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Company 3, R!OT Manhattan Leap Shoot Giraldi's Honey Trap

Debbie Harry Stars in Short Film

In a pioneering effort in digital cinema production, Company 3 New York and R!OT Manhattan recently teamed up to provide post-production services for Honey Trap, a new short film from award-winning director Bob Giraldi, and one of the first short films to be shot entirely with the Thomson Grass Valley Viper Filmstream camera. The two post houses worked together in designing a workflow to efficiently manage the 4:4:4 uncompressed data produced by the Viper, with R!OT overseeing the mastering of the film and Company 3 handling the intensive work of color grading.

Giraldi, the director of more than 3000 commercials and recipient of more than 500 industry awards, directed Honey Trap, ?a cold, dark story of sex, betrayal and murder, through 149 Wooster, a company he formed in 2003 to develop and produce feature projects, short films and other non-broadcast commercial work. The film stars Debbie Harry and newcomers Abbey Fox and Ewan Ross.

?The plot of the film was inspired by the unusual real life duality of Abbey and Ewan, said Mr. Giraldi.  ?They approached us about making a film to showcase their talents, and besides being an opportunity to write and direct a tale with a twist, it quickly became an opportunity to also experiment with the Viper and this new visual technology.  Enter Company 3 and R!OT.

The idea to shoot Honey Trap with the Viper camera came up during a pre-production meeting between Giraldi and Company 3 Colorist Billy Gabor, who has worked with the director on numerous commercial and music video projects over the past ten years. ?Bob wanted to shoot the film with two cameras and was looking for a solution that met his creative requirements and fit the relatively modest budget of his film, Gabor said.  ?I mentioned the Viper. I had seen it demonstrated by Thomson and I knew that it had been used on Collateral, where the color grading was done at our Santa Monica facility.

?The Viper provided a way to shoot in 2:35 aspect ratio and get the high quality Bob needed, Gabor added. ?And by eliminating film and processing, it offered a way to reduce costs. It also was an opportunity to work with a new technology, and that was pretty exciting to all of us.

While the Vipers ability to record images as uncompressed data put it on par with 35mm film, working with the system posed certain practical challenges. The two Viper cameras used to shoot Honey Trap were tethered to HD-SR recording decks, making them somewhat cumbersome to operate. Additionally, because the data collected by the camera is unprocessed, the raw imagery has a greenish hue. Although the green is removed as part of the color grading process, it makes working with the Viper camera more akin to shooting film negative, than to shooting with an ordinary video camera whose output can be instantly reviewed on the set.

?The technology is still a work in progress and that was one of the interesting things about it, said Bryan Litman, who edited the film and was one of its producers. ?Because I was also editing the film, Bob and I would get together and constantly evolve our editing strategy on set as we were shooting. >From a technical point of view, I was able to iron out a lot of potential post production problems from occurring.

?At the end of the day, I believe that Honey Trap will be more about concept and emotion and less about the technique, said Mr. Giraldi. ?As Im confident that with this superb digital cinema production and the beautiful color grading from Billy, thats exactly whats going to happen...audiences will primarily see beauty and the film will speak for itself.

Once the shoot was complete, Litman had all of the 4:4:4 data down-converted to DV-Cam for editing in Final Cut Pro. From there, an initial master was prepared at Company 3 by Editor Pat Kelleher on an Xpri digital editing system. A final 4:4:4 master was then assembled at R!OT Manhattan on a Discreet Inferno by Artist Randie Swanberg. The hard work was done by our engineering staff who ensured that the signals were accurate, Swanberg said. ?From there, it was very similar to an ordinary HD conform.

The 4:4:4 data from the conformed master was imported to Gabors Spirit Datacine for color grading. The colorist began his work by removing the imagerys greenish hue. ?The color corrector puts in a look-up table made for the Viper, he said. ?That immediately takes the green out and puts you in a base color correction so that you can work from there.

It was at that point that the technology really began to show its worth, according to Gabor, who said the fidelity of the imagery far exceeded that of any video source. ?Typically, upon very close inspection of a video image, youll see jagged edges around certain colors, but in this case the transitions were extremely smooth, he explained. ?I was very impressed with the quality and structure of the image. It was shocking how good it looked.

Gabor said the nuances he was able to bring out of dark areas of the frame were comparable to film. ?They shot in a lot of low light situations. It was very moody and the camera did a nice job of seeing into the shadows, he said. ?It also had a grain, a texture that was pleasing, very filmic. If they had shot the same scenes with a video camera, it wouldnt have looked as good. This was smooth with tons of detail.

Because it involved 4:4:4 data, the post process for Honey Trap was very similar to the digital intermediate process used to post feature films, and like DI it provided the filmmaker with maximum quality and creative control. ?We embarked on post production interested to see how we could play with creating a unique ?tape look, said producer Patti Greaney. ?But I think we were all surprised when we saw how much information was contained, especially with the night scenes, which instead enabled us to give it more of a unique ?film look.  We didnt have to compromise.

However, Litman added, because the technology was new, the dedication that Company 3 and R!OT brought to the project were essential to its ultimate success. ?Without their willingness to experiment with us, this wouldnt have happened, he said. ?They wanted to learn and find out the best way to make this work. And now that weve worked out the kinks, we would be able to use it for any project, feature film or commercial.

Company 3 and R!OT affiliate POP Sound, Santa Monica, provided audio post services to the project. The audio post house performed high definition layback services of the films multichannel mix.

Honey Trap was written and directed by Bob Giraldi. The film stars Debbie Harry, Abbey Fox and Ewan Ross; with Adam Cohen and Carol Case, executive producers; Patti Greaney, Bryan Litman and Emily Plunkett, producers. The film was shot by Jonathan Sela and edited by Bryan Litman.

Company 3 New York, is located at 545 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor, New York, New York 10017. For more information, call Stefan Sonnenfeld at (310) 255-6600.

Company 3 Santa Monica, is located at 1661 Lincoln Blvd. Ste. 400 Santa Monica, California 90404. For more information, call Stefan Sonnenfeld at (310) 255-6600.

R!OT Manhattan is located at 545 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017. For more information, call (212) 907.1200.

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