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October 2014
Issue: August 1, 2011

Pictorion das werk builds pipeline with minimal R&D

DUSSELDORF, GERMANY — With more than 130 artists in six facilities across Germany, Pictorion das werk (  www.das-werk.de) is one of the country’s largest providers of post production services for commercials and feature films. Founded in 1991, the company handles dailies, editing, conforming, animation, compositing, VFX, grading, film recording and digital cinema. And while its different locations specialize in different services, the company shares technical know-how to improve workflows. In fact, rather than rely on an R&D team to develop pipeline tools, the studio has turned to integration of third-party tools and Python scripting.

“We’re not hard-core developers, but we have a few people who can code,” notes Joerg Bruemmer, head of compositing. “We’ll take a half hour to build a script rather than do the same thing 500 times.”

In Dusseldorf, the center for Pictorion’s feature film visual effects work, the RV image and sequence viewer from Tweak Software is at the heart of the pipeline. It can play back DPX, Cineon, OpenEXR film and HD resolution sequences, QuickTime and mp4 files — in addition to numerous other formats — on a computer or via a projector, in stereo. RV is also customizable 

“RV is very open and light; it’s flexible and can be put into modular pipelines very easily,” says Bruemmer. Pictorion uses The Foundry’s Nuke as its primary compositing solution for feature film VFX. RV offers a bridge between applications, with tools to play back, organize, compare and track the history of work in Nuke.

On a recent independent film, Vorstadtkrokodile3 (Crocodiles of Suburbia 3), Bruemmer put the RV/Nuke integration to the test in a client session with the director. “We were doing look development and if he said, ‘Make it more blue,’ I didn’t have to save the whole Nuke script. RV takes snapshots of the script so you don’t have to do versions for each individual grade node. You just ‘send to RV.’ You can then jump back and forth between checkpoints with the director. You can do five versions without having to copy/paste nodes in Nuke; just rebuild and recover earlier stages in your script. The workflow has a realtime feel to it, which is amazing to have with the client sitting there next to you. You can concentrate on the creative instead of technical versioning and naming conventions.”

Bruemmer and the feature film VFX team can now handle all renderings from Nuke inside RV, and they are looking to expand their use of the bridge to accommodate more than one script, for applications in their commercial work. 

“We’re discovering that the commercial business is starting to move into more of a feature film pipeline,” he notes. “Budgets are smaller and people are looking to adapt. The modular approach of having different applications works great, especially if you have clever ways of building bridges between them.”

Pictorion also takes advantage of RV’s built-in integration with the Shotgun production management system. On a recent series of image films for the global technology giant Siemens, Pictorion’s compositors used RV to do their layer checks while the producers and art directors used RV to play back media directly from Shotgun.

Shotgun also has an open API for easy customization, which Pictorion has been exploring to create further efficiencies. “We have an interesting triangle with RV, Nuke and Shotgun,” Bruemmer explains. “I built a small database in Shotgun, a footage library that we can browse. I can generate a playlist of five different layers, play them back from within RV and decide what goes into a shot. Then I can drop stuff from RV back into Nuke and Nuke creates and reads notes directly from RV. We wrote a drag and drop script that recognizes input from RV in Nuke. It was that simple.”

Bruemmer is exploring ways to apply RV to new tasks, and anticipates tapping the RVIO sequence converter to handle the delivery of versions or completely committed clips for its commercial work. This would involve using it to support an encoding setup by outputting QuickTime and JPG files, doing proxy versioning and transcoding from DPX. They are also looking at using RV for remote review of projects that are being worked on in multiple locations.

“One of the most important things about RV — aside from being a great image and sequence viewer — is that it’s open to scripting,” he adds. “When we first got it we felt right away was that this is a tool that comes from a production background. It’s flexible and can be put into these modular pipelines very easily. It speeds up things a lot if you don’t have your own R&D.”