| || |
After interviewing a very animated filmmaker about his post production experiences with The Digital Film Lab I thought I'd go along to witness these revolutionary methods myself. Do you need an affordable 35mm blow up without generation loss? Do you want seamless transitions from B&W to colour and back again? This groundbreaking company can do it, at a friendly price, for your feature but be sure to send along your DoP for a chat first. An immediate change from traditional post production methods, technologically and mentally, they can save you a heap of time and money and still achieve your desired effects for you.
Not knowing a bleach bypass if I were mugged by one in a dark alley, I had to admit my ignorance to company MD Gary Napier pretty early on if I wanted to get the right info for those that do. He understood perfectly but have a look out for a couple of sections where Gary got carried away in digi post vernacular and imagine me nodding 'uh huh' to every pause.
What's your position here and can you give us a brief history of the company?
I'm managing director. We opened here in November but we are the child of a Danish company that has been operating for six years. That's called Destiny-601, the Warehouse and Digital Film Lab Copenhagen - three companies.
What exactly do you do here?
What we do here is take features shot on film, 16mm or 35mm, we grade them in real time which is an immediate change from traditional post production. We then turn the film into data and treat it as one very large special effect, we then assemble that and add any special effects which then all becomes seamless. Then we take the whole lot back and rerecord it back onto film - it's a complete move away from traditional post production.
How long has this technology or knowledge been available?
We are the first company to have developed it and we've now completed 18 features, it's only been available for the last few years.
How does your pricing compare to traditional methods?
Well we hope that it will save productions money but it's very difficult to compare it like with like to a traditional lab because we can do everything here from picture lock to print. That includes titling, trailer, the TV deliverables and not just the traditional lab budget so we believe that in most cases it's comparable but with features with special effects it's much cheaper.
Tell me, a layman, what the difference is between the Digital Film Lab and a 'traditional' post house. Is it that you can put on effects that couldn't be done elsewhere, cheaper?
It's not that. It's the fact that the whole feature is held as data and, shot by shot, we are able to look at every frame. Traditionally, if you were doing a special effect you would send so many frames to a post house who would convert that into data, work on it, record it back onto film and cut it back into the original negative. Here it is so much more efficient because by holding all the frames in data it's so much easier to add an effect. It's much more cost effective too because you are really only paying for machine time and artistic talent rather than the time of converting the data, back to film etc - we do it in one pass.
It's economies of scale that makes it so cost effective for effects driven mediums.
Are you getting low/no budget filmmakers coming in for advice too?
(laughs) It's quite true in that the Copenhagen company started with lower budget 16mm Scandinavian features. We started in London by dealing with ideally higher budgeted movies although we can still deal with 16mm features, which tells you that the price is certainly comparable.
We can accept any shooting format: DV, 16mm, Super 16, 35mm, it's converted to data and then brought back to film. If you shot Super 16 for example and came to us there would be no anamorphic blow up as there would be traditionally. You can come in at 16mm and leave at 35mm without losing a generation, the grain structure is much finer and you've none of the usual problems associated with a blow up. That goes for Super 35 as well, an anamorphic squeeze has always been a very expensive process through the labs. If you compare film that has gone traditionally and through our system then technically we are superior in both definition and grain structure.
Is this a technological change or just a different way of thinking?
It's absolutely both. First of all it's a mental change in that this system has been available for grading on telecine for TV and commercials for the last 15 years. It's a mind change to move it to feature films simply because the amount of data you are dealing with is huge. The technology has been here but the capacity and data storage hasn't but this system has now become a commercial reality, so it is a mind change from that perspective.
Have the other labs approached you about this?
We sit very much between the wet labs and the effects houses but we are obviously in discussions with all the labs because it's very important that they understand how to print our material.
We print one light in the lab, the grading and the front end on the telecine becomes the one light print and from that grade comes the TV deliverables so the idea that for your TV master you go back to the telecine to re-grade an interpositive has gone. We get an exact match from grading the feature at the front end of the system, so we can come out as a 35mm print, a DVD, an HD master, a PAL master, an NTSC master etc. All your deliverables are falling out of the other end so really this is a big advantage for future proofing your content.