Production Wizard Logo

To DI For

May 29th, 2009

Still from O Brother Where Art ThouI’m going to be a bit nerdy this week, as I came upon an interesting piece on DI.  For a long time when it first became popular, I wondered why this process was named after a girl?  Was she related to one of the inventors, like Alan Michael Sugar of Amstrad, was she someone’s long lost pet?  Then I discovered, DI is a Digital Intermediate, how dull is that!   But for director’s and DOP’s, it’s nirvana and has been said to be one of the largest single revolutions in 100 years of film making.

It has been the buzz since 2000 and has become a most important part of film making – artistically and technically, though it’s a process that can be so subtle as to be invisible but can give a movie an original and stunning look.

So what is it?  Put simply, it’s colour grading.  Didn’t they use to do that at labs?  Yes, but this is more, and very sophisticated. Here’s how it works. The film from the camera is transferred into a computer, then projected on a screen – in accordance with the final cut, colour corrected to fit the vision of the director and DOP, recorded back into the computer then output onto a film negative ready to be release printed at the labs.  So it’s an intermediate stage between the camera film and the print and it’s digital.

The very first film to have a full DI was the Coen’s, ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’, in 2000.  The dry, tinted, desaturated look was created, despite the fact that the film was shot in locations with lush green vegetation.  Then they used what’s called 2K resolution, the best quality available at the time.  Flash forward to 2008 and the time-lapse documentary, Baraka – originally made in 1992, was re-mastered at four times that quality, 8K, so much so, that each frame took 12 seconds to scan and the whole film took three weeks to do.  It was shot on 65mm though, but phew!

When the DI process first came along it was expensive and slow compared to traditional colour grading at the lab.  In the early days it could cost up to five times more than traditional lab grading.  O Brother Where Art Thou, took ten weeks to grade, but like all new technology, people were learning.  Now, three weeks is average and it could get quicker.

Still from the movie, Pubulic EnemiesThe majority of movies seen at multiplexes now, have been graded with the DI process and with the popularity of shooting digitally on films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Michael Mann’s, Public Enemies, using cameras including Viper and Red, the DI is the natural co-star.  DI facilities now produce the dailies and while doing so record specific picture information, which is later used as a starting point in the grade to achieve the look.

Some directors of course have been somewhat carried away by the effects that can be achieved, but for most, it provides a subtle means of creating a more involving experience for the audience.

Nerdy, but to good effect.

Tags: Tags: , , , ,

Posted in: The Weekly Wizard

Goodbye Granada

May 28th, 2009

coronationstreet_ajpgNo, not the company, the brand.  Anything Granada will now be re-branded ITV Studios, by ITV.  In fact the only time the famous logo has recently been seen in the UK has been on shows made for other channels like Countdown for Channel Four and BBC’s, The Street.

Granada began broadcasting from Manchester as the ITV franchise for the North West in 1956, the year of the first Eurovision Song Contest which was hosted by Switzerland and was won by….Switzerland!

Most well known for shows including Coronation Street and World In Action, the regional news is still called Granada Reports, but not for much longer.

Eurovision Song Contest 1956The change will mostly be noticed in the US where it’s production arm will be re-branded as ITV Studios Inc, as part of ITV’s branding strategy for ITV Global Content, which they say will better reflect the scale and ambition of the US operation.  There, they’re most well known for shows including, Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares and Nanny 911.

Ta-ra me ducks!

Tags: Tags: , , , , ,

Posted in: UK - TV news

Studio Serkis

May 27th, 2009

serkis-gollum-2Performance capture, the technique whereby actor’s movements and performances are captured on computers to be turned into CG characters, is becoming much-in-demand for movie and gaming producers.  Robert Zemekis’, Jim Carey starrer, A Christmas Carol and Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland make extensive use of the technique which largely grew out of Lord Of The Rings and King Kong.

New Zealand’s,  WETA Digital, pioneered the techniques in which actor Andy Serkis played Gollum and King Kong, ultimately having his every move replaced by the CG creatures.  WETA is now regarded as the world leader in the technique, and recently worked on James Cameron’s Avatar and Spielberg’s Tin Tin.

