THE NEWGLASS AND THE NEW TECHNIQUES P42
July 2019 £4.99
WINNER ROLL CALL Our first awards presentation
WOMEN IN COLOUR International graders profiled
KIT REVIEWS | GOOD OMENS PART 2 | CINE GEAR EXPO REVIEW STRANGER THINGS 3 | REMOTE HEADS FOR SUMMER | CLINK DRAMA VFX and celluloid in Pokémon heaven
EDITORIAL Editor Julian Mitchell 01223 492246 firstname.lastname@example.org Staff writer Chelsea Fearnley Chief sub editor Beth Fletcher Senior sub editor Siobhan Godwood Sub editor Felicity Evans Junior sub editor Elisha Young ADVERTISING Sales director Matt Snow 01223 499453 email@example.com Sales manager Krishan Parmar 01223 499462 firstname.lastname@example.org Key accounts Nicki Mills 01223 499457 email@example.com DESIGN Design director Andy Jennings Designers Lucy Woolcomb, Emily BRIGHT PUBLISHING LTD, BRIGHT HOUSE, 82 HIGH STREET, SAWSTON, CAMBRIDGESHIRE CB22 3HJ UK
One of our awards awaiting its official presentation in the Paramount Studio’s backlot
We had an immense awards-based couple of days at Cine Gear at Paramount Studios last month, and if you turn to page ten you can see some of the winners holding their awards and looking pretty pleased with themselves – congratulations to them all and the shortlisted companies. We have also made our People’s Choice award, and that has gone to LA’s Radiant Images who were shortlisted in our Capture category. They received lots of love online and ended up winning comfortably. We specified their AXA VR rigs in the shortlist, but this company is much more than just rigs, they are the ultimate capture problem-solving outfit. It was also great to hear that the winners were being true to the spirit of the awards, as many were planning to house their awards in their company’s R&D department – Sony’s award is already on a plane to Japan. In the next few issues we will be digging a little deeper into the stories behind some of our winners, with further analysis of the product or service that they won for. We wanted to include this analysis now that we know these companies a little bit better. As for Cine Gear itself, apart from the June gloom hanging around, it was as usual a great show, with some superb seminars and great tech.
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Definition is published monthly by Bright Publishing Ltd, Bright House, 82 High Street, Sawston, Cambridge CB22 3HJ. No part of this magazine can be used without prior written permission of Bright Publishing Ltd. Definition is a registered trademark of Bright Publishing Ltd. The advertisements published in Definition that have been written, designed or produced by employees of Bright Publishing Ltd remain the copyright of Bright Publishing Ltd and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. Prices quoted in sterling, euros and US dollars are street prices, without tax, where available or converted using the exchange rate on the day the magazine went to press.
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SET- UP 06 TITLE SEQUENCE
Summer 2019 starts with a bang: season three of Stranger Things will be back on our screens 4 July.
A wrap-up of news from this year’s Cine Gear Expo, including some of the headline new technology
10 AWARDS PRESENTATION
Paramount’s backlot was the perfect place to award the winners of our inaugral awards with some glass. Here’s our snapshot. DRAMA 20 POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU It’s often assumed that a movie populated with digital characters requires digital capture. Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a film that rejects that expectation. In this part two look at Good Omens , we explore the grade and the VFX used to complement the series’ dark, fanciful and irreverent tone. FEATURES 32 GOOD OMENS
62 BENRO REDDOG R1 GIMBAL
The motorised gimbal is suited to DSLR cameras.
63 SENNHEISER XSW-D The wireless audio set offers professional sound, but with kit that’s minimal and easy to use. 65 SENNHEISER MEMORY MIC A microphone designed to record audio independently from video recorded on a phone. 66 TOKINA FIRIN 20MM F/2 The prime lens works flawlessly with Sony’s E-mount cameras.
42 LENS SPECIAL
Our choice review of the lens manufacturers who are paving the way in large format.
52 WOMEN IN COLOUR
As part of our series profiling women in the film industry, we pay tribute to the finest female colourists.
68 CAMERA LISTINGS
Our unique camera listings now offers kit essentials and recommended accessories.
61 REMOTE HEADS
ASC’s SMARThead technology is being built into a number of remote systems, and is in high demand from broadcasters.
