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HD Focus

Jun 14, 2005 3:03 PM

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The Island's HD Dailies

Before showing clips of his upcoming feature The Island to a press gathering in Los Angeles in late May, director Michael Bay apologized profusely for the “unfinished quality” of the imagery he was about to show. He joked that he searched his DGA handbook of rules and regulations fruitlessly for some way out of having to show the material. That presentation, and other previews of Island clips were, after all, no more than digital projections of the HD dailies used throughout production.

Bay’s perfectionism aside, the imagery was clearly of good quality, with impressive color fidelity visible on the large-screen (projected using a Christie 2k projection system at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles). The issue of color in the presentation, and in the movie generally, is a significant issue considering Bay and DP Mauro Fiore planned a specific color palette for the first half of the movie—most of the first four reels that were screened during the presentation.

The material screened at that event and others around the country in recent weeks came straight from HD dailies transferred from film to HDCAM and then color-corrected at Company 3, Santa Monica. The work was done by dailies colorist Mark Osborne using a da Vinci 2k Plus system under supervision from Company 3 President/Managing Director Stefan Sonnenfeld. (At press time, Sonnenfeld was just starting the final digital intermediate color-correction work on the movie.) The press screenings largely consisted of the same dailies material color-corrected by Osborne and then burned to DVD each day during production for Bay to view on his laptop.

The project’s reliance on HD dailies illustrates an interesting paradigm shift in the feature film world. On the one hand, for projects shot on 35mm film like The Island, many DPs feel, as Island DP Fiore suggests, that we are at a phase in history between the photographic and digital processes. “It is still hard for me to judge the original images as far as exposure is concerned (when projected digitally),” Fiore says.

On the other hand, Fiore completely agrees with Sonnenfeld that HD dailies simply make too much time and financial sense not to be seriously considered on major films with tight schedules like The Island.

Sonnenfeld emphasizes that, on this film, the approach significantly sped up the decision-making process. It also permitted filmmakers to keep the imagery consistent “down the chain,” as Sonnenfeld put it, long before the movie was ever finished.

“When time is tight, and we need to create dailies, previews, trailers, EPKs, and TV commercials long before we get to the final DI, we need to make sure all that imagery emanates from the same source,” says Sonnenfeld. “Color-corrected HD dailies, on this movie, were that source, and it allowed Michael Bay to make sure everything was consistent long before we got to the final stages of the DI. It also allowed Michael to try more things, to see what worked and didn’t work, so that when we got to the DI process, we knew what we had done on the HD dailies, and we were able to get to the final look more quickly than we would have been able to do otherwise.”

(For a detailed look at the production and postproduction innovations used on The Island, see the July issue of Millimeter.)

—Michael Goldman

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