Jim Tierney, President & Chief Executive Anarchist, Digital Anarchy
Greg Fornero, Vice President of Distribution, Postworks Digital
Laura Blum, Blogger, Freelance (@uglymcgregor)
Sean Devereaux, Co-Founder, VFX Supervisor, Zero VFX
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on the Buzz, we are looking at visual effects. We start with Greg Fornero, the VP of Distribution for Post Work, specializes in creating DCP packages to enable films to be shown digitally in theaters. Tonight Greg explains what these are, how they are made, and what you need to know to bring your film to the big screen.
Larry Jordan: Next Lewis McGregor, inspired by Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, creates practical visual effects in his kitchen. Tonight Lewis describes, what he does and how it works. Next Sean Deveraux, is the Visual Effects Supervisor, for Zero VFX. They specialize in creating invisible effects, wait until you hear Sean describe what these are.
Larry Jordan: Next Jim Tierney, Chief Anarchist at Digital Anarchy, they have just released a new tool called Samurai Sharpen, which can help bring fuzzy images to life. Tonight Jim explains the magic which makes it work. Next Laura Blum has a preview of Doc NYC, the largest film festival dedicated to documentary films. Along with one film that is already destined to be a highlight.
Larry Jordan: As always James DeRuvo is here with our weekly Doddle News update. The Buzz starts now.
Male Voiceover: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking: Authoritative; one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals. Current; uniting industry experts. Production; filmmakers. Post-production, and content creators around the planet. Distribution; from the media capital of the world, in Los Angeles, California, the Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: Welcome to the Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry, covering media production, post production and marketing around the world. This year marks our 17th year of podcasting. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan. Adobe Max opened yesterday, with an exciting key note, and some very interesting news, James DeRuvo will be along with news on Adobe, and Panasonic in just a minute. In the mean time I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue, every week, gives you an inside look at the Buzz quick links to the different segments on the show, and curated articles of special interest to film makers. Best of all, every issue is free and comes out on Friday. Now it is time for a Doddle News update with the ever handsome Mr James DeRuvo, hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hi Larry, how are you doing?
Larry Jordan: I am talking to you and I am really curious what happened at Adobe Max yesterday. What is the news?
James DeRuvo: Oh boy there is a lot going on at Adobe Max in San Diego this week. First up they announced this new hosting service for team projects, which would enable you to, if your company is a subscriber, an enterprise subscriber, or team projects subscriber, you can actually put all of your assets on their hosting service for free. Then what you can do is use the lower resolution proxys and make all your changes, then all your team mates can go from the same source material, and they can do it with conflict resolution, burgeoning, and that way everyone is using the same footage. You can then put it all together, and you can be all over the world. So it is another one of those in the cloud kind of solutions, which enables people to be able to work via the internet, to create their movie, and cinema and video projects.
Larry Jordan: Now is this just Photo Shop or is it Adobe Premiere as well?
James DeRuvo: No, it is Premiere Pro, After Effects, their entire line of creative cloud, they have expanded it to the whole kit and caboodle. In addition, they have also made some improvements to the lumetri color panel that new color editing system that is roughly based on Adobe Light Room. But they have made it for video, and it offers some new pre-sets, new cinema pre-sets, that enable you to apply and preview in a non-destructive fashion to see if you like whatever these pre-sets, which are kind of like look up tables, to color correct on the fly for your project. This is my favorite feature, it is called HSL secondary’s, and what HSL Secondary’s allows you to do is, say you have some footage that you really like, but you cannot shoot it again and you realize that the sky was just a little too washed out. Well you can just highlight the sky, and it color corrects just the sky, using HSL secondary’s, and bring back that beautiful blue sky, for your color corrected image. It is really a cool new feature. On top of that they also added support for HDR 10, the high dynamic range, open source high dynamic range, color standard so that you can output for the latest ultra HDL premium TV sets that are coming out.
Larry Jordan: Very very cool.
James DeRuvo: Virtual reality is 3D wise, Adobe has added, a new feature which automatically reads the kind of virtual reality camera that you use. So whether you are using a mono scopic camera aray, like the GoPro Odyssey for instance, or you are using a stereo scopic camera ray, like the Samsung Galaxy VR. Adobe will read the file and then convert it into the proper VR presentation, so you can look at it in a regular version. Then do all your editing to it, and when you are ready to output it, onto Facebook or YouTube, the virtual reality application will automatically tag it. So you do not have to do anything, you just input your footage, and it will automatically convert it, and then add the metadata and tag it, so that Facebook and YouTube can actually read it, and show it in virtual reality.