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The Netflix teen horror show that is Stranger Things gets its third season, coming in July. They’re rushing them through before the cast gets too old. Once again, one of the DOPs is Tim Ives. Gear choices are very similar to the previous seasons – the difference is, as new versions of old equipment get introduced, they are inserted into the show’s workflow. So, Red Monstro 8K for the Helium and Leitz Summilux-C lenses, the new label for Leica lenses. Suffice to say Stranger Things 3 keeps the eighties colour palette that both previous seasons delighted in. GETTING STRANGER
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XXX XXX XXX | SET- UP
CINE GEAR EXPO It was a great Cine Gear Expo for this magazine as we presented our first ever Tech Awards – but there was other news... SHOW NEWS
A rri ’s announcement of their Arri ensured a very excited booth in the main sound stage. Panasonic used the beautiful Paramount Theater to launch their latest S1H Lumix mirrorless derivative. The choice of the Cine Gear Expo was to point up the camera’s cinematic aspirations, especially as full-frame sensor cinematography is now the fashionable format for making movies and TV drama. The specs include a 6K performance at 24p but with an aspect ratio of 3:2. More cinema friendly is 5.9K/30p (16:9 aspect ratio), and 10-bit 60p 4K. There is also a 4:3 ratio to encourage anamorphic shooting. The camera has full implementation of V-Log and V Gamut which has been matched to Varicam 35 and the EVA-1 cameras. In the US there is unlimited recording time; not sure that’s the same in the EU. The camera has a target price of $4000 and should be available sometime this autumn. Sony announced it will be upgrading its Venice camera with a new Version 5.0 firmware update planned for January 2020. This new update will further enable cinematographers to shoot at speeds of up to 90fps at 6K 2.39:1 and 72fps at 6K 17:9/1.85:1. This enables Venice to capture three times slow-motion at 24p even in 6K. Cinematographers can utilise the same camera across multiple speeds, maintaining the full-frame shallow depth-of-field, as well Alexa Mini LF, quickly followed by news of their new S35mm 4K camera next year with a new sensor design,
The specs include a 6K performance at 24p but with an aspect ratio of 3:2 as the high picture quality of oversampling in 6K. Among the new products on display at Panavision was Light Iron’s new Link HDR system. Creatives are producing for HDR-capable distribution platforms more than ever before. Link HDR was developed to address the challenge of viewing HDR (high dynamic range) images throughout the production and post-production process. Offering HDR and SDR viewing options in tandem, Link HDR provides cinematographers, directors, editors and creative talent throughout the imaging chain with the ability to view their image at the same quality delivered to consumers. After 50 years almost fully dedicated to high-end zoom lens design and production, Angénieux presented at Cinegear LA the first prototypes of the complete set of high- end full-frame prime lenses – the Optimo Prime Series, in partnership with Band Pro Film & Digital, Inc and Jebsen Industrial Technology Co Ltd. The lenses have been designed to accurately match the look and feel of Angenieux’s Optimo zoom series both physically and optically. The Optimo Prime series of 12 lenses provides full-frame 46.5mm image circle coverage with a consistent 1.8 T stop (except on extremes). Available as PL and LPL they will support both Cooke/i and Arri LDS data capture.
IMAGES Not much sun at Cine Gear Expo but plenty of tech interest on the movie backlot
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SET- UP | AWARDS PRESENTAT ION
TECH INNOVATION: THE WINNERS AWARDS After much deliberation and mulling over, our judges decided on the winners of our inaugural awards, which were revealed in our previous issue. To celebrate, we presented each winner with their beautiful slice of award glass at Cine Gear Expo on the backlot of Paramount Studios
WORDS & PICTURES JULI AN M ITCHELL H anding out awards is a great thing to do, everyone’s Vertovec who authored the Light Iron Color 2 for Panavision’s award for COLOUR SCIENCE. For Arri Rental’s LENS award, we made our way through the always busy Arri stand to present to the brains behind DNA glass, Christoph Hoffsten, Matt Kolze, Andrew Prior, Mike Sippel and Rafael Adame. They promptly put their award in the DNA lens exhibition glass case. On his own for the MOVEMENT award was Motion Impossible CEO, Rob Drewett, and of course his robot the Agito. For the LIGHTING award, we had a double date with the teams from Cineo Lighting and NBCUniversal who co-developed the LightBlade Edge Series. Shout out to Dennis Kelly, Aaron Rogers, Trisha Maas, Ashley Hutchings, Brandon Rensvold, Rich Pierceall, Chuck Edwards and not forgetting the mighty Tom Yuhas. The CAPTURE award went to Red for its Gemini sensor, which was presented to Cheri Quigley and Andrew Coonan at the Red annual studio party. The award was quickly sent to Uday Mather, Red’s head of Engineering, to take pride of place on his desk. For the CODEC award, we caught up with Sebastian Leske, Sony’s product manager of Venice and X-OCN. We presented him with the award in front of the crazy skater girl on the Sony stand. Michael Gailing, VP Marketing, Creative Solutions, (Teradek, SmallHD, Wooden Camera) enthusiastically received the PLAYBACK award. Two other awards are, as we write this, winging their way to their respective homes in North America’s west coast. The first went to Mark Tobin, CEO of Arraiy, who won in the VIRTUAL category (Cine Gear Expo isn’t the place for the virtual world). The other award is on its way to Radiant Images, who won our People’s Choice. We had more than 5000 entries for this award and Michael Mansouri’s shop in Glendale won it, see the picture of a delighted crew on page 14. happy, enthused and humble in equal measures. Backs are slapped and drinks are poured – especially at Cine Gear. We managed to present awards to Michael Cioni and Ian
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AWARDS PRESENTAT ION | SET- UP
ARRAIY – VIRTUAL WINNER There’s something profound about the winner of the Virtual category being presented with a virtual award. The less interesting truth is that Mark Tobin of Arraiy was elsewhere, securing ongoing finance and also in negotiation with its company’s first broadcast customers. The real award is on its way to Silicon Valley
ARRAIY DEEPTRACK WINNER OF VIRTUAL
ARRI RENTAL – LENS WINNER Above, from left to right: Christoph Hoffsten, Matt Kolze, Andrew Prior, Mike Sippel, and Rafael Adame. Their award was placed snug in the DNA cabinet
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SET- UP | AWARDS PRESENTAT ION
CINEO LIGHTING & NBCUNIVERSAL – LIGHTING WINNERS
Congratulations from left to right: Dennis Kelly, Aaron Rogers, Trisha Maas, Ashley Hutchings, Brandon Rensvold, Rich Pierceall Chuck Edwards and Tom Yuhas. Above: Rich Pierceall, CEO, Cineo.
