Visual Effects Editing on Quantum
Crashing Through the Glass Ceiling of Visual Effects Editing.
Some action-based thrillers are more memorable than others, and James Bond films are usually at the top of the heap. Quantum of Solace looks to be no exception with its sensational car chase sequences and death-defying airplane pursuits, not to mention human bodies falling off bell towers, crashing through glass ceilings, and bouncing off scaffolding. And that’s just for starters.
Despite the fantastical nature of these scenes, director Marc Forster wanted them to feel “absolutely real,” says visual effects editor Derek Burgess. So an enormous amount of visual effects work went into handling everything from wire removal to greenscreen composites to CG characters created via motion capture.
This attention to detail is evidenced in one awe-inspiring sequence that involved two characters falling out of an airplane. Burgess explains, “That sequence was shot at a body flight center with these massive big fans [to simulate a free-fall through the air]. It gave a really realistic look to the scene. We not only had challenges associated with filming in that location; we also had the difficulty of the actors keeping their balance. Both Olga [Kurylenko] and Daniel [Craig] spent a lot of time rehearsing beforehand. We had nine Dalsa cameras going at once to capture body moves for CG characters and one Arri camera for close-ups. There were also seven Sony F900 cameras running as additional reference.”
Five effects houses and a small internal team supplied the 942 visual effects shots for the film, which was shot on multiple continents. “We were busy from the get-go,” says Burgess, who worked for 10 months on Quantum of Solace. “Normally you have some sort of ramp-up period, but this was full-on from the start.”
MetaFuze really has changed the way I work.
MetaFuze Streamlines the Effects Workflow
While the amount and complexity of the visual effects work was staggering, the effects editing process was relatively streamlined. Burgess worked alongside picture editors Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson, using an Avid editing and shared-storage solution capable of handling all aspects of effects editing from importing effects files to compositing greenscreen sequences to adding real-time 3D, tracking, and color correction in HD. With his Media Composer system connected to the Avid Unity MediaNetwork shared-storage network, Burgess could also share all media and project data with the editing team instantaneously.
However, this encompassed just part of his media-sharing responsibilities. He also tracked all of the visual effects files coming in and out of the effects houses. Typically, he’d create a database to track all the metadata associated with individual effects shots. Instead he used Avid’s new MetaFuze tool, which enables users to import single-frame DPX files complete with metadata into Avid DNxHD media. These files were imported straight into the Avid timeline and seamlessly integrated with other Avid DNxHD 36 material used to cut the film. He estimates that the MetaFuze feature probably saved him an hour or two a day of administrative work.
“MetaFuze really has changed the way I work,” says Burgess, who asked all of the effects houses to deliver DPX files. “Before it was a clumsy way of working, getting JPEGs of every frame and then importing them into the Avid [system] and syncing them up. With MetaFuze, I had all the metadata [with the camera info] imported right along with the images. Because the metadata is embedded, we simply create EDLs for the DI conform, eliminating the need for manual lists that reflect the visual effects changes.”
The quality of the DPX files is also superior to the QuickTime files that he had been using as a reference in the cuts. “Using DPX files from 2K scans makes it so much easier to see clear images and spot errors early in the process,” he says. “This is so important because the producers, the director of photography, and the director were constantly reviewing cuts in progress. It was important for them to see top-quality cuts so they knew what they were getting. It made for a very smooth workflow and no surprises. We were able to accomplish a lot of work in a relatively short timeframe,” he says.
Using DPX files from 2K scans makes it so much easier to see clear images and spot errors early in the process.
Burgess also used the built-in color correction tools of the Media Composer software to touch up the ungraded DPX files, creating temp comps that blended naturally with the footage, so the effects wouldn’t stand out. He cites this as another advantage over using QuickTime files, which often have wide color variations that can be distracting.
Burgess relies heavily on other Media Composer software features as well, including the AniMatte compositing feature, the updated tracking software, the 3D Tool, and Time Warp ? all of which work beautifully with the clear, crisp Avid DNxHD 36 images.
Working in HD is fantastic quality,” he says about the industry trend. “It doesn’t hide a thing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
CREDITS: Quantum of Solace © 2008 Danjaq, LLC, United Artists Corporation, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
More Quantum of Solace
Use a flexible, professional editing setup that could efficiently handle large amounts of footage and sophisticated, effects-heavy sequences to meet a tight post schedule.
Present polished, complete cuts to the director, producers, and marketing staff throughout the post process to eliminate guesswork.
Use 10 Media Composer desktop systems connected to two Avid Unity MediaNetwork shared-storage systems, enabling multiple editors, assistants, and marketing personnel to easily exchange media.
Use the Avid DNxHD 36 codec to deliver top-quality HD images with speed and storage efficiency throughout the editing process.
Use laptop systems equipped with Media Composer software to provide the flexibility to handle cutting tasks in hotel rooms or on the road.
Offline: Avid DNxHD 36
Screening: Partial digital intermediate with Avid DNxHD 36
Mastering: Digital intermediate to 35mm