Interviewed by Jack Egan
I’ve just finished director Mike Binder’s new film The Upside of Anger, starring Kevin Costner with Richard Greatrex the cinematographer. Before that I did Deep Blue, a French documentary about the oceans. Also, Wondrous Oblivion where Nina Kellgren was the cinematographer. And I did the HD conforming on Ella Enchanted with cinematographer John de Borman.
The cinematographers usually work on site during the process. Some come in and give you a set of instructions, leave for a day and come back to see what you’ve done. Others sit with you throughout the process. That was the case with Nina Kellgren on Wondrous Oblivion. The cinematographer will often use the DI process to relight shots and change things completely. The Upside of Anger looks totally different than the way it was shot.
One technique we use now at VTR lets my monitor get calibrated to look like how the actual print will look when it’s projected in a cinema. You can go into the viewing theater here and project a print that we shot out overnight and it looks exactly the same as it did on my monitor. That’s a huge step forward.
We have a very fast system, which is our special niche. So depending on a film’s budget, we can do color grading in as little as a week. Two weeks is normally enough to do a really nice job. When you finish grading you shoot it back to film, which is when the video deliverables are also done. We do the HD mastering and the PAL and NTSC versions as well, so all in all it can take four or five weeks total.
One big advantage of DI is that the conforming is quick. We only allow one day for scanning a whole movie. That’s how fast we are. And we don’t do multiple passes on a negative. The original negative gets handled once and then it’s put away in the can. Once you scan the data, it’s there and if you want to make five negatives, every one will be of the same quality as the first one.
The biggest plus is you can go straight from the virtual grading suite to the projection booth and look at the film. If instead you go to a lab first, you won’t see a print for several days and when you do, you can’t go back to what you had originally. It’s gone.
Are there any minuses employing DI? The 3D look-up tables for the 3D color key were initially a problem but that’s pretty much been resolved. The biggest gremlin today is simply handling the amount of data that you need. It’s not the scanning but the archiving. For an entire movie it takes about 3 1/2 terrabytes [3,500 gigabytes] for storage. But with the Thomson Specter Virtual DataCine system we use, it goes really fast and everything is in real time, and intuitive which is very important.
Interviewed by Jack Egan