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Sweden's Filmgate Builds SCRATCH-RED Workflow

Swedish vfx house Filmgate has expanded business by adding a range of digital intermediate (DI) services for the post production of films. ASSIMILATE's SCRATCH Digital Process Solution is at the core of Filmgate's new digital pipeline.

Within two years, Filmgate has assembled a seasoned team of ten highly creative and versatile artists who have worked on all types of international movies, as well as Academy Award-winning blockbusters such as KING KONG and THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. This talent pool has enabled them to expand their core business of visual effects to now offer DI/post production services.

The four founders of Filmgate bring complementary skills to the talent gene pool: Fredrik Averpil (VFX Supervisor), Hakan Blomdahl (Digital Compositor), Andreas Hylander (VFX), and Sean Wheelan (VFX Producer).

At the Cannes Film Festival 2008, Filmgate showed three films to the entertainment market: HUSH, directed by Mark Tonderai, EDEN LAKE, directed by James Watkins; and CAPTAIN AHAB, directed by Philippe Ramos.

Wheelan, a 17-year veteran of post production, is also Managing Director of Filmgate. Wheelan sees huge potential for filmmakers in the use of SCRATCH, both in Sweden and internationally. "In our short history we have worked on 13 features for clients in six different countries: U.K., France, Denmark, Canada, Ireland and Sweden. We are now expanding our DI services with the help of the SCRATCH system. We're using SCRATCH to do our first conform and grading project for the thriller ALARM (2008), an Irish/Swedish co-production directed by Gerard Stembridge."

Filmgate is the first Swedish company to implement SCRATCH into a pipeline of DI services. "SCRATCH is the latest and hottest DI toolset, but it's also the most efficient, stable, and cost effective," Wheelan said. "While our advert says we are 'cunning like a seasoned fox', it's just a sound business strategy to stay current with technology and use its strengths to one's advantage. We're investing in our future now by building a streamlined digital pipeline infrastructure, and hiring top talent, to offer filmmakers the best possible post-production services."

Wheelan added, "By using SCRATCH, our business is growing beyond our core expertise of visual effects. We're now able to offer full-service post production and we're staffing up to do the post for commercials, music videos, short films, and feature films. Another perspective to consider is knowing where filmmakers can make or save money, and SCRATCH is spot on for this."

"SCRATCH is the foundation of our real-time digital pipeline," said Wheelan. "We've ramped up our team to do the conform, color grading, dailies, and finishing for any projects, whether 2k film, HD/SD, or 4k digital film. The SCRATCH feature set provides us with all the needed post-production tools to do the post processes in house, including real-time client review sessions, which results in huge savings both in time and budget. We can also easily drop in the VFX without interruption."

"We've set up the pipeline to ingest XML files and the EDLs. We have SCRATCH running on a purpose-built Boxx workstation that's loaded with dual-core Opteron processors, a Bluefish Lust Video I/O board, and an Nvidia 4600 SDI graphics card. We use the Tangent control panels for the color grading," says Wheelan.

ALARM was shot in HDCAM, and the EDL was used to transfer the shots into DPX files. Wheelan explained, "We used SCRATCH to do the conform and color grading for ALARM. The conform tool is extremely easy to use and fast. We found that making the color corrections on the fly eliminated numerous hours of downtime waiting for traditional dailies. For the VFX, titles, and end credits we used Nuke. The output was to DPX for the final film print and HD master."

Filmgate's clients also see the benefits of SCRATCH. Bruno de Keyzer (ELECTRIC MIST in 2008, LES EUROPEANS in 2006 and ABOUT ADAM in 2000), was the cinematographer for ALARM. "The real time performance of SCRATCH is an amazing benefit," said Wheelan. "It was Bruno's first time shooting in HD. With SCRATCH, we were able to do the review sessions with him in real time and instantaneously see the changes, which he found to be extremely helpful."

"We're using SCRATCH for different aspects of the post process. Right now we're creating the VFX for Peter Flinth's ARN 2, THE DESCENT 2, directed by Jon Harris (2009); and Lukas Moodyson's international release MAMMOTH, starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams. For the Norwegian airplane drama PAX, we're using SCRATCH for the 2k reviews. And we are also doing the color grading of a commercial for the Queen's Hospital," Wheelan said.

"RED with its 4k camera is another big area of interest," Wheelan said. "Because SCRATCH is the only software to support the native REDCODE files, another avenue of business is opening up for us. The RED ONE camera is picking up steam for the filming of high-quality big-screen feature films, short films, documentaries, commercials, TV episodes, and music videos -- the entire gamut of digital media. Filmmakers worldwide are realizing the RED camera and SCRATCH are a powerful combination that provides a highly cost-effective methodology for high-quality imagery and filmmaking."

Wheelan added, "We like to be at the forefront of pioneering new tools and processes that add value to the film industry. To that end, we're in the early stages of developing a state-of-the-art internal RED 4k workflow with SCRATCH that includes conform, color grading, dailies, and finishing. This opens up a whole new subsidiary of services that can be offered by Filmgate."

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