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With a myriad of on-set color correction systems offering a host of bells and whistles—including laptop-based systems with Adobe Photoshop-style controls that provide non-destructive 3D LUT generation to communicate between the cinematographer and the DI suite—it’s almost remarkable that someone didn’t invent this sooner.Technicolor recently launched its Digital Printer Lights system, which will serve as the basis for an on-set color management service offered through Technicolor Creative Services. The idea of Digital Printer Lights arose from a paper written by former American Society of Cinematographers president Richard Crudo calling on the industry to develop a digital dailies system based on the traditional Hazeltine printer lights, used in film for decades – a simple set of numbers to indicate the amount of red, green, blue and overall density on a scale of 1-50.”With nothing comparable to call upon in the telecine suite, we find that despite all best efforts, we’re not just flying blind, we’re working without a net,” wrote Crudo. “Right now, short of sitting at the colorist’s elbow, there exists no industry-wide method for us to properly judge what we’re doing digitally, let alone protect our vision.”Based on Crudo’s plea, Technicolor developed an on-set Digital Printer Lights system that allows the DP to control the basic look of the dailies in familiar printer light terms. But why worry so much about the color on the dailies?”Fair or not, a lot of what we do is judged by an unforgiving ‘first impressions are lasting impressions’ ethic,” wrote Crudo. Greg Ciaccio, Technicolor Creative Services’ VP of operations, explained that “This was borne out of Richard Crudo’s cry out to the industry for something that was not this kind of ether-type color correction system, where there’s really no language or nomenclature to refer to color.”DPs have been using printer lights nomenclature and numbers for years,” he added. “So we set out to develop a digital printer light system where, at the end, if you actually printed it to film and put it side-by-side with the digital, they would look the same, given the whole Technicolor process.” Running on a Grass Valley LUTher color space converter, Technicolor’s Digital Printer Lights gives cinematographers a simple set of knobs to adjust in order to achieve the look they’re after. Color metadata is stored non-destructively, and the metadata stays with the content throughout the postproduction process, serving as the basis for the DI later. “Other systems have printer light offsets, but it’s not the same,” said Terry Brown, Technicolor’s senior VP engineering/CTO “This system correlates back to the photochemical process. It’s calibrated to our Technicolor labs.” Technicolor has ordered 40 LUThers from Thomson Grass Valley (which happens to be its sister company) and plans to eventually deploy Digital Printer Lights at Technicolor facilities worldwide.In an early beta form, the system was first used by ASC cinematographer David Stump on the film What Love Is.”Cinematographers need to learn to make more articulate demands,” said Stump, adding that Digital Printer Lights gives them a precise way to do that. “I had four Viper cameras on What Love Is and I needed some way to color correct.” Cinematographer David Tattersall used the system for the upcoming film Next, which was shot with Panavision’s Genesis camera. “For Next, we provided on-set look management; we provided the dailies transfer at our Hollywood facility, and at this point, we’ll be doing the DI, most likely at our new facility in Culver City,” said Ciaccio. He explained that the system is optimized for full-bandwidth cameras like Viper, Genesis or ARRI’s D-20, but it can also support HD 4:2:2 cameras. “There are two modes,” explained Ciaccio. “One mode operates in strict digital printer lights – red green and blue with overall contrast. The other one works like a mini-color corrector in lift/gain/gamma mode or ASC-CDL mode, which is a little bit more elaborate, but it also gives them more flexibility.”

Written by Scott Lehane

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