“Mistika was the perfect grading and finishing tool for this movie.”
Antonio Zhang, Mistika Colorist, PO Group, China
PO Group graded and finished American Dreams in China on Mistika. Produced and directed by Hong Kong’s Peter Chan, the Mandarin-language film brought in US$87.6 million at the box office.
PO Group purchased from SGO, a Mistika 4K Colour Grading and Finishing System, a Mistika Assist Station and an SGO SAN to support their Stereo 3D and high end Colour Grading services for film and commercials projects a few years ago. Founded in 2003 by famous entrepreneur and actor, Nicholas Tse, PO Group is the largest post production house in Hong Kong, which grosses over one billion Hong Kong dollars annually, with branches in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing.
American Dreams in China is Peter Chan’s first digital camera shoot where he filmed the entire movie using ARRI Alexa and recorded it on Codex. His strong affection for the filmic look set the tone and brief for PO Group’s colorist Antonio Zhang to work with, selecting Mistika for the grading and finishing of the entire movie.
Antonio Zhang, Mistika Colorist at PO Group, explains the colour grading process, “I chose the ARRI Log C as the default debayer and applied a FPE (Film Print Emulation) 3D LUT on top of all of the shots to mimic the “filmic look” that Peter Chan was after. Also, my aim was to preserve the highlighted elements and enhance them further by revealing even greater details where possible.”
The film is based on a true story about three friends who graduated from Peking University and go on to build a successful English language school in China called “New Dreams”. This school helps to make the dreams of Chinese teenagers come true. As the film covers a time-span of over 3o years which involved various scenes flicking backwards and forwards into the present and past, the PO Group team combated this challenge by setting the looks for each time period. The first part covers the time the three friends study in Peking university and the second focuses on them building the language school, followed by their success in the stock market.
Antonio outlines how he achieved the various looks and tones for each decade in the film, “For the first look, we tried to make the colours more vivid to depict university life and the passion for the characters’ start-up days. We used an old 1980’s Chinese magazine as a reference and made the grade look really old but colourful.” He adds further, “The second look had to be really cool, professional and business-like, and due to the fact the characters had a lot of arguments, the cool tone helps to portray that antagonistic atmosphere effectively.”
While the 4K Mistika system forms PO Group in Beijing’s principal system, the Mistika assistant station is a fully capable file-based Mistika system in its own right, which allows the studio to increase efficiency and throughput, by having an assistant to the main colorist to prepare projects in advance, or to work alongside to ensure the smooth running of even the most complex projects. The SGO SAN not only allows the two Mistika’s to share project assets, but also allows the media sharing to extend to all other technical facilities at PO. Projects of various formats occupy the facility’s pipeline from 2K to 4K, and S3D to higher frame rates. With the SGO Mistika and SGO SAN, PO Group have built a very efficient pipeline.
“Mistika was the perfect grading and finishing tool for this movie.” Antonio expands, “It has a strong editing function, and we were also able to achieve both the conform and grading in Mistika. This really created a smooth and effective workflow, as I could grade from the original ARRI RAW Raw file and easily change the debayer for individual shots which was so convenient.” He concludes, “Flexibility is really important to us here at PO Group, especially as we face a lot of different digital camera formats, however Mistika’s compatibility with various camera formats is a great advantage and provides an excellent high-end service for us throughout the entire post production process.”
General Manager of PO Group in Beijing, K.C. Yeung states, “Mistika forms the core of our DI suites and its speed and performance is phenomenal. The comprehensive toolset allows for tasks to be completed in one suite which provides an interactive and immediate environment in real-time for client-facing work.”
CEO of SGO, Miguel Angel Doncel affirms, “PO Group is one of China’s major post production companies and SGO is proud to be associated with them and continues to support the company in meeting the growing and complex demands that feature film productions involve. PO Group have raised the bar for what clients should expect in terms of quality, speed and efficiency.”
American Dreams in China features Huang Xiaoming, Deng Chao, and Tong Dawei, and was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Find out more about the film here.
ABOUT PO GROUP
Juan Ignacio Cabrera leads the way with Mistika
“With SGO’s Mistika the process is organic and fast. It allows me to work at the speed of thought and take the footage to incredible places.”
Timothy A Burton, Cinematographer
“It has been an eye-opening experience with what can be accomplished with color software.”
Amy Kim, Co-Executive Producer, Lifeboat Productions
“Chosen was only my second project working with the SGO Mistika System, but I can already say that I plan to use nothing else going forward. As a filmmaker working in Hollywood for almost ten years, I’ve had projects colored on almost every color platform, and I can confidently say that Mistika blows them all away.”
