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5D Colossus Grades 3000 shots for The Lord of the Rings

(January 21, 2002)
Media solutions developer 5D today announced that 5D Colossus, a software-based, digital grading and finishing solution developed in collaboration with Colorfront, was used to grade and master over 3,000 shots for New Line Cinemas The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and is now being used to grade and master the second and third movies in the trilogy, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

5D Colossus is the first system to be specifically developed for the digital grading and mastering of feature films. A scene-based solution, it features an intuitive front end that emulates classic optical/lab colour timing, as well as providing real-time 2K colour grading capability.


The system, now being brought to market, incorporates critical feedback provided by Peter Doyle, creative director at The Post House and supervising digital colourist on The Lord of the Rings, the movies director/writer/producer Peter Jackson and cinematographer Andrew Lesnie.

Adapted from the master works of J.R.R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings trilogy represents an unprecedented undertaking with three films made simultaneously over a year and a half of production. The first movie, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee and Hugo Weaving, featuring Sean Bean and Ian Holm, with Andy Serkis as Gollum. It has been an instant box office and critical success grossing over $500 million worldwide to date since its release on 10,000 screens worldwide on December 19th 2001.

Set in a time before history, in a place called Middle-earth, it tells the story of Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit who battles against the dark Lord Sauron to save Middle-Earth from the grip of evil. Sauron needs only one small object ? a Ring that has been lost for centuries ? to snuff out the light of civilization. Fate has put the Ring into Frodos hands who steps into legend with a loyal fellowship of hobbits and journeys through mountains, snow, darkness, forests, rivers and plains to destroy the Ring on the Mount of Doom.

Filming and post production for the trilogy were completed in New Zealand, with digital colour grading an integral part of the filmmakers' plans from the outset. A digital grading facility was purpose-built in Wellington by The Post House, a digital grading and visual effects house head-quartered in Germany. The grading software, custom-designed for the project, has since been announced as 5D Colossus.

Comments about 5D Colossus:
"The involvement of 5D Colossus technology on such a prestigious movie is a major achievement for 5D and Colorfront, said Marc Dando, a director of 5D. ?At the early stages our partners at Colorfront worked closely with Peter Doyle at The Post House to convince the production company [New Line] that 5D Colossus could handle such a big movie. They went to Wellington for a two-week on-site installation and calibration. The system they put down convinced everyone and blew the competition away. From this auspicious start, 5D and Colorfront worked closely together to deliver 5D Colossus to the wider movie-making industry.

The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson commented: "I had always hoped that we would bring Tolkien's world of Middle-earth to life on film, and these grading tools ensured it has happened. As a director, 5D Colossus allows a wonderful hands-on involvement for creating a special look for the film. It allows us to push the look of the film from reality into fantasy. Its fast, friendly and I love using it. I'm a huge fan and am sure it will contribute to changing the way that films are graded from now on.

Concerning the development and deployment of 5D Colossus Peter Doyle creative director at The Post House and supervising digital colourist, said: ?I didnt want our method of working on The Lord of the Rings to be a software emulation of a telecine. I worked with Colorfront and designed a system that worked for me, Andrew Lesnie and Peter Jackson. This became the basis of 5D Colossus, the commercial version of this tool.

I really cant see what else is around that I would want go into production with, adds Doyle. The alternative methods of grading and look development strike me as rather naïve. Theyre so linear and they make many assumptions about how a DP and director would go about building a look. Having a system like 5D Colossus, on a open platform, allowed us to wrap our own code and work methods around the it. We could grade any shot at any time, whilst also displaying any number of shots at any time, and get real-time playback of the shots in any sequence order at any time."

DP Andrew Lesnie commented: ?Digital colour timing was always a critical part of the film's fabric. Iwanted to see how this technology would allow me to create a series of unique looks for the film's diverse settings. What I enjoyed about this digtal system is that part of the keyboard is solely devoted to primary and secondary colours, with RGB/CMY numbers registering every change and the punch of a button serving as the equivalent to one trim at the lab."

