Make Work Flow
From Script to Screen
You have a vision
You can see the story you want to tell in your mind’s eye. The question is how to realize your vision and bring it to the screen without making creative compromises.
Motion picture technology is constantly evolving. There are countless new tools that you can use to unleash your creativity. The first challenge you face is cutting through the hype and choosing a palette of tools that serves your vision and expands your creative options. Filmmaking is a collaborative, creative process, involving producers, directors, production designers, cinematographers, editors and various other participants. It is essential for everyone to share that vision from concept to production, through postproduction and deliverables for the big or small screen.
“Production processes and workflow options can be confusing due to the increase in choices facing today’s filmmakers,” says Leon Silverman, president of LaserPacific, a Kodak company that provides end-to-end postproduction services. “With so many options, it is more important than ever to work within a system in which the filmmaker’s original intent can be carried through the entire process. In order to predictably emulate the look of the final results, color management and calibration become increasingly important every step of the way. Planning with the end in mind from the beginning of the process is crucial.”
Which workflow is right for your project?
Every new project begins with the need to make decisions about the choice of origination media and format. Additionally, postproduction and workflow techniques must be considered to ensure delivery of your vision to cinemas, television screens, and/or alternate media within the restraints of time and budgets. It can be a perplexing endeavor because of the constant evolution of motion picture production, postproduction, workflow, distribution and display technologies.
Many factors can drive the choice of origination media and post production workflow, but knowing the result you want is critical to the process.
Here is what some filmmakers are saying about what drives their decisions:
“I consider the choice of media and formats a tool, like choosing cameras, lenses and lights,” explains Nancy Schreiber, ASC. “I want as many options as possible. I encourage producers and directors not to assume that you have to shoot digitally because you have a relatively small budget. I tell them, ‘Let’s develop a visual language that makes the story work, and then figure out the best way to achieve it within the restraints of the budget.’”
“We wanted a feeling of visual continuity between the stories with each set of images having its own personality,” Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC says of creating the visual style of Babel with director Alejandro González Iñárritu. “We decided to shoot the Morocco scenes in Super 16 format, the Mexico and California segments with 35 mm spherical lenses in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and the scenes in Japan in anamorphic format, and then seamlessly blend everything during DI postproduction.”
“(Director) Brian (De Palma) said he wanted beautiful film noir cinematography (on The Black Dahlia),” Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC recounts. “I decided to frame in the 2.4:1 aspect ratio because the period settings were essential backgrounds for establishing a sense of time and place. I also recommended shooting in three-perf Super 35 format coupled with DI timing. Most of the story takes place at night, and the look we designed called for desaturated colors with dark shadows that helped define moods. I felt I could best add those touches in DI. The three-perf format also enabled us to shoot 25 percent longer takes between the need to change magazines, and trimmed raw stock and front-end lab costs.”
“We filmed Bobby both on stage and in practical locations,” says Michael Barrett of Emilio Estevez’s film. “The scope of the story cried out for a widescreen aspect ratio.We chose the three-perf Super 35 mm format because we needed the flexibility of spherical lenses. We then took the film through a DI process knowing we could play with contrast, grain and colors to blend 40-year-old 16 mm news footage with our scenes.”
“We ended up shooting (Factory Girl) in Super 16 and Super 8,” says Michael Grady. “Everyone was taken back when they heard that we shot it mainly in Super 16 mm with some Super 8 film. They assumed it was all about saving money, but we had around a $9 million budget, so it was mainly an aesthetic decision.”
“We gave every emotion its own look,” says Gabriel Beristain, ASC, BSC about shooting The Invisible. “That’s the beautiful thing about DI — you can play with contrast, color, density and saturation to enhance the different emotions in a film. It’s a marvelous tool for a cinematographer, but the nuances of the images should always be on your exposure. Everything on the negative should reflect as closely as possible the final look.”
Options abound for independent filmmaking
Filmmakers are also exploring new paths that enable them to take advantage of the flexibility offered by DI technology on lower budget, independent features. One of the promising breakthroughs is the addition of inDITM to the menu of digital intermediate services offered by LaserPacific in Hollywood.
“The inDI system enables us to utilize the economies of a tape-based HD workflow for lower budget films,” explains Glenn Kennel, vice president and general manager of Motion Picture Services at LaserPacific. “The film is scanned with a Spirit DataCine and converted to HDSR format (1920 by 1080 RGB 4:4:4), which incorporates advanced data compression technology, resulting in cleaner signals with truer colors. The high definition D-5 and HDCAM formats (4:2:2) use subsampled chrominance channels that are fine for broadcast, but don’t offer the range of contrast and colors cinematographers use to create nuanced images for feature films.”
“The Nines is like a three-act play with the same actors cast in different roles for each part,” says Schreiber, who utilized the inDI process on the film. “The director (John August) described his ideas (to me) for creating distinct visual signatures for each story. We decided to shoot each segment in a different format and blend the images into a seamless whole by using DI technology during post production. For part one, we used Super 16 mm film for classical framing, often static, with characters moving within the frame. Part two required the look of a reality TV show with all handheld camera movement, for which we chose standard definition 24P video. Part three was shot with three-perf 35 mm to recreate cinematic production values appropriate for a dramatic TV show.”
What’s new isn’t necessarily better
Writer/director Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister, ASC composed Memento, Insomnia, and Batman Begins in 35 mm anamorphic format coupled with traditional optical timing at a film lab. For their fourth collaboration, they briefly discussed the possibility of shooting The Prestige in Super 35 format with faster spherical lenses and putting finishing touches on the look during DI timing. They decided to find a way to shoot with anamorphic lenses and optical timing for a more organic look.
