INDIAN WELLS, CALIF. –
The evolution is resolution, despite the barriers
that remain in 4K distribution and storage. Leon Silverman of Disney laid out a
brief litany of production obstacles at the Hollywood Post Alliance Technology
Retreat today. Phil Squyres of Sony countered with a deliberation on why it
makes sense to produce in 4K now, even if video distribution systems can’t yet
handle 4K content.
Silverman is general manager of Digital Studios for Walt Disney Studios, and
president of HPA. He’s been around a while. He’s been around since Don
Henderson of Kodak used to show up on a movie set with a bottle of champagne
when someone shot a million feet of film.
Silverman described how he has a 4K display in the lobby of Disney Studios. At
this point, the only 4K content for it is from Sony Pictures. Sony Pictures is heavily
into 4K because its sister company is manufacturing the cameras. Production in 4K is a different, and potentially much
more expensive, proposition for Disney, where Silverman might have to make the
case for spending $10 million to do 4K effects.
In making that justification, how that material would be displayed, quality
checked and stored must be addressed.
“What is the master—is it the files that come out of the Red or Arri camera
raw? And how does that relate to the archive?” Silverman asked rhetorically.
Archiving huge 4K files would require either massive on-site storage or some
pretty hefty charges to use the cloud.
“If you shoot 5 TB a day, you’re going to have to pay $51.20 a month for cloud
storage,” he said. “Three hundred terabytes will be $3,072 a month forever and
ever and ever.”
A full petabyte would come to $10,490 per month, while a roll of film costs
around 7 cents a can per year to store, he said. (Silverman later offered a correction--12.5 cents a month
Sony is using LTO for archive, according to Squyres, senior vice president of technical
operations for Sony Pictures Television. So far, Sony has shot five productions
in 4K. The first was “Made in Jersey,” a one-hour drama for CBS shot by Daryn
Okada using the Sony F65. Eight episodes have been completed.
“HD capture on that camera pretty much mirrors what you’d have in raw,” Squyres
said. The show was finished in HD-only at Technicolor.
“Save Me,” a half-hour comedy for NBC, was finished in 4K at Colorworks and
down-rezed for delivery to the network. Eight of 13 episodes of the show have
been shot by Director of Photography Lloyd Ahern using the F65. “Masters of
Sex,” a one-hour period drama for Showtime, also is being finished in 4K at
Colorworks. DP Michael Weaver is using the Sony F65; two of 10 episodes have
The final new 4KTV project in the Sony Pictures pipeline is a Michael J. Fox
half-hour comedy pilot for NBC, also 4K finished at Colorworks. DP Michael
Grady shot it with the F65.
One other series is transitioning to 4K. Seasons No. 3 and 4 of the FX series
“Justified” are being shot with the Red Epic in 4K. The show is being delivered
in HD, but Squyres said it was a candidate for remastering in 4K, as is being
done with AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” which was shot on 33 mm, 3 perf.
Squyres said Sony plans to do three to five more pilots in 4K:
A half-hour comedy pilot in Los Angeles on the F55.
A half-hour comedy pilot in New York, using the F55 and F65.
A one-hour drama in Los Angeles on the F55.
Two “Big Drama” pilots in Los Angeles; one with all F55s, and the other, the
F55 and the F65 for green screens, composites and high-speed photography.
One or two more half-hour comedies are on deck, he said.
“Someone asked, why shoot 4K for TV,” he said. “Of course there’s your
library…to future proof.”
“We’ve learned that the 4K raw capture…. give us an incredible amount of
exposure latitude, color space, resolutions for reframing and blowups,” he
said. “You can treat it more like film, there’s less concerns about exposure
One of the reasons Okada selected the camera for “Made in Jersey” was that he
wanted to avoid gelling windows or changing lighting for color temperature
control, Squyres said.
At Sony Pictures Television, they have a daily lab operated by the TV group for
single-camera productions. The lab does color-management support, processes
dailies for editorial, archives footage to LTO and does some visual effects
pulls. That operation is connected to Colorworks by a 10gigE pipe.
Bill Baggelaar is the senior vice president of technology at Colorworks.
“Production should shoot and finish in 4K… to have an asset they can store that
has long-term viability,” he said. “Even if you’re not going to produce in 4K
today, you can shoot in 4K and produce in 4K down the road.”
Baggelaar said 4K was a consideration from the outset when Colorworks started
finishing TV shows because the 4K workflow was in place for doing theatricals.
However, the primary deliverable for TV is HD, he said.
“We didn’t want to jeopardize the HD product by producing in 4K,” he said. “We’re
able to look at HD, produce in HD, but we’re looking at 4K in the background.”
