The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry

August 2011
Mobileviz Provides Rolling Hub
When Idaho company Silverdraft LLC began planning a sophisticated data center that might, in combination with local tax incentives, lure visual-effects-heavy productions to Boise, the company hired Srinidhi Varadarajan, the director of the Center of High-End Computing Systems at Virginia Tech, to be the systems architect.
Fletcher Represents FotoKem NextLab
FotoKem has announced that its NextLab system is now being represented in the Midwest region by Fletcher Camera & Lenses. 
Arri, Tweak Integrate High Dynamic Range Support
Tweak Software and Arri have announced a collaboration to integrate high-dynamic-range color support for Arri’s Alexa digital camera into Tweak’s tools for playback, dailies and transcoding, including RV, Tweak’s image and sequence viewer for visual-effects and animation artists.
The Foundry Brings Weta Compositing to Nuke
Following The Foundry’s collaboration with Weta Digital on the Mari 3-D texture-painting technology, the two companies have entered into an agreement to bring to Nuke the deep-compositing technology developed by Weta for Avatar. 
Lightcraft Offers Free Photogrammetry Tools
Lightcraft Technology, a developer of real-time visual-effects technology, is making its photogrammetry tools available free-of-charge to the company’s clients and to members of the filmmaking community.
Band Pro, Red Announce Sales Agreement Online
Band Pro Film & Digital and Red Digital Cinema have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement that provides Red Epic and Leica Summilux-C lens packages for sale. 
Anton/Bauer Powers Matrix Bracket Online
Anton/Bauer, a Vitec Group brand, has introduced the Matrix Cheese Plate mounting bracket, which can be used with the company’s Gold Mount battery solutions for the Sony PMW-F3; Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 7D and EOS 60D; Panasonic AG-AF100; and Red Epic. The Matrix Cheese Plate is designed for use with 15mm or 19mm rod systems; 15mm and 19mm clamp kits are sold separately.
Schneider Introduces C-Mount Lenses Online
Schneider Optics has introduced its C-mount lenses — originally intended for aerospace and military precision shooting — to the digital cinematography arena. 
Schneider Enhances 3-D Shooting Online
Schneider Optics has introduced Quarter Wave Retarders and 3-D Windows for use in stereoscopic 3-D productions. 
Boris Updates XML Transfer Online
Boris FX, a developer of integrated effects technology for video and film, has introduced Boris XML Transfer Version 3. Boris XML Transfer is an Adobe After Effects plug-in designed to seamlessly transfer Avid Media Composer and Apple Final Cut Pro program sequences to Adobe After Effects.
DFT Illuminates Rays Online
Visual-effects software company Digital Film Tools has introduced the Rays plug-in for visual-effects artists.
The Bakery Whips Up Relight Online
Computer-graphics software company The Bakery has introduced Bakery Relight, an interactive, all-in-one lighting, shading and rendering solution designed for high-end animation and visual effects. 
Thinkbox Hits Deadline Online
Thinkbox Software has released Deadline 5.0, the latest version of the company’s popular render-farm management solution for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX-based render farms. 

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Mobileviz Provides Rolling Hub

When Idaho company Silverdraft LLC began planning a sophisticated data center that might, in combination with local tax incentives, lure visual-effects-heavy productions to Boise, the company hired Srinidhi Varadarajan, the director of the Center of High-End Computing Systems at Virginia Tech, to be the systems architect. But after Varadarajan designed a much smaller computing infrastructure than the team thought possible, Silverdraft decided to make the technology mobile. The result, Mobileviz, offers  massive computing power and sophisticated post tools that can neatly visit stages or locations.

“Once Dr. Varadarajan gave the data system a smaller footprint, we realized it should be mobile,” explains Michael Cooper, who is in charge of business development for Silverdraft. “The idea goes hand in glove with what filmmakers have been doing with virtual productions, except that companies won’t have to build those infrastructures from the ground up. They can have us bring it to them wherever they happen to be shooting.”

