The American Society of Cinematographers

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The Bourne Ultimatum
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MTI Control Dailies

MTI Film’s Control Dailies is an all-digital solution designed to make the dailies process more reliable, efficient and responsive to the variety of deliverables customers request. Created by Larry Chernoff, the company’s CEO, and Kevin Manbeck, the company’s CTO, Control Dailies doesn’t attempt to re-invent the dailies wheel so much as improve on a tried-and-true design.

The telecine process typically works in a linear fashion: the film comes in from the lab and is hung on the telecine machine, and the color is set by the telecine colorist or supervisor. The picture is synced to the sound elements, slated, matted and burned with time-code and keycode information before being laid off to a high-definition master or standard-def tapes. Most of the time, the colorist handles all of the busy work of entering metadata and syncing sound, in addition to the coloring.

Control Dailies adds computer workstations and a dedicated storage-area network (SAN) to the pipeline, taking the linear workflow and “stacking” the mechanical elements of data entry, syncing, slating, burning and layoff, thus allowing them to be performed simultaneously with the coloring. An assistant technician handles the logistical heavy lifting from his or her station, importing and preparing sound for picture sync and then logging scene, take, and additional shot information as metadata, freeing the colorist to concentrate on grading. The software on the colorist’s station drives the telecine process while the picture is colored and ingested to the SAN. With Control Dailies, the two stations are completely autonomous, yet the colorist and the assistant are able to work in tandem from the same data on the SAN.

Film dailies are ingested in one of two ways, Select Takes or Full Reel. With film transferred in the Select Takes mode, audio and picture are automatically synchronized by Control Dailies based on sync points logged in the database by the assistant and colorist. In Full Reel mode, Control Dailies provides a one-click editorial tool to sync audio and picture.

The Full Reel option was recently added to facilitate the post workflow on Rush Hour 3 at Company 3. To save money and time, many productions will transfer only the “circle takes,” that is, the takes that are going to be used in editorial. Control Dailies was originally designed to support this method of telecine, but on Rush Hour 3 every take from every camera roll needed to be ingested.

Company 3 colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld does double-duty as the dailies supervisor and colorist on almost every feature he works on. This was also true of Rush Hour 3, which was shot by James Muro and directed by Brett Ratner. Postproduction on the film began in late 2006, but before the first camera roll came through the door, Sonnenfeld was working closely with Chernoff and MTI to meet the demands of what would become a rigorous dailies schedule (The cinematographer received dailies on HDCam, the director on DVD.). “Because of nature of the work that we do — challenging projects with demanding directors and unique workflows — we tend to have very specific needs,” explains Sonnenfeld, who is also Company 3’s managing director. “Directors like Brett Ratner and Michael Bay want every single shot on tape so they can cut everything and see everything. It’s very rare for people I work with to just do circle takes.”

Moving several thousand feet of film for a single show on a daily basis has become standard procedure for Sonnenfeld, who often has as many as four features on his plate. In addition to features, there’s a constant rotation of high-profile commercials and music videos moving through Company 3’s eight telecine bays. “Working with Control Dailies is a win-win situation creatively and from a business perspective,” says Sonnenfeld. “The real beauty of [Control Dailies] is that as a colorist, I’m able to concentrate on the creative aspect of the job — the coloring — then get it laid off and out of the room.”

Once the picture has been ingested and the sound synced, the Control Dailies assistant station handles the dailies deliverables with three asynchronous video outputs, one hi-def signal and two standard-def signals. Mattes, slates and window burns are generated by the machine that creates the layoffs, eliminating the need for additional equipment. Because the signals originate from a digital source and are routed by three separate device-control cards, each can be started and stopped independently of the other. Digital deliverables are handled by Convey, a separate but integrated sister-application to Control Dailies that can encode sound and picture elements in almost any digital format to a hard or soft destination.

All-digital workflows are possible as well. Control Dailies can slave a third-party color corrector (such as Pandora or Autodesk Lustre) to down-covert 2K scans to HD and SD color space, and is able to control VTRs for direct HD-to-network capture. Currently, MTI is in talks with Dalsa, Codex, S.two and Panavision to develop device-control and metadata compatibility for the next generation of high-end digital cameras and field recorders.

In addition to Company 3, MTI Film has strategic alliances and integration certifications for the Control Dailies system with companies such as Encore Hollywood, FotoKem, Avid, DVS, DataDirect Networks and Quantel.

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