The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents February 2010 Return to Table of Contents
The Wolfman
Chris Menges
Presidents Desk
Post Focus
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up
Offhollywoods Digital Perspective

In 2003, after years of producing low-budget independent features, building relationships, solving other people’s problems and not making much money in the process, Mark Pederson and Aldey Sanchez started their own company, Offhollywood, with a mandate to do “guerrilla digital intermediates.” Armed with one Apple computer and a copy of Final Cut Pro, they posted ultra-low-budget productions while keeping a close watch on new industry trends. Among the developers with whom they forged a relationship was Red Digital Cinema, which was on the brink of introducing the Red One camera.

Just before the One was officially unveiled, Offhollywood agreed to purchase the first two bodies that would be released to the public, #0006 and #0007. (The first five cameras went to Red founder Jim Jannard.) The investment was a shot in the dark: Pederson had no way of knowing that Red would quickly develop a significant industry presence, or that the cameras would eventually revamp Offhollywood’s business model, transforming it into the front-to-back production facility it is today.

With their keen interest in new technology, Pederson and Sanchez took to Red with a great deal of enthusiasm. “Red is a very atypical company,” says Pederson. “It’s like a bunch of mad scientists breaking the rules, and I think they like the fact that we have some of the same rebel sensibilities.” When Offhollywood received its Red cameras, in 2007, Pederson and Sanchez tested and posted footage every day, untangling the kinks while consulting with productions and teaching the mechanics to other rental houses.

Eventually, Offhollywood landed a project called Asylum Seekers, an experimental feature by a young director named Ronia Ajami; it was one of the first features to shoot fully with Red cameras. Soon thereafter, director/cinematographer Doug Liman used Offhollywood’s Red cameras for additional photography on his 2008 feature Jumper. At press time, Liman was finishing post at Offhollywood on the feature Fair Game, which was shot entirely with the company’s Reds.

Pederson says Offhollywood’s early work with the Red helped the company define its own workflow for the camera. “It was very much a moving target because the camera was such a moving target — there were always new firmware builds,” he notes, adding that both Reds received six firmware updates while Asylum Seekers was in production. “A lot of people say the Red workflow is a problem, and that frustrates me so much because there is no such thing as ‘a Red workflow.’ There are a bunch of workflows.”

The camera captures compressed information in Redcode RAW, with unprocessed proxies viewable as 2K QuickTime files for immediate review of “dailies.” Once the QuickTime proxies are logged and captured in 2K, 3K or 4K, Offhollywood typically edits footage in Final Cut Pro, does color-grading using Assimilate Scratch, and uses a Digital Video Systems Clipster 3 for both 2-D and 3-D DCP creation. The company still uses the same AJA Kona 3 Video System it initially purchased, which Pederson notes is a highly efficient solution for image capture and HD conversion. He emphasizes, though, that each production’s workflow depends on the importance of the dailies and the needs of the filmmakers.

John “Pliny” Eremic, chief operating officer and director of postproduction, notes that although Offhollywood is the only authorized Red service center on the East Coast, “we don’t just cater to Red.” The company also offers post services for projects originating on other digital platforms, as well as 35mm and 16mm film. (The company has a partnership with FotoKem in Burbank whereby Offhollywood sends film to FotoKem for digital transfer.) To date, Offhollywood has provided cameras and technical support for 14 features and has done second-unit and post work for 23 others.

Pederson and Sanchez have welcomed colorists Robbie Renfrow and Milan Boncich and senior DI/visual-effects artist Jim Geduldick to the team, and the company recently opened the doors of its new, larger facility in SoHo, featuring a brand-new prep floor, new office spaces and a 35-seat theater capable of screening 2-D and 3-D DCPs. Offhollywood continues to test new software and hardware solutions, and in addition to the growing cache of Red Ones it owns and sub-leases from individual owners, the company will soon obtain Red’s new Epic camera system.

Most recently, Offhollywood has ventured into 3-D technology. Its first 3-D feature, The Mortician, is currently in production in New Orleans; cinematographer Michael McDonough is using Red Ones with Element Technica Quasar 3-D rigs. Offhollywood has also invested in The Foundry’s Nuke compositing software and Ocula 3-D for 3-D post, and the company’s new theater is equipped with 3-D glasses and a Dolby Cinema Server capable of showing 2-D and 3-D footage. (The theater also has a Barco DP2000 2K projector for DI work.)

Noting that Offhollywood’s front-to-back business model makes the company especially well suited to 3-D workflows, Pederson muses, “I don’t know how long it will last, but there’s going to be a moment in time when you’ll have a significantly better chance of selling your movie, finding theatrical distribution and making your money back if your movie’s in 3-D.”

“Technology democratizes services,” says Sanchez. “When Mark and I started Offhollywood, we talked about how technology would merge the production and postproduction worlds. To compete, you need to offer more added value, and I think one of our core strengths is our expertise on the very bleeding edge.”


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