Silverdraft hired Advance Systems Services to convert and build out a 53'-long trailer that expands in width from 8' to 16' with “pop-out” sections. Video and data integration was completed with the help of Armadillo of Redondo Beach, Calif. Half of the trailer houses two 200-amp generators and a control room, where the supercomputer and all workstations, routers and other hardware systems live. The second half of the trailer is a functional post facility capable of running up to 12 work stations, all networked with Infiniband fiber.

Varadarajan notes that Mobileviz relies on a single, sophisticated “brain” to crunch data from different areas of a project simultaneously rather than requiring entirely separate systems, and it does so in a mobile setting. He says the computing system can process up to 350 teraflops of data (350 trillion floating-point operations per second) through 20Tb of Micron solid-state storage that is built into a cluster of 1,536 computer cores on the truck. Plus, the network that connects all the trailer’s systems runs at 40 Gbps.

“This enables high-speed interconnectivity both externally and to internal shared-storage systems,” he says. “This feature is particularly important during data ingest on set from multiple high-resolution cameras and/or other data sources. The presence of this high-speed network enables line-rate data ingest directly into our storage systems. Because the same high-speed network is used internally, it enables processing and rendering operations to run a lot faster off the same shared storage used for ingest. Each of our two storage systems is capable of sustained performance of two gigabytes per second, which significantly accelerates rendering performance.”

In other words, he says, the big advantage of Mobileviz “lies in its ability to act as a one-stop shop that provides the entire pipeline, from previsualization to post rendering. The ability to integrate the differing requirements of these workflow stages in a single systems infrastructure differentiates us from typical data centers.”

Mobileviz was recently put through its paces on a render job for Sony Pictures Imageworks. Silverdraft officials declined to discuss the project in detail, but Varadarajan says the studio “averaged over 600 Mbps, 24-7, for three weeks straight during a production render on Mobileviz. That kind of sustained bandwidth is nearly impossible to achieve over the Internet to a remote rendering facility, and it would also be prohibitively expensive. Secondly, cloud rendering would require production assets to be transferred off site, which presents significant security issues. Because Mobileviz can physically travel to a customer’s office and directly hook into his data-center networks at very high speed, video assets never leave the premises, thereby solving both data-transfer and asset-security issues.”

Mobileviz’s ability to instantly previsualize virtual material while shooting live actors for visual-effects sequences can also be useful to the production community. To explore these capabilities, Silverdraft put Mobileviz to work on an extensive test, dubbed the Virtual Production Project. The one-day shoot composited CG previs material created by The Third Floor (using Autodesk Maya and MotionBuilder software) with a live performance-capture shoot run by motion-capture facility Knight Vision to create a virtual battle between humans and robots. The test was directed by Alex Frisch and shot by cinematographer Sergei Kozlov.

Kozlov used an Arri Alexa outfitted with Arri/Zeiss Ultra Primes, recording to Codex field recorders. Kozlov called the truck “the spacecraft” because of its state-of-the-art tools, which include a range of monitors; a full Codex lab; a DVS Clipster system; FilmLight Baselight and Truelight tools; Autodesk’s MotionBuilder, Maya, 3ds Max, Flame and Smoke stations; Mental Images’ Mental Ray compositing stations; Chaos Group’s V-Ray and PipelineFX’s Qube rendering stations; and Final Cut Pro and Avid editing stations.

Kozlov operated the camera and shot handheld, experimenting with ways to frame subjects while accounting for size and perspective differences between actors and animated robots. Simultaneously, the production had two live motion-capture volumes sending motion data through Mobileviz’s central brain, which translated the data into virtual characters that interacted with the actors performing for Kozlov’s camera. All environments and virtual characters were visible to Kozlov through an on-board LCD monitor. He had to get used to a half-second delay while trying to match subjects with the virtual image, but this was not difficult, he says.

Kozlov adds that his perspective as an operator enabled him to advise the visual-effects team on how, when and where to place certain characters, objects and effects for maximum impact. “For example, the camera was on my shoulder, and we had CG helicopters in the air, so I would pan up into the sky and see where the best place would be for the helicopters to fly into the shot,” he explains. Within a few moments, the visual-effects artists could make the suggested changes to the CG helicopters’ positions.