5D Colossus In Action:
Along with overall look-creation, digital grading using 5D Colossus provided the opportunity to delve into fragile parts of the colour spectrum, such as the lavender-blues in the Lothlorien scenes, the blue-greens used in the Weathertop sequences and the magenta-salmons in Rivendell.

The 9-minute montage of the pre-history was designed to imply old, war footage, but avoiding the cliché of B/W, scratches. Peter Doyle explains: "Here 5D Colossus was used to create the look of old lenses without colour coatings, lens aberations and low contrast stock with an orthochromtic feel. The whole image was then desaturated, allowing the skin tones and gold armour to creep back in, with foggy blacks and blooming whites, before adding large soft vignettes.

To create the atmosphere of Hobbiton Doyle explains how live action shots were split-screened with digital ilustrations and special colour references. "Subtle twists were then applied to the greens and yellows in the scene to match the live action to the art work. The electric blue of the New Zealand sky was reduced to create a softer Middle Earth haze, and little wipes were tracked to lift the exposure on Gandalfs face when buried in shadow under his broad brimmed hat.

Movie Credits:
The screenplay for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson. Producers were Barrie M Osborne, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Tim Sanders, executive producers were Robert Shaye, Micheal Lynne and Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein.

5D Colossus System:
5D Colossus is a scene-based colour correction tool dedicated to making the grading of multiple scenes as fast and as efficient as possible. The ultimate output from 5D Colossus is a high quality, graded digital data master that can be used to prepare all versions including the digital negative, film release prints (via laser recording), digital projection masters, or for mastering to High Definition and SD video, DVD and the Internet. Running on powerful workstations, 5D Colossus offers both log and linear grading for the first time, and provides provides digital artists, colourists and DPs with unprecedented power to achieve cinema-quality, interactive colour-correction.

5D Colossus is scheduled to ship in Q1 2002. It will be supplied as a turnkey solution, including a workstation, control surface, storage, and monitor calibrator. The configurations run on a certified system from BOXX Technologies and will come with a Sony FW900 24 monitor running at a resolution of 2048x1280 at 72Hz. Options include faster processors, additional storage, high-speed networking, as well as connectivity to a broad range of other input and output devices. 5D Colossus can also be configured with digital projection output as an option for suitable quality projectors. 5D has worked closely with UK-based Tangent Devices to deliver a control surface that provides flexibility as well as ease of use, although the system can also be controlled with a Wacom tablet and pen if colourists prefer.

About 5D:

5D is media solutions company built on world-class credentials in film and video visual effects. The companys IRIX, Linux and Windows 2000-based solutions are essential commodities for digital artists worldwide, helping to boost productivity, creativity and workflow in film and video post production. 5Ds compositing and creative effects/editing division delivers 5D Cyborg, a revolutionary integrated effects system, which combines advanced, resolution-independent, image-processing tools into a central working environment. For digital grading and mastering 5D offers 5D Colossus, an acclaimed, software-based digital grading and finishing solution. 5Ds Plug-Into division provides 5D Monsters, a renowned range of more than 400 visual effects plug-ins for advanced animation and compositing systems, plus 5D Masher, an offline effects and network connection system for Quantel systems. Chief among 5Ds workflow, storage and infrastructure products is 5D Commander, a full-frame 2K film and video playback/output solution.

About Colorfront
Colorfront is a recognised software development company creating professional tools for the film and video post-production industry. Colorfront's leading colour correction technology is currently being used by top facilities around the world. 5D Colossus is a software-based, digital grading and finishing solution developed by Colorfront in collaboration with 5D. Color*star is the industry-first software plug-in for digital film grading, advanced selective colour correction and creative look creation for film, HDTV, and video. Award-winning star*dust provides the most complete arsenal of sophisticated tools for film mastering and restoration available as a plug-in for Discreet advanced systems, Fusion, Shake and Tremor and 5D Cyborg. Colorfront is headquartered in Budapest, Hungary and can be found on the web at www.colorfront.com.

For more information please visit www.five-d.com, www.colorfront.com

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Related Keywords:filmmaking, grading and mastering, color correction

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