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From Dailies to DIs

The drive to extend high-end digital dailies capable of emulating a film look into digital intermediate pipelines for filmmakers on limited budgets moved forward recently when Shane Hurlbut became the first cinematographer to rely on Laser Pacific''s new InDI process on the upcoming Focus Pictures film Something New.

Laser Pacific recently debuted InDI in order to offer clients what company President Leon Silverman calls “an affordable end-to-end workflow” for independent filmmakers who are interested in seeing high-resolution dailies and pre-visualizing their work as they move toward a possible digital intermediate to finish their movies. Central to the concept is the notion of a pipeline in which film needs to be scanned just once, with DI files coming directly from the HD dailies path—images from an HDCAM-SR 4:4:4 source master that have already been treated during the dailies process using Kodak color science to emulate the look of film. For many projects, a DI could eventually proceed without any re-scanning of film selects required, Silverman says.

“It''s the equivalent of a data scan, and you then watch dailies through a simulation of Kodak print film, storing the images at RGB 4:4:4—watching high-def dailies that simulate Kodak print film,” says Silverman. “And then, the original dailies scans are used as the DI source. That lets indie filmmakers do high-resolution HD dailies and a DI for less than the price of what many places would charge for a DI alone. The ability to create, in essence, a telecine scan that is equivalent to a data scan is a big step forward for video dailies, and gets a lot more filmmakers into the game.”

Silverman adds that nothing in the process prevents filmmakers from later performing a DI from 4K or 2K scans, if they choose to and can afford it. But, he says, for independent projects on tight budgets, the end result of being able to perform a DI they otherwise could not afford by avoiding any re-scans is an attractive option. He notes that while Something New is the first movie to use the InDI approach, several projects will be using the process in 2006.

“It''s true these are HD resolution dailies, but with the Kodak image science calibration used during the scanning and dailies processes, and having full dynamic range with RGB 4:4:4, the resulting images are very much a quality alternative to a 2K DI for a filmmaker on a budget,” he suggests.

Silverman points to developments like InDI as illustrative of how HD dailies techniques of one type or another are growing increasingly important to filmmakers. He, and many other industry experts, believe the industry is heading to an eventual future where imagery travels a seamless data path from acquisition through display. Storage and format compatibility concerns from one platform to another, however, remain obstacles to achieving this goal in the near-term.

In the meantime, Silverman suggests that imagery either captured or mastered onto HDCAM-SR tape can produce, essentially, an original digital negative. That digital negative, in turn, can serve as the foundation for a variety of off-shelf and proprietary digital processes necessary to finish projects to filmmaker specifications, including sometimes making that imagery emulate a film look, while avoiding the time and expense of additional film scanning.

See the upcoming December issue of Millimeter and future issues for more on InDI and several other recent industry and facility services and initiatives aimed at improving the digital dailies process, and plugging that process into larger digital intermediate pipelines.