Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Toolbox

  • Friday, Mar. 23, 2018
Baselight 5 evolves with features for HDR, VFX and 360 VR
FilmLight's Baselight 5
LONDON -- 

“Baselight 5 feels like brand new software, improving on foundation features that merge a whole new level of incredible technical precision and control with fantastic tools”. That’s the view of Matt Watson, DI Colorist at SHED London. And there will be even more for colorists and creatives to enthuse over at NAB2018 (Las Vegas Convention Center, 9–12 April, booth SL4310), where FilmLight will be demonstrating the new functionality recently added to its grading platform.

Central to Baselight 5 is the Base Grade, used extensively on recent blockbuster movies and TV series. This has proven to be an invaluable productivity tool for many. “We’ve used Baselight 5 for several features, including the Netflix Original Mercury 13,” said Matthew Troughton, sr. colorist and head of picture technology at Creativity Media in London. “Base Grade has become a go-to feature for me. I can retain overall contrast while easily being able to shake out detail in the bottom end, a task that previously required keys. It’s quick and easy, and means I can spend more time creating.”

As HDR technology evolves, Baselight colorists increasingly work with HDR acquisition and delivery for movies and premium TV projects, like the recent Black Panther or BBC’s Blue Planet II. Base Grade already takes the sting out of moving between different delivery formats, and between SDR and HDR, but FilmLight has developed more revolutionary tools that give colorists the right controls to ease the transition: Boost Range and an HDR-ready Looks operator.

Boost Range expands the dynamic range of an image when converting from SDR to HDR, using a local tone mapping approach. This results in more natural looking results, with more faithful contrast reproduction. The algorithm also eliminates issues with noise in the extended highlights and makes the whole ‘up-conversion’ more robust while achieving greater dynamic range.

The Looks operator has been upgraded for HDR to bring preferred color rendition to digital image pipelines. The new HDR options add the artistic tweaks to the pipeline to produce a cinematic look, while still maintaining the highest possible image quality when producing all deliverables - from SDR to HDR.

“The new looks are extremely helpful,” said Fernando Rodrigues, sr. colorist at Filmmore in Amsterdam. “I was amazed by how easily I could re-obtain details that, at first glance, seemed to be clipped or crushed. The best thing is that they give a nice ‘thickness’ to the image, something a lot of my clients are looking for. The effect is very film-like.”

Munich-based DP, Matthias Fleischer, agreed. “The Looks feature produces very cinematic roll-offs, and it creates lovely skin tones. When working with dailies, it actually feels a lot like dealing with scanned film footage.”

New functionality to be introduced at NAB includes support for 360/VR, so that virtually any tool in the Baselight arsenal--including secondaries, Paint and Perspective--can be used to grade 360 footage by operating in a ‘sandwich’ of two Panorama operators, which convert from LatLong (or equirectangular) projections to normal projection and back. LatLong projections are also supported in Baselight’s powerful format system, and LatLong images with traditional perspective can be viewed via a new toggle in the Cursor View.

The Relight tool has been boosted too, with support for area lights so you can add and adjust specular highlights to make more realistic lighting changes. Relight allows you to control the location of lights and specular highlights precisely by directly clicking in the image viewer.

The initial release of Baselight 5 provided many tools for VFX, including Grid Warp and the Perspective Tracker. “Perspective tracking went into immediate use and has proven extremely useful,” added Troughton. “It cuts to a fraction the manual work often associated with manually compensating and working around perspective windowing issues.”

In the latest version, the completely rewritten Text tool reduces the workload further in projects where Baselight is used for finishing as well as allowing for greater creativity. It brings Shape-like transform operations to text, so text objects can be manipulated with tools such as Perspective Transform, or tracked throughout a shot.

There are a host of other new features too, designed to enhance efficiency and improve workflows. This includes: strip locking to prevent accidental deletion; selecting strips by operator; searching for buttons and actions in Chalk; file trimming for R3D, Phantom, Sony XAVC and Sony RAW MXF files; a new Client View that shows the current frame and metadata; the ability to include the Shots Layout on the main image monitor, allowing a scrolling list of thumbnails to appear on the main display; and improvements to the Baselight keyers to provide more precise operation in wide gamut scene-referred color spaces.

The Baselight 5 software platform is applied to all of FilmLight’s color range. The full range of FilmLight systems will be demonstrated on booth SL4310 at NAB2018, including Daylight dailies and media management, Prelight on-set pre-visualisation, Baselight Editions and a number of Baselight configurations.

  • Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018
Surf's Up For RED Digital Cinema, FUJINON
RED Digital Cinema's WEAPON outfitted with a FUJINON lens
WAYNE, NJ -- 

Considered one of the premiere surfing competitions, Volcom Pipe Pro is the inaugural event for the World Surfing League (WSL), bringing together the world’s top pipeline surfers.

Live footage from the event was captured on RED Digital Cinema’s WEAPON with MONSTRO 8K VV sensor equipped with FUJINON Premier PL 25-300mm and 19-90mm Cabrio zoom lenses for Red Bull TV, in addition to Hawaii and Australia cable channels. The event also served as a real-world demo day with shooters from Red Bull, the WSL, and Uncle Toads Media Group trying out the new camera sensor and lens combination.

Local and visiting video professionals also received hands-on time with the RED camera and FUJINON zooms during an open house at Hawaii Camera. 

This year the Hawaii Camera demo day attracted upward of 75+ attendees.

This marks the third year that RED and the Optical Devices Division of FUJIFILM have collaborated during the Volcom Pipe Pro.

  • Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018
Feature tech meets streaming on "Altered Carbon"
"Altered Carbon" (photo courtesy of Netflix)
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) -- 

Altered Carbon (Netflix), produced by Skydance Television, envisions a grim future where technology has enabled humans to transfer their consciousness from one body to another--effectively giving eternal life to a privileged few as they move through a steady stream of cloned host bodies. The high-concept series is also pushing the boundaries of traditional TV technology.

Altered Carbon becomes one of the first episodic shows to be shot on the ARRI Alexa 65, and finished in Dolby Vision HDR. Deluxe’s global postproduction teams worked closely with Skydance Television’s production team to develop a highly collaborative and forward-thinking workflow to handle the massive file sizes from the Alexa 65--bringing feature-quality visuals to the small screen on an advanced level.

“We were in a unique position from the beginning because our DPs Martin Ahlgren and Neville Kidd loved the look of the Alexa 65, which at that point had only been used to shoot features,” said Dieter Ismagil, VP of post production at Skydance Television. “I’ve worked with Deluxe on TV projects for over a decade, so right away I went to them to brainstorm on how to handle these intimidating file sizes--how do you manage the dailies? How do you do VFX pulls? How do you get everything done on time and control costs? There was a lot to figure out initially just to make sure we could pull this off.”

Deluxe teams at Encore in Vancouver and Hollywood, EFILM, and Company 3 tackled these workflow challenges with a number of approaches, including their proprietary service, Synapse Portal. This service simplifies ingest and automates distribution of original camera plates to VFX vendors with the desired specs, dramatically reducing turnaround times and eliminating the potential for human error. 

Traditionally used for features, Synapse Portal for TV was first deployed by Encore and Company 3 on 2017’s American Gods, to great success. Knowing the speed and flexibility of the Synapse Portal would be crucial for the VFX schedule, Deluxe worked with production to develop a workflow to keep costs down using downrezzed 4K ProRes XQ files for mastering the show rather than the massive ARRI RAW files. 

Encore Vancouver handled dailies, EFILM handled VFX data management, Company 3’s Jill Bogdanowicz colored the series, and Encore Hollywood managed the finish and final delivery–-all in close collaboration with Altered Carbon post producer Allen Marshall Palmer and the DPs.

  • Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018
SGO releases new version of Mistika VR
MADRID, Spain -- 

SGO has released a new version of Mistika VR, the fastest stitching software on the market, which brings more than twenty new features to its users. These significantly contribute to more efficient workflow, improving performance and quality, and accelerating collaboration among multiple computers.

The latest release is already available at no additional cost to all existing Mistika VR customers.

Highlights of the new release include: 

  • Improved workflow. Mistika VR introduces improvements such as Media Relinking, Mass import of Media, Zoomable visual editor timeline, and many more that will notably enhance VR 360 post-production workflow.
  • Better performance and quality. You will also find better alignment for coaxial rigs and a forward Distance parameter that acts as an experimental alternative to Convergence.  
  • Faster collaboration between multiple hardware. Sharing projects between different operating systems is now possible through Path Translator.
  • Upgraded 360º photography support. Mistika VR users can now choose either if the images are a time sequence or if each image is a separate camera view. Also, maximum camera number is increased, allowing larger still image photography sets.  
  • Greater connectivity with new items. The nVidia h264/h265 render now supports the QP mode for constant quality which is much more appropriate for post-production workflows. Another considerable feature is the KanDao timelapses import tool which helps to reorder and to rename KanDao sequences thanks to the Drag and Drop utility, simplifying the import and management process.
  • Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2018
YouTube's Neal Mohan to headline NAB Show Opening
Neal Mohan
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- 

Neal Mohan, chief product officer for YouTube, will headline the 2018 NAB Show Opening on Monday, April 9 at 9 a.m. in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Mohan will discuss the future of TV and entertainment and how the intersection of content, hardware and software is allowing media companies to reach more audiences in new ways.

