“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
Mistika melted hearts at Creative Post
10 June 2014, Toronto, Canada – Supervising Editor Adrian Saywell at Toronto’s Creative Post Inc. discusses the challenges of grading the recent IMAX documentary Wonders of the Arctic 3D, and the reasons behind selecting Mistika for online, colour correction and titling.
The $4 million visually stunning Wonders of the Arctic 3D natural world epic marks Science North’s fifth IMAX production in conjunction with Lickley and Giant Screen Films based in Chicago and will be distributed in more than 100 theatres around the world. The flawless 42-minute film focuses on the effects of climate change to the Arctic environment and the impact on humans and animals, such as the resilient Inuit peoples and Polar bears that reside there.
The film depicts how it is the toughest place to live on earth and how creatures that live there thrive despite the harshest elements. Historically, more than half of the Arctic Ocean was covered by ice all year round but in the past 50 years, ice cover has been reduced by 70 per cent, and is predicted that within 15 years, there could be a completely ice-free Arctic during some months of the year, according to Lickley. The film provides a voyage to a world many would never visit themselves and plays a key role in educating and informing audiences about this incredibly important topic.
Creative Post started work on the film back in 2010 when primary camera shooting started.
Part of what made it possible to achieve such stunning results is the company’s pipeline. Adrian outlines the steps involved, “The first duties included onset processing and backup of Phantom footage. Once backed up and shipped to Creative Post, the processing of dailies for all digital formats in both Phantom and Red was completed using Mistika. This enabled us to create HD ProRes files with matching names and T/C’s for offline.” He remarks, “Before we purchased Mistika, the Phantoms T/C would not match the QT created by other programs.”
Adrian goes on further to explain the online process in more detail, “Footage was supplied by DKP and Science North at various resolutions ranging from 4K to 8K in both 2D and 3D. Utilizing the open platform that is Mistika, we were able to scale all the various formats to the end result 5616X4096, which was then filmed out to 70MM for IMAX Projection. As it is near impossible to work in 3D at the full 5.6K resolution, the proxy and render options in the Mistika enabled us to scale to 2K in 3D, where all work was completed before applying the corrections back to the raw camera material. This made it fast and easy to work in such a large format. Full online finishing, stereoscopic 3D alignments, colour correction and titling were performed in Mistika as well as final versioning in 5.6K 3D, 4K Scope 3D and 2K Scope 3D. New tools in version 7.2 enabled us to apply display filters such as log to linear LUTs as well as cropping of 1.85 and 1.79 images into the 70MM format without actually applying any FX to the environment.”
Creative Post’s owner and CEO, Ken MacNeil remarked that before they had a Mistika on board, they would not have been able to work on a film of this scope, within the given deadlines. Purchased in 2011, Mistika was chosen for its multi-resolution capability and advanced 3D tools that are required for the 4K+ resolution that Creative Post generally master in. Online Editor Adrian Saywell was also able to use Mistika’s powerful tools to stabilise and fix 3D shots, which included colour matching, and alignment, that he said, without Mistika, would have been deemed unusable.
Other high profile programmes Creative Post have recently worked on include Ice Road Truckers, Bollywood Star, High-Tech Red Necks, Ice Sweat and Tears and many others.
Cameras used in filming Wonders of the Arctic 3D:
IMAX Dual Phantom 4K
Red Epic 5K
35MM 8 perf vista vision 3D IMAX Camera (scanned to 6K)
65MM Aerial IMAX MSM Camera (scanned to 8K)
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