Larry Jordan: James, before we run out of time, I want to hear about Panasonic’s challenge to Red. What did they announce in Poland?
James DeRuvo: It is Panavision, not Panasonic. They didn’t challenge Red, they developed a new camera with Red, called the Millennium DXL, 8K cinema camera. It has a 16 bit, 35.5 megapixel cmos sensor, 18 stops of dynamic range, shoots 8K raw with an additional 4K proxy, simultaneously, and uses the light iron color science. They are showing it off at Photo Image this weekend in Poland, and they are going to start renting it in early 2017.
Larry Jordan: Very cool. How about Magic Lantern, what have you got?
James DeRuvo: Magic Lantern, they have turned their attention towards the Canon 5D mark iv. They just took the very first steps by getting the display test to work, so with Magic Lantern, it is like dog gnawing on a bone, you have got to take every little inch that you can find, and you are in it for the long haul, it is a marathon. They have just took those very first steps, to bring Magic Lantern to the 5D mark iv platform. So that is very exciting news.
Larry Jordan: That is very exciting, and James, for people who want to stay in touch with what is going on, where do they go on the web?
James DeRuvo: All these and other stories can be found at Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for Doddlenews.com. James we will talk to you next week.
James DeRuvo: All right Larry, take care.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: I want to introduce you to a new website, thalo.com. Thalo.com is an artist community and networking site, for creative people to connect, be inspired and showcase their creativity. Thalo.com features content from around the world, with a global perspective on all things creative. Thalo is the place for creative folks to learn, collaborate, market and sell their works. Thalo is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, film makers and story tellers. From photography to film making, performing arts to fine arts and everything in between. Thalo is filled with resources that you need to succeed. Visit thalo.com and discover how their community can help you connect, learn and succeed. That is thalo.com.
Larry Jordan: Greg Fornero, is the Vice President of Distribution of Post Works Digital. This is a New York based post house. Greg has been involved in digital theater, specifically creating DCP packages for film makers for more than 11 years. Hello Greg, welcome.
Greg Fornero: Hi Larry, thanks.
Larry Jordan: You know, I have read your bio, and it seems like you have worked for every post house in New York City. What are you doing now?
Greg Fornero: At the moment I work for Post Works, primarily focused on digital cinema mastering, and distribution for independent and small clients, that are just starting to get involved in digital cinema and might need a little bit of extra help.
Larry Jordan: Give us some background. What is a digital cinema package?
Greg Fornero: So a digital cinema package is a collection of files that since the major studios and industry players, about 10 to 15 years ago got together, and decided what the different file formats would be. They settled on DCP, a collection of audio, and image files, that plays in the technology specifically set up for theatrical display, and that kind of thing. It is a very specific file format that theaters play, that is different to what you get anywhere else.
Larry Jordan: Why is that necessary, why not just send them a Quick Time movie?
Greg Fornero: One of the big things is security, there are a lot of inherent security measures, baked into the digital cinema architecture. The DCP’s generally are encrypted, the transmissions between the player, that actually plays the file, and the projector that plays the file, those links are encrypted, and there are various different security mechanisms. In addition, it actually uses slightly different color space, called XYZ, that from my understanding is generally superior to most other color spaces, because it is the same color space that, I think, human eyes use. So there is a lot more flexibility on what it can do.
Larry Jordan: We were reading with the recent announcements from final cut, from Apple, with the support of the display P3 space, which is what DCP packages support. Is that it is moving us towards the world of HDR, so why is a company like Post Works necessary? Why can’t film makers create their own DCP package?
Greg Fornero: That is one of those things where, if you are not doing it every day, there are some very specific rules that you are supposed to follow, to make sure that the digitals in the package that you create are universally accepted everywhere. Also, there are some technical challenges that you may run into, that if you do not have an extensive background in trying to sort out, you essentially might get stuck, trying to figure out why something doesn’t work the way you are expecting it to work.
Larry Jordan: I can envision multiple ways that could happen. Why did Post Works decide to form a group, specifically to focus on this?
