My Post House: Sunrise Pictures
Taylor Warren is the owner of Sunrise Pictures, a Telly Award-winning post house based in Middletown, Conn. He has been in the film industry for 19 years, and has worked on everything from feature films and documentaries to corporate projects.
What specific projects do you have in the works and have worked on recently?
I just finished the color-correct and mastering of a feature that I edited called Being Michael Madsen, which stars Michael and Virginia Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Harry Dean Stanton, Lacie Chabert, and was one of David Carradine's last projects. After that, I did some final editing/compositing and then the color-correct and sound design/mix for a documentary about African-American sacred music for the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University. After that, I created a 2-minute animated piece for the United Way's 75th anniversary capital campaign.
As to the future, there are a couple of features in the works and, in the new year, I'll hopefully get to renew a relationship with the film department at Wesleyan University. For the last couple of years, I've been helping the students in the film program with the mixes of their thesis films. It's been intense and a real joy to collaborate with these fresh creative voices. I'm really looking forward to continuing to do so.
What do you consider the next big thing in post?
Many distributors and manufacturers would probably want to hear "3D," but right now I'm far more interested in the possibilities of secure web videoconferencing. We're very close to being able to easily stream the live content coming out any NLE, compositing system, or DAW workstation direct to the monitoring environment of an offsite client. You can already do it using iChat Theater in FCP but I'm interested in a system that would take the output of any systemPC, Mac, switcher/videohub, etc.and stream video/audio/and multiway communications between the client and studio at high resolution. Collaboration is critical in the postproduction process and using technology to take geography out of the equation is going to open up all kinds of opportunities for small shops like mine. As a feature editor, I could be "on-set" without being away from my family for weeks at a time. My LA clients could participate, in realtime, in a session in at Sunrise Pictures (in a 1940s-era barn in Connecticut). Or my corporate clients could sit in and have quick give and take approval sessions without giving up a day of work.
Don't get me wrong; I prefer the dynamic, human interaction inherent with having the client in the room, but sometimes that just isn't feasible. When it isn't, secure videoconferencing could preserve human interaction and collaboration and provide new opportunities that would be otherwise geographically impossible. It's a really exciting possibility.
What technology do you currently work with?
- Avid Media Composer 5 and Avid Pro Tools. They are the central hub or backbone of the studio, but I supplement them with all sorts of third-party plugins and software.
- After Effects and Photoshop
- Sony SD monitors and FSI HD monitors
- JBL 4300 series monitors throughout. My current suite has 4326s, and the new suite has 4328s as main LCR and surrounds and a 4312 sub. I've found that these monitors work very well with my ears and translate extremely well to theatrical venues and home environments.
- For DVD authoring, I use Sonic DVDit Pro, Avid DVD, and DVD Studio Pro to build discs and Sorenson Squeeze and Compressor for video compression. I've got a license of FCP suite that I'll use when I client requests it.
As to acquisition, it seems that file-based workflows are becoming more and more popular and HD is now the norm. I haven't done a lot of work with digital SLR-based footage yet, but that is probably only a matter of time. HDCAM is still the standard for masters unless the project is strictly destined for the Web or intranet, in which case FTP delivery is most common.
It's all a moving target, though, and thankfully, trade publications and the Internet provide an extremely fertile network of articles, reviews, bulletin boards, blogs, and commentary which help keep end users educated on technology developments and creative techniques. In this industry, no one can afford to stagnate.
What new technology are you working with?
I recently added a Blackmagic Design UltraScope into the monitoring chain in the studio, and it has been a real revelation. I've used scopes before, both hardware and software, but seeing all the information together in one window, updating in realtime with little or no latency on a 24in. monitor that is easily visible across the room is wonderful. I firmly believe that being able to see the electrical signal changes you make as you grade gives you an education and precision that you cannot get any other way. Being Michael Madsen was the first project that passed through the UltraScope and we passed the visual QC on the first try. More importantly, the client loved the grade.
We also added a Flanders Scientific LM-2460, which is a brilliant monitor. Color accuracy is great, and the attention to detail and service provided by FSI is wonderful. I like being able to open up the scopes on the monitor. Seeing that the monitor and UltraScope agree with each other really adds to the confidence that what you see is what you get.
What new products/technology are you looking forward to the most?
I've been an Avid guy for years, so the momentum that Avid seems to be developing across its product lines is very exciting. MC 5 was a real leap forward in Avid's ability to perform in a cross-platform environment and Pro Tools HD Native shows that the company is really listening to its end user base. I'm particularly interested in seeing Euphonix's EuCon protocol adopted across the entire range of Avid's software. As an editor and sound designer, anything that can streamline or enhance the process of interfacing with software is particularly intriguing. While the Artist series of Euphonix controllers are very popular right now, I really like the Euphonix MC Pro. Having all those smart LCD switches that can remap depending on what software you are using or what window in the software in active would create some incredible efficiencies in the suite. Plus I use different workstations for different applications. The MC Pro could control all of the computers and remap itself depending on which computer/software combination I am using.