“It wasn’t final-quality CG, of course, but I could see the basic animation of the choppers while shooting,” says Kozlov. “Then I could whip-pan while they were shooting missiles to the ground, and I could show [the visual-effects unit] the best position for the explosions.”

Silverdraft officials note that various technologies can be configured in and out of the trailer on a per-project basis. The Virtual Production Project was shot with an Arri/Codex workflow, but this could be replaced by a Red workflow, for example, or the Baselight could be swapped out for a Lustre.

Silverdraft founder and CEO Amy Giles says the goal is to allow creativity to flourish. “Mobileviz was designed with the artist in mind,” she says. “I really see it as a place to bring collaborators together on set.”

Ultimately, adds Cooper, Mobileviz represents another step toward uniting production and post under a single umbrella. “Post schedules are so condensed today, and filmmakers are pushing the limits of all their tools, so having literally everything available on set is obviously helpful to them,” he observes. “With Mobileviz they can shoot [visual-effects sequences] more like live action, with multiple takes and [the ability to make] changes instantly. That’s what we’re trying to facilitate.”

— Michael Goldman

contact info:  
www.silverdraft.com
Fletcher Represents FotoKem NextLab

FotoKem has announced that its NextLab system is now being represented in the Midwest region by Fletcher Camera & Lenses. Built on FotoKem’s proprietary file-based workflow software, the mobile NextLab system brings powerful postproduction capabilities to productions around the globe, and serves as an extension of FotoKem’s in-house technological advancements and professional services. 

Housed in a mobile, rugged enclosure, NextLab was developed to service the industry’s transition to RAW and data-centric formats supported by digital camera systems from Arri, Red, Silicon Imaging, Canon and more. The custom software securely stores media, archives to LTO, provides quality-control tools and offers access to metadata, audio syncing, color management and transcoding. NextLab streamlines the dailies process and provides fast delivery to editorial and 
finishing.

Fletcher Camera and Lenses operates offices out of Chicago and Detroit, offering productions in the Midwest region top-of-the-line film and digital cameras and accessories. Four years ago, Fletcher built its own mobile system, Cosmos, to address the needs of productions for on-set data management and editorial services. “Like FotoKem, Fletcher was among a very small number of companies that started to build the solutions for what was coming with data-centric workflows,” says ASC associate member Tom Fletcher, vice president of Fletcher Camera & Lenses. “When I saw where FotoKem had taken NextLab, I immediately knew they had built something truly amazing. The NextLab workflow improves efficiency for all types of projects — motion pictures, commercials and 
television.”

“We have worked closely with Tom Fletcher over the years on a wide variety of projects,” says Tom Vice, vice president and general manager of FotoKem’s NextLab. “As an expert who has been involved with the use of emerging and evolving camera technologies, he became an early leader in mobile systems supporting file-based workflows on location … All of us at FotoKem are very excited about this collaboration, and see it as a great way to have an industry leader represent us in the Midwest.”

contact info:  
www.fletch.com
www.fotokem.com
Arri, Tweak Integrate High Dynamic Range Support

Tweak Software and Arri have announced a collaboration to integrate high-dynamic-range color support for Arri’s Alexa digital camera into Tweak’s tools for playback, dailies and transcoding, including RV, Tweak’s image and sequence viewer for visual-effects and animation artists. RV’s high-performance toolset is built on an open, extensible architecture, allowing users to adapt the software to their own pipelines and styles of working.

“The Alexa’s astonishing dynamic range and wide color gamut make it a great source for visual-effects plates and elements,” says Seth Rosenthal, co-founder of Tweak Software. “RV’s floating point, high-dynamic-range image pipeline, linear-light workflow and uncompromised color handling are a natural match for Alexa imagery in a high-end visual-effects pipeline.”
contact info:  
www.arri.com
www.tweaksoftware.com
The Foundry Brings Weta Compositing to Nuke

Following The Foundry’s collaboration with Weta Digital on the Mari 3-D texture-painting technology, the two companies have entered into an agreement to bring to Nuke the deep-compositing technology developed by Weta for Avatar. 