Presentations were on Paramount Studio’s backlot at Cine Gear Expo 2019 - Julian Mitchell, Definition editor
MOTION IMPOSSIBLE – MOVEMENT WINNER
Pictured is Bafta award-winning cameraman and CEO of Motion Impossible, Rob Drewett. He and product design engineer, Andy Nancollis, set up the company in 2014. Congratulations to both.
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SET- UP | AWARDS PRESENTAT ION
It’s good to receive support for disruptive methods, such as light field and volumetric - Michael Mansouri, Radiant Images
PANAVISION – COLOUR SCIENCE WINNER Above, left to right: Ian Vertovec, who authored the Light Iron Color 2, and Michael Cioni, senior vice-president of Innovation at Panavision
RADIANT IMAGES – THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD WINNER This was the award we left to the people to argue over, leaving us with more than 5000 votes to sort, with candidates from our shortlist and a free vote. We think Radiant Images is spreading the love themselves.
RED – CAPTURE WINNER Although he wasn’t at the Cine Gear Expo to receive the award, Uday Mather, chief technology officer at Red Digital Cinema, was soon the proud owner of a Definition Tech Innovation piece of glass.
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SET- UP | AWARDS PRESENTAT ION
SONY – CODEC WINNER Pictured with his award is Sebastian Leske, European product manager of News & Cinematography at Sony. The award is now on its way to Japan to stay with the R&D team at Sony
TERADEK – PLAYBACK WINNER Pictured is Michael Gailing, VP Marketing, Creative Solutions (Teradek, SmallHD, Wooden Camera). Teradek won for the Bolt 4K video transmission system
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ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE | CANON
Cinematographer Tania Freimuth was given the opportunity to try the new Canon Sumire range for her latest romantic short. Was it love at first sight? We find out WHERE ART MEETS SCIENCE
COLOUR POP “Given that the night-time exterior had a cooler, bluer light, made harsher by the fact that I wasn’t able to diffuse it, all the attributes of the lenses showed up beautifully. Almost more beautifully to my eyes, because of the increased range of contrasts created by the exterior; the light drops off around the streetlamp, decaying into the shadows and then, as if suddenly, you see highlights appear from the bokeh in the distance.” The lenses have bright T stops and an 11-blade iris, which enabled Freimuth to capture images that produced a more natural, circular bokeh effect from maximum to minimum aperture. She describes it as “an artistic act of the lens, giving an attractive shape that’s not too strongly defined”. She refers to the restaurant scene for an example of this: “We were rather liberal with our use of fairy lights!” The odd-numbered blade iris also helped diffuse the light rays, producing what is generally considered a more sought- after, artistically pleasing and cinematic look with warmer colours. “The lenses are biased towards warm, but I had strong blues and sandy colours in the frame. In the exteriors, the actress is wearing a black patent leather coat with a blue fur collar and a red hat, and when it came to the grade, I could see that the colours were already true to life because they’re my possessions.” The Sumire range also helped achieve a uniform colour balance, reducing work in post. She continues, “in the interior shots, the actress is wearing a reddish- orange dress, which came out very close to the real colour. The colourist initially made the dress scarlet red and I had to tell him not to, because it was the wrong colour. Overall, the lenses made the grading process a lot easier.”
CHANGE OF HEART is a short captured by cinematographer and Bafta crew member Tania Freimuth. It’s a four-minute tale of four people who meet at a restaurant for a blind date. One half of each couple is already seated at the restaurant, while the other half are on the way. The latter pair accidentally meet on the journey to the restaurant, spurring a serendipitous moment, where Cupid throws them together instead. The film was an opportunity for Freimuth to test Canon’s new Sumire range of lenses. Why Sumire? The word is of Japanese origin and is associated with a floral gentleness and beauty, a characteristic Canon sees in its new lens collection. Handed to her in a “secret, locked box”, Freimuth hadn’t done any prior testing with the lenses, but could choose how she used them and what she shot, giving her the chance to use them under conditions she is accustomed to. “I like having a small team of people, so I’m used to working with limited resources and in short periods of time,” she says. Freimuth was shooting interior night in the restaurant and exterior night in the street, using lighting that was only available in the image frame. Admittedly, the street lights were augmented slightly with a flyer light, which is a small, battery-operated LED light attached to a pole. Freimuth didn’t have generators or access to mains power, so wasn’t able to use anything larger. “They’ve got that USP everyone’s looking for: to retain skin tone and face shape, and to really
Freimuth was shooting 4K dci with the Canon C700 FF, so she was looking at an almost black & white image in the viewfinder. Not paying too much heed to what was happening in the monitor, she only saw the images pop into colour in post. “I thought wow, the lenses have really done it.” VELVET CRUSH Freimuth prefers to shoot wide open, using 35mm, 50mm and 85mm, but there’s also a 14mm, 20mm, 24mm and 135mm in the range. “I haven’t put them in front of a lens test chart, but what I saw to my eye – shooting between T1.5 and T2 – was a really gentle roll off from the focus. It doesn’t crush the background out of existence, and I was left with a detail of shape in the background, which is important because it gives you a sense of geography.”
give the image some ambience
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CANON | ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE
ABOVE AND LEFT Freimuth used the Sumire lenses to shoot wide open, creating a nice bokeh effect from the lights in the background
ABOVE The Sumire lenses have a flower-shaped design, and are available in seven sizes
ambience. It’s more than just vintage, the film has an organic look. If you were to sit in a dusky restaurant or be out on the street, to me, what the lenses have created is how it would look to the human eye.” Also, unique to the Sumire lenses is the choice of PL mount – a first for Canon, which has previously only offered its Cine Primes in its own EF mount. Additionally, the mount on these lenses can be converted to EF at a Canon factory or repair centre.