Serkis and producer Jonathan Cavendish have now teamed-up with UK’s Screen East in a study to test the market for a similar state of the art facility in the UK.  While the UK does have the technology and the capability, there is no centre of excellence to match WETA , which has led to many highly trained artists and technical crew looking abroad for work.

Working in association with CG house, Double Negative, the plan is to create a UK based, world class, performance capture facility,  consultancy and production arm, to contribute to this much-in-demand technique for the movie and gaming industries.

I resisted any opportunity to use the word, precious, in this piece!

Tags: Tags: , , , , , ,

Posted in: UK - Film news

Curtain-Up on TV

May 26th, 2009

Sandi ToksvigFinally, since the BBC’s Play For Today in 1984, a broadcaster has realised the appeal of plays on TV.  More so, live theatre.  Sky Arts are to commission six half hour plays to be performed in a theatre set, in front of an audience and to be shown live, straight through, without ad breaks.

The Sky Arts Theatre Live company is headed-up by comedienne Sandi Toksvig and includes actors Pauline Collins and John Alderton, who will be one of the directors of the series.  The plays will rehearse for two weeks at Richmond’s Orange Tree theatre before moving to the studio for the live broadcast.

Curtain goes up for the first play on July 8 and will run for the next five weeks.

Tags: Tags: , ,

Posted in: UK - TV news

And The Winners Are…

May 26th, 2009

Still from Haneke's The White RibbonThe Cannes Film Festival came to a close with the award of the coveted Palm d’Or to director of the often obscure, Michael Haneke for The White Ribbon.  Set in pre-WW1, in a small German town, and shot in grim black and white,  the story tells of dark tragedy and strange happenings at a school as war approaches.

Best actor went to a surprised Christoph Waltz for his portrayal of Colonel Hans Landa in Still from Inglorious BasterdsTarrantino’s, Inglorious Basterds, who thanked the tall guy for giving him his vocation back.  Waltz’s IMDB rating has rocketed over 700%, who knows what awaits him next?

Tags: Tags: , , , , ,

Posted in: International - Film & TV news

Antipodean Biz

May 22nd, 2009

australia_movie_posterjpgBeing and adventurer and explorer by nature I thought it was time to stretch far beyond the comfort of Hollywood and the west, to the far-off lands of the east – Australia and New Zealand.  I wanted to discover whatever form of a film industry was there and whether it flourishes like the bush or is as dry as a bushmen’s sock.

Think of Australia and of course Baz Luhrman comes to mind, maker of the not so successful movie named after the very country.  Baz has made some of the few movies to have broken the country’s shores, notably, Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet and his more indigenous debut, Strictly Ballroom.  And here’s the thing, it may be that Australian culture and lifestyle just doesn’t sell to international audiences although Crocodile Dundee and Picnic At Hanging Rock are exceptions.

old-pacific-cinema-buladelah-wikiInterestingly, Australia’s film industry was big in the early days, in fact they made what is thought to be the world’s first full length narrative feature in 1906 about, you guessed it, Ned Kelly.  This began the 20 year boom time, when more films were made in Australia than in most other countries in the world including the UK and the US.  So what happened?  Cinema owners and distributors discovered big business and that it was cheaper to buy Hollywood movies than to make their own and in the 1920’s signed deals to only show US product after which, 94% of all films shown, were American.  Sound familiar??

The majority of film work in Australia today is in servicing foreign productions, a bit like the UK.  The $OZ makes it attractive and both Fox and Warners set-up studios there, where films including The Matrix,  Star Wars 2 & 3 and more recently, Wolverine were shot and in November, Martin Campbell’s, The Green Lantern begins production.  So it looks like the boom time once again for Sydney production and visual effects crews, even if the movies aren’t home grown.

Oz is well known of course for the talent which has escaped its shores including Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Sam Worthington – Terminator 2, and Russell Crowe who insists he’s an Aussie though he was born in New Zealand.

impawardscom-frighteners_ver1jpgNow, New Zealand, or middle-earth as it became known, had less prolific beginnings and in the thirty years since the setting up of the National Film Unit in 1941, only three features were made, the rest being documentaries.  But the early ‘70’s, saw the beginning of their boom time!   And in the ’90’s, recognition, with awards for Lee Tamahori’s Once Were Warriors, and Jane Campion’s The Piano.  But it was Peter Jackson, who began making horror’s including, The Frighteners – shot outside the local girl’s college, and graduated to the mammoth Lord Of The Rings trilogy, who brought the country international movie status.

