Published on Monday, 01 July 2013

 

DIT Jeff Flohr Takes on DI & Colourist’s Role on ‘Bling Ring’

Jeff Flohr is a Digital Imaging Technician in New York who has adopted SCRATCH Lab as dailies software for film projects and various commercials. He recently worked with DP Harris Savides on the set of Sofia Coppola’s new movie, ‘The Bling Ring’, and eventually handled the entire DI for the film as well, making an unexpected transition from DIT to DI artist. He was able to complete the conform, colour grading, compositing and finishing himself in SCRATCH.
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‘The Bling Ring’ arose from a script about a group of real teenagers, obsessed with fame and glamour, who use the internet to track down celebrities' addresses, and then stake out and rob their Hollywood homes.

Camera Testing & Look Development

In pre-production, Harris and co-DP Chris Blauvelt hired Jeff as the DIT for the film. Harris chose the RED Epic camera and during camera testing, he and Chris decided to ask Jeff if he could create the dailies as well. As the shoot got underway, Jeff worked with SCRATCH Lab on a Mac Pro for two months in LA, and since virtually the entire shoot was on location he actually produced the dailies each day after wrap. Harris and Chris supervised the dailies for the first two weeks and Jeff held the look consistent based on their direction.

“For three weeks Harris, Chris and I tested lots of combinations of different cameras, lenses, resolutions, and other techniques to develop the look for the images they wanted,” Jeff said. “Once we arrived at a formula for recreating that look, I used Lab to apply it to the dailies. Harris was very keen to work directly from the RAW files and control the image throughout the process. Because Lab supports r3d natively, I could generate the dailies directly from the r3d files.”

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Before using Lab, Jeff had worked with dailies programs consisting of a variety of software and hardware components specific to each camera system. As purpose-built dailies software, Lab has the necessary functions in one place, and is compatible with most formats. “I am able to create dailies with appropriate file naming conventions, render at high speeds, carry out high-level colour correction, and work in and export to a large variety of formats,” he said.

RED Rocket Card

“I had two deliverables for turn-around each morning. I created Avid DNX files for the editors and iPad dailies for Sofia Coppola. I created H.264 files as well for an online database once a week for the investors’ review. My digital utility, Jeremy Cannon, organised and sorted the files so I could start colouring and rendering immediately after wrap. I was using a RED Rocket card which, combined with the colour correction and r3d metadata handles supplied in Lab, gave us a higher than usual render speed. The amount of data from the RED was huge but there are several tools in Lab to organize and manage the data with the looks we applied.”

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After the film wrapped and the edit was done, Sofia sent test clips from the movie to several labs for the DI to compare the outputs, but she was never completely satisfied with. When she grew concerned, Jeff suggested running a test colour grade in Lab to see if they could improve on the results. Before she could make further decisions, Harris Savides passed away and Chris was already shooting another film when it was time to complete the DI.

Consequently, she asked Jeff to handle the grade, which meant buying a full copy of SCRATCH software though by this time he knew the Lab application well enough that making the transition to the complete SCRATCH was not such a hurdle. Having worked solidly for two months on the dailies, he was also pretty confident he understood the look Harris, Chris and Sofia envisioned for the film. Nevertheless, this was the first full length feature he had created the DI for, and without a team to share conform, roto and colour duties with, the job put him under some pressure. In other words, there was more than only the colour grade to be done, including audio sync and finishing tasks.

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DI, Grade and Finishing Workflow

Jeff and Sofia worked together on the grade for several extended working days. He set up a workflow in SCRATCH and got this running fast and smoothly with their data. Requesting technical support from ASSIMILATE, he completed the conform himself from the dailies he had created. He managed to conform all dailies of live action in about 30 minutes.

“Initially I would do a pass on my Mac Pro out to my E250 monitor, but later go to a screening room to do a pass for projection,” Jeff explained. “Then it was back to my Mac for the compositing, VFX plug-ins, de-noising, applying paint and audio sync. This type of finishing work can be handled inside SCRATCH, instead of having to access other programs. All the live action material was graded in r3d format, except for the VFX and graphics elements, which were given to me in DPX format. These elements did not have timecode, so I used the split-screen mode along with the editor’s guide and dropped them in.

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“For Harris and all of the production, the most important job was preserving the look of the film, never compromising the data by moving to another format like DPX. Because Harris wanted us to work only in the RAW files, that’s exactly what we did. Furthermore, all the hard work we put into testing and the dailies process paid off when we got to the DI.” www.assimilateinc.com