Necessity is the mother of invention, and nothing proves this proverb more true than the evolution of film and television production technology in the age of COVID-19. While the field has always changed rapidly even in normal times, the pace of change and adaptation has accelerated over the past six months.
This adjustment has posed many questions. Beyond personal protective equipment, mandatory testing, on-set safety monitors, walking lunches and corona contingency fees, will the pandemic have enduring effects in the creative, collaborative endeavor that is filmmaking? The technology to work remotely has essentially been in place for some time, but will the pandemic finally push us over into a new normal?
Numerous existing technology trends are being suddenly supercharged by the necessities imposed by the coronavirus. Shooting close to home has never been more appealing, and that impulse aligns neatly with ongoing advancements in LED backings and virtual production. In the world of image processing, connectivity solutions such as those offered by Moxion, Frame.io and Sohonet were already bringing immediacy and super-high resolution to a wide variety of devices without regard to location — and now those virtues are suddenly in much higher demand. And remote collaboration solutions including PIX are looking positively prescient.
Director David Fincher’s team found that the PIX production backbone, a tool they’ve helped develop over the years, facilitated safe group creativity but also enhanced efficiency on the forthcoming Mank.
“I was fortunate enough to meet David Fincher on Panic Room in 2001 when I was working as a sound editor and the relationship I developed with him and his No. 13 production company has carried through until today with Mindhunter. He’s someone I can bounce ideas off and he’s constantly challenging us. For the second season of Mindhunter he asked to design a real-time telestration solution that would enable him to communicate the thoughts and ideas he came up with during production via annotations attached to the image captured by the camera. We came up with PIX RT it immediately creates clips of the take and presents this clip to the director and certain other approved crew members via a tablet, so he or she can make annotations and notes on the image. This media, metadata and the notes are then securely synchronized with the PIX cloud to all the approved members of the production who can review them. And of course, it is completely secure and integrated with all of our other services. And now we’re working with the CODEX team on the next evolution of these tools.”
“Sometimes it takes working with the most demanding and yet most exceptionally talented people to push you to design the best products. That’s certainly the case with cinematographers like Bob Richardson and Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki. On Gravity we worked with Chivo and his crew along with our services company to design an efficient, color critical, ARRIRAW workflow that would support this complex, multi-camera shoot which involved “The Cage”. The Cage was a lightbox consisting of 196 2’x2′ LED panels which simulated the light coming from stars and the sun and reflected light from Earth, but could also project images of Earth, distant stars, or, images of Sandra Bullock‘s child character, as the actor was suspended within. It was ground-breaking. And funnily enough, I recall that Chivo talked to David Fincher before the shoot and he thought that it was a couple of years too early to pull it off. Projects like Gravity inspire us to push the boundaries of what is possible.”
Read the full interview (part one) on the X2X magazine app (App Store & Google Play). You’ll find interviews and Q&A’s with some of the world’s leading DITs, directors, and cinematographers. Best of all, it’s free!
PIX has worked closely with David Fincher and his No. 13 production company since Panic Room in 2001, developing tools and services that have fundamentally changed how feature films and television shows are made. One of the first directors to embrace digital cameras with his use of the Thomson Viper on Zodiac, Fincher and his team are constantly redefining technology as they seek to blur the line between production and post production and strive to automate the mundane and more clearly communicate their creative vision.
On Netflix’s Mindhunter, Fincher again used the latest digital capture technology – custom RED Xenomorph cameras designed to his specifications, integrating all the usual camera components (wireless video transmitters, focus controls etc.) into the camera for a much more ergonomic design. But Fincher’s desire for innovation extended far beyond the camera, so he again turned to PIX.
Working on his current project, the second season of Mindhunter, David Fincher was looking for a way to better convey the thoughts and ideas he came up with during production via annotations attached to the image captured by the camera. In the past, a thought about the grading required for a particular shot might have been conveyed via a phone call to the dailies colorist much later in the day after shooting wrapped. David Fincher required a real-time telestration solution, rather than a delayed response later in the evening or next day. And it absolutely could not delay shooting or increase the footprint or complexity of production.
