Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Transforming the Blockbuster Workflow with a Total Avid HD Video, Audio, and Networking Solution
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is one of summer’s guilty pleasures. The follow-up to director Michael Bay’s 2007 blockbuster Transformers, the film has everything that audiences crave in their warm-weather entertainment. “What’s not to love?” says associate editor Calvin Wimmer. “There are giant robots, action, and it’s funny. I just saw the IMAX version. Having that 50-foot screen filled with robots was absolutely amazing.”
As many as five editors Roger Barton, Tom Muldoon, Joel Negron, Paul Rubell, and Wimmer worked for more than a year in post, developing the film’s multiple storylines, numerous visual and sound effects, and non-stop action-adventure. A tapeless HD workflow enabled them to easily share footage and cuts in progress, while handling sophisticated composites and sound effects with clarity and precision.
Each editor dove in and worked on his own scenes, as well as those of others. “I think we've all had a hand in almost every scene in the movie,” says Barton. “It’s really a function of how Michael likes to work. He likes to have different perspectives on the material. You definitely need to check your ego at the door because a scene you may have cut today may be worked on by someone else tomorrow. It’s an interesting way of working. In the end I think the movie is better for it.”
One of their goals was to produce the most fully realized cuts for review and screening at any point in the post process to achieve the director’s vision. “Michael Bay expects everything to be polished in a cut, particularly the soundtrack,” says Wimmer. “You got to have your ‘A’ game and bring it every day to everything you do.”
The Latest Technology Brings It Home
The editing team used nine Avid Media Composer Nitris DX systems in three buildings at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Bay Films. “With a project of this scale, I can’t imagine trying to do it without Media Composer,” says Barton. The systems were all connected to an Avid Unity MediaNetwork shared-storage solution, using an underground fiber optic network that linked the systems in different buildings.
“It’s a dream, having access to the whole movie wherever you are,” says Wimmer about the Avid Unity network, which was equipped with 16 terabytes of shared storage. “For Michael to be able to move from room to room to work with each editor and have the same material in each bay makes it a really easy workflow for him. He expects [the editing process] to be fast, accurate, and trouble-free. He’s a busy man. He can’t be waiting on renders or crashes.”
I don’t know anyone doing $200 million dollar movies who is not cutting on a Media Composer system
“He had the whole movie with him as he traveled around the world,” says Barton. “He could take material from just a few days earlier and create a simple selects roll, which was invaluable to us. He could watch the scenes in the very same timeline we have here and provide specific feedback. Working this way, he could communicate so much more than ‘I like this shot’ he could tell us, ‘This moment in the movie is important to me.’ So we could incorporate that material and feedback into the work we were doing, and it helped us all progress so much more quickly. We could make changes and then have it back to him within hours.”
Bay and the editors cut in HD for the first time on this film, which was shot in Super 35 and edited with Media Composer software using the Avid DNxHD 36 format. The storage-efficient HD format enabled the editors to work with richly detailed HD images with the same speed and ease as SD ? even when working with complex, multi-layered composites. Creatively, it helped them give great attention to the smallest detail, such as the expression in a character’s eyes or the most exacting sound sync.
The clarity offered by Avid DNxHD 36 images was so good that the format was used to exchange files with the visual effects houses to streamline the review and approval process. “We could finish a transmission with [the visual effects house] and within an hour we would have all of the shots we had reviewed with them right back here in [Avid] DNxHD 36, cutting them into the Media Composer [system],” says Wimmer. “That is what Michael expects. If he sees it, he wants it in the film right away. So speed is something that is really critical to us.”
Multiple theater screenings were also projected in the Avid DNxHD 36 format by simply outputting a cut to a laptop and taking it to a screening room. This process offered significant time-savings when compared with the screening process for the original Transformers, which was cut in SD and conformed in HD prior to each screening. “Working in hi-def allows us to get to the screening room so much more quickly than we used to,” says Barton. “We can now choose to screen the movie on a moment’s notice.”
Another time-saver was the easy interoperability between the Avid video editing systems and Digidesign Pro Tools|HD systems used by the sound team for virtually all of the audio processes from sound editing and sound design to ADR and mixing. Fast digital file exchanges enabled the sound team to quickly create 5.1 surround mixes for screenings to further support the creative review process.
Michael Bay expects everything to be polished in a cut, particularly the soundtrack. You got to have your ‘A’ game and bring it every day to everything you do
Winning the Good Fight
The total Avid video, audio, and shared storage workflow was a workhorse throughout the film’s development, handling everything from previsualization of animatics to delivery of final versions for IMAX, international, and domestic release.
“There are a lot of challenges when you are cutting a story that involves 40-foot robots, and you've got miles of footage. We needed tools to help us organize this footage and cut it efficiently,” says Barton, who believes that the media management and reliability associated with the Avid workflow are second to none. “I don’t know anyone doing $200 million dollar movies who is not cutting on a Media Composer system. At this level, where there’s so much at stake, everyone uses it.”
Create a tapeless HD workflow capable of handling an effects-heavy Hollywood film with speed and ease
Use nine Avid Media Composer Nitris DX systems with an Avid Unity shared-storage system for flexible sharing of all projects and Avid DNxHD 36 media.
Use Avid Digidesign Pro Tools|HD digital audio workstations for virtually all audio processes.
The WorkflowCamera: Arri and Panavision Super 35; IMAX
Offline: Avid DNxHD 36
Screening: Avid DNxHD 36
Mastering: Digital intermediate to 35mm, 70 mm, and digital cinema