Identifying Technology Bottlenecks In Film Production
Angelini: In light of what you can do with graphics, I’m sure different pain points emerge. Now you can do the real-time stuff, so you’re waiting on something else now. Is there any other application you see for upcoming PC hardware technologies to alleviate some of what you’re waiting on now?
Rosenberg: To me, the biggest bottlenecks right now are file formats and the size of files and pushing that data back and forth. With the Maximus program, with some of the Tesla technology we’ve seen from Nvidia, we are in a whole different moment right now in terms of processing data from some of our really sophisticated and complicated CPU processing applications.
So, I see the biggest issue around networking and sharing large files without having to have a really crazy fibre SAN to tie everyone together. You know, fast Ethernet, and faster communication and sharing of those files is probably going to be the likely next technology step. The new developments around CPUs and workstations is going to be centered around faster access to RAM and other things that are critical to accelerating all of these processes.
The truth is that it’s frustrating because you don’t want to say something close-minded like “I hope they stop at 4K,” but at a certain point we need to kind of agree that, you know, eh, a 4K workflow is pretty good. 8K projectors? Maybe that makes sense, but I don’t really get that. But hopefully you reach a standard. 4K projected on a great projector looks amazing, and 2K projected on a great projector looks amazing. At that point, once you level off in terms of those file formats, then to me it’s about pushing that data faster, sharing the data better, and processing the data faster.
Angelini: Is there anything you’re doing behind the scenes to alleviate that in your own operation?
Rosenberg: I’ve spent the majority of my post-production career on the floor of the server room bleeding trying to fix problems and solve issues. I never withhold information about things and processes we do. We may have a secret sauce for creating a certain type of effect or look. But in terms of technology stuff from the back-end, we’re doing some grassroots stuff too.
We have fast storage drives that we plug stuff into and share data off of drives. We have two fiber arrays that we connect to. One is near for certain projects and one is shared. And that’s pretty much how we’re sharing data. The other part of that is I’m not ready to make that investment in the next step of data storage because I think that’s an ongoing discussion and right now it works for us.
But, you know, what we envision is building literally a 100 TB closet that has an incredible amount of RAID redundancy that is constantly an accessible storage unit for all of your files. That’s the biggest issue that I foresee in the future. Everyone’s data is going to slowly exist on drives. Solid-state is great. If everything can get to solid-state that’s great. But that’s going to be a while. But it is concerning to consider that all of these formats are going to exist digitally.
Angelini: This is separate, but it’s going to interest a lot of the hardware guys because movies are fascinating to us. I’m a layperson, and I see raw footage of an actor in what will eventually become an intense action sequence on-screen. And you’re missing a ton of realism because you’re trying to keep these guys safe and get the shot. So, as an editor in post-production, what do you do to make that shot believable? What kind of hardware is involved, what kind of software is involved, and how much of that is just the editor’s talent?
Rosenberg: I would say that I can only speak specifically to our work. And I would say that the intensity, the immersion of the experience is a direct result of the strategy that Mouse and Scott employed when shooting the movie or shooting the content that you’re watching. So there’s a very aggressive, hands-on strategy that they follow on-set that is somewhat a result of the camera formats that we’re using, the limited resources that we’re shooting with that create a more intense schedule that create a little more intense feeling on-set.
Specifically with Act of Valor, all we needed for editorial was systems that worked reliably. And what we did for finishing was make sure that we did a de-noise pass and then a re-grain pass of the movie so that the 5D material didn’t feel digital. And that was something where we relied on Nvidia cards using Cinnafilm’s Dark Energy tool and we went through and actually de-noised all of the Canon 5D Mark II material and then did a scene-by-scene re-grain of all that material to make it blend.
So it’s kind of like, what you’re asking is how do you keep that footage feeling like it’s part of the same moment and there are two answers. One is we use some specific technology to help enhance the image. But none of that matters if the content itself isn’t compelling. So there’s no secret sauce in editorial other than the talented editing that goes into creating pace and creating tension from incredible material. In that instance we have Z800 and we have 8600 HP workstations that were the primary editorial systems on Act of Valor. And then we went onto a Z800 with our Nvidia graphics cards and did post-processing for color correction and for the texturing of the film, as we call. So there was no “this shot is so much better because of this.” It’s really a result of how we approach making movies and the passion that we put into it. If the shots aren’t compelling, then Scott and Mouse haven’t done their job. They set a mandate that every frame has to be beautiful. And we had 15 cameras on some shots. When you’re shooting fast-roping onto the back of a yacht in the open ocean, that’s pretty bitchin’.