The opening event will also feature NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith’s “State of the Broadcast Industry” address and the presentation of the NAB Distinguished Service Award to “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts. The event is sponsored by Blackmagic Design.

Mohan is responsible for YouTube products and user experience on all platforms and devices globally, including the company’s core mobile applications, technologies like Live and VR, subscription services YouTube Red and YouTube TV, and vertical experiences such as YouTube Kids, Music and Gaming. Products for media partners, content creators and musicians are also part of his portfolio.

Prior to his current role, Mohan served as senior VP of display and video ads at Google. He headed advertising efforts on YouTube, the Google Display Network, AdSense, AdMob, and the DoubleClick family of programmatic ad platform products. Additionally, he helped elevate the overall digital media industry by building innovative solutions for millions of Google’s advertising and media partners around the world.

At NAB Show, Google will showcase its media solutions via demonstrations at booth SU218 and will participate in more than 30 talks during the course of the show, both in conference sessions and presentations at the Google booth.

  • Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2018
BBC Studioworks adds 22 Fujinon 4K HDR TV lenses
Fujinon 4K HDR TV lenses
LONDON -- 

In September 2017, BBC Studioworks, a commercial subsidiary of the BBC, reopened its studio and postproduction facility at Television Centre, incorporating some of the most state-of- the-art technologies in the UK studio industry. The three studios as well as the facility’s edit suites have already played host to programming for a range of broadcasters and production companies.

In addition to a new fleet of 4K television cameras, screens and switchers, 22 Fujinon 4K HDR TV lenses were installed, enabling productions to be shot in both 4K and HDR.

Elom Bell, procurement manager at BBC Studioworks, said of the company’s decision to invest in new 4K lenses, “Television Centre needs to offer our clients the very latest technology, with full capability of hosting 4K and HDR productions. In the case of the lenses we provide, we need to ensure they last for many years to come. Fujinon delivered on time and spent a whole day on site, helping to test and configure all of the lenses”.

Marc Horner, marketing manager for Fujinon TV lenses at Fujifilm UK, adds “Fujinon UA box and ENG lenses are simply the best on the market in terms of resolution and HDR capability. Light entering the lens is the first step in any production and anything that is lost at this stage cannot be recovered. This is why we have ensured our lenses contain the best technology to ensure every last detail is captured, and the blacks stay as black as possible.”

Since opening in September, Strictly Come Dancing’s popular spinoff show, It Takes Two, and star-studded chat show, The Jonathan Ross Show, were some of the first productions to record at BBC Studioworks’ Television Centre facility.

  • Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2018
Trump blocks Broadcom takeover bid for Qualcomm
In this Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, file photo, Broadcom CEO Hock Tan speaks while U.S. President Donald Trump listens, in background, during an event at the White House in Washington, to announce the company is moving its global headquarters to the United States. In a decision announced Monday, March 12, 2018, Trump is blocking Singapore chipmaker Broadcom from pursuing a hostile takeover of U.S. rival Qualcomm on the grounds that the combination would threaten national security. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- 

President Donald Trump blocked Singapore chipmaker Broadcom from pursuing a hostile takeover of U.S. rival Qualcomm, ruling the proposed combination would imperil national security.

The decision, announced late Monday, abruptly ends Broadcom's four-month, $117 billion bid to buy Qualcomm — a deal that would have been the largest ever completed in the technology industry.

In a statement, Broadcom said it "strongly disagrees" that the acquisition raises any national-security concerns. Qualcomm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump's order gives Broadcom few options other than to drop its bid, said Macquarie Securities analyst Srinivas Pajjuri.

Broadcom faced challenges almost from the start of its quest. Qualcomm quickly spurned its unsolicited suitor and continued to resist even after Broadcom raised its original offer from $103 billion.

Broadcom's Singapore connections complicated matters, even though the company maintained its physical headquarters in Silicon Valley and virtually all of its shareholders are in the U.S.

