Saturday, 25 November 2017
 

Digital FX

U-571While a resume and a credit list provide essential information, they can be a bit dry and don't really tell the whole story. Steve's professional career spans many years and encompasses a broad range of experiences in the world of digital effects, so it is not a short story. This section is intended to get closer and more revealing about the kinds of places he worked at, the projects he worked on, and his responsibilities. There is a section that describes his Digital Intermediate work asBatman & Robin Technical Director which even includes a brief "'tutorial" of what a Digital Intermediate is, in case you are not familiar with the process. There is also a page on his digital effects work which describes his role as the 2D Technical Director and Senior Compositor at Cinesite. And lastly there is a section that tells the story of how he developed digital ink and paint software and used it with the Pixar computer to do animated feature film work and television commercials.

Steve's feature film credits may also be viewed at IMDb.

Digital FX | Digital Intermediate | 2D Technical Director | Senior Compositor | Digital Cel Animation

Steve Wright Digital FX - Visual Effects Compositing Training - Freelance Visual Effects Artist - Consultant - Titling at Titlewright.com

Digital Intermediate

What is the Digital Intermediate process?

S.W.A.T.In classic film production, the camera negative is edited together into finished reels that are taken to a film lab for "'color timing". Each cut is given a different color correction to even out the inevitable differences in exposure and color that would otherwise make the movie "'pop" annoyingly from cut to cut. Recent technological advances have made it possible to do the color timing of the entire feature film on a computer system.

First, each reel of the feature film is scanned and the digitized frames are written to a huge array of disk drives. A digital color correcting system is then used to color correct each shot and the color corrected version of each reel is rendered back to the disk array. From there the color corrected reel is sent to a digital film recorder to be shot back to film. This piece of film made from the color corrected digitized frames is the Digital Intermediate.Traffic directed by Steven Soderbergh - Steve did 40 minutes of subtitles for this movie

The current state of the technology makes the DI process a little slower and a lot more expensive than classical lab color timing. However, its overwhelming advantage is creative control - the movie just looks a lot better when done as a DI. Digital color correctors have an almost magical ability to selectively correct virtually anything in the shot - make the sky bluer, the flesh tones warmer, bring out the detail in the shadows, or just about anything else you can imagine. Over time the certain advances in technology will lower the cost of the DI process to the point that it will eventually become the only way to color time a movie.


Technical Director for Digital Intermediate

Open Range directed by Kevin CostnerThe Digital Intermediate (DI) process is an exciting and interesting field to work in precisely because it is an emerging and rapidly evolving technology. There is an urgency due to critical production deadlines to meet the release dates of important feature films plus the excitement of working on the films of such great talents as Steven Soderbergh ("'Traffic"), Taylor Hackman ("'Ray"), Spike Lee ("'She Hate Me"), and Kevin Costner ("'Open Range").

Blade III: Trinity starring Wesley SnipesAs the Technical Director for the DI process at Kodak's Cinesite (now Laser Pacific), Steve was responsible for addressing a very wide range of technical issues ranging from color science questions to production problems to film format issues. On any given day these are the types of issues that must be dealt with:

 

  • The client's visual effects house needs help with the linear to log conversion parameters to convert their work from a linear file format such as tiff to the log format of cineon or dpx.

  • Analyze a digital imaging problem from any department (scanning, recording, compositing, paint), determine the cause, work out a solution, and sometimes execute the solution.

  • Write Unix programs to manage the status of 24.2 Terabytes of digitized film data for multiple concurrent feature films containing over 6,000 shots and well over half a million scanned frames.

  • Evaluate new software that the company is considering purchasing.

  • Work with in-house engineering staff to define new software that is needed, then test and evaluate that software as it is being developed and deployed.

  • Answer whatever questions and solve whatever problem the producer might have from how to crop a super 35 2.40 common top window and resize it to Cscope or how to dust-bust 4k scans using a 2k paint system.

  • Know all film formats and create camera guides for the colorist and outside vfx houses for even arcane formats such as 3 perf, super 35 common top, and super 16.

  • Test and evaluate new Kodak film stocks as to their performance for bluescreen and greenscreen digital effects.

Click here to see all credits for Digital Intermediate Technical Director.

Digital FX | Digital Intermediate | 2D Technical Director | Senior Compositor | Digital Cel Animation

Steve Wright Digital FX - Visual Effects Compositing Training - Freelance Visual Effects Artist - Consultant - Titling at Titlewright.com

2D Technical Director

Steve was the 2D Technical Director for Visual Effects and Digital Intermediate

Greenscreen shot for compositingAt its peak, Cinesite Hollywood had over 30 compositors in their world class 2D (compositing) department and almost 50 CGI artists in their excellent 3D department. During its 12 year history Cinesite produced digital effects for major motion pictures such as "'X-Men 2", "'Solaris", "'Clockstoppers", "'Thirteen Ghosts", "'Mission Impossible II", "'Red Planet", and many, many more. As the 2D Technical Director for Cinesite's 2D department, Bluescreen shot for compositingSteve's mission was to be the "'goto guy" for all of the compositors to solve all types of technical problems and devise novel solutions to compositing problems.