Deep compositing allows artists working with CGI material to process and composite “deep images” containing multiple opacity or color samples per pixel at different depths. In addition to enabling new creative possibilities in compositing, such as volumetric effects, the technique leads to higher-quality imagery when integrating and finishing CGI rendered elements. Additionally, by increasing the amount of useful data available in compositing, the toolset provides greater efficiencies by reducing the amount of rendering typically required from CGI departments. For example, the generation of holdout mattes for individual CGI objects or characters can be performed within Nuke itself, resulting in hundreds of hours of savings on large-scale projects that prominently feature CG assets.

“Working with The Foundry to have our tools integrated into the core of Nuke ensures that the rest of the industry has immediate access to this technology,” says Peter Hillman, the lead developer for the deep-compositing workflow at Weta Digital. “This integration, together with the collaborative effort between Weta Digital and other leading [visual-effects] studios to integrate deep data into the OpenEXR format, helps establish a true cross-industry standard for utilizing deep data.”

Nuke 6.3 supports deep data within the node graph and contains a range of deep-compositing nodes. 

contact info:  
www.thefoundry.co.uk/nuke
Lightcraft Offers Free Photogrammetry Tools

Lightcraft Technology, a developer of real-time visual-effects technology, is making its photogrammetry tools available free-of-charge to the company’s clients and to members of the filmmaking community.

Lightcraft created a specific set of photogrammetry tools for developing photorealistic sets and digital assets for use in Previzion, the company’s real-time visual-effects system, which provides a combination of high-precision camera tracking, sophisticated rendering and visual-effects-quality keying for on-set compositing of virtual backgrounds and CG characters. The same photogrammetry tools can also be used with other 3-D graphics applications.

“Lightcraft’s photogrammetry tools are a complete set of Maya plug-ins, scripts and shaders that are designed to import standard photogrammetry data, undistort projected images, assist in the modeling of accurate reference geometry and then bake the resulting projections into standard texture maps with the appropriate models,” explains Eliot Mack, Lightcraft’s founder and Previzion architect. “This process dramatically speeds up the creation of complete, portable, photorealistic 3-D models that can be rendered in real time. Our photogrammetry tools make it possible for a single person to go out with a DSLR and capture enough stills to create a photorealistic 3-D background model.”

Lightcraft also recently announced a number of new features for Previzion, including real-time visualization of multiple animated characters and moving objects from Autodesk’s MotionBuilder via Lightcraft’s Prelink plug-in; 3-D drawable tracking mattes with assignable custom matte attributes such as garbage matteing and color de-spill; integrated multi-system synchronization; stereo metadata capture and analysis tools, including accurate computation of true IO and convergence distance; encoded crane support for use with Encodacam and Kuper interfaces; expanded rendering using CGFX shaders for reflection, bump and normal mapping, and advanced lighting effects; improved real-time keying with Add/Mix matte controls; full support for stage and location optical tracking; expanded video-format support; in-camera motion blur on virtual elements; dual-selectable HD outputs, including composited image and matte channel; and support for rendering five to 10 simultaneous HD video streams as background plates and textures. 

contact info:  
www.lightcrafttech.com
Band Pro, Red Announce Sales Agreement

Band Pro Film & Digital and Red Digital Cinema have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement that provides Red Epic and Leica Summilux-C lens packages for sale. Under the arrangement, Band Pro will sell the 5K Red Epic cameras bundled with the Leica Summilux-C lenses. The kit will include a set of 5 Leica primes in pre-specified focal lengths. 

The Leica Summilux-C lenses are PL-mount primes designed to deliver ultra-high optical performance for film and digital capture; the T1.4 close-focus primes employ a unique multi-aspheric design and high-precision cine lens mechanics to provide unmatched flat-field illumination across the entire 35mm frame and suppression of color fringing in the farthest corners of the frame with no discernible breathing. The Red Epic features a 5K Mysterium-X sensor and a 27 layer advanced ASIC processor, enabling the camera to capture up to 120 frames per second with each frame at full 14MP resolution.

