Avid Video, Audio and 3D Animation Customers Deliver Highest-Grossing Summer Blockbuster Movies for 2008
Tewksbury, Mass, 2008-09-12 Generating a combined revenue of more than $3.68 billion at the U.S. box office, the top 28 highest-grossing movies this summer were created by customers of Avid Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVID) using systems from at least one Avid® brand. From The Dark Knight – the second film in history to top the half-billion dollar mark – to The House Bunny, the majority of these films deployed workflows consisting of multiple Avid systems. Among the systems customers used were Avid® Media Composer® systems, Avid DNxHD® 36 codec or Avid Unity™ MediaNetwork for video editing and shared storage; Digidesign® Pro Tools® for editing and mixing sound; Sibelius® 5 for music composition and scoring; and Softimage®|XSI® for 3D animation, 3D design and visual effects.
”Our customers continue to thrill and entertain audiences around the world by using our integrated media tools in their creative process,” says Gary Greenfield, CEO of Avid. “Just as our customers achieve industry-defining success by leveraging the strength of each of our brands, Avid is committed to delivering the open and flexible solutions that will help our customers harness their creative talents and bring their dreams to reality today and in the future.”
To create The Dark Knight, the latest film in the Batman franchise, the team led by Lee Smith, A.C.E., used an Avid editing and Avid Unity shared-storage workflow to balance action-packed visual effects sequences with a dark and contemplative tone. Adding to the complexity of the project, the team was charged with creating an IMAX version in addition to the conventional film release. Originally the team ran 16 video tracks for different elements; however, that process soon became unwieldy trying to manage the content for two versions of the film. So, a color-coding scheme was developed on a single Avid timeline that helped create both an IMAX and a conventional theatrical release simultaneously. “When we could simply select the two vision tracks and go back and forth between the two, it made the entire process incredibly seamless,” says Smith.
For composer Hans Zimmer, creating the score for The Dark Knight involved a degree of complexity exceeding any of his previous projects. With literally stacks of proprietary sample playback machines delivering hundreds of outputs, the demands of multi-track recording could only be entrusted to Pro Tools|HD®. “Ultimately, the final project ended up containing well over 1,000 tracks, which is an organizational challenge in itself,” says Zimmer’s Technical Score Engineer, Peter “Oso” Snell. “We used five Pro Tools rigs for playback, and a sixth for capture. Pro Tools gives us the ability to stream and mix a tremendous number of tracks, using a range of TDM plug-ins. We depend on Pro Tools [hardware] as a rock-solid platform – when we hit play, we know it will work.”
For the live-action, CG-heavy feature, The Incredible Hulk, four editors worked with six companies employed to handle 667 visual effects shots, 400 of which included CG characters. In addition, the creature design of Hulk and his nemesis, the Abomination, were both created using SOFTIMAGE|XSI software; and the sound for the film was mixed using Pro Tools hardware.
To handle the complex project of editing the film, nine Avid Media Composer Adrenaline™ systems connected to an Avid Unity MediaNetwork with 17 terabytes of shared storage enabled the four editors and a team of assistants to simultaneously access media and flexibly share projects on the fly. Shot on 35mm, anamorphic film, the filmmakers chose to edit in HD, using the Avid DNxHD 36 compression format to allow the creative team to view the most visually rich images during offline post, while taking advantage of a streamlined and storage-efficient editing environment.
The use of HD material also helped streamline the screening process, whether previewing dailies or the complete film. For example, during production in Toronto, the editing team created a selects reel in the Avid DNxHD 36 format and delivered it on a FireWire drive to a facility that had its own Avid setup connected to a large monitor for viewing dailies. “It made it so easy to get a good sense of all the material and be able to discuss it right away,” says Rick Shaine, one of the editors, who had never edited in HD before. “We were able to capture and work with the full extent of the image all along the way. So every monstrous pore, every twitching muscle, every textured lock of hair could be seen just as the filmmakers intended. It was a giant filmmaking task, fit for a super-hero.”
For the stereoscopic 3D film, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Quebec’s Hybride, one of the companies at the forefront of stereoscopic 3D, used SOFTIMAGE|XSI to create a range of objects in the film, such as a dinosaur skull, giant carnivorous plants and a flock of magical glowbirds. They also created several virtual environments, including a chamber of diamonds, a volcano and a thermal river. In all, a team of 80 people at Hybride spent more than 15 months creating 234 scenes in stereoscopic 3D for this film.
“One of the things that always helps make our job easier is SOFTIMAGE|XSI software,” says Philippe Theroux, Lead 3D Supervisor at Hybride. “SOFTIMAGE|XSI is the heart of Hybride’s pipeline. Everything revolves around it. Every aspect of our process is done around XSI, and we have to ensure that all our software is compatible with it.” The team at Hybride uses XSI for everything from modeling to texturing and rendering. And, of course, they use it extensively for animation. “All of the tools we have for animation in SOFTIMAGE|XSI are extremely helpful. In particular for this film, we were able to create rigs that were light and easy to work with for our animators and this was really great for these complex scenes,” adds Theroux.
Hancock, starring Will Smith, was edited on Avid systems, scored by legendary film composer John Powell and his orchestral team using Sibelius software, and mixed in Pro Tools. “Some of the features of Sibelius 5 that I find most useful and time-saving are the filter functions and the ability to change the appearance of rhythmic groupings in MIDI files,” says lead orchestrator John Ashton Thomas. “I use Sibelius for all my work as a film score orchestrator, and in all the work I do on my own music.” In addition to Hancock, Powell and his team used Sibelius to score a number of successful films, including Kung Fu Panda, Horton Hears a Who, The Bourne Ultimatum, X-Men: The Last Stand, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Happy Feet, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Italian Job, Agent Cody Banks, and Shrek.
About Avid Technology, Inc.
Avid is a worldwide leader in tools for film, video, audio, 3D animation, gaming and broadcast professionals – as well as for home audio and video enthusiasts. Avid professional and consumer brands include Avid, Digidesign, M-Audio®, Pinnacle Systems®, Sibelius, Softimage and Sundance Digital®. The vast majority of primetime television shows, feature films, commercials and chart-topping music hits are made using one or more Avid products. Whether used by seasoned professionals or beginning students, Avid’s products and services enable customers to work more efficiently, productively and creatively. Avid received an Oscar® statuette representing the 1998 Scientific and Technical Award for the concept, design, and engineering of the Avid® Film Composer® system for motion picture editing. For more information about the company’s Oscar, Grammy® and Emmy® award-winning products and services, visit www.avid.com.
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© 2008 Avid Technology, Inc. All rights reserved. Avid, Digidesign, Film Composer, M-Audio, Pinnacle Systems, Sibelius, Softimage, Sundance Digital, Adrenaline, Avid Unity, Avid DNxHD, Media Composer, Pro Tools, Pro Tools|HD and XSI are trademarks or registered trademarks of Avid Technology, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States and/or other countries. Emmy is a registered trademark of ATAS/NATAS. Oscar and Academy Awards are trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Grammy is a trademark of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Inc. All other trademarks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.