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20th Century Fox Purchases Pablo PA for Chronicle

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20th Century Fox has purchased Quantel’s Pablo PA conform, prep and workflow software and put it into immediate service on the post production of the ARRI Alexa-shot movie Chronicle, slated for release Feb. 3, 2012. Executive producer James Dodson reported that Pablo PA has helped him to address three big issues – “speed, efficiency and quality.”

“While FotoKem is our lab and will handle all the coloring for us on its Pablo systems, we wanted to do our VFX pulls in house,” Dodson explained. “So we ran tests on several well-known vendors’ software because we thought we ought to be able to use them for debayering and doing DPXs. We looked at the results at 800% zoom. FotoKem’s results from its Pablo were better and sharper than the others – the difference was clearly visible. Our digital artist Robert Zalkind suggested that we should contact Quantel and see if they had a ‘lite’ version of Pablo we could try. So we got in touch with Quantel and ran the same test through Pablo PA as we had through all the other systems. The results we got were identical to FotoKem’s big Pablo – pixel perfect at 800% zoom.

“As a result, we bought a Pablo PA immediately and put it straight to work on Chronicle. We’ve been using it for two months now and it’s a total success – and we’ve probably saved some money too!” Dodson continued. “We originally bought the Pablo PA to create DPXs and make our own VFX plates. Along the way we also decided to do the digital conform to locked DPX files and prepare the session for FotoKem so they can just start coloring when our files arrive.”

Alongside his many producing and directing credits, Dodson has also run VFX companies and post facilities, so he’s not scared to take on new technologies and methods. “Zalkind suggested that we could improve our workflow even more by installing Avid software on the same PC which is running the Pablo PA. This works brilliantly; we can take AAFs from the Avid straight into the Pablo PA, then output QuickTimes and put them into the Avid timeline for a confidence check of the conform. When Walter Volpatto, our colorist at FotoKem heard we were running the Avid on the same box as the Pablo PA, he loved the idea and immediately asked FotoKem to get the same setup!

“Recently we were able to turn round an urgent request from Russia for some VFX plates and we had them on their way in just three hours thanks to having the Pablo PA in house. In the past this would typically have taken 24-36 hours,” Dodson added.

The Pablo PA’s pristine image handling and scaling has also played a key role in post on Chronicle. “One of the reasons we ran the zoom test when selecting the Pablo PA was because we wanted to give the movie a hand-held feel,” said Dodson. “This means that we need to scale the image up to give us room to ‘jiggle’ around within the frames to get the hand-held look we wanted. Because the Pablo PA scaler is so good, no resolution is lost.

“And that’s not all. The editor has to put in a lot of keyframes to create the repositions to achieve the hand-held look. We export an AAF from Avid using Automatic Duck into Final Cut Pro to translate the DVE metadata for Pablo PA so the Pablo PA session has all the moves built in; it’s really cool! And also the keyframes aren’t baked in so the director can change them in the DI session at FotoKem on their Pablo,” Dodson added.

“The whole process has been enlightening and rewarding,” Dodson reflected. “FotoKem have been so receptive, supportive and enthusiastic – really excited and very cool about it, and we’ve been taking every update and patch on the Pablo PA as it released and working closely with Quantel, who have been great partners.”

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