Review of Post Production: Digital by Necessity
This year the Toronto AES chapter held a day long seminar on Digitization in Production and Post Production for the film industry at Deluxe Laboratories Saturday May 25, 2002. Organized by Daniel Pellerin, Director of Mixing Services & Supervising Re-Recording Engineer at Deluxe, the meeting covered the move from an analogue to a digital environment for the people working in different areas in the film industry.
The opening seminar was by Richard Spence-Thomas of Spence-Thomas Audio Post who talked on "Sound Recording on The Fly". Spence-Thomas Audio Post was founded in 1967 and is a full service audio post production house. They have three digital recording and mixings studios with equipment ranging from state of the art hard disk recorders to vintage microphones. Richard talked about editing of the trailer for the film "Men With Brooms" and dealing with short deadlines, changing a song during the audio edit, and on the last day of editing adding a song back in. He also played a surround sound demo he had created with a setup of five Neumann KMR 184 mics. The demo contained a wide dynamic range of nature sounds ranging from loud trains and thunder to soft quiet sounds of rain.
Brian Bell of Saved by Technology gave a talk on the new HD ProTools operating software. Saved by Technology, started in 1985, is a MIDI music & Digital audio specialty retailer. Protools HD by Digidesign has the following features: up to 192 kHz sample rate support, able to handle up to 128 simultaneous audio tracks, TDM II Digidesign's new bus architecture design, DigiLink a new interface standard, support for up to 96 channels of I/O and expandable DSP power. There are three versions of Protools HD tailored to the requirements and projects of the client: HD1, HD2, & HD3. Brian also introduced the new Mbox, a two channel USB audio peripheral for small project/ home studio use. A demo of HD Protools ran in Theatre 3 during the lunch break.
Peter Moore of MDI Productions gave a talk on Music for Picture. He discussed the importance of music and how it can retrieve and control the audience's emotion. Peter covered the history of sound and different audio formats of Mono, Stereo, Quad and Surround. He also discussed a number of sound issues. The music and film industries have not agreed on standards for mixing 5.1 surround. Another issue is the differences between a studio control room and a film mixing room and how that can effect the final sound of a project.
Todd Warren and Andrew Tay, Re-Recording Engineers at Deluxe Labs talked about Digital consoles. Todd has 14 years experience and has won Genie and Gemini awards for his work. Andrew is a Gemini and Emmy award winner and has 8 years mixing experience. They showed clips from different production stages of the film "Cypher", including green screen work, scenes combining studio and storyboard drawings, and a finished clip from the film.
Stephen Barden and Craig Henighan talked about Sound Editing. They both belong to Sound Dogs, an independent film & television sound editorial and design company in Toronto and Los Angeles. Stephen talked about Vincenzo Natali's new film "Cypher". He stressed the importance in Non-linear editing systems of organization. It is not important how creative you are, but how organized you are. With unlimited hard disk storage, one has to not only keep track of the raw material but also edit versions and be able to locate clips easily and quickly. Craig talked about working on Michael Mann's "Ali". Because of a tight deadline, editing never stopped until the end. The picture editors didn't go home, they stayed at a hotel across the street from the editing rooms and worked almost around the clock. Craig edited on Pro-Tools and worked with 90 to 150 audio tracks for each reel of the film.
John Thompson talked on Location Sound Recording. John is a member of the Cinema Audio Society and has won three Gemini and one Emmy awards for his work. He has worked on shows such as "Doc", "Total Recall", "Once A Thief", "Due South" and "Traders". John discussed the different film audio recording formats. The oldest is the analog Nagra recorder, which has been around for 40 years and is still widely used. DAT recorders have been around for five years, is basically a consumer format and will die out as hard disc recorders come into use. Minidisc recorders are used only on low end productions. Now a series of Hard Disc recorders are coming out that record at 24 bit/48 kHz. Out for a few years now is the Zaxcom Deva, a four channel mixer/recorder. Just out is the Nagra 5, but there is a lot of controversy over the design. Comments include: A/D interface has been compromised, reliability issues of the Orb drive, questions on having only two recording channels.
John also talked about the move to shoot films on HDTV. He feels that the decision to use HD is driven by money rather than technological reasons. Not buying film stock and avoiding lab procession costs can save a production a lot of money on a shoot. However because it is a new way of shooting a film, careful planning needs to be done in pre production. Issues that the Sound Recordist has to face are: fans in the video camera and video monitors; no overscan in the monitors so the Recordists can't see where his boom mic is unless it gets in the shot, and the fact that the camera records 20 bit sound but the quality is worse than DAT.
The day was closed out by a panel discussion on "The Impact on the Creative" which included Vincenzo Natali, Eric Myles and Richard Anobile to name a few. Vincenzo is the feature film director of "Cypher", "Nothing" and "Cube", Eric is a Digital Film Supervisor at Command Post Toybox and Richard is an Associate Producer, Post Production Supervisor and past Hollywood Production Executive. Toybox did 250 effect shots for "Cypher" although at the beginning of the shoot, Vincenzo didn't think his film would be effects intensive. Eric showed a demonstration of the advantage of digital capabilities.
He was able to alter specific parts of the frame without affecting the other areas of the frame. Vincenzo talked about a shot in "Cypher" of Lake Ontario where they warmed up the look of the lake so it looked like the Caribbean. He also likes doing color timing in the digital domain and feels that he has more control later in the post process. Toronto is 5 years ahead in Post technology and he thinks "Cypher" wouldn't have been make in the States, or if it was, it would have cost three times as much.
The AES would like to thank Daniel Pellerin of Deluxe for organizing the seminar, Anne Reynolds for behind the scenes coordination, Saved by Technology and Christie Projectors for supplying equipment for the day, Professional Sound for promoting the event, Deluxe Labs for hosting the event, and all of the speakers who presented at the conference.
by Michael Borlace, Committee Member
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