SCRATCH Takes The Amazing Journey To The Center Of The Earth In 3-D
"Viewing in 3-D was really crucial to the project. With the enormous amount of files for this type of production, you want to avoid 2-D and the on-going iterations of viewing at another facility, and then doing the work over again," Kaminsky said. "The real-time 3-D pipeline and working process enabled a dynamic, fluid workflow for all of us together under the same roof."
Gary Jackemuk, who worked with Kaminsky on SUPERMAN RETURNS, supervised the conform and finishing group for JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. "We were in unchartered territory, at the bleeding edge in building the 3-D pipeline," Jackemuk said. "We knew SCRATCH could manage a lot of color data, and this project was going to put SCRATCH through its paces. We were learning as we moved forward, and the ASSIMILATE team was a big help along the way. I also developed some custom software to conform the left and right eye data simultaneously, then pushed it into XML files for SCRATCH to ingest."
Jackemuk added, "We had Mike Fellows as our I/O supervisor, one of the best there is, and he managed all the data using the SCRATCH data management tool. He would do a batch capture of the HD SR tapes using the Symmetry Bluefish card, one eye at a time off the Avid EDL, and then I could conform for the next phases. We had a huge number of visual effects from a variety of VFX houses and Mike had to carefully QC every shot twice for each eye. Mike kept all that data, all the versions throughout the entire project, running smoothly. We built some custom FileMaker Pro database tools so that color notes, shot QC status and VFX DPX delivery inventory were all managed in one system. This helped us keep the process organized and enabled the vfx team to have a live view of the DI status of their shots updated in real time as we worked."
Jackemuk also talked about some of the issues they faced in the color grading portion of the pipeline. "3-D color grading in real time is a tough challenge right now. SCRATCH was ahead of the other platforms but still had some process and feature points to be improved. As an experienced team we were able to work through the issues, and Assimilate pitched in with technical support and new code," he said. "We were breaking new ground and we all had lessons to learn. Bottom line though, we we're totally satisfied -- very much so -- with the end result and how it appears on the big screen."
"We did all the rendering in SCRATCH in two passes -- left eye and right eye. The final conformed, graded and QC'd files were exported to DPX sequences and delivered to RealD, Dolby and Technicolor for the final encoding, conversion, packaging and creation of the release masters," Jackemuk added.
Jeff Olm did all the color grading and post stereo adjustments for JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. He also worked with the director, DP and VFX Supervisor to set the convergence for the focal point that aligns the left and right eyes for every shot. Convergence is the perception of how far off the screen the image appears to the audience or the illusion of depth.
"I worked the right eye for the primary adjustment. The SCRATCH guys made a special hot key for me that would immediately copy over the left eye to the right eye in real-time stereo. This was a huge time saver," Olm said.
Olm added, "Another major times savings: we then imported the files into RealD's 3D theater and then did a trim pass in just a few hours. This was a major time savings for the production. For the grading sessions, we used a 30-foot screen with two NEC digital projectors with circular polarizers, one polarizer for the right eye and one for the left. Digital projection is key for stereo, and in this case, so that all images would stay in alignment. This way you can view the imagery in 3-D with 3-D glasses to see the full stereo affect. We could see the results in real-time 3-D and make adjustments, which no other film lab or post house could do at this time."
"It's truly an extraordinary experience to work on a film with this much data, VFX, and various idiosyncrasies, and in 3-D, and to do so effectively on the desktop. The reviews were in HD were 1920x1080 and we could master in real time. We managed the entire post mastering process within a data pipeline that we built internally with SCRATCH as the software foundation," Kaminsky said.