The Trump administration nevertheless balked at the prospect of a prominent U.S. chipmaker being owned by a foreign company, particularly at a time countries around the world are gearing up to build ultra-fast "5G" mobile networks that could tip the balance of power in technology.

Although its name isn't widely known outside the technology industry, Qualcomm is one of the world's leading makers of the processors that power many smartphones and other mobile devices. Qualcomm also owns patents on key pieces of mobile technology that Apple and other manufacturers rely upon in their products.

Qualcomm is fending off allegations in complaints filed by Apple and government regulators around the world that it has abused the power of its mobile patents to throttle competition and charge excessive royalties for its technology.

Broadcom CEO Hock Tan had seized on Qualcomm's legal headaches in his attempt to persuade the U.S. government to keep the deal alive. "Qualcomm faces a number of challenges that hamper its role in developing 5G," Tan wrote in a letter sent to U.S. Congress last week. Unlike Qualcomm, Tan said, Broadcom financed its innovation through "lawful practices."

Trump decided to squelch Broadcom's bid on the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews foreign purchases of U.S. entities.

The decision didn't come as a surprise. Earlier this month, the committee branded the proposed deal a potential security risk that could hobble the U.S.'s ability to make the smooth and quick transition to 5G.

In an attempt to ease those worries, Broadcom last week pledged to make the U.S. a leader in the race to build 5G networks, saying it would create a $1.5 billion fund to support the effort if took control of Qualcomm.

Broadcom also tried to curry favor by moving its legal headquarters from Singapore to the U.S within the next few weeks.

Singapore became Broadcom's legal home two years ago after it was sold to Avago, a company that once was part of Silicon Valley pioneer Hewlett-Packard.

Broadcom's company's physical headquarters is already in San Jose, California — about 450 miles from Qualcomm's headquarters in San Diego.

Trump hosted Broadcom's Tan in the White House last year when the executive announced the proposed move.

Now that Broadcom has been shoved aside, Qualcomm will be under pressure to prevent its stock price from sinking while trying to complete its own proposed takeover — a proposed $43 billion purchase of NXP Semiconductors.

"Now it's on (Qualcomm's) management to deliver on what they promised," Pajjuri said.

Liedtke reported from San Francisco. AP Technology Writer Ryan Nakashima in San Francisco contributed to this story.

  • Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018
Addis Ababa State TV places Facilis shared storage at heart of new digital production workflow
Addis Ababa's TV control room
HUDSON, Mass. -- 

Facilis, an international supplier of cost-effective, high performance shared storage solutions for collaborative media production networks, has announced the successful installation of a multi-user shared storage system within a new state-of-the-art broadcast production facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Facilis has supplied a TerraBlock 24EX/16 64TB shared storage system to Ethiopian regional broadcaster, Addis Ababa State TV (Addis Ababa City Government Mass Media Agency). Throughout the project, Facilis worked closely with local channel partner, Onset Media Systems.

Addis Ababa City Government Mass Media Agency is known as “the voice of the city,” operating Addis Lisan magazine and the Metropolitan Journal alongside its TV station. Addis Ababa State TV is a 24/7 TV channel broadcasting a mixture of news, current affairs and entertainment programs over satellite and digital terrestrial broadcasts. To enhance its digital broadcast resources, Addis Ababa State TV appointed Onset Media Systems to design, build and commission a new digital workflow.

Onset Media Systems specializes in the design and integration of bespoke systems to meet the needs of mission critical applications within its client operations. At Addis Ababa State TV, it has placed Facilis shared storage at the heart of a complete new digital workflow which supports all of its TV and radio production operations. The Facilis storage system was commissioned in September and the new digital workflow will come online in the coming months.

The Facilis TerraBlock storage system features state-of-the-art high-speed connectivity. It provides a combination of Ethernet (10Gb) plus Fibre Channel (8Gb) connectivity. This advanced multi-user shared storage system is supporting a network of almost 100 editors and other creative production executives at Addis Ababa TV’s production headquarters.

Within this advanced connectivity, staff are able to share content and work collaboratively across the entire spectrum of production activities. The Facilis storage integrates alongside SI Media’s media asset management (MAM), ingest and playout systems, as well as Grass Valley Edius editing and SI Media’s Newsroom system.

Having installed this advanced storage architecture, Addis Ababa has effectively future-proofed its operations in the long-term. In particular, the Fibre Channel option means that the broadcaster can up-scale to HD and 4K workflows in the future, as and when it is needed.