Greg Fornero: Well, Post Works has been in the digital cinema mastering the arena for a few years now. The venture that I am championing right now, the distribution entity is one of the things that we felt, was that the little guy, wasn’t necessarily getting as much care and attention and they could be, from the larger distribution companies that are out there. We wanted to put something together that was more focused on their needs. When you are a major studio, and you are churning out two or three hundred versions of a DCP for two or three hundred different countries, in a week or two. That is a completely different thing, than when you are getting your DCP created for the first time, and trying to get itself around the differences around the U.S. So the friendly line process doesn’t necessarily work as well, when you are making your first DCP, you are trying to get it to this festival that plays your movie, then you want to get it to the next one. It is just a much different environment, and tends to require more agility, more patience, especially when it is someone’s first time. It is a little bit different than anything else out there. So you can talk people through things, and help people feel comfortable. Because in the end, you are working with what is their creative love.
Larry Jordan: We have a number of film makers that listen to this show, and I want to come to the bigger question of what do they need to know? But one of them is listening on a live chat, and Eric is asking, is there a certain gamma setting, a mid tone gray, that I should use on Quick Time output, to get a good DCP translation? Or, does any movie look good?
Greg Fornero: The standard Quick Time gamma setting, that I typically see, is either two four or two six. I believe two six is the standard, I mean, if you had to pick one, I think two six is probably the standard. Two four, being probably a close second. Those are the ones that I see come up most commonly. Those probably work the best, but the key thing when it comes to gamma settings, in Quick Time, and this trips a lot of new people up. Is whenever the Quick Time is being made, one of the settings that you cannot get after the fact, to my knowledge, is the gamma that was used to create the Quick Time. You want to make sure that Quick Time captures what gamma they create it at, and gives the people that are making a DCT, because without that, it is going to be hard to make it look exactly the way you intended it to.
Larry Jordan: In other words, if you do not know the specs with which the movie was created, you cannot translate it properly.
Greg Fornero: Yes, there is a big risk that it may not come out, exactly the way you envisioned it.
Larry Jordan: Well it gets to a bigger question. What answers do film makers need to have to work with you, so you can create a good looking DCP? What are common mistakes and how do we fix them?
Greg Fornero: Honestly, gamma is probably one of the bigger ones. You want to make sure that you know what color space the source file is in for the DCP, generally it is going to be Rec 709 or P3, but that is not always the case. Bit depth, is it 8bit, 10bit, 12bit, the range, whether it is full or legal. Then the gamma, and the frame rate, is probably the other one. Frame rate has actually come up a lot recently. One of the things to keep in mind for digital cinema, is that it is very specifically, at least in a 2D space, 24.0 frames per second. Converting your standard Quick Time of 23 98 to 24, isn’t a big deal. But when you start dealing with 25 frames per second, and 30 frames per second content, you start having to deal with drop frames. And that can have a larger impact on the visual of your movie than you might like. So it is one of those things to try and make sure, if you cannot do a true 24 Quick Time, doing a 23 98 Quick Time is probably your best bet.
Larry Jordan: I am really surprised thought, that for a digital format, that frame rate is even necessary. Why do we care? Because it is digital, we are not working with films and sprockets any more.
Greg Fornero: My understanding, is that the technology was actually designed to help the human eye as much as possible. Along with the way the DCP is constructed, it actually kind of is an electronic digital version of a film reel. Each frame of the movie is actually a stand alone image, and they are played in sequence. So when you start tampering with having to convert from 30 to 24, where you are having to pull out 20% of your frames, and it is starting to convert that to 24, it can start having an issue when you are doing panning scenes, or fast action. I think that was done mostly for the human eye but also to enable editing, i’m not 100% sure on that.
Larry Jordan: So what you are saying is that the DCP package is not actually a movie, it is an image sequence, and we are playing individual frames rather than playing them strung together in a Quick Time movie.
Greg Fornero: At its most base level, yes. Your standard feature DCP is actually going to be made up in reels, they are reel files. Generally speaking they are approximately 20 minute chunks, just like they were in film. Those reels are actually packaged in what is called an MXF wrapper, essentially it is like a zip file, except there is no compression taking place, it is just kind of a wrapper for all of the individual JPEG frames. When each frame is played, it is actually single frame at a time. For 2D and 3D, the standard frame rate is 48 and you get one frame left eye, one frame right eye, one frame left eye, one frame right eye.
Larry Jordan: I can understand why it is a complex format, there is a lot buried below the surface. How do you charge for your services?
Greg Fornero: Generally speaking we sit down, take the equipment necessary to make all the material, and man hours necessary, and you see what the market is out there in L.A. and New York. You do not want to go too high, because the cost is then prohibitive, but you do not want to go too low because you have got to keep up your investment. So, you try and keep it as low as you can, while still paying for everything. Making it accessible to everyone so they can get the services made, so that anybody can get their movie on screen at a theater.