you would get of an image through a lens that was put on to film, rather than the look you commonly get of an image that’s gone through a lens and put on to a digital format. “When I shoot digital, I’m always looking for a way to influence the lens towards my preference,” she says. “That often involves using a filter, and sometimes I will choose to shoot with older lenses, because they give a more favourable look, but there’s a modernity to the Sumire range. “They’ve got that USP everyone’s looking for: to retain skin tone and face shape, and to really give the image some
The lenses have a unique optical design, which introduces a nuanced look as its aperture approaches maximum setting – subtly modifying the textural rendering of a human face close up. Freimuth explains: “It made the actors and actresses in my film look younger. The crispness of the image is still there, but there’s also this rich velvety feel that’s incredibly flattering.” Most of Freimuth’s films are character driven, so it’s important for her that lenses retain people’s facial features. She describes the lenses as having a filmic aesthetic, but in the sort of rendition
MORE INFORMATION: Visit canon.co.uk/pro
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DRAMA | DETECT I VE P I KACHU
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DETECT I VE P I KACHU | DRAMA
Why does conventional wisdom demand that a film with digital characters has to be captured digitally? Pokémon Detective Pikachu blows that theory out of the water FILMING IN RYME CITY
WORDS JULI AN M ITCHELL / PICTURES WARNER BROS / MPC
I f you’re a new convert to Pokémon or still a fan from your childhood, it will only take a few seconds for you to believe the fantasy world that Pokémon Detective Pikachu presents to you. The VFX embedded in John Mathieson’s cinematography really is that good. Mathieson is a true artist, but he wouldn’t thank you for calling him that. His skills are finely hewn from his early days on films like Gladiator and Hannibal , working with directors like Ridley Scott (he also shot Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood with Scott). He recently shot Mary Queen of Scots on digital, but thought there was a bigger movie to be made, perhaps with a bigger cinematic directorial vision. He may or may not have his pick of interesting feature products, but a CG-heavy pre-teen origins tale might not have been on the top of his list. So, what made this movie rise above the others? Mathieson’s agent mentioned it to him, insisting: “It’s a great ‘fun film’ and tracks from kids to grandparents.” Mathieson adds: “I liked the director and he promised it would be stupid in this quirky Japanese way. There is a certain amount of honesty that comes through with this film. It doesn’t pretend to be morally superior or anything that it isn’t; this is purely a romp.”
Pokémon Detective Pikachu could be the start of a series of movies for the heavily invested among us. It had plenty of things going for it: Ryan Reynolds doing a de-tuned Deadpool for one, and a huge gallery of Pokémon characters to (literally) draw on for two. But cinema audiences can smell a rat when CG and the real world have a disconnect. The virtual world has to resemble the real world shortly after the lights go down or you’ve lost the mood. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION When Mathieson came on-board, the director, Rob Letterman, promised him the use of film, less use of green screen and real locations – not just sound stages. This was music to his ears (and eyes). “Now, producers are so lazy, they want to shoot the outdoor scenes inside. It makes the budget so much simpler: if you have so many days on stages, you can work out that budget pretty quickly. If you have to go to a jungle in Thailand, for instance, or a desert beyond the Atlas Mountains and you have to build a road, stable some horses, dig for water and build a bridge, that all gets a bit tricky and there are a lot of unknowns. The laziness of studios who then say, ‘Just shove it against a green screen’ and it doesn’t match up,” Mathieson explains.
There is a certain amount of honesty that comes through with this film
LEFT Detective Pikachu, Tim and Lucy inhabit a world that feels real through the use of film
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DRAMA | DETECT I VE P I KACHU
“With digital, you are now watching maybe more than an hour more a day, so you end up watching it in the back of the car when you’re on your way home. There’s no connection anymore and you end up over-shooting to be sure you have the coverage. On Pikachu , we were a lot more frugal with our choices and managed to shoot around an hour and so didn’t go into overtime.” Mathieson admits many people have mentioned to him that the film looks great. He takes the praise and responds with the fact that it was shot on film with due care and attention. Wrongly, people assume that a movie with digital characters would feature digital capture. However, there is no reason one follows the other, and this film proves that. “We’ve got a juicy, rich-looking film. The LUT is in the film; it’s baked in. The colours are good, the neon has held up and the ‘noir detective’ element is there to see in the classic Raymond Chandler way,” Mathieson enthuses. PEELING THE ONION Watching the film, you can almost sense Mathieson enjoying himself. This CG character detective story allows him to layer the look through the noir hard light with the shadows, enjoying the rich blacks that film allows, mixed with the eye-popping, crazy world of Pokémon.
He continues: “You might not believe in Pikachu, but we based it on a place. Yes, it’s a CGI film, but our guy who’s two feet tall is in real places. It’s not based on someone in spandex floating on wires against a green screen. We didn’t do that: we went on to locations like Scotland where we got wet and cold. We built real places like bars with real coffee machines. Everything was real except for the guy in the foreground. But, as a percentage of the screen, the foreground is quite small. You’ve got real actors, real places, real surfaces and cars.” Not only were the director and DOP sure that film was the right way to go, VFX supervisor Erik Nordby also announced a preference, which delighted Mathieson. He says: “All three of us argued with the studio for film and they let us do it as long as we didn’t go crazy on footage – and we didn’t. I think – you can ask the producer this – we saved money. When that film camera runs, everyone pays attention a bit more. With digital, even though you are very careful not to overrun, you always seem to shoot about an hour more a day of rushes than you used to. Rushes used to be around 50 minutes a day and that’s with multiple cameras.
