 was a great step. But anyone transitioning from FCP into whatever is next should consider a Windows platform to replace a Mac. A 64-bit Windows 7 along with HP Z800 has been a really great combination for us, much more powerful than what the top-of-the-line Mac can offer us. There's a possibility that in three or four years, we'll be all Windows and, when we expand, we would definitely buy HP workstations again.

Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D was released on August 8, and we couldn't be prouder of our work on it. When Godfrey Entertainment came to us, we felt that we could step up and execute a full 3D workflow, and we did. We proved that a 3D feature doesn't have to cost $20 million, and that there are post houses outside of Los Angeles -- like Color Mill -- that have the knowledge, expertise and tools to finish a 3D feature.

Russell Lasson from Color Mill
Russell Lasson of Color Mill serves dual roles as colorist and digital cinema mastering specialist, providing his expertise and talent for multiple feature film projects.

For more stories like these, take a look at the Creative COW Magazine Special Edition, "New Dimensions In Cross-Platform Power & Productivity with HP Workstations."

Download a PDF by clicking here.

2011 HP logo This article brought to you by HP Workstations.
For more information, visit

Related Articles / Tutorials:
Solving Creative Problems Creatively

Solving Creative Problems Creatively

Pioneers of 5D workflows, Bandito Brothers is focused on workflow, period. What the client wants, the client gets, regardless of platform.

Feature, People / Interview
Jacob Rosenberg
Windows Hardware & Software
Larger Than 4K: Larger Than Life!

Larger Than 4K: Larger Than Life!

Keen Live's Walter Soyka regularly works with files twice the size of EPIC's 4.5K - and how about a 120-foot video wall at 14,700 x 1200 - that's why he needs all the power he can get from his workstation.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Walter Soyka
What Computer Should I Buy?
Solving the Mystery of Getting Ahead

Solving the Mystery of Getting Ahead

With a BAFTA for audio in hand, Bang Post Production has a new game afoot for picture post in Wales.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Glenn Collict
What Computer Should I Buy?
HP: Shooting on the Cutting Edge

HP: Shooting on the Cutting Edge

Shane Hurlbut's pioneering digital cinematography has helped change the industry. He's now transforming his own workflow with HP DreamColor displays and the 17-inch HP EliteBook Mobile Workstation.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Shane Hurlbut
What Computer Should I Buy?
No Time To Waste!

No Time To Waste!

Dylan Reeve, Post Supervisor & Finishing Editor for South Pacific Pictures pushes 250 episodes per year of New Zealand's #1 show, "Shortland Street" through the pipeline.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Dylan Reeve
Blackmagic Fusion 9 Advanced Keying: Fixing Problem Edges

Blackmagic Fusion 9 Advanced Keying: Fixing Problem Edges

In this advanced keying tutorial for Blackmagic Fusion, longtime VFX artist Simon Ubsdell addresses a common problem: edges too brightly lit, along with light wrap that makes compositing a challenge. Learn how to build custom keyers using Fusion's node-based compositing that solve the problem more quickly and more completely than traditional layer-based approaches.

Simon Ubsdell
An Open Letter to Incoming Women Freshmen in Media Programs, by Kylee Peña

An Open Letter to Incoming Women Freshmen in Media Programs, by Kylee Peña

A lot of so-called “open letters” on the internet address the outgoing graduates of programs. And while they should bask in the glow of congratulations and good luck because they worked hard, they earned it, and they have some serious challenges on the horizon, this letter isn’t for them. It’s for you: the young woman who is leaving high school behind and beginning your first year of college in the next few weeks. Read on as Hollywood workflow supervisor and president of the Blue Collar Post Collective Kylee Peña reminds you: You have so much ahead of you!

Creative COW
My Illegal Internships: An Oral History, by Kylee Peña

My Illegal Internships: An Oral History, by Kylee Peña

Sure, unpaid internships aren’t exclusive to post production; however, for some reason we’ve collectively decided that the single biggest way to prove one’s merit is by working in some capacity for free. It’s almost as if everyone believes that because they suffered the difficulty of doing often humiliating or degrading work for free, everyone else should too. There are certainly times that personal enrichment worth the sacrifice to work for free, but employers, do you know if what you're asking interns to do for you is even legal? Follow along as Kylee gives examples from her own past internships to highlight current requirements, and lays out some suggestions to a fairer, more productive future for everyone.

Kylee Peña
An Editor's Epic Journey, by Katie Toomey

An Editor's Epic Journey, by Katie Toomey

What do you do when your company folds and there's no local work? Whatever you have to. For Katie Toomey, that meant emptying her savings and heading 2000 miles west to Los Angeles, with no job in hand. The only options were make it or break it. The journey itself was difficult, but the hardest part may have been the only thing that made it all possible: asking for help. This is a truly inspiring story with tons of real-world examples of how to accomplish what feels impossible at the time.

Katie Toomey
The Evolution of Immersive Media

The Evolution of Immersive Media

Immersive media is not new. Emerging technologies, such as VR and AR as we currently know them, are simply part of an evolutionary path making media more immersive. Many commentators and industry professionals became cynical after the short life-cycle of Stereoscopic 3D, and are hesitant to embrace VR, calling it another fad. International award-winning engineer, editor, colorist, VFX artist, stereoscopic 3D artist, and Head of Operations at Auckland's Department of Post, Katie Hinsen sees it differently. These technologies are simply steps within a much wider ecosystem, says Katie, where it's the combination of failures and successes that lead us towards what immersive media is to become.

Editorial, Feature
Katie Hinsen
© 2017 All Rights Reserved