Larry Jordan: What is a price range, are we talking $50,000 to convert, or $2,000?
Greg Fornero: Depending on the run time of your feature, I would say that a fair price for a feature DCP is probably somewhere between, $1,500 to $2,500. There are places that do charge more, but that is probably the most fair market price.
Larry Jordan: Well that strikes me as a reasonable amount, as opposed to $50,000 or $60,000. How long does it take to convert, assuming no problems, which you and I both know never happens?
Greg Fornero: Typically the file conversion process has a lot to do with the machinery that is handling it. If you could do this on your laptop at home, then it might take a really long time. But when you have the professional grade equipment that we use, that will generally take anywhere from, real time ish, to double real time. The actual process of the encoding is not super time consuming. Generally speaking the larger issue is when you are scheduling these in a queue. So if you are going through 30 of them, and somebody needs their DCP right away, the bigger challenge is you have to bump everyone else back. They have been waiting to get their content made, so it is a challenge, and it usually comes into the scheduling, and sometimes keeping people on over time to rush things through the system.
Larry Jordan: It is an amazing process. Greg, for people who want to get more information where can they go on the web?
Greg Fornero: Postworks.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word. Postworks, and Greg Fornero is the Vice President of Distribution for Post Works Digital. Greg this has been a fun visit, thank you so much for sharing your time.
Greg Fornero: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Laura Blum is a film and events curator, as well as a Thalo.com contributing writer, filmfestivals.com blogger and former film and television development executive with Sony BMG. Hello Laura, welcome back.
Laura Blum: Great to be back.
Larry Jordan: You know, we have got lots to talk about, there is this brand new festival, or at least brand new to me. Called, Doc NYC. What is it?
Laura Blum: It is actually not so brand new, it is in its 7th year, and it starts up again on November 10th. It is America’s biggest documentary film festival. So this year they are showing 250 films and events, and among them there is a hundred feature length docs. So this is no small potatoes. It has got a real old New York community feel to it, its beating heart is Greenwich Village, because it started and grew out of a series called, Stranger than Fiction, that is at the IFC Center, in Greenwich Village. Even though it has expanded to some of the Chelsea cinemas, the whole thing feels very Greenwich Village, sort of down townie, and you could walk around the places, and folks come out. This is also a student endeavour, New York University was a founding partner, and now you have got a lot of other film schools that are joining. So it is sort of a celebration of emerging, or aspiring film makers, and you know, the folks that are much more established.
Larry Jordan: What are some of the stand outs at the festival this year?
Laura Blum: I am always looking out for films with disability themes. One of them that really talked for me this year, is Borderline. It really may be the first film to profile a borderline personality disorder, in the way that it does. We are really in the film with the subject. We are watching her as she is going about her daily life, and we are seeing what sets her off, and how she responds, that subject is Regina, she is a 45 year old, diagnosed with BPD. As I was first watching this film, I thought, ah an aggressive take no crap New Yorker. You know, just like so many I meet. But something much deeper is at work here, she has really intense and stormy relationships, and she gets fired from job after job. She has very self-defeating behaviour that she wants to change, and we are there with her as she is struggling to do so. Really also, distinguishing about this film, is that the film maker herself, that is Rebbie Ratner, she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
Larry Jordan: You know, I was reflecting about a month ago, you were talking about how the media was dealing with actors with disabilities, and it strikes me now that there is an opportunity for media to do something about depression. What do you see happening?
Laura Blum: I am seeing more and more, that people are taking advantage of technology, and the way in which it has ushered in a new age of transparency and empowerment. Most recently we have seen, Kid Cudi, the rapper, who checked himself into rehab for depression, and suicidal urges. He wrote on his Facebook page, “I am not at peace.” And he really talked about it, he really got the conversation going. More recently, the Chris Gethard, the comedian, launched his one man show, Career Suicide, in which he talks about this experiences with depression. It is just much more open out there, the idea to sort of bust up the old taboos and to surmount the stigmas.
Larry Jordan: Laura, where can we go on the web to keep track of what you are seeing and what you are thinking?
Laura Blum: I write for thalo.com, and I have a blog at filmfestivals.com.
Larry Jordan: Laura as always, thanks for joining us this week.
Laura Blum: Thank you so much.
