At the beginning of 2007, the New York facility PostWorks was in the early stages of planning an expansion into Los Angeles, and the discussions were taking a decidedly traditionalist turn. But then, Mike Doggett, who had been tapped to head the Los Angeles operation, brainstormed another idea with his team of developers. As PostWorks Los Angeles Senior Vice-President Marco Bario recalls, “They started asking themselves, ‘Why are we going to build something that already exists? Why don’t we build something that looks toward the future?’” Doggett’s colleagues at PostWorks New York agreed, and today, the construction of PostWorks Los Angeles/Orbit West is nearly complete.
The expansion of the company, which offers high-end digital-imaging services to theatrical and broadcast clients, comprises three phases and involves sites in West Los Angeles and Santa Clarita. The first phase was completed in August 2007 and involved the initial build in the Tribeca West complex in West L.A. The second, scheduled for completion this month, focuses on the construction of a facility in Santa Clarita. The final phase, to be completed in April, will expand services and physical space at the West L.A. site.
Bario and senior colorist Pankaj Bajpai recently led AC on a tour of the West L.A. facility, and during the visit, they emphasized the benefits of starting from scratch. “That was the draw for so many of us,” says Bario, who, along with Bajpai and Al Cleland, senior vice president and general manager, came to PostWorks from Technicolor Creative Services. Other hires include senior colorist Scott Ostrowsky, who will focus on library mastering in the Santa Clarita facility while Bajpai oversees the broadcast work in West Los Angeles; Jim Houston, senior vice president of imaging technology; Greg Ciaccio, vice president of technical operations; Jennifer Tellefsen, vice president of broadcast services; Jeff Quinn, vice president of engineering; and Joe Wolcott, chief engineer. “Had we decided to re-engineer something that already existed, it would have been impossible to have the flexibility we have.”
“The market is awash with all kinds of great color-corrector and editorial boxes,” says Bajpai, “but what matters from a client’s perspective is how well they all play together. We focus on making the workflow as efficient as possible, and to do that, we’re addressing the bottlenecks we’ve all been experiencing for years.”
During phase one, the facility’s first color-correction suite and digital-picture-conforming room went online. For color correction, Bajpai utilizes Autodesk Lustre, running the software on a 16-node Incinerator. The nodes (or processing engines) of the Incinerator all remain live while Bajpai works. “It’s a lot of horsepower, and you can selectively choose how many processors you’re going to utilize for one thing or another,” Bajpai explains. “For example, I can allot eight nodes for background rendering, or I can use all 16 for doing complicated color-processing. Either way, with 16 processors working all the time, it’s blazing fast!”
Eschewing any semblance of a tape-based workflow, both the color-correction suite and the conforming room, which utilizes Autodesk Smoke, access the facility’s 100-plus TB SAN, which stores as DPX files all of the footage associated with the projects in the pipeline. According to Bajpai, “We decided we were going to bring in true nonlinear access to color correction. For instance, in Smoke, you can assemble three different versions of your cut, but you’re always working with the same media; you’re just telling that media to sort itself in a certain way and then creating metadata — at no point are we wiping out old media.” Bajpai can store almost countless versions of a project because the original media pool never changes; the different cuts are stored as metadata information, not duplicate files of the footage.
“Another luxury is having full-blown DI [digital intermediate] tools available to you in anything you’re coloring,” continues Bajpai. “We want the client to have every bell and whistle for his creative project, whether it’s aimed for projection, broadcast or DVD.” With the processing power of the Incinerator backing it up, the DI workflow happens in real time, without the computer slowing for renders, and this allows clients to play audio along with their reels in the DI.
“Cinematographers will be pleased to know we have full CDL [color decision list] support,” adds Bajpai. “Whether you’re creating a CDL with digital acquisition on set or doing it in tandem with your film-dailies transfer, we can track it through the entire workflow. All the cinematographer has to do is tell us which of the preset looks he wants in which scene, and we can track that CDL information down the line.”
Within the physical space of the color-correcting environment, the PostWorks team has sought to emulate top-notch home-viewing conditions, offering plush chairs, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, and 2K projection with an NEC IS800 projector set up to REC709. “Most people watching HD won’t be looking at a 30-inch CRT anymore,” notes Bajpai. “They’ll either have an LCD, a plasma or a home theater with projection.
“We also wanted to make sure the client can work in 4:4:4 and view whatever size image he wants,” the colorist continues. “You want to be able to see your work in as big an environment as possible; you want to be able to see the details in your composites and all that.”
Bario couldn’t be happier with the West L.A. location. “We’ve got a lot of high-end filmmakers and television producers nearby,” he enthuses. “It’s great for us to be in their backyard.” Likewise, he continues, Santa Clarita is the perfect location for the studio-library mastering work that will be done there. “A lot of the people who supervise those sessions day-to-day live in that area, so it will prove to be very convenient.”
At the 13,000-square-foot space in Santa Clarita, PostWorks Los Angeles plans to do all of its film scanning (with a Grass Valley Spirit 4K), conforming, digital restoration and film recording (with an ArriLaser), and the facility will be connected to the West L.A. site via 10-gigabit-per-second high-speed and secure dark fiber, allowing projects to move seamlessly between the two locations. “We’ll have a DI theater in Santa Clarita as well,” says Bario. “We may do some DI work for new theatrical releases, but it will largely be a restoration theater for higher-end studio titles. It will be a DI workflow, though; when we scan an interpositive from the studio library, we’ll work off the SAN instead of transferring to tape.”
In West L.A., phase two saw the expansion of the machine room and vault, plus the acquisition of additional office space. Phase three will complete the West L.A. facility, taking the site to 15,200 square feet. In addition to a DI theater for theatrical color correction (featuring Kinoton film projectors for side-by-side comparisons with 2K projection), two more bays will be added for broadcast color correction, 12 cutting rooms will be installed and provided by Orbit Digital, and even more office space and client areas, such as conference rooms and a kitchen, will be made available.
So far, PostWorks Los Angeles has put the series The Unit and In Treatment, as well as Webisodes for Lost, through its workflow. “We’re pushing every type of project in this model, and it’s sustaining itself incredibly well,” says Bajpai. For In Treatment, the colorist explains, “We have 43 episodes on our SAN, and we’re putting together the conforms long before their final edit is finished. All they have to do is send us their new QuickTime and a new EDL, and we’re able to color-trace all their changes. At the end of the day, they’ll have one color-timed master as opposed to 50 or 60 tapes.”
“Once we finish the expansion and get a lot of projects in-house, we’ll really prove the efficiency of it all,” says Bario. “Customers will continue to push us, and that’s why we’re here.”
PostWorks Los Angeles, 12233 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 110, Los Angeles, CA, 90064. For more information, visit www.pwny.com or call (310) 689-2950.