SIM Digital/Bling
Digital provide workflow support to hit USA Network series for a record three
straight seasons.

Los Angeles—Critically lauded and a
ratings hit, Psych recently wrapped its
eighth season in Vancouver, adding to its record as USA Network’s
longest-running series. And for the third straight year, the Universal Cable
Productions series is making its way from the camera to the screen via an
innovative file-based workflow designed and supported by camera and production
equipment specialist SIM Digital and
its post-production unit Bling Digital.

SIM/Bling helped Psych
become the first Vancouver-based television production to go fully digital
in 2010, after having successfully established file-based workflows for two other
Universal Cable Productions programs, Suits
and Covert Affairs, Three years
down the line, the elements of that workflow remain largely unchanged. SIM
provides the show with ARRI Alexa camera packages (as well as Sony and GoPro
cameras for specialized use), on-set graphics and playback services. Bling
handles near-set dailies processing and data services. 
Camera media is processed in the near-set lab, which
includes the production of media for review, editorial, post production and
back-up. Editorial files and FCP ProRes proxy format are delivered via high
speed Internet connection to the show’s editorial team, located 1300 miles away
in Manhattan Beach, California. Editors can begin cutting new material in as
little as a few hours after its shot.
It took confidence for Psych’s
producers to make the leap to digital in 2010. Other Vancouver productions were
still shooting HD video or film and so there was no template. However, they
were intrigued with the potential for improved efficiency and cost-savings, and
impressed with SIM/Bling’s enthusiasm for the emerging digital paradigm. “There
was some nervousness, because it was a whole new mode of production,” recalls
Ken Anderson, General Manager of Sim Digital’s Vancouver operations. “But they
saw how well it was working in Toronto and the time and headaches it was saving
for those shows. They wanted the same thing.”
It didn’t take long for the benefits of SIM/Bling’s approach
to become apparent. Gordon Mark, Psych’s
line producer, notes that shows that were early adopters of digital camera
systems sometimes experienced problems in the hand-off between production and
post. “You’d get a call from the lab saying ‘there’s a problem with the
camera,’ but then the camera crew would say, ‘no, it’s something the lab
technician did,’” he recalls.
Those sorts of problems never arose on Psych because SIM/Bling managed both sides of the transaction. “If
a problem occurred, and that didn’t happen very often, their camera people and
lab people would work together to resolve it,” Mark says. “It was in their
interest as much as it was in ours to get it fixed quickly. That was
Psych’s digital
workflow also proved to be a significant upgrade in terms of reliability over
the traditional film workflow. An error in processing at a film lab, observes Mark,
could be devastating to a show’s budget and delivery schedule.
“In the worst case scenario, your film could be ruined and
you’d have to go back and do something again. That’s very expensive,” he says.
“You would have to schedule the actors back and that, inevitably would involve
some highly-paid guest star with lots of other commitments. So, it becomes a
scheduling issue. Production can’t shoot the footage, so the post people can’t
edit it, and it can’t be delivered on time. It puts a wrinkle all the way through
the system.” With digital near-set processing, camera or processing issues are
spotted and resolved quickly. The specter of reshooting has virtually been
Series DP Scott Williams witnessed the transition from film and
video capture to digital firsthand and has become a convert to the new
file-based mode of production. For Psych,
he shoots ARRI Alexa to ProRes 4444 master files and uses a Truelight on Set
system (also supplied by SIM/Bling) to apply LUTs to key frames. Williams’
color settings are applied to all dailies elements at the near-set lab. This
arrangement, in effect, provides Williams with the luxury of grading his own
dailies without leaving the set.
“Bling has recreated all of the functions of a lab in a
near-set environment and they’ve done it with less overhead and greater
efficiency,” Williams says. “Everything is streamlined.”
Associate Producer Janelle Reyes is the recipient of
editorial media. She supervises post-production operations at the show’s
production offices in Manhattan Beach. Dailies are sent via Aspera connection to a nearby service bureau.
“It’s less than a mile away,” she explains. “A PA picks up a drive every day.
Bling also sends us lab reports, camera reports, LTO back-ups, and customized
metadata which is very helpful for editorial. 
When we were working with a tape process, acquiring dailies involved a
day’s delay. Now we get the footage within hours of when it’s shot.”
Psych has been
rewarded handsomely for its decision to go digital. Mark notes that, while the
show’s file-based workflow saves time and money, he values even more the peace
of mind he gets by working with SIM/Bling. “We would have switched anyway
because I knew we’d get great service,” he says. “From the day we started, they
have been unbelievable.”
Ken Anderson says that the relationship has also benefitted
SIM/Bling. Several other Vancouver-based television productions have signed up
for the “Psych” treatment. “They gave us a chance three years ago,” Anderson
says, “and it has catapulted us into a leadership position in cameras and dailies
in this market.”
About SIM Digital
With offices across the USA, Canada and China, SIM Digital is a world-class
rental facility specializing in digital production equipment and workflow
services. SIM offers one of the largest and most diverse inventories of the
latest digital cinematography tools from top manufacturers including ARRI,
Sony, RED, Panasonic, Canon, Fujinon, Angenieux, Zeiss, Cooke. In tandem with
its innovative Bling Digital division, the company offers the industry’s most
comprehensive workflow solutions for feature and television production,
encompassing cameras, data, dailies, offline editorial, finishing and
archiving.  For more information, visit
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