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IBC 2006: Managing the Digital Realm with Color, DI and 3-D

Carolyn Giardina reports back from IBC in Amsterdam, where Aardman was honored for excellence, and color management, DI and 3-D continued to be the hot topics.

This years IBC was packed. The show attracted an estimated 45,000 attendees and the show floor grew roughly 10% in 06. All convention images courtesy of IBC.

The 2006 International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), held Sept. 7-12 at the RAI Convention Center in Amsterdam, included a grand day out for four-time Oscar winning studio Aardman Animations, which was the recipient of this years prestigious IBC International Award for Excellence. The Bristol, U.K.-based studio best known for its celebrated Wallace & Gromit characters, which are the subjects of two Academy Award-winning shorts (A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers) and this years best animated feature winner Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, has also distinguished itself in commercials and music videos and is now moving toward new media initiatives such as content for mobile devices.

David Sproxton, exec chairman of Aardman, was on hand to collect the honor during the IBC Awards Ceremony. Sproxton co-founded Aardman with Peter Lord in 72; the companys third director, Nick Park, joined Aardman in 86.

In selecting Aardman, the IBC Council reported that it recognized the unique nature of their work, which skillfully integrates real world imagery of model making, clay animation and miniatures with technology intense CGI, motion tracking and digital finishing. Aardmans upcoming work includes DreamWorks Flushed Away, Aardmans first fully 3D-animated film, which is slated for release Nov. 3.

Also during the awards ceremony, Infront Media and Host Broadcast Services (HBS) earned the inaugural IBC Innovation Awards Judges Prize for its new media production for the FIFA World Cup.

Offering a new media content package, tailor-made for licensees and ideal for exploitation without further editing, has advanced the cause of new media by leaps and bounds, said HBS director of production Peter Angell. The fact that all matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup were filmed on HDTV has transformed the quality of new media coverage. Combined with the use of pan and scan technology to capture the core action in a way that is relevant for tiny handsets, it has delivered pictures of unprecedented quality.

The IBCs indoor and outdoor exhibition areas were packed. The show attracted an estimated 45,000 attendees, and the show floor grew roughly 10% in 06. Color grading/digital intermediate workflow space generated a substantial amount of news during the confab. For example, leading post-production technology developers Autodesk, FilmLight and Quantel all presented new versions of their flagship color correction tools that were aimed at applications such as television series and commercials.

It was a grand day out for Aardmans executive chairman David Sproxton (left) who was award the the IBC International Award for Excellence by Amsterdam Deputy Mayor for Economic Affairs Lodewijk Asscher.

Quantels Pablo HD is a new entry-level nonlinear color correction system with the features of its 2K and 4K Pablo systems. The company said that Pablo HD is designed to make high-resolution color correction a creative and profitable proposition for every form of mainstream post-production. Autodesk previewed Autodesk Lustre HD, a new version of its Lustre color grading system that targets HD commercial and television programming applications. And Filmlight exhibited Baselight HD, a grading package for SD/HD television and commercials.

FilmLight also showed its 4K prowess with a demo of its higher end Baselight Eight color grading system, running 4K and implementing its new Cinema4K option, which allows users to visualize 12-bit color grading on the screen. The stand demo was conducted with the use of a Sony 4K digital cinema projector.

Color management remained a topic of concern. One technology that addressed this issue and generated substantial attention was a Digital Printer Lights system from Technicolor Creative Services, which offers the ability to emulate in the digital realm exactly what a release print would look like at given Hazeltine printer light settings in a film lab. Advantages include the introduction of a method of communicating consistent color information in a variety of uses such as for on set monitoring, dailies, visual effects shots and as a starting point for the DI process.

Color management is also an area being looked at by the DI subcommittee of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Technology Committee, which is developing what it call an ASC Color Decision List (CDL), an open method of communicating color information between technologies from different manufacturers, which may be likened to an EDL. During IBC, a growing number of manufacturers of technologies in the DI/color grading space expressed their intent to support this system. This included Grass Valley, which said it would be incorporated in its Bones postproduction system; DVS, which said support would be available in a future version of its Clipster system; and da Vinci, which said it could implement the system across its color correction product line.