“We will provide our customers with the ability to purchase a beyond-4K camera equipped with beyond-4K lenses,” says ASC associate member Amnon Band, president of Band Pro. “I take my hat off to Jim Jannard and his rebel crew at Red for putting this deal together with us. Red has never allowed anyone else to sell their cameras in the U.S. before … and we feel honored and challenged. We bring traditional experience to the Red sales and marketing machine. Red brings us into the rebellion, into tomorrow.”

Online Online Exclusive
contact info:  
www.bandpro.com
Anton/Bauer Powers Matrix Bracket

Anton/Bauer, a Vitec Group brand, has introduced the Matrix Cheese Plate mounting bracket, which can be used with the company’s Gold Mount battery solutions for the Sony PMW-F3; Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 7D and EOS 60D; Panasonic AG-AF100; and Red Epic. The Matrix Cheese Plate is designed for use with 15mm or 19mm rod systems; 15mm and 19mm clamp kits are sold separately.

“Anton/Bauer has remained successful by continuing to develop power solutions and accessories for the industry’s top cameras,” says Shin Minowa, vice president of marketing and business development. “After 40 years of business, we remain committed to bringing innovative products to market for today’s cameramen.”
Online Online Exclusive
contact info:  
www.antonbauer.com
Schneider Introduces C-Mount Lenses

Schneider Optics has introduced its C-mount lenses — originally intended for aerospace and military precision shooting — to the digital cinematography arena. Rugged and with a super-tight tolerance, the lenses are perfectly suited to small footprint cameras such as the SI-2K, and they meet the requirements of 1/3", 1/2" and 2/3" image formats.

Made with the same broadband coating as Schneider’s IR-corrected series, C-mount lenses provide high optical image performance, even with the smallest pixel sizes. They offer vibration insensitivity for stable image performance and precision focusing via fine thread for perfect focus adjustment as well as an infinitely adjustable iris, ensuring long-term stability settings.

Online Online Exclusive
contact info:  
www.schneideroptics.com
Schneider Enhances 3-D Shooting

Schneider Optics has introduced Quarter Wave Retarders and 3-D Windows for use in stereoscopic 3-D productions.

The round and window-size Quarter Wave Retarders prevent left/right disparity in images that contain glare. These filters have virtually no light loss and can be used in different configurations to correct polarization mismatches. The filters are made of water-white optical-quality glass with a thin film laminated within; each filter is polished to produce a high-quality optical flat that can be used without any reduction in resolution.

Schneider’s 3-D Windows are made of anti-reflective water-white glass to protect valuable 3-D beam splitters. The company offers a full line of optical glass anti-reflection coated windows in stock and custom sizes to provide low-cost protection. These protective windows can be used with long focal-length lenses without reducing resolution and are easily cleaned. Schneider also produces economical Optical Grade Polycarbonate windows that can be used when durability and protection is the foremost concern.

Online Online Exclusive
contact info:  
www.schneideroptics.com
Boris Updates XML Transfer

Boris FX, a developer of integrated effects technology for video and film, has introduced Boris XML Transfer Version 3. Boris XML Transfer is an Adobe After Effects plug-in designed to seamlessly transfer Avid Media Composer and Apple Final Cut Pro program sequences to Adobe After Effects. With Version 3, the Avid-to-After-Effects workflow allows for direct import and translation of Avid AAF format files.

Boris XML Transfer preserves all aspects of an Avid Media Composer or Apple Final Cut Pro project, including edits, cuts, dissolves and treatments, and clips remain fully editable as stepped-up or stepped-down layers; Avid and Final Cut Pro titles and text elements also remain editable in After Effects. Additionally, Boris XML Transfer offers the unique ability to translate Boris Continuum Complete effects used in Avid or Final Cut Pro projects to corresponding Boris Continuum Complete effects in After Effects. Other features of Boris XML Transfer Version 3 include expanded import options, including the ability to import or ignore audio tracks and the ability to pre-compose all video and/or audio tracks during import.

