May 30, 2013

Float Like a Lily Pad, Sting Like an Iron: Updates on Light Iron's DIT Solutions & Todailies iPad App

light iron michael cioni post production color correction grading dit digital imaging technician lily pad outpost todailies app film filmmakingA few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the grand opening of Light Iron's New York facility. I met very nice, dedicated, hard-working (and patient!) people there, and got a chance to hear words from Michael Cioni, the post company's CEO. I also got a chance to scratch the surface of some of Light Iron's infrastructure -- including its LILY PAD DIT station -- which aims to empower the on-set technician, and crew as a whole, with a seamless media experience. In addition to the hardware, this experience is supercharged by the likes of Light Iron's custom Todailies app, which will receive an upcoming upgrade as well.

Light Iron has racked up a pretty impressive list of clients and credits in the relatively short stretch of time it's existed -- these include, as some readers may remember, David Fincher's RED-shot The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its fully-4K reframing, mastering, and release. The short presentation I attended given by Michael Cioni, emphasized, among many other things, Light Iron's modern credibility over the 100-some-odd years of credits other post houses can claim (Find me in the photos and earn a virtual cookie! ).

Moreover, and further up the same vein, is what that cutting-edge know-how and overall youthful spirit actually means for Light Iron's clients (or "cLIGHenTs," if you will). It ends up translating to things like speed, fluidity, and liberation as opposed to constriction in terms of media management, delivery, and dailies proliferation. In other words, Light Iron's goal is to make the work flow for you instead of against you -- so much so that the tech it takes to implement it is secondary. That harmony, ideally, is achieved by the flexibility of the package, not hindered by specs. J.J. Abrams has also been outspoken about Light Iron OUTPOST, saying:

Last night while filming (can I use that word?) the final scene, I was able to watch dailies on an iPad. Not from the day before but from the SAME DAY. An incredible picture, available instantly to view, grade, edit, anything. It blew my mind.

Post in Production: The Hardware

That said, let's get to the tech! First, here's a great overview of Light Iron's on-set packages, some info on which we've shared before. This comes to us from Craft Truck and their awesome-as-usual Tech Bites segment.

Again, I think the glue that holds all this together is not the item-specific implementation of gear in the package, but in the ethos that guides the design of that package. Certain pieces of tech may be swapped out or become obsolete and fade away, but the vision of 'work, flowing' will continue to move the kits forward.

Post in Production: The Software

Not to be outdone by its admittedly elegant hardware kits, are Light Iron's custom media software, Live Play and Todailies. At the grand opening in NYC, a courteous LI rep explained to me how simple it is to allow/restrict permissions for accessing dailies via iPad over WiFi, invisibly replace shots/takes with improved versions, and designate which materials would be synced to iPad for persistent 'take-it-home' viewing, all in the background (as far as the crew is concerned). Todailies is, in that case, just as important as a couple powerful towers, RAID setup, and battery backup -- and expecting a face-lift (and beyond) in the coming months:

http://vimeo.com/67178911

Definitely impressive in general, particularly with the synced multi-cam 'rough-edit' functionality (...perhaps Todailies could then allow for the export of that rough-edit as another potential XML to deliver to editorial? ;). It might seem like I'm really hyping Light Iron up here -- and surely there are other post houses (and DIT cart designers) on the cutting edge -- but I think there's plenty to admire about LI's unique methods and thinking. Even if some of us never work shoots with Light Iron accompaniment, I think the on-site flexibility and de-centralized working model by which Light Iron operates can still inform the work of low-to-no-budget productions and independent DITs alike. It just may take a little creativity in lieu of capital.

Have any of these technologies or conveniences trickled into independent shoots you've been on? How do you, the kitchen-sink filmmaker, handle media workflow for yourself or for your directors/editors? What do you take away from Light Iron's methodologies?

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4 Comments

I think the real question we all want to know is what are we looking at cost wise per day to get these on a low budget set? Obviously director in the industry would much rather pay to have one of the LI options on set at all times to get straight into post after shooting and know that their footage is safe. Any info on estimated prices out there?

June 1, 2013 at 8:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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J

This isn't a low budget film making tool at all, nor is it designed to be.

June 3, 2013 at 12:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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This can be a low budget filmmaking tool! The Lilypad, Lilypad Case or Outpost are tools that you would have to rent or hire and are definitely not free, but if you are on a low budget you should consider them because they will ultimately save you time and money and possibly save your film. Why do I say they can save your film, because usually the money runs out in post. These are tools to minimize your post needs and prevent the need to go back and reshoot. You can have audio synced with picture and basic color all done, with transcodes in different formats all ready to edit. These systems can output different file types and sizes at the same time. If you are on a budget, you can edit the low rez version on a cheaper computer system and then just swap the full rez at the end for output. I am pretty sure you can get a lilypad case and operator on set for $1200 or less per day. While that may sound like a lot of money up front, you are going to spend it anyway in post when it may be too late to go back and reshoot something you need.

Todailes and LivePlay are just Apps that are super cheap but require hardware to make them work. LivePlay is especially helpful on set but does require the ability to send or transcode quickly, a server (which can be virtual) and a wifi intranet. All very doable relatively cheaply.

June 6, 2013 at 4:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Why are these updates based on outdated Mac Pro hardware? Their processors are circa 2010 (Xeon W3565 and E5645) and the graphic cards are consumer grade Radeon. Just wondering...

June 6, 2013 at 6:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jim Woo