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Viper feature debut

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By Scott Lehane
Cinematographer and visual effects supervisor David Stump recently wrapped production of the feature film Little Red Riding Hood, shot mostly on a green-screen stage in L.A. using two Thomson Grass Valley Viper camcorders. It was the first time the camera has been used to shoot anything longer than a short film or commercial.
Directed by Randal Kleiser and produced by Jonathan Bogner and Steve Austin of TAG Entertainment, the film reinterprets the classic fairy tale in a graphic MTV style, using CG sets and composited location backgrounds for almost every shot.
Since it first appeared at NAB two years ago, Viper has been the topic of much interest. Its uncompressed 4:4:4 FilmStream output yields 2.2 Gbps of data. But with such huge data rates, the camera raises a number of challenges for postproduction – in particular disk storage.
For most of the shoot, Stump used Viper in its HDStream mode and recorded directly to D5 tapes. HDStream is a new format that was added to the Viper spec earlier this year.
“While it’s not a 4:4:4 signal, it’s still a 10-bit signal in YUV color space,” said Stump. “Thomson was the first camera company to step into the same realm of color space that I am accustomed to working with in film and visual effects.” That made it ideal for pulling chroma keys.
In order to visualize the action on set, all of the camera support equipment, including a Chapman-Leonard hybrid dolly, Sachtler fluid head, ARRI Arrihead 2, Aerocrane Aerohead and Preston FIZ were fitted with encoders that fed metadata about the camera’s position and lens settings to a Vizrt system in order to drive Softimage 3D composites in real time. “Basically we gathered data from everything that housed or moved the cameras,” explained Stump.
He also used the camera’s full, uncompressed FilmStream mode for some of the film’s more complicated shots to key. He reported that he would have liked to use the FilmStream data more often, but storage was the main problem. “What turned out to be the prohibiting factor was that none of the people with disk solutions, with the exception of Cineram, stepped up to the plate and offered a solution,” said Stump. “There are no rentable solutions for this kind of work at the moment.”
He reported that the portable Cineram disks were able to hold about a minute of uncompressed data before having to be loaded off to servers at FotoKem. Utah-based
Sandman Productions will serve as the primary post house for the film, which is scheduled for a March release.

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