Guerillas in NYC
Late last year I had the pleasure of producing a short film for Sony to promote the launch of their VENICE 2 CineAlta camera. We shot it guerilla-style, using only available light, at locations in New York City. The cinematographer was a good friend, Gonzalo Amat, ASC, who I’ve worked with for many years on various projects. Gonzalo knows exactly what he likes and has the experience and talent to communicate his visions through the camera. He would be the first to tell you that if you really want to make something look and sound amazing, it takes a lot of people and a lot of teamwork to make it happen.
Porto’s seals the deal
As the producer I needed to hire a post house for the film’s finishing work. I’m based in Southern California and wanted to use a local facility. Having spent 15 years working in a large post house, I wanted to see how a smaller shop would approach the project, so I reached out to Jason Kavner, senior vice president of episodic post production at Point.360 in Burbank.
With just over 100 employees, Point.360 is considered a smaller post house in this area. I went in for a meet and greet and tour of the facility, and I was thoroughly impressed. Not only did it have best-of-breed video post workflows, but it was also just a few blocks away from my favorite Cuban bakery, Porto’s. If you think I select my finishing locations based on proximity to restaurants, you wouldn’t be too far off.
I was taken into one of Point.360’s color suites and waiting for me was a selection of Porto’s pastries and finger foods. Oh, and two insanely talented colorists I have known for years! I stuffed a potato ball in my mouth and gave big hugs to Charlie Tucker and Patrick Woodard. We had a great time catching up and, after about an hour, three potato balls, one cheese roll, and some plantain chips, I knew this was the place for my project. Truth be told, I actually knew this before I walked in the door, but Porto’s sealed the deal. Patrick had an opening in his schedule and agreed to be our colorist.
Taking a spin around Point.360
This was actually my second time at Point.360. I must admit that I always thought of the facility as a quality assurance and deliverable creation house. It was only a few years ago that I realized just how much finishing work they do and how efficiently they do it. Jason shared details with me about each department, including the software and hardware they use.
I was curious to learn more about their finishing workflows, specifically in editorial, so I asked Jason if he could tell me about their conform process and talk to me about their edit bays and how they use Avid Media Composer. Jason looked at me as he let out a small laugh and said, “Pfft, we don’t use that here. We do use Pro Tools, though.”
That wasn’t quite the answer I expected. Of course, I asked him why and he gave me a detailed account of the reasons they prefer other platforms to edit. As a recent hire at Avid I cut the tour short, thanked him for his time – and for the Porto’s – and told him I’d be taking my project elsewhere. No, not really. I’m not “that guy.”
A 360 on Avid workflows
Working on the Sony Project at Point.360 was a big success, and a few weeks after we delivered it I called Jason to let him know I’d be writing about the fantastic experience I’d had. I also asked if I could interview him and his team about why they prefer other systems over Avid Media Composer for their workflows. His response surprised me once again. “Actually, we use Avid a lot more than I thought,” he said. We spent another 30 minutes discussing all the departments at Point.360 that use Media Composer. Turns out they use it for everything from creating dailies bins to turnover to their clients, file creation for deliverables, and online editing.
When I stopped by Point.360 to speak with Jason and his team, Jason told me about a documentary his team was currently working on. They had footage from various sources, in different resolutions, camera codecs, color spaces, and frame rates. The offline editor had used Media Composer to cut it but Point.360 was going to use a different platform for the online. After many hours of trying to translate the editor’s work and eye-matching some shots and effects, the facility gave it a try in Media Composer. “Somehow it just worked,” Jason said.
He went on to tell me that there are projects colorists prefer to have assembled in the same application they’re going to use for grading. “It’s pretty efficient for simple projects, until it’s not. Those apps started off as color-only and added editorial functions later,” he said. The systems he was referring to are not important to name, but I can tell you that they’re fairly standard grading applications.
Point.360 has a diverse group of clients who work on everything from animated sitcoms to theatrical releases. As Jason shared the various workflows employed at the facility, a common thread became apparent — all of the client turnovers begin with a bin from Media Composer. “Our turnover specs are simple if a client is cutting on Avid,” said Jason. “All we need to begin our work is a bin and a picture reference.”
Dailies processing and delivery is also on the menu of services at Point.360. “The process is so smooth here if we handle projects from dailies to delivery,” director of technical operations Ryan Orr told me. He went on to explain that they use industry-standard solutions to create dailies media for their clients, as well as to ensure the metadata is well preserved in various columns of the bin. “The more metadata we can preserve, the easier it is to work with later in finishing,” he commented.
Clients want to be comfortable
Point.360 utilizes various workflows for finishing. Jason explained that some clients are simply more comfortable using applications they’re already familiar with rather than trying something new to them. He also told me that some of Point.360’s talent feels the same way. There’s a catch, though. For example, a colorist may use DaVinci Resolve to grade a project that was assembled on Media Composer. The colorist might be completely happy with 95% of this workflow, but perhaps desires greater control over some effects and transitions so they ask the editor to split out (i.e., provide the A and B side of a transition) at the end of a turnover sequence. Or they have the editor or color assistant build their Resolve timeline with split effects in context. In my experience this is probably the most common way that episodic programs are assembled today.
Jason went on to explain that “some colorists want to work clip-based.” This approach doesn’t always mean they want to work off the source camera files, though. Working “clip-based” and working from original camera files (OCF) are two very different things, but Point.360 can support their colorist and their client’s needs in either workflow.
Something else Jason mentioned is that some colorists prefer to have their timeline prepped by an editorial system other than Media Composer. Editors and colorists have been debating the merits of DPX frames from different systems for years, much of the discussion rooted in the difference between theatrical finishing (DI) and broadcast or episodic finishing. But the lines between theatrical and episodic vanished years ago. It’s my humble opinion that episodic finishing is basically a DI per week. The process is almost exactly the same, but the time to deliver is much different in most cases. At the end of the day, files turned over by Media Composer to the colorist are exactly the same as the files turned over by other applications, whether they’re DPX or even Apple ProRes.
Back for seconds
I enjoyed working with Point.360 so much that I later brought another project to them. This time it was start-to-finish, from dailies to Dolby Vision™. I’m hoping to share more about this in a future blog or webinar.
I'm always impressed by the ways facilities of all sizes support their clients. Point.360 is a small facility with huge talent that makes you feel at home. I can live with them not being 100% Avid-centric; they use Avid throughout their facility as both the star of the show and the supporting actor. Avid allows Point.360 to provide its clients with solutions that make sense and keep them on time and on budget. The facility has tightly integrated all of its departments to enable collaboration. Talent (both on-prem and remote) can access media from Avid NEXIS storage in dailies, edit, color, and mixing stages so that work never has to slow down.
Next time you’re looking for a facility with best-of-breed video post workflows, do yourself a favor and consider Point.360. I’ll bet you lunch at Porto’s that they’ll take great care of you and your project.
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