This allows them to make an HD render, then flip over and make a 4K render,
Baggelaar said. He said the industry needs to look at technologies that
accommodate HD, 4K and even 8K, to allow production and post production to be
resolution independent, “so that you don’t have to have a backbone or a
large-scale storage infrastructure. But you have to have a system capable of
dealing with the content.”
On the production side, cost considerations include camera packages and media.
Squyres emphasized that 4K camera packages should not cost more than some
previous HD packages. As for cost of media, more is needed, though the price
per gigabyte is “reduced in comparison to SxS cards,” he said, and can be further
moderated by investment. Sony Pictures Television has 150 SxS cards it provides
for individual productions, and is making the same investment in cards that go
into the F55, he said.
Bandwidth is always an issue. Movement of large files can be minimized by
workflow design, Squyres said.
On locally shot shows, Sony sends media directly to the lab with no on-set
backup, because four times the data theoretically would take four times the amount
of time to back up on set. Squyres said a typical show shot with the F65 uses
about four 1 TB cards a day each yielding about 100 minutes, no quite filled up.
At the dailies lab, those cards can be downloaded, archived and returned to the
set by the next afternoon using lab-sized systems. This eliminates the need for
on-set data wrangling, saving time and money.
For out-of-town shoots, Sony has two optional workflows to protect against the
catastrophic loss of original 4K files. Previously, there was no cost-effective
option to back up film or linear tape, though the only experience they had
losing material was with film getting X-rayed.
With remote 4K shoots, they created a parallel backup using HD recorders, which
can trigger to record each time the 4K recorders start and stop. They then
capture camera output in HD-only, which can be up-rezed to 4K if need be.
The other alternative is using local backup with parallel proxy recording using
external device to capture a dnx115 copy during shooting, and sending it to the
lab via internet or courier for dailies creation. The 4K cards are sent to a local,
near-set operation for downloading and backup overnight. The 4K files can be
held on a local RAID until a 4K shuttle drive arrives at the lab. This can then
be shipped twice weekly via FedEx.
Dailies are generally done with proxies.
“We learned the processing dailies in 4K files was really anathema,” Squyres
said. “It requires expensive hardware, netware and hogs all the resources you
Sony makes proxy copies of the 4K files early in the dailies process. It’s not
a proxy for HD mastering—they’re mastering in
4K and down-rezing in HD from that. This is specifically a proxy for making HD
It’s really a challenge for on-set systems, so it’s done at the lab.
The dailies workflow entails downloading 4K files from SR memory cards, using
two Sony D1 readers, into a Resolve workstation attached to a very fast RAID
via SAS, maxing out the speed of the D1s for faster-than-real time downloads.
The RAID serves as a temporary storage location and keeps 4K files off the WIP SAN.
Resolve is used to transcode the 4K files to dnx115, which are pushed onto the
dailies SAN. The dnx115 files are used in the dailies system to organize, log, sync
and process to editorial dnx36 files, which are pushed off to a faster workstation
for actual transcode to dnx36. The H.264 and MPEG2 files for distribution are
transcoded from dnx36 editorial files.
Immediately after ingest of 4K files in the fast RAID, the cards are sent to
archive for copying onto a “post RAID,” a portable, 12 TB RAID for moving
camera original files around to other labs, VisFX pulls and as the source of Sony’s
4K LTO archival tapes. After 4K-to-dnx115 proxy is completed, the 4K files are
pushed from the fast RAID via 10gigE lines for archive.
Creative editing progresses as usual, using dnx36 files on the Avid. VisFX
pulls are done as needed, typically as dpx sequences. Confirms then consist of
Avid Media Composer to read and organize the edls and bins sent over by
Smoke, to confirm from the Avid cuts and insert various fixes and effects in
Baselight, to complete the final conform.
The traditional stages of finishing are, as files, the online master, the
visual-arts master, the color-time master and the completed titled master. The
target is a final 4K IMF. For final archive, there are two separately created
sets of archival LTOs: An LTO set of the 4K OCM, and an LTO set of HD proxies
from the 4K plus editorial dnx.
Squyres said finishing in 4K now saves time later.
“The idea of remastering is that you’re really doing the work twice, and doing
it the second time is more difficult,” he said.
In any TV show, there are last-minute discoveries in post—last-minute fixes are
then inserted to meet creative intent, to cover goofs and to meet deadlines.
Often, these fixes are “seat-of-the-pants cover-ups” that aren’t well
documented, Squyres said. There can be several hundred per episode. These have
to be ferreted out for remastering.
“Is 4K the new 3D,” he said. “It does seem to be the new benchmark for the
future. It certainly seems like it might be more viable than the 3D adventure.”
~ Deborah D. McAdams
Sony USA image is Mark LaBonge preparing for a Steadicam shot with the Sony F65 on
NBC’s “Save Me.”