“Our lighting in the beginning of the story was motivated by candles and gas lamps, and by the end, it was electricity and light bulbs,” Pfister says. “The electrical lights are a little brighter and a purer white. The gas lamps and firelight were a little bit warmer — a red-yellow tone, not quite as bright. ... There is a scene where Chris felt it was important that we have very bright light with neutral colors. ... We had 300 light bulbs in a field and turned them on. It’s very bright, white light with no colors. It’s an overwhelming experience.” Nolan and Pfister also opted to shoot elements for two important visual effects shots in The Prestige in 65 mm IMAX® format because they wanted pristine image quality that feels magical and looks believable. One was an interior scene and the other an exterior night shot. The main action in both scenes was filmed with a handheld 35 mm camera. Additional footage was filmed in 65 mm with the camera on a tripod.
“The use of 65 mm film in IMAX format was a new idea that we will keep exploring in the future,” Nolan says. “I feel a great responsibility to produce the best possible images. I absolutely believe that audiences respond on a subconscious level.”
Maintaining control of your vision
Color management is the glue that retains the creative integrity of the intentions of the filmmaker from production through post and delivery. Kodak scientists have developed various tools to help filmmakers maintain control of their visions: the KODAK Look Manager System (KLMS) and KODAK Display Manager System (KDM).
LaserPacific has also developed technology for an end-to-end, color-calibrated workflow system. The accurateIMAGETM (aIM) system calibrates, connects and integrates all devices used for displaying images in digital formats on set and for dailies, previews, the DI and distribution. The system faithfully emulates a project’s look created by cinematographers in collaboration with directors throughout every step of post. The aIM process also applies any color decisions made during the early stages of the project to subsequent steps in the workflow, eliminating the need to start over and recreate a look that had been previously dialed in. LaserPacific’s aIM process incorporates proprietary Kodak color science technology, and supports the Color Decision List (CDL) developed by the American Society of Cinematographers’ (ASC) Technology Committee.
The KODAK Look Manager System provides filmmakers with a reliable and affordable means for designing looks during preproduction planning and retaining the integrity of their vision during each step of the journey. The system enables cinematographers to experiment by emulating the imaging characteristics of any Kodak film, filter or lab process in search of the perfect look. It also allows them to efficiently and accurately communicate their intentions for each shot to every member of the creative team. The KODAK Display Manager System is used to calibrate workstations. It accurately simulates projected print film on all supported display devices throughout a postproduction workflow.
Beristain used KLMS on four feature films: The Ring Two, The Shaggy Dog, The Sentinel and The Invisible. “With the onset of digital technology for postproduction and dailies, I needed a new way to communicate,” he explains. “The most elaborate verbal explanations and references are no substitute for having digital still images that you can manipulate to indicate your intentions, so the dailies timer and everyone else see exactly what you are trying to achieve. The [KODAK] Look Manager System is a fantastic tool.”
“KLMS was great,” says Benjamin Kasulke, the cinematographer who shot Pose Down. “I could try out various stocks, look at the grain structure, and see how they handled colors. I also experimented with various filtration packages to see how they reacted to the hard sunlight and deep darkness. � We knew we would need film’s latitude to capture a distinctive look, and the Super 16 format fit our budget and the need to move quickly with a small crew.”
Get your vision on the screen
Film captures and retains much higher resolution with considerably more exposure latitude than any current digital video devices. Those features inherent to film technology also provide more options and flexibility during postproduction.
“I love the look of film and the feelings it evokes,” says award-winning documentarian Ken Burns. “It is how I choose to express myself, like a painter who chooses oils instead of watercolors. We were dealing with people’s most painful memories (when making The War). They had seen their best friends killed or maimed and had come close to that themselves. We wanted it to feel organic.”
Originating on film gives you extraordinary flexibility for delivering your projects. Images recorded on film can be scanned and converted to digital files for offline editing in the format of your choice. After editing, the negative is conformed and scanned at the appropriate resolution, usually dictated by the budget. After the film is timed in a DI environment, the digital file is recorded out to film and/or the appropriate delivery format.
Make your vision last forever
Film is the most reliable and only proven way to archive your precious intellectual property. Properly archived black-and-white separations will last hundreds of years, and color negative and intermediate stocks will last for a century. Digital video is an improvement over analog video, but the storage medium is still either a magnetic tape or disk, both of which are impermanent. According to the Library of Congress, the best magnetic storage media (the media usually used for digital video and HD images) can only be depended on for a decade.
“All you need is a lens and a source of light, and you will be able to copy films in your archives onto a duplicate negative or perhaps some other medium in the future,” says Rick Utley, vice president of PRO-TEK Media Preservation Services for Kodak. “If you store your film correctly, it can last up to 500 years before you have to make a duplicate copy. Videotape is another story. Research indicates that 10 to 15 years might be the average life because the signals degrade and you constantly have to migrate to the latest technology or face media or equipment obsolescence. Technology moves too quickly to expect images captured in data to be accessible in 25 to 30 years.”
Kodak listens and responds to the needs of filmmakers, and has for more than 100 years. We have been consistently forward-thinking in providing new tools that enable the creative community to tell their stories based on knowledge from over a century of imaging science. We are committed to the future of film because we believe in the value it can bring to your vision.