Technicolor, led by the vision of its Steve Scott, one of Hollywood’s most respected colorists, has entered into an agreement with software developer Autodesk to bring together tools used in digital compositing and color grading.
Autodesk is both the developer of Flame, which is compositing software used by VFX pros, and Lustre, which is color grading software for colorists. The end goal, according to Scott, is to create a single procedural finishing system that would offer tools from both disciplines, essentially the same software could sit in either VFX or postproduction environments. Technicolor will be working closely with Autodesk, and serving as a test site.
Scott — who has a background as a digital compositor and thinks skill sets will continue to evolve — believes there are numerous advantages to such a single toolset, which broadly speaking is more creative control, flexibility and options at more stages of production, for all involved, including the director, director of photography, and VFX team.
“It could be used in any number of ways,” he says. “It’s the flexibility of a having a range of options … which are as simple or complicated as you want.
“What we are working on is an explosion of creative tools that have never been accessible to the DP,” he adds. “It’s a way for them to be more engaged in the images that they authored in the first place.”
Scott emphasizes that the model is not being designed to intrude on the VFX houses’ role — rather, he believes it would aid VFX artists by making their job easier. “I don’t want to do full VFX in the [color grading],” he says, citing a few examples of how he sees the toolset instead being used. “We can render a frame [with a look that the director of photography has approved, in the color grading] and send it to the VFX house. Now they have an absolute guide that has been bought off in a color calibrated room. It will save so much time and effort; it will be specific about what the director or DP is after.”
As another example of how this combined toolset might be used, he suggests: “When you have something [small, such as] a matte on three frames where you can see the dark edge, you don’t have to send it back to the VFX house, have them drop it into their timeline and then have them drop it into ours and see the result two days later. We could use the paint system in the compositing setup [in the color grading suite] and blur out those frames. It can be dropped in instantly, and we keep everyone informed.”
Particularly with VFX business Rhythm & Hues having filed for bankruptcy last week, the visual effects process and business model had been under a microscope. Says Scott: “If we want to help the [VFX] vendors, we will figure out ways to make their life easier.”