Larry Jordan: Lewis McGregor is a film maker, from Wales. In addition to making films, Lewis also writes about them for premiumbeat.com, and indietips.com. But what really caught our attention was that he makes his own special effects, in his kitchen. Hello Lewis, welcome.
Lewis McGregor: Hi, how you doing?
Larry Jordan: I’m doing great. What got you interested in special effects?
Lewis McGregor: I think the practicality of being able to do them with any old item really.
Larry Jordan: I had a change to go to your YouTube video, which has had tens of thousands of views by the way, congratulations.
Lewis McGregor: Thank you, it gets pirated a lot.
Larry Jordan: What was the effect you were trying to achieve?
Lewis McGregor: I had watched The Tree of Life, the film by Terrence Malick. There is a fantastic big bang sequence which goes on for at least ten minutes or so. I thought it was all done completely digitally, until I read that I think the Visual Effects Supervisor, Douglas Trumball, I believe, they said that a good portion of that was actually done practically, in large water tanks using dye and oil, and everything that I could buy as well. Obviously their tanks were going to be a lot larger, and a lot more efficient than a small fish tank that I was using, but the fact that these guys had created this wonderful sequence, which was enhanced, with digital effects. But they had done it practically, and it really inspired to try and do the same thing, or at least use their methods, and create something new. It was a case of using coconut oil, food dye, flour, basically anything that you could buy from your convenience store. I had no idea what I was doing, I had no idea what it was going to look like, all I knew is that there was the foundation, of using these ingredients at a fast frame rate, to then slow down and then create something abstract. Hopefully to create something cosmic. So it was kind of just a case of really pouring everything and anything into this fish tank, in order to try and simulate something similar to The Tree of Life. It was very much like a science experiment.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that intrigued me as I was watching it, is your video would switch from normal to extreme slow motion. How did you achieve that effect, without renting a phantom camera?
Lewis McGregor: Well, I was shooting on a Red One, which was, I think we could get up to about 120 frames per second. So it is not as slow as a Phantom could go, but because the water was quite oily, when I would pour milk in, it was falling to the bottom quite slowly anyway. So then, when it would be wrapped back up into normal speed, it looked like it was travelling a lot faster than it usually was.
Larry Jordan: For film makers who are intrigued with the idea of creating their own effects, what have you learned from this that you could share with them?
Lewis McGregor: I think a lot of new film makers especially, they kind of think that you need expensive material, and expensive products, to sort of achieve these sort of effects. If I could give any advice, it would be to try anything and everything. You never know what is going to work, and what isn’t going to work. I have been on professional production sets, where the things that they are using, are the things that I could also buy myself. Such as, if someone is walking through the door of an old house, and the prop master has just gone and placed some talcum powder on top the door, so when he pushes it open, with the lighting behind it, it gets a nice beam of dust falling down. That is what you can buy in your own supermarket, so don’t be afraid to just use anything and everything that you have at your disposal. It does not require bundles of cash.
Larry Jordan: For people that want to keep track of what you are writing and the work you are working on. Where can they go on the web?
Lewis McGregor: I have my YouTube channel, which is directed towards new and starting out film makers, which is YouTube.com/uglymcgregor for more intermediate users, and those starting it the industry, you can check out premiumbeat.com where I have articles which are published throughout the month.
Larry Jordan: Lewis McGregor is a film maker from Wales, a writer for Premium Beat and has his own YouTube channel, at Ugly McGregor. Lewis thanks for joining us today.
Lewis McGregor: No problem, it was an honor.
Larry Jordan: Sean Deveraux is a Co-founder and Lead Visual Effects Supervisor of Zero VFX. His work has appeared in over 30 feature films, including American Hustle, Transformers, and Cinderella Man. Hello Sean, welcome.
Sean Deveraux: Hi Larry, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: So I’m puzzled, what exactly does a Lead Visual Effects Supervisor do?
Sean Deveraux: That is a good question. A Lead Visual Effects Supervisor, is very similar to a regular Visual Effects Supervisor, where my job is really to achieve the Director’s vision for the story we are trying to tell, and help enhance that vision.
Larry Jordan: Well it sounds that you are the lead customer facing contact, the Director talks to you and then you talk to the team.
Sean Deveraux: That’s a very good way to say it, yes.
Larry Jordan: So what first got you interested in creating visual effects?
Sean Deveraux: I was actually three years old, and I was hiding behind my couch in my parents living room, as the Wicked Witch of the West popped up from the yellow brick road, and scared me so badly that I realized that I wanted to do that to other people too.
