The Crown - VFX work by One of Us and post by Molinare.
With the major US broadcasters commissioning more 4K content over the last year, and the launch in recent weeks of Sky Q Silver and Virgin’s 4K ready V6, 4K post is on the rise. What really gets Soho’s houses excited though is High Dynamic Range, though everyone needs to go through a learning curve. UHD HDR and HD HDR deliverables will be accelerated now that the DVB has standardised on PQ and HLG for production and delivery.
“HDR is driving the adoption of UHD forwards as it is the big leap in terms of the visual impact of content that consumers are anticipating, versus the lesser impact of a simple increase in resolution from HD to UHD,” says Matt Locke, business development manager at Halo.
Facility Envy also reports requests for HDR deliverables from US broadcasters in particular. “Interest from UK broadcasters has been a little slower but it is certainly on everyone’s roadmap says Dave Cadle, managing director. “HDR will probably have a more immediate impact on drama productions but we’re definitely seeing some uptake at the higher end of the documentary market.”
Molinare worked on a number of high profile productions in 2016, including multiple drama and factual productions posting in UHD. It has delivered over 30 hours of UHD and says it has HDR projects coming through too.
“The arrival of Netflix and Amazon productions has been beneficial for those who are technically and creatively able to meet their expectations,” says Rowan Bray, general manager. “We see 2017 as being even busier with this work being ever present during the year.”
Among Molinare’s work was for Netflix’ The Crown which it believes has set a benchmark in terms of creative excellence.
“We upgraded multiple extra suites to cope with the demand and established successful workflows that are tailored to the needs of these projects,” says Bray. “It is not just a question of more data, staff had to retrain and suites had to be remodelled to make the most of these new opportunities. The enthusiasm to embrace the long term benefits and creative opportunities of 4K is there and clients are finding the budgets to support their ambitions.”
DOPs and colourists especially are excited about the potential of HDR grades - but there is a learning curve for all to go through.
Says Locke: “We are already working on a number of HDR commissions and particularly from a grade perspective there are some significant adjustments to the traditional processes. Whether that’s adopting ACES pipelines, the number of passes in the grade where both SDR and HDR versions are required, or in grade adjustments in order to correct unwanted highlight detail that may detract from the composition of the image that may not be so apparent in standard SDR grade.”
“One of the main things that is needed with HDR is an understanding of how much to push the latitude it offers and how this change will be perceived by the viewer,” says Bray. “We're excited to explore further this medium from a creative standpoint and not just as a technical exercise, by engaging with DOPs and programme makers to deliver the aesthetic feel of differing lighting styles across the range of genres.”
To make the most of HDR it is important that the production team work closely with their post house, ideally before the production starts, to discuss camera choice and a realistic post schedule.
Cadle advises, “We would always try and arrange camera/grade tests and our colourists are always available to offer advice. At Envy, as well as working closely with the production team, we make a point of speaking to the broadcaster as early as possible to ensure we understand exactly what they require. This is important as it can impact on where the focus of the grade lies. HDR offers a fantastic opportunity to create beautiful images but generally most productions will still want to concentrate on the SDR grade as this is going to be what the majority of the viewers will be watching at home.”
Encore, a Deluxe company, post produced high impact series The Night Manager for BBC/AMC.
“People have been shooting for TV at resolutions beyond HD for some time now as the cameras make this so achievable (such as the 3.2K Arri Alexa and up to 6K on RED) and doing so can provide real benefits in quality and flexibility (framing for VFX),” says Johnny Whitehead, Director of Operations. “Currently there are not many scripted shows being graded in HDR for the UK market but I expect this to change. The benefits are amazing and it presents an opportunity to grade and deliver content in an enriched and more realistic fashion.”
He adds, “HDR delivery has an impact on the Post Production workflow and there is a cost attached as it is an additional deliverable. For colourists there is the challenge of making two versions (HDR and SDR) with different dynamic ranges, but our colourists are highly skilled and relish such creative opportunities. I hope that a HDR delivery soon becomes the norm as demand for HDR content from UK broadcasters and OTT suppliers grows. TV display technology has really improved of late and there are now many high quality HDR TV’s that are affordable for consumers.”
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