Ben Ketai, “Chosen” Series Creator, Writer and Director
“Personally, I think it would be great if people knew that Mistika is capable of so much more than just 3D. I think everybody knows now that Mistika has unbeatable S3D toolsets but not that many consider it as a heavy-weight option in other fields like grading…and they seriously should.”
Juan I Cabrera, Colorist & Mistika Specialist
25 July 2014, Hollywood – Inspiring Los Angeles-based Juan Ignacio Cabrera recently handled the post production for the second and third seasons of Chosen, the most successful show on Sony’s Crackle TV network. Leading colorist Juan Ignacio Cabrera graded the series on a Mistika 4K system from SGO.
Juan I. Cabrera moved from his native country Spain, where he owned a successful post company Film Bakers and relocated to Los Angeles in 2011, bringing his grading expertise along with him. He is currently one of the most experienced SGO Mistika operators living in the U.S. With over 10 years of Mistika experience behind him, Juan has worked on world-class 2D and 3D projects using SGO’s technology, that span across both broadcast and cinema including titles such as Transformers: Age of Extinction, Star Trek Into Darkness, Beneath, The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus, The Last Circus and many others listed here http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3043942/
Crackle is a multi-platform video-entertainment network and a unit of Sony Pictures Television with a global audience of 43 million viewers. It features movies, television shows and produces original content made for the Internet. Crackle partnered with Xbox Live, making its content available for Xbox 360, and also streams across PS3, Roku boxes, Sony Blu-ray players and Bravia TVs, including APPS for iOS, Android, Blackberry 10 and Apple TV.
The 2D Chosen TV drama was captured on ARRI’s Alexa and RED Epic cameras, some using HDR functionality for extended contrast and dynamic range. The advanced color features in Mistika gave Juan huge creative options.
The show’s creator, writer and director, Ben Ketai states, “Chosen was only my second project working with the SGO Mistika System, but I can already say that I plan to use nothing else going forward. As a filmmaker working in Hollywood for almost ten years, I’ve had projects colored on almost every color platform, and I can confidently say that Mistika blows them all away. Its flexibility and interface offer a swifter workflow, allowing for ample creative exploration without wasting precious time.”
As episodes were completed, they were uploaded from Mistika which allowed the producer, director and DoP to view content on calibrated Sony monitors. They returned their feedback, which could be extracted directly into Mistika, and finalize the look to deliver the files promptly. The process was collaborative maximizing on Mistika’s innovating toolset, which enabled Juan and his team to fulfil the creative needs of his clients at Sony.
Co-Executive producer at Lifeboat Productions Amy Kim notes, “During the second season of Chosen, Lifeboat Productions was introduced to Mistika, and we immediately changed our platform over for all other projects going forward. It has been an eye-opening experience with what can be accomplished with color software.”
The overall look of the series gives a tense, dangerous and edgy mood reflecting the dark and violent storyline. The grade is not overly saturated and keeps a consistent hue, keeping in line with the director’s vision for the show. “Mistika provides me with an excellent palette of incredible grading features for the highest spec image quality.” confirms Juan.
Cinematographer Timothy A. Burton expands on the grading process, “For me color grading is the final stage of the Cinematography process and I like to be as involved as possible. Especially on a show as stylized as Chosen. But it can become a frustrating experience when you have to deal with limited tools to achieve your vision. With SGO’s Mistika the process is organic and fast. It allows me to work at the speed of thought and take the footage to incredible places. It doesn’t matter if the shot needs 10 different masks, blurs, sharpens, glows, stabilization, or covering something that shouldn’t be in the shot. With Mistika it all happens in real-time allowing me to spend more time working with my footage instead of fighting with limitations.”
Juan continues in further detail, “I love it when a color grading session becomes a creative brainstorm between the cinematographer, director and colorist. And that’s what Chosen was. Tim and Ben wanted for this second season to be a huge leap forward in quality, so we created a new color language from what they had on Season 1. Working with Alexa and Epic and following a feature-like process allowed us to create wonderful imagery that boosted an already powerful story. With Mistika’s powerful conform tools we were able to minimize conform times to a minimum, to the point of being able to grade a couple of hours after a cut had been locked. The whole process was incredibly fast and seamless, even when we had to deliver both HD and UHDTV masters. As for the outputs, we delivered in ProResHQ files and back-to-back DCP for the première. All of these files were rendered directly from Mistika without any intermediate conversion required.”
Working on a high profile series for television brings its own unique challenges in grading that are different to cinema projects. Fortunately, Juan has immense experience in both areas and he adds, “I find that with TV there is less time to perfect the footage for the the grade, but Mistika gives me that additional confidence with its immense NVIDIA processing power which helps me to accelerate the process at literally lightning speeds.”