DVS Erik Balladares explained, It gives everybody a standard to follow Its important that we have standards [for communicating information] that can be transferred from system to system.

Color grading/digital intermediate workflow space generated a substantial amount of news during the confab.

On the workflow front, Pandora unveiled YoYo, what the company described as a collaborative nonlinear environment with open interconnectivity for color processing; the system offers resolution independent color processing with no need for proprietary storage. A pair of Macs running Pandora software forms the bridge between the color processing and a facilitys storage area network (SAN).

YoYo is designed to access DPX files from the SAN and feed them to the color corrector in the needed form. HD 4:4:4 and HSDL output formats are currently supported, with PCI express scheduled to be added by the end of the year to allow resolutions up to 4K. YoYo can be added to existing color suites using the Pandora PiXi or new Pandora Revolution hardware.

The Mill in London has been beta testing the system. Senior colorist and joint telecine director Seamus OKane reported, This represents a major landmark en route to a truly collaborative data workflow for both commercial and long form episodic projects.

The IBC screenings included a number of popular events, including exhibition of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest, as well as Sony Pictures all-CG Monster House. It featured HD presentations, including clips from the recent FIFA World Cup, as well as examination of technology and processes.

Director of photography Steven Poster, ASC (Donnie Darko, Stuart Little II) who is also the new president of the International Cinematographers Guild and Laser Pacific colorist Dave Cole (King Kong) made a presentation about Autodesk Lustre color grading system as part of the digital intermediate (DI) process, and as used on Donnie Darko director Richard Kellys next feature, Southland Tales, on which the two collaborated.

The screening theater also attracted attendees curious to see the Red Digital Camera Co.s first public showing of images recorded with its developing 12 Megapixel Mysterium chip. Reds Ted Schilowitz reported that the images in the demo had a pixel array of 4520x2540 across the Bayer pattern. Earlier this year, Red was introduced to the community and announced an ambitious plan to build a 4K digital cinematography camera that would list for $17,500. The company has started taking $1,000 camera reservations, and has reported hundreds of orders, yet others who remain skeptical of the plan temper the excitement.

Quantel showed off Pablo HD, a new entry-level nonlinear color correction system with the features of its 2K and 4K Pablo systems. © 2001-2005 Quantel Limited.

Another big show topic was movement toward the promise of Digital Cinema distribution and exhibition. As IBC began, news arrived that the number of Digital Cinema theatre installations in the U.S. had crossed the 1,000 mark, and it is expected to exceed 1,500 before the end of the year.

Among the topics addressed during a day of Digital Cinema presentations was 3-D stereoscopic technology, which has been building interest with support shown by leading directors such as James Cameron, George Lucas and Peter Jackson.

During his keynote, Universals svp of technology Jerry Pierce addressed this potential opportunity, but also cautioned the audience that 3-D features have roughly an additional $10 million in production costs, as well as roughly $50,000 in exhibition costs per screen. The problem is the revenue model you need to replace those costs, he related. How do you generate the additional revenue?

On the show floor, Jeff Edson ceo of Miami-based Assimilate, which is the maker of the Scratch data post workflow system brought the 3-D topic to the home, reporting that 3-D TV monitors are currently in alpha mode.

It will become pervasive, Edson predicted, but filmmakers and post houses need high-performance digital tools that keep them at the forefront of industry trends like 3-D for viewing audiences, and they can no longer pay an arm and a leg to get them.

With this in mind, it was announced during IBC that Cobalt Ent. a 3-D, digital imaging, project management, technology development, film production and image processing company in Los Angeles announced that it had constructed a production and post workflow for 3-D stereoscopic motion pictures with Assimilate. The companies believe their workflow could greatly reduce the time spent in production and post.

Assimilates Scratch system will be used for such tasks as editing, conforming and color correction; Boxx Technologies offers the workstation technology.

Reporting that there is a product development roadmap in place, Edson said, Cobalt technology will be integrated into Scratch to optimize Scratch for stereoscopic films. He expected that this development would be ready in six to nine months and involve preview capabilities of the work in post.

Carolyn Giardina has been covering production, post-production and visual effects for more than 12 years, both stateside and abroad.