BURBANK — Many industry insiders were at last week’s Reducation conference, including the outspoken Michael Cioni, who is currently knee-deep in an Red Epic shoot.
Cioni sometimes measures his success based on how much trouble he gets into. His relationship to the production and post industry is like a grown-up version of the kid who watched the King parade around town and yells that his majesty has no clothes on. In this case he is unapologetically candid about telling producers or anyone who relies on tape-based workflows and cameras that if they only shoot HD they might as well be walking down Hollywood Blvd. totally naked, metaphorically speaking.
Cioni is the owner of Lightiron Digital and the mastermind behind some innovative on-set technologies for shooting digital that blur the boundaries between production and post production. His team, led by DITs Steve Freebairn and Zach Hilton, just finished all the on-set data support for Pirates of the Caribbean 4, a feature shot in 3D using Red One cameras and Cioni’s award-winning portable on-set post production tool called OUTPOST. With OutPost post production starts on your digital files right after the director yells, “Cut!”
Cioni dropped by Createasphere’s Reducation last week and gave an industry perspective talk about production and post. “I always say if you want to predict the future, look at the past,” he says. Cioni reminds us that some of the major technological innovations that are reshaping entertainment culture such as YouTube, Facebook, iTunes and Red technology did not exist 10 years ago. “The new order is a datacentric world.” he says, “and some of the biggest challenges are not technological but philosophical.” If you are still talking about workflows in a taped-based world you’re on the wrong page as far as the future is concerned,” he says. “Only in a file-based workflow centered around moving data from point to point as fast and efficiently as possible can 3D production in 5K be future-proofed.”
Cioni is working again with DITs Steve Freebairn and Zach Hilton of Freehill Productions on a major motion picture being shot with the Red Epic. Together, they have successfully retooled the OutPost carts to work with Epic in 3D. “We’ve really made post work with the Epic. It’s really just an upgraded version of the Red One OUTPOST carts,” he says.
On the new feature (which we obviously cannot name at the moment, but bet you can figure it out), Red Epic’s higher image fidelity and shooting in 3D creates a new, better type of Red file. The Epic cameras are using 128GB SSD cards in conjunction with Red Stations, which enable fast SSD transfers to multiple targets. Cioni advises potential Epic shooters to look into eSata and SAS connections. “We did all of Pirates 4 with MAXX Digital SAS Raids Multiple Computer Terminals. With multiple camera productions you will need to have multiple computers to aid in the processing, checking, viewing, coloring, transferring, etc, of these files on set.”
During the current Epic production, DIT Brook Willard grades each clip with cinematographer John Schwartzman, sets convergence with the stereo supervisor Rob Engle and creates an RMD profile. The R3Ds and RMDs are delivered to FreeHill team: Freebairn and Hilton for on-set editorial prep. They create two check sum back-ups of all data to two RAIDs; apply RMDs and provide one-light color timed, window burned, audio synced dailies in side-by-side 3D with convergence metadata on every shot and deliver it in Avid DNxHD, ProRes and H264 for PIX for every mag across two terminals and transfer it the G-Tech’s G-Speed eS Pros for delivery directly to editorial.
A fully completed set of synced, graded, watermarked file dailies is processed, and files are transferred to iPads for production to take home with them each night.
“While the Epic footage doesn’t command a significantly larger file size in principal,” says Cioni. “The same principles apply to 5K as to 4K: preparing for the future-proofing of high resolution, high fidelity capture starts with how we capture, manage and process media today, but thanks to Moore’s Law, the increased capabilities of this camera technology are being matched by the latest computers, acceleration tools and transfer drives that can easily handle it. While managing Epic requires some upgrades, the technology and talent to handle it efficiently is already available.”