You can almost sense Mathieson enjoying himself. The story allows him to layer the look through noir hard light
IMAGES Puppets and cut-outs were used to help the actors visualise where the Pokémon would be
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DRAMA | DETECT I VE P I KACHU
How did the performance capture for Pikachu and the other characters work? Director Rob Letterman’s brief for Pikachu’s facial performance was pretty simple: “Guys, I want to be able to read every single nuance of Ryan’s dramatic and comedic performance in Pikachu’s face. I also want him to look like the 2D anime Pikachu at all times. It also needs to look animalistic, because it’s not going to feel real if it animates like a cartoon face. And make him look as cute and appealing as possible.” Dionne laughs: “It was quite a challenge to say the least! We began by building a facial rig system for Pikachu based on that of feline anatomy and structure, as this proved to be the closest animalistic equivalent to the anime Pikachu, based on his features and proportions. We explored tests early on with a facial rig that closer resembled Ryan Reynolds’s human face, but once the facial muscles started moving, it broke all realism and instantly appeared very cartoony.” He continues: “Our next step was to capture a full Facial Action Coding System (FACS) facial workout for Ryan Reynolds, using a head-mounted camera and multiple additional witness cameras. This FACS workout is basically having Ryan striking every single facial pose and expression you can think of, including mouth shapes for speech, resulting in a library of around 80 facial shapes and expressions for us to match to. We then sourced a bunch of imagery from 2D animated manga to create a matching library of shapes to represent classic 2D Pikachu expressions, which essentially were variations of around seven key unique expressions, but all of them quite iconic and recognisable to Pikachu.” The team then took Reynold’s expressions and 2D Pikachu’s expressions for all 80 target shapes, and created a new set of hybrid expressions within the constraints of the feline facial rig system they had built. This allowed them to directly map Reynold’s performance to Pikachu’s face, while staying true to Pikachu’s familiar design and feeling realistic from an anatomical point of view.
Mathieson again waved the film-look flag and mentioned in passing he had turned down Sonic, which was shot digitally. ( Sonic ’s release has been delayed until next February after a fan backlash against the eponymous character’s design.) “We shot on film and I used smoke, light, reflections – I could burn things out. All those things are a bit of a no-no when it comes to digital. You can’t use smoke, you can’t burn stuff out, you can’t use intense colour. I was free to do it and delighted in the way it looked. Film is moving forward with the new scanning technology and matching well with it. A few years ago we couldn’t have made it look so good,” he says. EMBEDDED CHARACTERS We asked the VFX supervisor for Pokémon Detective Pikachu , Pete Dionne from MPC, how he managed to embed the CG characters so effectively into the movie.
Mathieson explains: “These are very colourful creatures in a very colourful world, so lots of neon in that Japanese style with no clipping, as we shot on film. Rob and I realised that we should be looking to find the look of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner , so we tipped our hat to that movie, including the messy environment with all the garbage, mucky puddles and sleazy tone. It’s a bit edgy, not this pumped-up Pixar aesthetic, which it could have been if we had shot it all digitally. Film’s colours have more integrity, more variation, more subtleties and more hues than you do on digital.” Mathieson is evangelical about film, as you can tell, and this movie and its look has given him a platform to explain a few things to media like Newsweek – not an everyday occurrence! He was asked to explain why the film looked so good, especially when the trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog came out looking flat and unusually clean.
IMAGES The insistence on using film came from all major departments of the movie. The use of actual locations and less green screen helped create depth and realism, despite the cartoonish characters
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DETECT I VE P I KACHU | DRAMA
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DRAMA | DETECT I VE P I KACHU
IMAGES Pikachu (top), Lickitung (middle) and Cubone (bottom) are just some of the beautifully rendered Pokémon CGI character assets
“During production, we captured all of Ryan’s performance and ADR with a head- mounted camera for facial capture, and this then served as the base for Pikachu’s facial performance, which the animators embellished over the top where needed,” Dionne adds. This development process took several months, but it was successful in achieving all the goals that Rob Letterman set in his initial brief. A similar process was followed for Mewtwo as well, though he was a little more forgiving, due to having a facial structure that closer resembled that of a human. Other than Mr Mime, the VFX team didn’t attempt to leverage any direct performance capture for the remaining Pokémon. Instead, they looked to relevant reference and inspiration from the animal kingdom to try and inject a sense of realism into their animated performance. VISUALISING THE VFX Definition also wanted to know which methods MPC used to help the live actors imagine the CG characters being there. Was there any AR help? John Mathieson mentioned that his dog substituted for Pikachu at one point! Dionne recalls the work that went into helping the actors and crew: “It was very important to Rob that there was adequate representation of the Pokémon characters on set, both to help the crew visualise and anticipate where the CGI was going to go, as well as for the actors to perform against. To achieve this, we built and used a mix of stuffies, cut-outs and puppets for most of the characters. A typical set-up involved Rob blocking out the scene with the actors and crew using a puppeteered version of Pikachu. Once we were all ready to roll, we would leave the Pikachu puppet in the shot for the first few takes.” When everyone was comfortable with Pikachu’s performance and the space he occupied, the team pulled him and the puppeteer out of the camera’s view for the remaining takes. “Once Rob had a take he was happy with, we shot a series of VFX passes. The first was clean plates and tiles of the scene with the actors removed, which allowed us to digitally remove the Pikachu puppet from the plate if Rob wanted to use an early take. Next, we would shoot a series