Most of New Zealand’s population had parts as extras during the two yearweta1ajpg production, and Jackson’s Weta studios, created a still burgeoning environment for special effects technicians, visual effects artists, construction, model makers etc, pretty much a whole industry where once there was none.  It’s the untouched locations that now attract movies and TV series, mostly from the US, to its shores, that and the $KIWI of course.

Currently, most well known TV export, Flight Of The Conchords.

Famous Kiwi actors,  Karl Urban, Lucy Lawless, did I mention Russell Crowe?

Tags: Tags: , , , , ,

Posted in: The Weekly Wizard

Don’t Hear It Here First

May 21st, 2009

Bones posterYou thought the internet was the place to get news on up-coming productions fast and first, well, like newspapers and then radio, it used to be.  Now – you know what’s coming next, it’s Twitter.  News on the re-commissioning or otherwise of US TV shows now breaks out from the stars and producers to their Twitter followers, before studio PR’s get to draft a line.

While Fox were keeping quiet on negotiations for the two year renewal of Bones, Exec. Hart Hanson, had informed delighted fans via Twitter.  And when Castle, star Nathan Fillion heard ABC had picked-up his show, his 51,000 followers were the second to know.

Hope you’re following us on Twitter, we want you to get the news when we do, or once we’ve reported it anyways.

Tags: Tags: , , , ,

Posted in: US - TV news

Pact Says No To C4/C5 Marriage

May 21st, 2009

Friends posterIn a recent survey of indie producer members of PACT, on the proposed merger of Channel Four and Five, the majority response was that it would be bad news for business.  52% thought it would have an ‘adverse effect’ while 13% thought it would be ‘highly adverse’.  Their main worry was that it would,  ‘…lead to a further reduction in British programming’.

Of course this is really about where floundering Channel Four will go with it’s begging bowl and in this respect producers would prefer the Channel Four deal with BBC Worldwide.

Five is said to be puzzled at the result, as this would be the saviour of Channel Four but it looks like the producers just don’t want them to be friends.  Maybe that’s it?

Tags: Tags: , ,

Posted in: UK - TV news

Bollywood Pirates Doing Well

May 20th, 2009

No queues at Bollywoof box officeAs the Bollywood producer’s strike over revenues received from cinemas continues for over a month now, there’s still no satisfactory settlement.  Multiplexes are losing between $3,000 and £4,000 a day as producers refuse to let their films be shown.  Cinema going is big in India and desperate audiences are getting their movies from other sources – pirate DVD’s.  Suddenly it’s big business for the pirates, as families re-discover the entertainment and economic benefits of a movie night in.

The lack of home grown fare has meant continued engagements for Hollywood blockbusters, Fast and Furious and Monsters v Aliens which have fared well during the school holidays, other films from Italy and Thailand however have bombed.

At the moment, neither side is willing to compromise, though the producers do seem to have the upper hand, and audiences are looking forward to the eventual release of the backlog.

Tags: Tags: , , ,

Posted in: International - Film & TV news

Students Watch For Free

May 20th, 2009

students-wacth-iplayerThe BBC, inventors of the excellent iPlayer concept, is getting fed-up that people, particularly students, are watching their shows for free.  You don’t need a licence to watch iPlayer like you do for a TV, and in the rapidly growing internet culture, iPlayer rules ok.  BBC technology chief, Erik Huggers, has three suggestions – people would have to buy an extra licence for iPlayer, make iPlayer a subscription service, or up the licence fee to include iPlayer.

Meanwhile, the price of the BBC licence fee is about to be discussed by MP’s as the Conservatives have proposed a freeze for next year.  The fee rises yearly, this year by £3 to £142.50 for a year, but Conservatives say a freeze will help maintain public support for the channel.  The BBC claim a freeze would curb their editorial independence, while broadcasting union, BECTU, has written to MP’s urging them to vote against the freeze, saying the BBC needs the money to maintain the quality of shows and jobs, and that it’s just a political gimmick.

Oh, well, Comme ci, comme ca, as the say in Cannes.

Tags: Tags: ,

Posted in: UK - TV news

« Older Entries