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Zoic Bridges Remote Facilities and Paves a Path to 4K with AJA KONA 3G

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Zoic on Falling Skies
Zoic on Falling Skies
With locations in Culver City and Vancouver, Zoic Studios provides effects in film, advertising, games and television. Zoic is currently handling VFX for television shows including Falling Skies and Once Upon a Time and Wonderland, all shot using virtual sets. The company is also venturing into 4K postproduction within its commercial division for the Intel and Toshiba web series, The Power Within. For efficient collaboration across remote facilities, Zoic relies on AJA’s KONA 3G cards to help facilitate live synchronized sessions using Tweak’s RV-SDI playback and review software.

“KONA 3G is the backbone of high quality image communication between Zoic Vancouver and Zoic Culver City,” said Mike Romey, Zoic Studios head of pipeline. “Using the RV-SDI integration, we queue up media in the projection rooms at each location for synced up dailies sessions where teams of artists can review and annotate shots in real time with supervisors at full resolution.”

Zoic’s projection rooms are set up to view HD, 2K and 4K dailies, and are frequently tapped to finalize upwards of 400 VFX shots for each episode, and workflow reliability is paramount. During review, files are opened in Tweak Software’s RV image and sequence viewer, using a custom front end to record dailies into Shotgun Software’s web-based production management platform. Since up to 50 artists and supervisors across both locations might be contributing to a project, Zoic’s KONA 3G-powered workflow allows producers to compare and contrast different versions of any given shot to ensure appropriate edits and design choices are implemented during session reviews.

“We can do instant playback projection to easily show things like the last CG render of the most recent lighting pass,” Romey said. “There is constant iterating, and being able to present changes in real time with the KONA 3G is incredibly valuable.”

While a majority of Zoic’s deliverables are in HD, the studio’s commercial division is currently working on webisode content in 4K for Intel and Toshiba. Implementing a 4K pipeline was a fairly straightforward task because of Zoic’s existing infrastructure. The studio uses the KONA 3G cards with The Foundry’s HIERO collaborative shot management solution for plate prep, Autodesk Flame editorial and color grading software for final conform and finishing, along with RV-HDSDI for review.

“We didn’t have to retool our workflow for 4K reviews,” Romey explained. “We already had a high bandwidth to route content to the KONA 3G card from our servers and RV supports 4K so it was just a matter of adjusting the projector.”

Zoic’s television credits include True Blood, Once Upon a Time, Fringe, Wonderland and Intelligence as well as Falling Skies and Hemlock Grove, which feature work nominated for the 2013 outstanding visual effects Emmy award. Considering the volume and scheduling demands of episodic work, Zoic currently makes editorial improvements to ensure high quality on delivered shots. An early adopter of HIERO, Zoic uses 25 licenses of the software, with most workstations running KONA 3G on display monitors to do live I/O from the conform. Connecting via HDMI and with help from HIERO, the KONA 3G card has even enabled stereo 3D dailies for a recent feature film project.

Looking to the future, Zoic is developing a custom software pipeline designed to work with game engines to enable the output of live CG renders through NVIDIA Quadro GPUs for direct-to-video via the KONA 3G card, resulting in ultra-low latency I/O that will be ideal for game trailers, live event production, broadcast and similar projects.

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