PIX has built a system that makes the often-used term “Connected Set” real. PIX OnSet creates a clip of the take and immediately presents this clip to the director via a tablet, so that he or she can make annotations and notes on the image right after it has been captured. These notes are then securely uploaded via PIX to all the approved members of the production who can review them along with image files. Other approved production crew – for example, DP Erik Messerschmidt – can also add their own notes. These notes are securely conveyed through to editorial and post production along with the image files and other metadata.
PRODUCTS DEPLOYED ON MINDHUNTER
– PIX for Desktop, Web, iOS – PIX OnSet – The series also utilized the PIX Developer Program for custom integrations.
Real-Time Creative Capture – The thoughts and ideas of the creative team are recorded in real-time immediately after the take. This ensures that their vision and ideas are communicated clearly and without change through the many lines of communication to the rest of the production team, reducing the potential for misunderstanding. For example, the editorial team can easily see any notes the director or DP have made without relying on paper, phone calls or emails sent later in the day. This might be a note that a take needs to be printed down half a stop or a note that something in the frame needs to be removed in post. Having the note linked to the image vastly reduces the opportunity for error and saves valuable time.
Patented Content Security – Along with the rest of the industry-leading PIX platform, PIX OnSet is extremely secure, built on PIX’s patented DRM with dynamic and forensic watermarking and meets the exacting standards of the MPAA.
Minimal Footprint On Set – Rather than adding to the on-set production infrastructure, PIX OnSet actually reduces it by providing immediate playback of takes to authorized devices as they are captured by the camera
No Production Delays – As authorized members of the creative team can annotate the file immediately and easily on their own tablet, there is absolutely no slowdown in the pace of production.
At PIX System, we help create entertainment and media by bringing creativity, collaborators and assets together. For 16 years, we’ve been creating and innovating ways to give the top creative talent, studios, mini-majors, networks, indie productions, and online content providers the time and resources they need to create. Better. Faster. More reliably.
Our industry leading platform is an open sandbox and secure home base, viewer, community workspace, media mine, think tank and muse – a place on the digital frontier where creative and strategic content and communication are safe and tidy and easily found, shared and worked on alone or together.
On Saturday night at its annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored PIX with a Technical Achievement Award. The award recognized Eric Dachs, founder and CEO; Erik Bielefeldt, director of research and development; Craig Wood, technical director; and Paul McReynolds for the design and development of the industry leading security mechanism for distributing media. Prior to the awards ceremony, Digital Cinema Report spoke exclusively with Bielefeldt and Wood to talk about the company’s continued innovation in the evolving world of content collaboration from film to digital to next-generation data rich requirements.
Technical Achievement Award (Academy Certificate): to Eric Dachs, Erik Bielefeldt, Craig Wood and Paul McReynolds for the design and development of the PIX System’s novel security mechanism for distributing media.
PIX System’s robust approach to secure media access has enabled wide adoption of their remotely collaborative dailies-review system by the motion picture industry.
PIX founder and CEO Eric Dachs thanked Ren Klyce, Ceán Chaffin and David Fincher (present at the ceremony): “your friendship, patience, and talents have had an enduring and measurable impact on our work, and more importantly, in filmmaking.”
Eric Dachs, Erik Bielefeldt, Craig Wood, and Paul McReynolds (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
The familiar Pix app is one of the early tools with security features developed to improved communication and collaboration during production, which was initially conceived as filmmaking became more distributed geographically. After being used on more than 5,000 film and TV projects including Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody and Mindhunter, its developers will be among those honored Saturday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Scientific and Technical Awards.
Pix founder/CEO Eric Dachs — who with director of R&D Erik Bielefeldt, technical director Craig Wood and Paul McReynolds will receive Technical Achievement Awards — started his career in sound and it was while working as an assistant to seven-time Oscar nominated sound designer Ren Klyce on David Fincher’s 2002 film Panic Room that the idea for Pix was born. “I got a look at how digital technology was changing motion picture postproduction, but I also saw the inefficiency from faxing notes when the work was distributed geographically,” Dachs tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I started writing a really simple prototype application for capturing David’s spotting notes and getting them distributed to the crew via a simple web application. So that [composer Howard Shore] could get the music notes in real time, and the different departments within sound were no longer having to wait for faxes.”