Juan’s closing comments, “Personally, I think it would be great if people knew that Mistika is capable of so much more than just 3D. I think everybody knows now that Mistika has unbeatable S3D toolsets but not that many consider it as a heavy-weight option in other fields like grading…and they seriously should.”
Juan’s website includes this quote which exudes his passion and sums it up, “SGO’s Mistika is the most advanced system in the world to deal with projects of all sizes and resolutions from start to finish, and is available right now for services at Santa Monica. Come and check it out. You will be blown away, I promise!”
You can visit Juan’s website showcasing some of his work here http://jicabrera.com
Other Hollywood blockbuster projects Juan has and is currently working on include the science fiction feature Deep Burial, the TV series Sequestered, both with Lifeboat Productions, as well as several feature projects with Bad Robot.
MORE ABOUT CHOSEN
Chosen cast members include Rose McGowan, alongside returning cast members Chad Michael Murray, Sarah Roemer, Brandon Routh and Caitlin Carmichael. Season two of Chosen revolved around the Mitchell family and Jacob Orr, all of whom became involved in a deadly game after receiving boxes carrying instructions to kill. In the new season, Jacob (Murray) attempts to rescue Ellie (Carmichael) from the game. This puts him in an awkward position with Josie (McGowan), who is a deadly hunter.
Chosen is now also available to rent on RedBox.
“Mistika was the only viable choice. SGO’s technology offered a coherent all-in-one piece of kit with fast turnaround of the kind of high quality stereo finishing that was required on every shot of the show.
Mistika gave us the power to achieve advanced stereo refinements that just weren’t an option on any other system.
Mistika’s advanced stereo toolset proved so capable that we actually ended up downgrading a number of challenging shots out of VFX and into the Mistika where we could make improvements more quickly, saving time and allowing us to keep the VFX budget down.”
David Wigram, Stereo 3D Consultant, Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Episode
Mistika’s involvement included the conform, online and stereo 3D finishing work. Every frame of the iconic Doctor Who show went through Mistika, prior to the delivery of both the 2D and Stereoscopic 3D versions.
DOCTOR WHO ONE-OFF SPECIAL MAKES GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS
Part of British popular culture, Doctor Who has influenced generations of television professionals, many of whom grew up watching the series. Starring Matt Smith, David Tennant and Jenna Coleman with Billie Piper and John Hurt, the 75 minute BBC Cymru Wales produced anniversary episode was seen on BBC One and was also broadcast on three BBC channels and shown in cinemas across the country, and top of the box-office draw of the night. The one-off special was the most requested programme ever on BBC iPlayer in 24 hours with 1.27 million requests, beating the Olympic opening ceremony, and is also the most tweeted drama ever.
The programme is listed in the Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, the “most successful” science fiction series of all time and now for the largest ever simulcast of a TV drama with its 50th anniversary special, airing in 94 countries and also shown in 834 cinemas around the world.
DOCTOR WHO IS WORLD’S FIRST MAJOR TV DRAMA FILMED IN NATIVE STEREO 3D
The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary episode was the world’s first major television drama to be filmed in native Stereo 3D (S3D) providing a natural and vivid experience for the viewer. Steven Moffat and the Doctor Who producers wanted to give audiences a memorable experience for the show’s 50th birthday, by choosing to bring their ambitious story to life in the immersive S3D genre for maximum impact.
THE VFX TEAM DELIVERED GROUND-BREAKING RESULTS
Following the enthusiastic lead of Producer Marcus Wilson, the Doctor Who team broke new ground both in terms of affordability, and in freeing the director from limitations normally associated with 3D. The team which included Lead Stereographer Adam Sculthorp and Stereo 3D Consultant David Wigram successfully delivered an excellent 3D programme that can be appreciated on the big screen as well as at home on TV.
David Wigram emphasises Mistika’s reliable capabilities from the outset, “During the testing phase, it was determined that one of the VFX teams had a gamma inconsistency somewhere in their pipeline when working directly with the ARRI ALEXA camera originals, so we used Mistika to take everything into high bit-depth DPX so that they were successfully able to round-trip without error.”
FILMING – MISTIKA’S OPTICAL FLOW CREATED A COMFORTABLE VIEWING EXPERIENCE
Director Nick Hurran and Steven Moffat, filmed the feature-length project in S3D. “The show was originated at 1080p 25 on the Alexa, with some high speed sequences shot at 4K on RED Epics.” Adam confirmed. Director of Photography Neville Kidd tested various combinations of lenses before selecting ARRI Ultra Primes. Consistency was maintained with the regular Doctor Who production, which was always filmed using ARRI’s cameras, choosing the AlexaM light weight hand-held camera for this episode.