Larry Jordan: In other words, there is a cruel streak in your nature.
Sean Deveraux: A little bit, which I didn’t notice really, but it is true. I like the manipulation of what stories can do and where they transport you, and visual effects is my way of sharing stories.
Larry Jordan: You have got a huge team behind you, which probably means that Zero specializes in some kind of effects. What do you guys specialize in?
Sean Deveraux: Well really we specialize in, and the reason for our name Zero, is that we want people to look at our work and not see it. There is some visual effects, so in like Transformers, which I had the pleasure of working on, where there is a big robot in the scene, and everyone knows that’s not real, so it is clear that the shot in this question was about the robot. The kind of stuff we do at Zero, what I really love to do, is that the shot is not about our visual effects, we enhance it, we help it be possible to tell, but we are not saying look at this shot, it is about visual effects. It is about the story, about the characters, it is about the journey they are on. So really what the name for that is, is invisible visual effects, so we enhance and we tell the story, but we don’t do so in a way that makes you look at us.
Larry Jordan: In invisible effect sounds like it’s very hard to impress Mom, saying look what I did when she cannot see it.
Sean Deveraux: Well that is true, but before and after, so we often do with a before and after is, we can show you the work the way it was photographed and then we can show the work after we did our work, and that blows people’s minds. Because often we manipulate as much of the frame as someone that is say, putting a robot into a shot, if not more so. But because you cannot tell, when you actually see the trick and the man behind the curtain, it is actually quite awe inspiring and most people are blown away by it.
Larry Jordan: Give me an example. I know you worked on Magnificent Seven, is there something there that is an invisible effect?
Sean Deveraux: Yes, there is about 900 invisible visual effects in that film. Really a lot of that was bio enhancement overall, so there is big explosions, and horses are in the explosions and cowboys and henchmen and stars of the film, and all of that. We cannot really put horses in harms way, or even the main actors in harms way, so we had to add the actual pyrotechnics around it, in post-production with our invisible effects. Also the town itself, we shot it in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where there are no mountains, so we had to enhance the environment for hundreds of shots to put mountains and even the parts of the town in, digitally speaking. So, the entire film is filled with invisible visual effects, which hopefully you will never notice.
Larry Jordan: This brings me to an important question, how important are visual effects to enhancing a script?
Sean Deveraux: Really they are important nowadays because we are so crunched on time, and budgets. So that really in this day and age, even the big budget films, there is so much to be done that you really have to understand where to spend your resources, and schedules of actors is difficult. With Magnificent Seven, as an example, did the script actually envision effects, not if we were able to shoot the whole thing in Santa Fe, but that would not have worked with the schedule of the actors, getting all seven of those guys in one place together, for a long period of time was very difficult. A lot of it comes down to the requirements of the film, preferably we would have shot in Santa Fe, the entire time, and I would have done very little, as far as the mountains go. A lot of the what the need is today, is how do we make it look as if it was shot in Santa Fe, do not take anything away from the film, because we didn’t. Make sure that we are still achieving that vision, and letting the audience feel the scale and scope of Santa Fe, even though we shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like a balancing act.
Sean Deveraux: It is, and it is on every project. Every project has its own unique challenge, which one of the fun parts of being in the film industry, every story I get to tell is different. One summer I might be in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The next summer I might be getting to shoot in my home town of Boston, and another might be somewhere in Las Vegas. So, we are telling different stories every time, and each story requires different things. It really keeps it fresh and as an artist, the best part is the constant change in what we do.
Larry Jordan: For Producers that feel as they have to have invisible effects, and want to hire Zero to do it. Where can we go on the web to learn more about you and your company?
Sean Deveraux: Our web address is HYPERLINK “http://www.zerovfx.com” www.zerovfx.com, you will see before and afters of our work, you will see our show reels, and a lot of our fun things, and also ways to contact us.
Larry Jordan: Sean Deveraux, is the Co-founder, and Lead Visuals Effects Supervisor for Zero VFX, Sean thanks for joining us today.
Sean Deveraux: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: There is another website I want to introduce you to, doddlenews.com. Doddle News gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It is a leading online resources, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. Doddle News also offers a resources guide, and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings provide in depth organizational tools, for busy production professionals. Doddle News is a part of the Thalo Arts community, a worldwide community with artists, film makers and story tellers. From photography to film making, performing arts to fine arts and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals, or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there is only one place to go. Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: Jim Tierney founded Digital Anarchy in 2001, specifically to develop plug ins to simplify creating visual effects. This week he has a brand new one. Hello Jim it is fun to talk to the Chief Executive Anarchist of any company.
