As more and more film and television productions move to digital acquisition, directors and cinematographers have increasingly sought simple means to “pre-visualize” color on the set in order to have better control over the look of their footage from dailies through post production.

Many filmmakers have found that predefined 3D look-up tables (LUTs) are inadequate for projects shot with digital cameras, especially when recording in raw modes. While these preset LUTs are of some value for previewing intended looks, their lack of flexibility and the color information they provide can be limiting, or lost during post production as it is often not retained as part of the original camera media.

A new method for creating color looks on-set was used during the production of the current MGM comedy Hope Springs. Cinematographer Florian Ballhaus, who shot the film with ARRI Alexa cameras in ARRIRAW mode, used Framewright’s LinkColor system to set looks during principal photography. Those color adjustments were recorded as metadata by Codex Onboard recorders and linked directly to the raw camera files. Ballhaus’ preset looks could then be applied automatically to production dailies (which were produced near-set) and could be recalled instantly at any point during post production.

“Most digital workflows today involve digital cameras set to record either log or raw files, and those files require extensive color correction,” explains Framewright founder Abby Levine. “Cinematographers therefore need a simple way to preview looks on the set and also to record those looks so that they can be accurately communicated through each phase of post.”

Developed by Framewright in 2011, LinkColor is a software controller for Blackmagic Design’s HDLink Pro monitoring system. LinkColor improves on the built-in capabilities of HDLink Pro by adding sophisticated color tools such as separate RGB and master controls, and gamma, gain and saturation adjustments that can be applied to live camera outputs in real time. It also provides for loading of third party 3D LUTs, export of a variety of LUT formats, additional previewing conversions, hardware panel support, and multi-camera control. The system has been used on numerous film and commercial productions and proven to be a fast and simple way to set near final looks.

In advance of the production of Hope Springs, Framewright enhanced the utility of LinkColor by writing new software that allows its color decision lists to be read and recorded as metadata by Codex Onboard recorders. “LinkColor and Codex support the same ASC color correction format and so it was relatively simple to create a link that allows the Onboard recorder to read our color decision lists over Ethernet,” Levine says. “As the Codex recorder captures camera data, it simultaneously captures CDL values from LinkColor and embeds them in the file as metadata. The CDL values are then available when the files go to editorial and later stages of post.”

The beauty of the system is that it allowed looks set by Ballhaus to be applied to dailies without further adjustment or guesswork. “It was bulletproof,” says Levine, who also served as DIT on Hope Springs. “We were shooting on stage in Connecticut, with Sixteen19 (the dailies services provider) set up next door. We ran datapacks to them and they created the dailies with our CDL applied automatically. It worked well for the run of the show.”

The system provided Ballhaus with the means to ensure his creative vision remained intact without slowing production. “Florian was impressed with how transparent the system was to use,” Levine says.

Hope Springs will be released in the United States on August 10th, 2012. Camera equipment was supplied by ARRI CSC.

About Codex Digital

Codex Digital, who are based in London, England design and manufacture high-end digital equipment for motion picture and television production, products include the award-winning high-resolution media recorders and a range of media management stations to manage the entire workflow of a digital production from set to post production. The company is setting new standards for end-to-end production workflow.

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