Onset Media Systems is responsible for the design, integration and commissioning of this major new digital workflow--it was their decision to integrate Facilis shared storage in this mission critical application. “The client was attracted to Facilis because of its advanced connectivity options at affordable prices,” said Jody Dresner, managing director--commercial at Onset Media Systems. “Fibre Channel storage is a very attractive facility for Addis Ababa and this is integrated within a proven, reliable storage system that meets all of our production needs today and long into the future.”

“In Africa, we face a different set of challenges--both physical and economic--than you will find in Europe or North America,” Dresner added. “Facilis TerraBlock is a proven, reliable storage platform that offers advanced capabilities with associated investment costs that are affordable to our clients --it is a real win-win scenario.”

  • Monday, Mar. 5, 2018
Felix Fissel named VP of global operations at VFXnow
Felix Fissel
LOS ANGELES -- 

GPL Technologies has hired Felix Fissel to lead its VFXnow unit as VP of global operations. Fissel, an IT specialist with deep experience in the visual effects industry, will oversee VFXnow operations in Los Angeles, New York, and Vancouver. He will also lead business development and seek to expand markets for the unit, a hardware-as-a-service provider to visual effects studios, game developers, editing houses and other creative services companies. Additionally, he will spearhead the launch of a new cloud-based service that will provide visual effects companies with virtual access to rendering capacity, workstations and other high-performance technology.

“Felix brings impressive technical expertise and a clear vision for moving VFXnow forward,” said GPL CEO Brian Terrell. “His passion and experience in visual effects is critical to our ability to meet our clients’ current needs and develop innovative, new resources that will carry them into the future.”

Fissel joins VFXnow from the visual effects studio Pixomondo. As global head of IT, he was responsible for managing the technical infrastructure for seven facilities across three continents. Originally from Germany, he was trained as an engineer at Fachhochschule, Darmstadt, before joining Pixomondo in 2006.

A key mission for Fissel will be to broaden VFXnow’s offering through cloud-based services. The company plans to introduce a platform that will allow visual effects studios to access rendering, storage and computer resources on an as-needed basis through a private network. “We’re expanding the concept of hardware-as-a-service,” he said. “Companies often need to add capacity quickly but lack physical space to store extra rendering nodes and storage systems. Our clients will be able to access as many render nodes as they need, instantly, without worrying about things like space, power and cooling.”

Fissel added that VFXnow is uniquely qualified to deliver integrated cloud services for visual effects production. “Our model will be less expensive and more attuned to the needs of visual effects studios than other solutions,” he said. 

  • Thursday, Mar. 1, 2018
Filmotechnic gives smooth coverage to 2018 Winter Olympics
A Filmotechnic rig in action at the Winter Games
LOS ANGELES -- 

Filmotechnic, the Academy Award-winning fabricator of camera systems, camera cranes, and gyro stabilized heads for film, motion picture and ad industries, deployed its resources to provide viewers with extensive coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. This is the latest of multiple Olympic Games that Filmotechnic has been contracted to supply their image stabilization equipment. In the U.S., Filmotechnic USA is best known for its leading camera car fleet. 

The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang were expected to be cold, but the weather was more severe than predicted. Wind and ice pellets left Olympic snowboarders simply trying to stay on course. Ski jumpers dealt with snow “tornadoes” and swirling gusts. Bi-athletes tried to ski and to shoot straight in bitter cold and high cross winds. Qualifying runs for the Women’s Slopestyle were called off after 50 runs resulted in 41 falls or athletes simply giving up. Through it all, the Filmotechnic equipment performed flawlessly. 

Filmotechnic’s team began prepping two years ago for the 2018 Winter Olympics. To handle the demand for equipment, a new fabrication facility employing over 200 technicians was built in the Ukraine. Being engineered and tested in the Ukraine, known for its unpredictable weather, helped to develop trouble-free equipment. To cover all the venues, Filmotechnic deployed 30 cranes and other rigs specially designed to capture all the action. Depending on the day, 30 to 50 technicians were operating the equipment. 

Founded by Anatoliy Kokush, Filmotechnic is a front runner in research and development of camera car systems, cranes, flight heads and other image stabilization technologies. Kokush is a two-time Academy Award Winner in the 78th Annual Scientific and Engineering Awards for his development of the Russian Arm gyro-stabilized camera crane and flight head.