One afternoon during the final mix, Klyce showed Fincher the app and the technically-savvy director was impressed. In fact, he continues to use it today.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) honored Eric Dachs ’98, the founder and CEO of PIX System, with a Technical Achievement Award at its Oscars 2019 Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on Feb. 9, 2019.
Since its creation in 2003, PIX System has become the entertainment industry gold standard in providing secure communication and content management capabilities. Dachs, a theater major while at Wesleyan, designed and coded the initial software early in his career when he was an assistant to sound designer Ren Klyce for Panic Room. It was then that he saw the need for an easy, safe digital platform to share revisions and collaborate across locations.
“Movement is life,” Brad Pitt‘s Gerry Lane famously said, advising survivors in Paramount‘s 2013 zombie/outbreak movie “World War Z.” Momentum is everything in Hollywood, and perhaps a lack of it hurt “World War Z”‘s chances for a sequel, because it’s now curtains for the followup film. Sources close to the project for years tell us that Paramount Pictures pulled the plug on director David Fincher‘s film last night.
The film’s budget was definitely an issue but only to a degree. Fincher and his team were proposing something less than the budget of the original ($190 million according to Box Office Mojo, before the costly reshoots). However, Paramount’s known about this figure since at least last year and had hemmed and hawed about the project for months. One might think it not entirely coincidental that Paramount, which makes far fewer films than the average studio, just designated a lot of money for two significant blockbusters: “Mission Impossible 7” & ‘8‘ which will arrive in the summer of 2021 and 2022, according to their official release dates.
Paramount simply dragged their heels, at one point eyeing a 2018 or 2019 summer release, but never feeling bold enough to put it back on the schedule. Pitt, who has worked with Fincher several times, began to court Fincher for the job back in August of 2016 and a few months later the director agreed and started to look for writers to develop a new script. Dennis Kelly, the creator and writer of the original U.K. “Utopia” series—which Fincher almost adapted himself for HBO— was hired to rewrite the script from Steven Knight.
The officially untitled “World War Z 2” was roughly aiming for a summer shoot—Fincher is currently still busy editing “Mindhunter” season two for Netflix—but the writing might have been on the wall given how tentative Paramount was with the project.
Before any director calls action, Jennifer Nash has long begun the second season scramble to scout for extras in western Pennsylvania to appear in “Mindhunter,” which enjoyed a critically successful first season on Netflix last year.
In charge of recruiting and hiring extras for the episodic program about the early days of FBI profiling that grew into the study of serial killers, Nash emphasized just how heavily the show invests to hire extras in both type and number.
“We need so many more people than just the normal background acting community,” she said. “We need regular people.”
This season, one of her biggest tasks will be to hire a significant number of African-American people as extras. This includes a major scene in which 1,000 people, mostly African-Americans, will be needed for a protest expected to be shot in Wilkinsburg for several days.
“We’re going to be bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, to African-American communities,” she said, of Mindhunter’s second season emphasize on story lines involving African-Americans.
Last year, Nash was charged with recruiting 3,000 people to be extras in the 10-episode first season of “Mindhunter.” This year, she needs 5,000 for an eight-episode season, including two episodes that will be two hours each.
“I really have my work cut out for me,” she said, of hosting casting call events at places such as Trixie’s on the South Side, where a line stretched around the block. She also wants candidates to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another week, another Oscar winner chats to Soundtracking in partnership with the EE BAFTAs.
These days, the quality and quantity of original programming on streaming services is quite astounding – with A-list talent delivering high-class drama time and time again.
One of Netflix‘s standout series of 2017 was Mindhunter. Overseen by David Fincher, it tells the story of how the FBI’s profiling unit came into being in the 1970s. By turns dark, funny, moving, cool and brutal, it also makes great use of contemporary pop & rock.
So it’s with great pleasure that we welcome Asif Kapadia to the show, who directed two episodes of the first season.
Asif has won numerous awards for The Warrior, Senna and Amy, with the latter scooping the Oscar for Best Documentary. There will, of course, be plenty of examples of Amy Winehouse‘s music throughout the course of the conversation, as well as composer Antonio Pinto‘s work on both Amy and Senna.