Jim Tierney: Thanks Larry, how are you doing?
Larry Jordan: I am talking to you and I am really excited to learn more about this product. But before we talk about the product, which is called, Samurai Sharpen, I want to understand some basic concepts first. What is Sharpening?
Jim Tierney: Sharpening is a contrast adjustment, around edges. So it is essentially making one side of the edge a little bit darker, and one side a little bit lighter. That gives you a perception that something is sharper.
Larry Jordan: What we are really doing with sharpening is, we are trying to make the edges appear in focus, so that the stuff between the edges may not, we don’t care.
Jim Tierney: Right, exactly. It does kind of give you this overall perception of things being a little bit more in focus, and the tricky thing with video, is that there are various things you have to worry about, so you want the sharpening to be there, but you also want to be very careful about over sharpening.
Larry Jordan: I want to talk about that for a second, but let’s take one step back. Why does video need sharpening in the first place?
Jim Tierney: Well if you look at most video, anything that is going through a lens, unless it is a super high end lens, is going to have some amounts off, versus the original shot, or original scene. Most video can benefit from at least a little bit of sharpening, and in some cases can benefit quite a bit.
Larry Jordan: I remember when I was first playing with sharpening back in final cut five, which I will grant was a year or two ago, I would add some sharpening and all of a sudden, these vibrating black and white edges just showed up everywhere. Ugly does not begin to describe it. I told people be very cautious about sharpening because it looks terrible. What is going wrong?
Jim Tierney: The sharpening built into SVP is pretty crude, in terms of it is not a very sophisticated sharpening algorithm. It is just basically the same sharpening that you see in Photo Shop or whatever, for ages. It is really easy to just crank that up and suddenly have this high contrast around every single edge. That is not really what you want to do.
Larry Jordan: What do you have to do to prevent an image from looking over enhanced?
Jim Tierney: The thing about Samurai Sharpening is you do not want to sharpen things like noise, low contrast edges often do not need to be sharpened. More often than not, it is noise or artefacts or some other things that doesn’t want to be sharpened. What you want to do is just kind of dial in the very significant edges, and just sharpen those edges. You do not need the entire video to be sharpened, you really just want things, for example if you have a portrait of something, if you just sharpen the eyes, that is usually enough to convey sharpening for the person doing it.
Larry Jordan: I just had a brainstorm, it’s late in coming, but it is a great brainstorm. This strikes me as the exact opposite of Beauty Box. In Beauty Box you are softening everything, and here you are sharpening. It is like, can’t you make up your mind?
Jim Tierney: Well you know, you want different things. With skin you don’t want to sharpen the skin. We already have tons of detail in the skin with 4K and HD and all that, it is really the opposite of Beauty Box, slight different algorithm but it is kind of the same thing. So you don’t want to sharpen skin, but you do want to sharpen things like eyes, and teeth and that is what is going to give the perception of a sharp image. You do not want to turn somebodies skin into lizard skin either.
Larry Jordan: That would be considered bad, and most actors would kill you.
Jim Tierney: Exactly, so it is very important to have ways to masking out areas you don’t want to sharpen, whilst being able to select significant edges and really enhance the details you want to enhance in the image, without sharpening the whole thing.
Larry Jordan: You have already mentioned the fact that we want to sharpen eyes, because if the eyes are in focus we believe the picture is in focus. Do we worry about things like hair or clothing? How do we select what to sharpen?
Jim Tierney: There is various ways to do it, again if you are looking at significant edges, that is one way. Samurai is a very smart edge aware sharpening plug in. So we are trying to find the most significant edges, and just sharpen those. There are also things that allow you to mask off darker areas, and highlight areas. Often you have noise, noise is much more pronounced in the dark areas than elsewhere, with the mid tones and highlights, and with the highlights you do not really want to blow the highlights out. So there is masking capabilities within Samurai to protect the shallow areas, and protect the highlight areas. Really just sharpen the mid tones.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I enjoy about Beauty Box is that the defaults are pretty good, I can get reasonably close without having to tweak a whole lot of nobs, but this strikes me as being a little bit more complex, figuring out what to sharpen. Do we trust the defaults or do we need to pay attention to the fine details?