of reference elements for our VFX lighters and compositors to match to. This involved standard chrome and grey spheres for lighting, but also material reference spheres that were built to match the same textures and material properties as our CG Pokémon – like yellow and brown furred spheres that matched Pikachu in colour and texture, yellow feathered spheres for Psyduck, rocky and leathery spheres for Torterra etc – for the majority of our characters. Shooting this for every relevant take gave us explicit reference for how these materials would respond in this environment, in these lighting conditions, shot on this film stock through these lenses, which removed a
Rob and John Mathieson’s decision to shoot Detective Pikachu on filmwas brilliant, and a gift to us in the visual effects team
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DRAMA | DETECT I VE P I KACHU
Mathieson, as well as the unique look and experience that came with creating CG characters for a movie shot on film. He says: “Rob and John Mathieson’s decision to shoot Pokémon Detective Pikachu on film was brilliant, and a gift to us in the visual effects team. The added cinematic quality and realism truly helped to ground our vibrant and cartoonish characters in the scene, in a way we would have probably struggled with more if we had shot clean, pin-sharp digital plates. “In post-production, we fully embraced all of the qualities and nuances that both film and the anamorphic lenses provided us in the plates, and we went to great lengths to match this digitally. We mapped out all the lenses for lens distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting. We recreated the exact properties and intensities of the grain for each film stock that was shot, and we created grade corrections to apply to our CGI to match the way the light rolled off in the shadows and highlights.” Dionne concludes: “Though our raw CG renders of the characters and environments were quite clean and beautiful, the end result – once we crushed and stepped all over these renders to create the final integrated composite – left us with a very gritty and cinematic image. Which was exactly what Rob Letterman was after.” POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU IS STILL ON WORLDWIDE GENERAL CINEMA RELEASE
ABOVE Although the Psyduck in this scene is CG, Mathieson was insistent on the backdrop being grounded with real locations, real actors, real surfaces and real inflatables
lot of the guess work when recreating it in CGI,” explains Dionne. “Next, we shot 360° bracketed HDRI stills photography of the scene, with the camera positioned in the location of the CGI character. We used this to measure the position, intensity and colour temperature of the lighting in the scene, which allowed us to accurately reconstruct the exact lighting conditions in CG as they existed on set. It was a fairly involved process, but the team got very quick at executing it after each set-up, and the crew understood this was required to nail the integration between these plates and CGI characters,” he adds. VIRTUAL PRODUCTION Dionne goes on to explain why they moved away from virtual production for Pikachu , despite the growth of this new inclusive technology. “We explored various aspects of virtual production early on, but it became clear that it simply didn’t fit with the shooting style of this film. The main factor was Rob Letterman’s insistence to shoot as little green screen and sound stage material as possible, and to keep the photography rooted in real locations and sets as much as possible. Whether we were shooting on the streets of London or in the forests of the Scottish Highlands, we relied mainly on practical methods of representing the Pokémon in the scene, along with extensive pre-vis and tech-vis when relevant.” Dionne is effusive about his interaction with John
385,000 The number of trees created for the Torterra sequence
$412m Worldwide earnings so far
ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE | SAMSUNG
SPEED HIJACK The Samsung Portable SSD X5 is known for its speed, but London Hijack’s Rich Simpson was unprepared for just how much of a game changer it would turn out to be for his post-production studio
RIGHT When dealing with high resolution data, Hijack found the Samsung Portable SSD X5 dealt with it quicker than anything it had used before
situations. “For instance, if we are dealing with multi-camera shoots, we have to deal with a lot of data coming from the cameras and usually that is high resolution data,” says Simpson. “Also, our clients have their own drives and an investment in these Samsung portable drives would speed the whole process up practically overnight.” STRENGTHENING WEAK POINTS Simpson admits there is a weak point within Hijack’s workflow where the Samsung Portable SSD X5 would fit right in. “Without question, the weak point in our system is always the client drives. If clients started using these portable drives, it would shorten the time they spent on-set. If I showed up on-set and clients had a couple of these drives, I would be delighted. “For instance, if we were shooting with a Red camera in 8K or Arri Raw or something data heavy, but we weren’t doing a multi-cam shoot, then I would know I’m not going to have any problems copying that to the client drive,” says Simpson. “I can do all my checksums onto our RAIDs and once we’ve got it on to our system, I would be able to copy quickly over to the Samsung Portable SSD X5. The clients would be very happy as they wouldn’t need to be on site for as long as they currently are.”