Since the 2D department worked in cineon 10 bit log space and the 3D department worked in 16 bit linear space there was a chronic difficulty in maintaining color correctness when moving images between these two colorspaces which Steve addressed routinely. To get new hires up to speed rapidly on the Cineon compositing software and the unique issues of compositing in log space, he prepared training programs and training materials. He also helped to evaluate new commercially available software tools for the 2D department and worked closely with the engineering department to help specify new tools and test new software for production.

Digital FX | Digital Intermediate | 2D Technical Director | Senior Compositor | Digital Cel Animation

Steve Wright Digital FX - Visual Effects Compositing Training - Freelance Visual Effects Artist - Consultant - Titling at Titlewright.com

Senior Compositor

Spy Kids 3D: Game OverKodak founded Cinesite in 1992 as a proving ground for its foray into the new realm of digital film technology. Featuring the Lightning digital film scanners and film recorders with the Cineon compositing software, they were all designed specifically to work perfectly with the new 10 bit log cineon file format. Since that time Cinesite has established itself as a world class 2D compositing center for feature film digital effects. This was the scene when Cinesite's senior management brought Steve in as a Senior Compositor in 1997.

Hard RainDuring his seven years at Cinesite, Steve worked on a long list of feature films as a Senior Compositor (click here for Cinesite compositing credit list). Mastering not only the artistic requirements of 10 bit log compositing, he also studied the mathematics behind linear vs. log image data until that was mastered as well. As a result he was expert at facilitating the incorporation of 3D linear data into log space for compositing. Steve also made a study of greenscreen and bluescreen compositing (which forms a large part of his book) developing original despill algorithms and pulling some of the most difficult mattes.

FreejackSteve learned the art and science of compositing at Sidley Wright & Associates on the Pixar computer, a special image processing computer made by Pixar. He mastered this very difficult machine, which required the artist to write huge Unix scripts to composite a shot rather than the current convenient GUI seen on all modern software, 2D and 3D. Though difficult to operate, the Pixar was very fast and had superb image quality and high enough resolution that it could do feature film work (click here for more feature film credits done with the Pixar). In addition to feature film work, the Pixar was used to do digital effects for a long list of broadcast television commercials (click here to see broadcast television commercial credits).

          Solaris

Digital FX | Digital Intermediate | 2D Technical Director | Senior Compositor | Digital Cel Animation

Steve Wright Digital FX - Visual Effects Compositing Training - Freelance Visual Effects Artist - Consultant - Titling at Titlewright.com

Digital Cel Animation

Del Monte parrot animated by Frank Furlong, BBM&FAs co-founder of Sidley Wright & Associates, one of the most interesting projects was the development of one of the first digital ink and paint systems outside of Disney. The purpose was to give an "'added value" to the company in addition to the 3D animation and 2D compositing services The Pagemaster starring McAuley Caulkinalready offered. The Pixar computer had been adopted as the compositing engine of choice because it produced by far the highest quality and resolution composites available at the time and was well suited to feature film work. By writing custom software, cel animation line art could be scanned on a flatbed scanner then digitally "'inked and painted" on a computer workstation then composited on the Pixar computer and filmed out on 35mm film. This was a bold innovation that meant for the first time digital effects could be mixed into a classically animated feature film. Keep in mind this is in 1991, years before digital effects had become common.

FernGully: The Last Rainforest directed by Bill KroyerThe first animated feature film to take advantage of this new process was Bill Kroyer's "'FernGully: the Last Rainforest". Over 30 digital effects shots were produced for FernGully with all of the animation Kellog's Cornflakes commercial animated by Dave Spafforddigitally inked and painted, composited on the Pixar, and filmed out on a Solitaire Cine III film recorder. The next feature film project was Turner Film's "'The Pagemaster" which featured very complex multi-layer shots that were impossible to do with conventional "'cartoon cameras". Digital effects shots for three more feature films, over a dozen animated television commercials as well as the animated video "Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins" were created with the proprietary digital ink and paint software.

Click here to see all credits for Digital Cel Animation.

Digital FX | Digital Intermediate | 2D Technical Director | Senior Compositor | Digital Cel Animation

Steve Wright Digital FX - Visual Effects Compositing Training - Freelance Visual Effects Artist - Consultant - Titling at Titlewright.com

 

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