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Beta Sight: Quantel Pablo

Quantel Pablo allows Digital Jungle Post Production to perform tasks ranging from duplication and stereoscopic 3D visuals to full DI and color grading on a single platform.

Digital Jungle Post Production is nearing its 16th anniversary, and in celebration, we’ve revolutionized our facility, adding a brand-new digital intermediate suite based on the Quantel Pablo and a digital cinema screening room equipped with a Barco DP-90 DLP digital projector, dual 35mm variable-speed Simplex PR-1014 film projectors, and a Dolby 10-speaker surround system.

We acquired the Quantel Pablo in the last quarter of 2006 because television productions have embraced HD, and theatrical features now often rely on DI to streamline their workflow. A multitasking platform is key to meeting the various needs and growing demands of digital cinema and postproduction. The Pablo system is a total DI solution that features a multiresolution platform (SD to 4K), a host of postproduction tools, and robust capability for deliverables.Bucking the industry trend toward mega-consolidation, Digital Jungle is an independent, full-service post house with firepower that’s second to none. Choosing the most efficient tools to meet the varied demands of our clients is a continual challenge. Our service menu encompasses diverse tasks: duplication, stereoscopic 3D visuals, full DI, color grading, editorial, audio mixing, visual effects, restoration, and conversions.

We create finished content for NBC, CBS, FOX, TLC, MTV, VH1, Discovery, and the History Channel. Our deliverables include specials and series, as well as short-form content — commercials, promos, and EPKs. On the theatrical side, our digital cinema theater provides services for studios such as Universal, Revolution, and Stone Village Pictures. Digital Jungle also has performed stereoscopic 3D consultation and development for New Line Cinema’s Journey 3-D, currently set for a 2008 release. We performed many tests for this feature prior to the start of principal photography as well as during its initial shooting.

For years, Quantel has been part of our standard-def toolbox. Hence, our artists and technicians are already familiar with Quantel’s user logic. From our investigation of the available DI solutions, it became apparent that the Pablo offers many tools and features other DI systems lack. Prior to acquiring Pablo, we were using a combination of Avid, Autodesk, and Da Vinci tools for DI projects.

Now, with Pablo, we can store content and work in any resolution; color-grade, edit, composite, and restore images; generate titles and crawls; manipulate and convert audio files; and finally, output to any deliverable’s specification — all within a single platform. The system has freed us from doing DI using multiple workstations and the associated massive I/O data management.

Managing projects within one workstation also allows us to minimize file transfers and maximize efficiency. When scheduled properly, the Pablo is an around-the-clock platform. With 9TB of storage, the Pablo allows us to work simultaneously on two 2K full-length features. Moreover, should client workload call for increasing storage, its internal capacity can be increased to 40TB. At the end, we can output files in any format — including HD, 2K, or 4K — in 4:4:4 or 4:2:2 sampling frequencies.

To illustrate what a difference Pablo has made in our workflow, I’ll cite the 2005 independent feature Angels with Angles, which starred Rodney Dangerfield and Frank Gorshin. It was completed at Digital Jungle using various platforms and technologies prior to our acquisition of the Pablo. The film was a high-def DI project with dailies and final color grading performed on the Da Vinci 2K. We created more than 150 visual effects shots and completed final compositing and edit conform using both Avid DS Nitris and Autodesk Combustion. The final D5 HD master was recorded back to 35mm for the film’s theatrical distribution. While the end result of Angels with Angles was stunning, having the features of the Pablo would have made the management of this project, including I/O and data transfer, much less time-consuming.

By contrast, our postproduction finishing for the Travel Channel’s 1,000 Places To See Before You Die episodic one-hour shows incorporated many of Pablo’s toolsets for a seamless high-definition delivery. The network required hi-def deliverables in the form of 1080i59.94 HDCAM SR masters, but our source material from the production company was an assortment of 720p, DV, DigiBeta, high-res stills, and QuickTime files. Moreover, rough cuts were produced on an Avid in a 29.97fps environment.

But the Pablo is a resolution-independent tool, so we were able to input and auto-conform all of the program’s source material into our workstation while keeping each file in its native format. We used Pablo’s color correction tools for final color grading, and its compositing features for design elements and title overlays. Lastly, we imported and synced final WAV files and converted and delivered final outputs in the desired resolution and frame rate.

With the Pablo, we were able to manage the workflow for 1,000 Places To See Before You Die in a very efficient manner. We saved time by eliminating needless I/O transfers, performing SD-to-HD and frame-rate conversions within a single workstation, and having multiple episodes residing on Pablo’s massive hard drives instead of on attached storage.

Incorporating Pablo technology with other applications, Digital Jungle has achieved a few “firsts” in the industry, such as our development of a plug-in for processing 3D imagery. This 3D plug-in allows Digital Jungle to automatically composite 3D anaglyph images in a variety of color combinations, which speeds up the stereoscopic 3D post process exponentially. We created this 3D plug-in for Pablo jointly with Quantel. To do so, we gave Quantel our parameters and procedures for 3D. Company engineers, in turn, wrote software specific to our design for 3D processing.

We now have in mind additional stereoscopic 3D processes for future development. For now, the 3D technology we’ve helped developed is proprietary to Digital Jungle. We are currently in the midst of completing six 3D DI feature packages for Universal, including Jaws 3D and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Our goals are to provide the studios with an efficient, high-quality DI workflow as they embrace digital post and to support the development of digital cinema with new technologies that enhance the viewing experience. With the Quantel Pablo system as the centerpiece of our DI and 3D workflow, we believe we can achieve both.

Dennis Ho is president and founder of Digital Jungle Post Production in Los Angeles.

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