“AS SOON AS WE OPENED THE BOX AND connected it up, we knew it was the fastest portable drive in the building.” A bold statement from Hijack’s Rich Simpson and one he stands by as the Samsung Portable SSD X5 made a huge difference to the company’s workflow. East London’s Hijack offers an unusual combination of DIT, digital lab services, audio post, colour grading and online editorial. There are a number of areas where small, portable, very fast and great-looking storage would make a big difference within these genres of service. Hijack has just upgraded its laptops to Thunderbolt 3 connections and so the Samsung Portable SSD X5 is a perfect complement to its existing workflow. It’s also worth noting that this portable drive can only be used with the Thunderbolt 3. When Simpson mentioned the speed of the Samsung portable drive, he was also including the RAID systems Hijack has in the studios and as part of its DIT equipment. “With this portable drive, we know its speed is the fastest our footage can possibly be moved, there is no bottleneck around it,” he says. As we have found with other users of the Samsung Portable SSD X5 when they start considering how they can use its speed, they realise it can work in multiple places and
To speed up the process, there would need to be master and clone Samsung Portable SSD X5 drives off-loaded from the Hijack RAID drive. LOCATION SHOOTING As we have found before when we ask professionals to test out these amazingly fast Samsung portable drives, more uses for them emerge once they try them out. It was the same with Simpson at Hijack. “Another use for the portable drives has occurred to me: we get these data-wrangling type of jobs where you are carrying a couple of drives in a van and wrangling the data from different shooting locations. In those cases, because there is no power a lot of the time, you’re usually having to operate with slower portable spinning disk drives. You will only get around 90MB/s on those drives so in those cases when you’re dealing with a small crew on location, the Samsung Portable SSD X5 would be perfect,” explains Simpson. “Again, if you were a small crew doing your own data wrangling it would be ideal. As long as you’ve got the Samsung Portable SSD X5, you know it’s never going to be the weak point in your system. Regardless of what else is thrown at you, you know you can transfer the data as quickly as possible. We have plenty of RAID
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SAMSUNG | ADVERTI SEMENT FEATURE
“With this drive, we know that its speed is the fastest our footage can possibly be moved, there is no bottleneck around it” systems and we’ve been trying for years to get the best possible speeds out of them, but the Samsung Portable SSD X5 is the fastest transfer drive we’ve ever used.” Another scenario, according to Simpson, could be a production company shooting some pack shots for a commercial. “Again, not a huge amount of data to deal with in a single day. Typically, you would be using a couple of Samsung portable drives. You could then re-use the drives for all of their shoots and think about using them for everything. Their camera rushes, sound and their transcodes; these would be their master drives and would be less fiddly than using the box drives and a lot faster,” he says. “A two terabyte version would be ideal just to make sure you could fit everything
on to it, but the production company would then know it had the absolute fastest system available.” The Samsung Portable SSD X5 could also be used by Hijack’s post side, suggests Simpson. “For example, you could put on a film digital source master, they have huge potential for that type of transfer. We would definitely use them for that purpose.”
MORE INFORMATION: samsung.com/uk/portable-ssd
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COLOUR IN A WORLD OF BLACK & WHITE Following on from our last issue, we dig deeper into Good Omens, with a focus on the series’ colour and visual effects
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / PICTURES AMAZON PRI ME V I DEO
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The desire was to give Good Omens a timeless and courageous feel
of our Good Omens series, we further explore the grade and visual effects used to enhance and complement Finney’s shots. Finney set the tone from the very beginning, with a title sequence that is fantastically whimsical and does a great job of embodying the dark, fanciful and irreverent tone of Good Omens . Throughout the series, there is environmental foreshadowing, which is emphasised by the different colours and auras unique to individual characters’ dispositions, and post-production house, Soho-based Molinare, was tasked with continuing the tone and look that Finney had set up. Molinare was a perceptive choice, since a lot of Good Omens was shot around the streets of Soho. Definition recently visited Molinare, and upon entering its noiseless, yet unusually ambient theatres – referred to as “dark rooms” by colourists chatting in the hallway – we saw the suite used by Gareth Spensley for the grade. Spensley is one of the most sought-after colourists in the industry, having previously worked on some of the highest-rated drama productions in the UK, including Doctor Who and Killing Eve . Spensley took direction from Finney for the grade, as he explains: “Finney used a lot of technical film references, and he wanted me to incorporate the specific look of film stocks and processing techniques, as well as the look of classic adventure movies, crossed with more British adventure references. The desire was to give the series a timeless, courageous feel. Finney wanted it to feel like it was bedded into nostalgia, so the audience would feel comfortable with the quite fantastical biblical storyline.” The complexities of the show’s various elements – which often involved going
back in time to different eras – required careful attention and understanding. “The show had some multifarious flashback scenes, and under Gaiman’s direction, Finney wanted to create distinctive looks as we jumped through the different time periods,” says Spensley. He adds: “This was a gift and a joy to grade as a colourist. I think we covered every trick in the toolbox: period film print LUTs, complex colour crosstalk layers and classic ideas such as heavy desaturation as we zipped from the Garden of Eden to Noah’s Ark, and from ancient Rome to Blitz-era London.” The grade was done on FilmLight’s Baselight v5 and grading sessions took place with the Sony X300 as reference monitor and Panasonic OLED as client monitor. Molinare’s Theatre 1 was the backdrop for the final check and – with its many seats, a Barco DP90 DCI projector and an eight-metre wide screen – it enabled all relevant picture post-production teams to attend final check. Because of the multiple colour space deliverables, both HDR and SDR in UHD and HD, Spensley used the Baselight’s T-Log colour space and TCam display rendering transforms. “They offered the greatest flexibility to support the different looks Finney wanted to create,” he explains. “I was able to manage LUTs from our library, modern LMTs and the latest input colour spaces for the various shooting formats, all within one timeline.” CROWLEY’S CAR Demon Crowley’s 1920s Bentley is one of the most iconic elements of Good Omens . The car is clearly important to him – an extension of himself in a way – and by
