[Tig] DI workflow, capabilities and requirements

Steve Shaw digital.praxis
Sat Mar 26 13:37:00 GMT 2005

I've escaped for an easter w/e beer, while the wife's out shopping. And while sat in the sunshine outside my local pub  thought I'd drop a few thought down based on the recent discussions on DI and colour correction...

DI workflow has come a long way from the traditional process of telecine based colour correction, both through a development in system capabilities as well as a better understanding of the real benefits offered by a more holistic approach to colour as part of a wider post-production operation.

For example, I am seeing DoPs and production operations starting to understand the possibilities for dailies being performed via self calibrating film transfer engines using LUTs to generate truthful images based on the underlying cinematography, to help the DoP understand what he's capturing, as well as 'happy' pictures for the production team and investors to review, showing how the final basic images will appear. These happy pictures can also become the bacic image data for offline editing. No creative 
colourist involvement at this stage of the operation.

For obvious reasons these self calibrated (Cineon) images can be SD,HD or data. Resolution has nothing to do with colour calibration.

Such calibrated scans generate LUTs that can then be used to set the initial DI grading setup during the online, as everyhting is working from a know quantity. The calibrated scan. 

The problem with a colourist peforming a dailies transfer is thet they will always massage the image to look good. A colourist is human after all. And this is actually the last thing the production needs. They need to know what is actually being shot, as well as what the final possibilities are.

Or, even better for colour management, the DoP can use a system such as Kodak's Look Manager to generate images on-set that lock the desired images look and feel, producing a set of colour manipulation values that can generate a direct initial settings for the on-line DI.

This enables the colourist when working online to get to a base one grade setup very quickly, allowing more time for the real creative possibilities to be explored by the colourist, producing a far better end result than would be possible if the colourist had to spend time getting the basic look and feel right.

Additionally, during the DI online process things will be come obvious that would not have been seen previously. This is due to the low quality images used for the offline and the better viewing environment used during online DI conforming and grading.

As a result the DI online becomes more than just an autoconform and grade, with the need to often perform re-editing, vfx work, restoration, dust-busting, etc, without the need to halt and relocate to a 'vfx' environment.

While this is not going to be in the form of full visual effects creation, or major editing, the need is something that has to be able to be performed immediately, often infront of the client.

I can't remember the last DI project I worked on that didn't have online changes made that required a toolset beyond just colour.

And for the client, why would they chose an operation that required a suite relocation just because someone had missed a lighting stand in-shot, or some dust/processing errors in the final scene?

DI is bringing together a number of previously sperate tasks to enable the best possible final image without the need to spend extra cash as far as the production spend goes, while the facility in question can gain more of the production budget by offering more than just colour.

The DI environment also needs to be able to deliver all the final deliverables, from film-out, to HD and SD video, as well as web content, pr stills, the making of, etc.

This is not the traditional colourist environment, and the operator(s) need to understand this.

Some of my clients use different operators for the different aspects of the workflow, while others look for true 'hero operators' who can perform all the various tasks, allowing for the fact that any serious requirement away from the core DI workflow is always going to be done via planned and seperate processes. No-one will do all colour, vfx, editing, text, 3D, etc on one system. It's just not cost effective. But the needs described above are very cost effective when part of the online DI process, which a
s we all know comes at the end of the planned post-production, making time and money critical.

I will make a bet that in the not so distant future the majority of film is transfered via self calibration film transfer engines, with no colourist involvement, with all creative colour manipulation being done via DI based workflow systems, regardless of the final deliverable - be it film, HD longform, commercial, SD, etc.

I will also say digital capture will encroach on film to a very high level - just look at the images and cost benefits of shooting Silence Becomes You via Digital Cinematography.

LUT management also will becom a major part of the workflow, with the ability to move LUT data between systems a basic requirement.

Systems like Kodak's Look Manager will become the front-end to the colour process, being used on-set to lock the look and feel, leaving the more creative processes to the on-line DI workflow - regardless of the capture medium used.

The online editor and colourist will become almost identical, with linked vfx operations for complex effects work.

It's a brave new world out there. Ignore it at your own cost.


Steve Shaw
Digital Praxis Ltd.
+44(0)7765 400 908
steve at digitalpraxis.net

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