Boris XML Transfer Version 3 for Mac OSX is available through the Boris FX worldwide reseller channel and directly from the Boris FX website for a recommended price of $299.

Online Online Exclusive
contact info:  
www.borisfx.com
DFT Illuminates Rays

Visual-effects software company Digital Film Tools has introduced the Rays plug-in for visual-effects artists. Rays allows users to easily create realistic light-ray effects such as shafts of light streaming through clouds, rays filtering through a forest canopy or beams of light on a foggy night.

“Since the rays are only added to highlight areas, they have the effect of passing through objects and simulate a third-dimensional quality,” says Marco Paolini, Digital Film Tools’ founder and president. “This new plug-in offers visual-effects artists, digital photographers and designers a unique way to enhance their images, literally brightening them with rays of light.”

Key features of Rays include control over ray length, brightness, direction and color; a threshold control to specify where rays will be visible; the ability to randomize the rays; sliders for modifying settings; and integrated help. The Rays plug-in is available for Apple Aperture and Adobe Photoshop Elements and Photoshop Lightroom.

Online Online Exclusive
contact info:  
www.digitalfilmtools.com
The Bakery Whips Up Relight

Computer-graphics software company The Bakery has introduced Bakery Relight, an interactive, all-in-one lighting, shading and rendering solution designed for high-end animation and visual effects. 

The result of years of hands-on experience on feature films and proven through extensive pre-release testing, Bakery Relight supports lighters’ and shaders’ progressive and interactive refinement of properties and details with full-resolution feedback within seconds. This incremental methodology also enables superior matching of CG illumination with composited live-action elements.

Designed for both 2-D and stereoscopic 3-D productions, Bakery Relight provides 3-D HD preview and rapid 3-D rendering of left- and right-eye views. Relight also integrates smoothly with other popular software packages, and it supports multiple artists and technicians working in parallel from multiple locations.

“Bakery Relight not only introduces new artistic possibilities, it solves the lighting and rendering bottleneck found at nearly all studios,” says Erwan Maigret, The Bakery’s co-founder and CEO. “Our research tells us that companies that use Bakery Relight can improve turnaround times by up to 300 percent.”

Online Online Exclusive
contact info:  
www.bakery3d.com
Thinkbox Hits Deadline

Thinkbox Software has released Deadline 5.0, the latest version of the company’s popular render-farm management solution for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX-based render farms. 

Deadline is a hassle-free administration and rendering toolkit that offers a host of management options for render farms of all sizes, and the flexibility to run the software on the industry’s widest range of platforms and rendering packages. Because Deadline enables studios to communicate seamlessly across locations, the tool is gaining popularity among visual-effects companies boasting massive global render farms.

Key features in Deadline 5.0 include Remote Mode, which allows companies to control and manage massive global render farms across worldwide facilities from one remote office; Deadline Mobile for iPhone and Android, which enables users to monitor their Deadline jobs from anywhere; Auto Configuration, which improves system rollout times and repository relocations; improved user security; and an improved monitor interface.

Visual-effects studio Pixomondo recently standardized Deadline as the company’s render farm tool of choice for their 10 facilities worldwide. “We’re an international company with literally a 24/7 production cycle, and Deadline 5.0’s remote rendering feature allows us to control and manage our render farms across our entire operation,” says Felix Fissel, head of IT Los Angeles at Pixomondo. “This means if our facility in Shanghai has a huge project to render, the work can be parsed out to another one of our locations that isn’t as busy. This feature has resulted in incredible time savings.”

Chris Bond, president of Thinkbox Software, notes, “Our key goal in the ongoing evolution of Deadline is to continue to automate as many processes as possible and allow artists to use idle resources in the most efficient way, whether it’s across the hall or in another continent.”

Online Online Exclusive
contact info:  
www.thinkboxsoftware.com