Postcards is the first feature project to be shot using the production model of the Dalsa Origin. Utilizing a fully digital 'filmless' workflow, the Origin records a 4096x2048 16-bit image at 24 frames per second directly onto a RAID recording server.
This approach works especially well for a visual effects heavy project, eliminating a variety of costly steps in the traditional film approach, including hard costs such as film stock, film processing, fllm-to-digital scan conversion and some occasional dustbusting costs. Using the Origin, we go straight from onset greenscreen work directly into the digital domain, where our hard costs include workstations, drive storage space and data backup media - all of which are also incurred in the cost of doing visual effects in the traditional filmic way.
STEP 1: ACQUISITION
Onstage production workflow is similar to traditional production techniques except for the fact that the shot data is fed to a RAID server in the back room. A "video village" uses tools such as Iridas' Speedgrade to quickly check and tweak lighting and levels.
STEP 2: OFFLINE EDIT & VFX PREP
Good takes are converted to a quarter scale proxy (1024x512). Each take is combined with its correlating audio track (recorded on DAT) and converted into a DV .avi clip with frame code burnin. The DV clips are then imported and the offline edit done in Adobe Premiere Pro. Cutting in DV allows the editor the luxury of speed in cutting, facilitating a more creative process. At this stage temporary geometry is used to create a rough background plate to drop our greenscreen plates onto.
STEP 3: EDIT LOCK, FRAME REQUESTS
Once the edit is locked, the frame ranges for each shot are noted and the full resolution frames are processed. The raw image data coming off the Origin camera is converted into a full 16-bit RGB file. (The image below is 1/4 rez and downsampled to 8 bit jpg)
STEP 4: VISUAL EFFECTS
Concurrent to the editing process, the background set environment is modeled, textured and lit using Lightwave 3D. Interactive lighting sessions are performed using Worley Laboratory's FPrime, allowing the CGI artist to move lights around the room and light the 3D set as we would an actual set. When complete, the backplate is rendered out as a full floating point HDR image via FPrime along with a zdepth pass.
STEP 5: COMPOSITING
The greenscreen plate and CGI background is composited in Adobe After Affects at full 4K resolution. The HDR render is brought in and dialed to match using AE's Exposure node and a Filter node is used to balance the color temperature to match plate photography. Finally, the zdepth pass is fed into a Lens Blur node, and with the correct focal distance (taken from the camera report), generates a depth-of-field blur to match the lens used (in this case, 40mm with a Lens-to-Subject distance of 4' 0"). Dial to taste.
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