David explains further, “The tools driven by optical flow in Mistika also helped us out of a particularly tricky issue with a rolling shutter that caused very slight temporal artefacts. It occurred at the camera stage and fortunately was noted fairly early on in the shoot, and Mistika came to the rescue of solving a large number of non-traditional stereo refinements. In other situations these would have been upgraded to full VFX shots, but the optical flow tools in Mistika clamped down on the eye-to-eye differences with just a couple of simple clicks, and left us with a comfortable viewing experience.”
MISTIKA’S STEREO FINISHING TOOLS SET EACH SHOT IN S3D SPACE
Supported by long-standing Post Supervisor Nerys Davies, David Wigram set up a picture workflow that allowed each VFX supplier to keep their internal data-flow the same. Unlike 2D productions, every shot in S3D needed to go through a special online Stereo 3D finishing process to make sure it was comfortable to view, before the creative depth-grade which sets each shot in S3D space. The industry-leading Mistika was used for the conform, online and Stereo 3D “fixes” in post giving complete control over the stereo image and was achieved by David using the Mistika suite based at The Look in London’s Soho.
CEO and award-winning Colourist at The Look, Thomas Urbye states “We were thrilled to provide our Mistika based Stereoscopic facilities for consultant David Wigram to use for such an important and well loved show.”
David Wigram expands “When creating a picture workflow we looked at other options for the stereo finishing stage, including combinations of different manufacturer’s offerings, but Mistika was the only viable choice.” David continued “SGO’s technology offered a coherent all-in-one piece of kit with fast turnaround of the kind of high quality stereo finishing that was required on every shot of the show. Over and above that, Mistika gave us the power to achieve advanced stereo refinements that just weren’t an option on any other system.”
David added further “Mistika’s advanced stereo toolset proved so capable that we actually ended up downgrading a number of challenging shots out of VFX and into the Mistika where we could make improvements more quickly, saving time and allowing us to keep the VFX budget down.”
S3D AND SPECIAL EFFECTS
Special effects can prove challenging with S3D productions and David Wigram also provided assistance and feedback throughout the VFX process, from shot design to compositing in Mistika, making sure the 3D was the best it could be. Director Nick Hurran tested with Real SFX to get the right combination of explosives and shooting style to get the most out of the 3D. Millennium FX adjusted their creature effects and prosthetics to minimise issues associated with stereoscopic shiny surfaces. The visual effects were spread across a number of companies, with Jellyfish working on the hero Zygon transformation, Bluebolt providing the Digital Matte Paintings of the desert, and BBC Wales providing laser blasts, holograms and flying composites. The BAFTA Award-winning team at Milk did the majority of work including full CG shots of Dalek ships and aerial attack runs over Arcadia, as well as all the key 3D painting effects, and the challenging portal composites.
David concludes “At key emotional points in the episode we were offered extreme close-ups of the Doctors, and the shots came to us with significant differences in the sharpness between the left and right eyes. The most common stereo improvement technique in this type of scenario is to perform a 2D to 3D conversion with the sharper eye, but in Mistika we were able to bring back the sharpness in the soft eye selectively across the frame. This gave us a pair of images matched in sharpness and clarity that, nonetheless, maintained the unique glistening quality characteristic of a native stereo image, something that couldn’t have been achieved through conversion techniques, thanks to Mistika.”
ABOUT DOCTOR WHO
Doctor Who is a British science-fiction television programme produced by the BBC. It follows the adventures of a Time Lord time-travelling humanoid alien known as The Doctor. He explores the universe in a TARDIS, a sentient time-travelling space ship, appearing as a blue British police box, a common sight in 1960’s Britain when the series first aired. The Doctor faces enemies while trying to save civilisations and help every day people. Further information about the special Doctor Who 50th Anniversary episode can be found here and here.
SOME KEY POST CREDITS INCLUDE:
Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Faith Penhale
Producer Marcus Wilson
Lead Stereographer Adam Sculthorp
Post Supervisor Nerys Davies
Stereo 3D Consultant David Wigram using Mistika at The Look in Soho, London owned by Thomas Urbye
Post Production System for online, conform, and Stereo 3D refinements – SGO’s Mistika
Cannes, France, 24 May, 2013 – SGO’s Mistika was chosen by Digimage Cinema for the complete post production including colour grading of highly anticipated film, The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, directed by award-winning French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It will be digitally re-mastered in the IMAX 3D format using Mistika, with plans for its début release on 16 October 2013 across IMAX theatres in France.