Prime Focus on Power & Flexibility
COW Library : Assimilate Scratch : Michael Wrightson : Prime Focus on Power & Flexibility
Prime Focus UK divides its business into a number of distinct areas, including traditional post-production for broadcast and commercials, and a dedicated film division providing VFX and 2D to 3D stereoscopic conversion services using its own technology, View-D(TM).
Our first SCRATCH Lab system was initially brought in to complement our FilmLight Baselight grading systems. We found that the Baselights were increasingly being used for the task of data preparation -- conforming, file conversion, media management, etc. This was causing a major bottleneck, particularly as we were experiencing a steady increase of film work coming in as data from ARRI Alexa and RED cameras, and at the same time seeing a decrease in demand for traditional film/telecine-based work.
When I looked at SCRATCH Lab, I saw a system that had immense potential. It could deliver the efficiency savings that we required, while helping us maximise the productivity and return of investment of our "hero" suites. An added bonus was the integration with the rest of the facility, and the many uses of SCRATCH Lab that we are still discovering on a daily basis. From the moment we took delivery of our first system, it has been in use non-stop. The first SCRATCH Lab worked so well that the company shortly invested in another!
Before SCRATCH Lab, we had carried out all of our conforms in Baselights. However, we're now working predominantly with Apple ProRes files from the ARRI Alexa, which are not supported by the Baselight, and so we required an alternative solution. Fortunately, SCRATCH Lab deals with them amazingly well, and provided our ideal solution. The combination of the fast processing power and the intuitive nature of the software has made it very easy to use SCRATCH Lab for the Alexa material.
We have also used it for RED camera footage, including footage from RED Epic and again, SCRATCH Lab is so easy to use with these RAW files, where you have the ability to change the colour space, ISO and so much more. SCRATCH Lab gives us complete control of all the parameters, and in real time.
Another challenge that we were faced with was making sure that the edit decision lists (EDLs) would marry up between offline through to editorial and effects. It used to take much more time before SCRATCH Lab, but now the whole process is so much easier.
EPIC, ProRes, Phantom, ARRI RAW, Panasonic MXF and DPX LOG in a single spot project at Prime Focus UK
We're currently using SCRATCH Lab as a means to neutrally balance every scan that we receive on a show. This could be footage from RED, Silicon Imaging 2K, Phantom and other cameras. We want to prepare the images by applying basic colour and balancing, to give our artists a consistent place to start their work, with the most possible information to work with.
We work in an OpenEXR pipeline to get the most information possible out of the scans. Once we have balanced the plate we could export this again, but that would introduce another generation of compression. Instead we use tools developed both internally and with SCRATCH Lab to translate grading information directly into Nuke, so that any work uses the original scan.
SCRATCH Lab is one of the few solutions we evaluated that will allow us to see specific code values of our OpenEXR files that are below zero and above one. It doesn't just show clipping -- it gives us an idea by how much we're clipping.
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A shot that I'm looking at now has a peak value of 1.6. This kind of additional detail over what other systems gives us helps guide us through the choices we will need to make in order to come up with a usable neutral grade.
We simply have more control over how to address those problems with SCRATCH Lab. For example, with the Magnify tool, we can change how we want the information displayed. In addition to a zero to one range, we might choose, in a 16-bit range, values greater than 1. We want all the information we can possibly have as we take specific approaches, to know what we might gain and what we might lose across the spectrum of a shot.
We've also found that whatever problems we've had, we can talk to the people at ASSIMILATE, who have come back to us with new tools, or a LUT, or with some other kind of solution. They've been very willing to help with anything we need.
It is most important for us to have as close a relationship with our suppliers as we do with our clients. Rather than just ordering a box and having a box delivered, we look for a continual process of support and understanding of our workflow.
That was very much what we found with ASSIMILATE. I said to them, "This is how I'd like to use it - will it fit into that workflow?" Their immediate response was, "Let's get a system in for you, so that you can see for yourself."
Seeing how well it has blended into the organisation from day one, I am confident that we will have a continual and increased requirement for SCRATCH Lab in our daily work, now and in the future.
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