Jim Tierney: You want to pay attention to the masking, I think the defaults are pretty good. You can play around with the amount a bit, but you know, really the masking you are going to have to adjust a little bit depending on how dark the shadow areas are in your image. There are some nice tools, for seeing what the mask looks like, being able to sharpen it, seeing what edges want sharpening. There is a lot of control in there to help you visualize exactly what is going on as opposed to endless cranking a slider up and going well that’s over sharpened. You can actually see what edges are sharpening, and you can also take a look at the mask visually while you are making these adjustments.
Larry Jordan: What kind of images can we use this for? Where does it work the best? For instance, can I fix a blurry image?
Jim Tierney: A little bit, if it is really out of focus, the information is out there, so you can’t really create information out of nothing. If it is just a tiny bit out of focus, it can definitely help with that. It tends to help images that are of a little bit lower frequency, which means just like trees waving in the wind, with lots of leaves and stuff like that, it tends not work as well on talking heads, and that type of imagery.
Larry Jordan: How do we know if an image needs sharpening?
Jim Tierney: You can apply sharpening, and see if it looks better. That’s one way.
Larry Jordan: That’s a pretty cheap answer.
Jim Tierney: Usually you can look at it and go like, it’s a little bit soft, and apply the sharpening filter, and go, well that looks a little bit better.
Larry Jordan: Is it a case of, if it looks good it is good, or are we looking at some underlying technical specs that we have to watch out that we don’t run onto the rocks with?
Jim Tierney: I think if it looks good, you are pretty much good to go, you really want to pay attention to what is happening around the edge, so one side is getting darker, and one side is getting lighter. If you make those too pronounced, they turn into what we call halos. You really do not want those to be visible. It should just look sharper, without you going, oh there is a black edge there. Usually after a little bit of playing around with it, you should be able to identify by eye, whether it is going to look better or not. It also helps to actually play it back on your final output, so a 70 inch screen or an ipad or something.
Larry Jordan: One of the things you are doing is you are increasing the contrast on an edge. Do we need to worry about crushing blacks below zero, or whites exceeding 100% or are you clamping them so they don’t?
Jim Tierney: We are not clamping them, and that is probably something that we should be doing. Again, if you are getting into that range of things, you are probably pushing it too far. Usually what you are doing is trying to sharpen the mid tones, and you are not going to push the sharpening so far that you are starting to crush black and stuff like that.
Larry Jordan: So it is like a spice, a little goes a long way. We add a little bit we do not add a lot.
Jim Tierney: Yes, exactly. Especially with video, with photos you can kind of push sharpening a little bit further, and actually with photos, especially if you are printing them out, sometimes you want to over sharpen them. Because the print media, with ink or whatever, it softens a little bit. So if you over sharpen it that’s fine, with video, you definitely do not want to do that.
Larry Jordan: The name of the product is?
Jim Tierney: Samurai Sharpen.
Larry Jordan: And the price?
Jim Tierney: It is $129. And it is on sale until November 15th, for $99.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go to get it?
Jim Tierney: Digitalanarchy.com
Larry Jordan: That is all one word, digitalanarchy.com and Jim Tierney is the Chief Executive Anarchist for Digital Anarchy. Jim thanks for explaining this, I have always wondered about sharpening, and now I have a much better handle on it. Thank you very much.
Jim Tierney: No problem Larry.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: It is an interesting time, as we look at effects whether it is something really big from Adobe at the Adobe Max conference, or something as a single filter that is coming from Digital Anarchy. The range of effects that we are dealing at the high end, mid-range and low end, and even if you are just sitting in your kitchen surrounded by fish tanks and talcum powder. We can create some fascinating effects. I was watching Lewis McGregor’s website and the video he was creating was very mesmerising and some very interesting stuff. I want to thank our guests this week. Greg Fornero from Post Works, and Jim Tierney from Digital Anarchy. Sean Deveraux at Zero VFX, and Lewis McGregor a film maker and kitchen effects wizard. Laura Blum with Thalo.com and James DeRuvo of Doddle News.
Larry Jordan: There is a lot of history in our industry and it is all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you will find thousands of interviews all online and all available to you today. And remember to sign up for our free weekly newsletter which comes out every Friday. Talk with us on Twitter @dpbuzz and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dukey Turner with additional music provided by Smartsound.com. Text transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription, visit take1.tv to learn how they can help you. Our Producer is Debbie Price, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: The Digital Production Buzz is copy write, 2016 by Thalo, LLC.