L et’s be real, you probably watched it all in one sitting. So you know what we mean when we say Good Omens is a somewhat kitsch yet highly addictive production, flitting between a litany of pleasantly cliched English aesthetics, from the comic characteristics of PG Wodehouse to the unconventional, but now familiar style of Harry Potter. It’s clear a lot of love has gone into ensuring the show has a sense of nostalgia and reverence for fans, all the while capturing the hearts of those who haven’t yet read the 1990 novel by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett, from which the television series was adapted. When we spoke to DOP Gavin Finney in the last issue of Definition (June 2019), we learned his visual decisions were influenced largely by the characters and their dynamics. Remember, we’re talking about a series that encapsulates biblical Armageddon and is largely concerned with the war between good and evil – perhaps the strongest of archetypes. In part two
ABOVE RIGHT The Antichrist, an 11-year-old boy named Adam, and his three comrades
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BOTTOM Theatre 1 at Molinare, the suite used by Gareth Spensley to grade Good Omens
completely drenched in darkness at around 3pm. The varying light conditions on the exterior sets, accompanied by inclement weather, demanded some quick colouring by DIT Rich Simpson. He explains: “I had to balance the shots so that they would make sense in the dailies and in the edit.” Simpson describes one scene – a tracking shot of the good witch Anathema Device cycling through a forest. He recalls: “This was actually shot day-for-night, so I made a colour correction to the dailies, and applied a dynamic grade to take into account the change in light created by the foliage as the bike moved across it.” He continues: “Another interesting shot to work on saw the angel Aziraphale pulling an imaginary cord, which would turn the scene from night to day within the same shot. We set keyframes and applied a dynamic grade to every clip, so that this effect was there in the dailies when they were uploaded.” Good Omens was produced in many different locations, which, for Simpson, meant moving and managing a lot of 4K material. With this in mind, he designed a mobile lab – an extension of his Hijack post-production studios – which had an independently powered system with a calibrated grading environment and the computing power to handle a lot of data. “We had a dual Mac Pro system configured over a network; one was primarily used for colour adjustments and the other was used for data management and to create daily LTO backups on location. LTO tapes were stored off-set and a shuttle drive of transcodes went off to the edit team every night on wrap.” All transcoding took place on-set and the configured networks enabled rendering on both systems simultaneously. Also, because the lab was independently powered, he could switch over from the
the end of the series, it’s been reduced to a flaming heap by the imminent apocalypse. But, being a demon, that doesn’t stop Crowley from driving it at 120mph. A real vintage Bentley was used on-set and it could do 70 miles an hour, but only after an hour of building up to it – so that wasn’t going to work. With Lester Dunton, of Dunton Projection FX, the crew was able to build a Bentley interior with wrap- around rear projection, so no green screen. “We used a system of projectors and multiple screens, not just behind the car, but also projecting reflections into the windscreen and bodywork, so the interactive lighting was synced to the background plates,” explains Dunton. “We also had a couple of projectors that lit the actors with the same footage that was going past them.” This way, the director, actors and operators could see the finished product in the camera, with no compositing to do. The projectors that directly lit the actors went through 250 4x4 white diffusion frames, and the projectors that caused reflections in the car body were either front-projected onto screens hung overhead, or back- projected if that was easier to rig. FICKLE BRITISH WEATHER In our last issue, Finney noted there were some night-for-day scenes – due to daylight saving – where the Soho set had become The biggest scene was replacing the sky in the majority of the last episode, charting a red sky that signalled Armageddon
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working closely alongside them where we can. It was great to work with Milk Studios and its incredible team on this project.” Since Molinare provided the final picture post, McGinley and her team were able to start compositing the picture after the lock, using NukeX and Autodesk Flame, which is supported by Mocha and PFTrack for tracking software and Maya and V-Ray for 3D. McGinley adds: “Working closely with Spensley, we were in a lucky position to be at the heart of the project when and where required.” Spensley details some of the secondary grading, explaining to us that he undertook various lower level VFX in the grade, including flame effects, sparks, ghostly apparition distortions and sky replacements using Baselight’s compositing tools and in-
ABOVE David Tennant in the role of demon Crowley, in front of his 1920s Bentley
mains to the engine without interruption.
RED SKY AT NIGHT Simpson worked closely with the VFX team, creating initial reference composites and sky replacements to demonstrate to Finney and director Douglas Mackinnon how the VFX would look in post. VFX artists from Molinare and Milk Studios collaborated on Good Omens . The Molinare VFX team, led by Dolores McGinley, completed 450 shots (there were around 1200 CGI shots overall) working on blue-screen comps, crowd replication and general clean-up work, involving the removal of modern-day elements, crew and equipment. McGinley explains: “We have a relatively small in-house VFX department, so we often affiliate with larger VFX houses,
built flame shaders.
The finale sees the Antichrist – an 11-year-old boy named Adam – and his friends square up against the Four Horsemen. After they are beaten (thanks to youthful idealism that they are only ideas, which can be fought) a furious Satan arrives, and the sky turns from a whirling and aggressive grey to a hellish red. “The biggest scene I did was replacing the sky in the majority of that last episode,” says Spensley. “I shot sky plates for that sequence as the story required the imagery to hit specific narrative beats; charting a red sky that signalled Armageddon. We chose to do this in the grade as it gave the production the most complete perspective of the 30-minute showdown scene. Some shots were finally composited by the VFX team, where CGI was already required, or the tracking became too difficult to achieve in Baselight. But overall, the Baselight was brilliant for this type of client request.” With teamwork at its core – in front and behind the camera – it’s heartening to know Good Omens will reach as wide an audience as possible thanks to BBC One and Amazon Prime co-producing the series. GOOD OMENS IS CURRENTLY STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME, AND WILL AIR ON BBC ONE LATER THIS YEAR
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