Another technology I'm really looking forward to explore is DaVinci Resolve for the Mac. The process of manipulating color whether simply to balance a series of shots or to evoke mood which inform on the story is extremely rewarding. Having a tool this powerful available at the desktop level presents a really rich opportunity to learn. I firmly subscribe to the theory that just owning the software doesn't make you a qualified professional. I would not dare to call myself a colorist, though I can grade an image, but having access to such a powerful tool could only help provide a great base to further study the interaction of color theory and video mastering and hopefully, provide and even richer image for my clients.
However, all products and tech aside, what I'm looking forward to most is working in my new edit suite. The front third of the second floor of the barn that Sunrise is based out of is undergoing a massive renovation to become a comfortable media playground. It's a fully floated, noise-controlled space with lots of natural light, which can be controlled from full light to pitch dark. It will have surround monitoring and HD projection and a raised client area so a producer won't have to look through my head to see the screen. It has been a labor of love designing and building it, and the light is finally visible at the end of the tunnel, as it were. I cannot wait to be working in the space (as opposed to working on it).
What gets you out of bed in the morning to go to work in post?
What gets me out of bed in the morning is the excitement for me inherent in the blending of the creative and technical process. I love being able to manipulate images and pixels, music, and frequency to purposefully tell a story or evoke emotion. On a micro level, I can paint out rigging, clean noise from an image, extrude a logo, quickly compare the impact of a straight cut or an L-cut, or explore the difference one extra frame makes to the timing of a sequence, and cut a band of frequency out of one sound to allow another sound to rise in a mix. On a macro level, I employ these tools to craft a story or character arc or explore the process of human visual and aural communication. Frankly, I find the micro and macro sides of what I do equally exciting, and that's probably why I am a post geek.
What is your best post memory?
The relationships I've built with my long-term clients and the Sunrise team. Okay, that sounds like another cliché, but many of these folks have been with me since day one. We've become very close friends over the years, and watching all of our careers evolve together has been a true joy.
As far as one single memory goes, back in 2002, I was producing an HD child-abduction-prevention video called "Journey of the Steal Proof Master" for a company call Adventures in Safety. At the time, the two most popular films were Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, and the client asked me to create a sword- and sorcery-style story built around 10 evil warrior characters he had developed which represented the 10 most commonly used child-abduction lures.
The film was filled with magic and special effects, some of which we had done practically on set, but many which had to be left for post. I had been shopping around locally for a visual effects shop or compositor that could handle the job but hadn't found one comfortable taking on the work. Finally, I was forced to consider doing all the work inhouse. In no way was I a compositor or animator, but I did know, visually, what I was looking to achieve and had a clear blueprint in the script. At the time, Commotion Pro and After Effects 4.0 were recently released, and there were some good training resources available. After two and a half months of 16-to-18-hours days with no time off, we delivered the film to the client with all special effects happily approved. I'm really proud of that work and it began my fascination with compositing and special effects. Almost 10 years later, I find compositing an extremely enjoyable part of what I do, and "Journey" was the first step on the path.
What were you doing 10 years ago and what do you expect to be doing in 10 years?
Ten years ago, I had just started offering full-scale postproduction services to business clients. I had been working with independent filmmakers and documentarians for about five years and was looking to diversify and create a more stable business base. It took a while to become established in that arena, but I find now that when the theatrical/documentary side of things slows down, the business communication side picks up and vice versa. It also has resulted in a wider variety of project styles and lengths, and I really like that diversity. It seems that the learning acquired in one genre or projects style cross-pollinates to benefit the others.
As to 10 years from now, well, I really love what I am doing now, so I hope that I'll still be able to work in multiple styles and project types. I hope that mentally, I'll be able to remain flexible enough to appreciate the dynamic way that postproduction technologies change and to appreciate and utilize the benefits of emerging platform without becoming excessively enamored by them.
I think that social networking and the high-speed Internet are really impacting the way jobs are acquired and managed. FTP transfer, email, and delivery mediums like YouTube have already changed how project management and master approval and delivery occur. Ten years from now (and probably quite a bit sooner), the realtime collaborations possible will be global and really exciting. I think there will also be a fully digital distribution paradigm where content is delivered from server to server and anyone can create a library of ultra-high-definition content that can be streamed directly to large theaters or desktop monitors. The trick is going to be to cultivate a culture of audience which appreciates the value of the creative effort and is willing to pay for it as opposed to crack and share. On the other hand, free access to new media tends to widen the potential audience for that new media, so there is a bit of a dilemma inherent to wanting the biggest audience for an artist and then wanting that artist to be able to eat. As postproduction professionals, we either are the artists or our businesses are dependent on the growth and success of those artists.