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Director Fincher shoots 'Zodiac' with Viper

When director David Fincher's "Zodiac" hit movie screens worldwide last week, it marked the first time a major studio feature had been shot and produced digitally without the use of videotape or compression.

The hard drive-based datacentric workflow for "Zodiac" began with Fincher's use of the Grass Valley Viper FilmStream Camera system from Thomson. Fincher worked with Grass Valley and its partner companies to develop and implement a digital, disk-based workflow.

Shot in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the principal photography on "Zodiac" lasted 117 days and made use of two Viper cameras with Zeiss DigiPrime lenses shooting in uncompressed 10-bit 4:4:4 1920x1080/24p FilmStream mode with a 2.37:1 anamorphic aspect ratio.

Data from the Viper cameras as well as on-set metadata fed a rotating group of 20 D.MAG (digital magazine) removable hard drives loaded in Digital Film Recorders (DFRs) from S.two of Reno, NV. The Camera House in North Hollywood, CA, rented and supported the equipment.

Data captured on set was transferred from D.MAG to LTO-3 data tapes using S.two's A.Dock, where images would go through quality control and inspection; then, two additional LTO-3 clones were made as backup files.

Up to six Viper cameras were used, at times, including for scenes at San Francisco's KGO-TV studios, where the Viper cameras were mounted inside the empty shells of studio broadcast cameras for POV shots.

Fincher's next feature, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which began principal photography in New Orleans last fall, is currently shooting with four Viper cameras and recording, once again, to S.two disk-based systems.

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