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September 2014
Issue: April 1, 2014

'Need for Speed': FotoKem ensures a smooth ride

By: Christine Bunish
LOS ANGELES — DreamWorks’ feature film Need for Speed brings a high-stakes, revenge-fueled, cross-country car race to the big screen for fans of the EA videogame franchise. While the racers’ need for speed plays out in high-octane action, the filmmakers’ need for efficiency in post followed a less frenetic scenario.  

The partnership between full-service media company Bandito Brothers (www.banditobrothers.com), which produced the feature in addition to providing editorial services, and FotoKem (www.fotokem.com), whose custom development of the NextLab system streamlined the dailies workflow and media management required for the data-heavy production and also ensured a smooth ride in post.

Bandito Brothers has worked with a number of key staffers from FotoKem since their collaboration on Dust to Glory in 2004. That effort resulted in a sense of trust within the technical process that was required for Need for Speed. “The creative ambitions of director Scott Waugh were clear from the get go,” says Jacob Rosenberg, one of the partners of Bandito Brothers (along with founders Waugh and Mouse McCoy). “We needed on-set and near-set media management that would give us all the flexibility Scott was used to in editing at Bandito Brothers, secure and rapid access to footage, and the ability to seamlessly manage data from multiple cameras. So, Scott and I met with Tom Vice [senior VP at FotoKem] and the FotoKem team to talk about what NextLab does that’s so unique.”



BUILDING A WINNING WORKFLOW

Bandito Brothers and FotoKem worked closely with Mark Graziano and Justin Ostensen, from Dreamworks Studios’ post production department, in all stages of the dailies process. “The dailies demands on this project were extreme,” says Ostensen. “There was a very significant pipeline to build. Together we created a workflow that greatly benefitted the film.”

In crafting the dailies workflow, FotoKem faced the challenge of creating and enabling a viable process for working with CineForm RAW from many different cameras recording huge amounts of data.

It’s likely that Need for Speed marked the first time a CineForm RAW workflow was enabled from dailies through finishing. “Taking dailies through conform in CineForm RAW is a new way of working: saving visual elements while saving space with loss-less compression that reduces artifacts and maintains metadata,” says Vice. “Data was readily accessible to creative editorial, Bandito Brothers, and VFX house and Bandito sister company, Cantina Creative. The film required a very inventive pipeline, not a cookie-cutter solution, and Bandito Brothers had a high level of trust in us,” adds Vice.

PRODUCTION

Rosenberg says the production deployed 35 to 50 cameras, including the Canon C500 A cameras (one of the first major films to use the C500), Arri Alexa B cameras, numerous Canon EOS-1D C hybrid DSLRs, Canon EOS 5D Mark IIIs and GoPros. FotoKem also worked closely with the team from GoPro to ensure that the footage worked seamlessly in the CineForm digital intermediate workflow. The equipment roster also included new Codex Onboard S recorders for the C500 cameras. “They had the first of those recorders that were shooting,” says Rosenberg. “Their files hadn’t been unwrapped by very many people yet. We were doing something new in every area of this production, and there were a number of our collaborators who made it happen. Blackmagic, Codex, Adobe, Cineform, FotoKem, and all of the camera manufacturers brought their A game to this process.”

MANAGING DATA

The dailies camera data involved was significant. According to Rosenberg the cameras captured a total of 241TBs of data in their native resolution, whether HD, 2K or 4K.  “In terms of consistent amounts of data, it was pretty astounding — 2.5 to 3.5TBs a day, sometimes up to 5TBs, for 70 shoot days,” he reports. “With that much data, if you can’t keep up, it’s catastrophic. FotoKem had the expertise to make sure we were on track all the time.”

“Managing the amount of dailies from the set through post was a massive undertaking,” Vice agrees. “Handled poorly, it could have presented huge roadblocks. But that didn’t happen.”



FotoKem put one NextLab system in place at the Bandito Brothers’ LA facility and another near set at every location for the film, including San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta and New York.  If the production was only shooting for a day or two at a particular location, media was sent back to the previous location or directly to FotoKem.  “NextLab is a database driven media management platform that kept all locations synced,” Vice explains. “This was critical on the tight production schedule. We built up the hardware infrastructure for the system in the field to support all the data,” he continues. “We put eight LTO machines on the show to increase archival throughput so we could turn magazines around quickly.”

TRANSCODING

CineForm RAW transcoding happened off-set. “FotoKem mapped RAW conversions from multiple camera types to Cineform RAW, processing every frame from the (50) cameras into a normalized mezzanine format, while maintaining a full RAW workflow for VFX and finishing,” Vice describes. 

“We needed MXF media for editorial, viewing dailies for the studio, back ups of all RAW data, and pixel-for-pixel encodes of Cineform digital intermediate files,” Rosenberg summarizes.  “All the Cineform data lived at Bandito on a fast network so we had access to full-resolution material.  Cineform was unique in being able to handle multiple files and frame sizes and different dimensions of media.”  



“By working with CineForm files, Bandito Brothers was also able to conform high-resolution imagery for early screenings,” notes Ostensen.  “With initial color applied, the 2K online looked almost like a finished product. It was a highly efficient color process that set us up perfectly for final color at Technicolor.”

Ostensen points out that Osborne’s color grading at Bandito Brothers not only made for a smooth transition when it was time for final color, but by having all dailies online in CineForm also benefitted shot pulls for marketing purposes. “Ordinarily, we’d have to request dailies, bring them back online from LTO tapes, and do a color pass,” says Ostensen. “But with everything online at Bandito Brothers, we could get marketing pulls done with an hour’s notice.”