How the Disney+ Feature Film 'Safety' Scored Using DaVinci Resolve

'Safety'
'Safety'Credit: Disney+
Turns out there's an inspiring story behind this inspiring story. 

Disney+'s new movie, Safety, is the story of former Clemson University football safety Ray McELrathBey (Jay Reeves), a young man facing a series of challenging circumstances, whose dedication and persistence help him to triumph over repeated adversities. Aided by his teammates and the Clemson community, he succeeds on the field while simultaneously raising and caring for his 11-year-old brother Fahmarr (Thaddeus J. Mixson).

It's a heartwarming and empowering tale, but it turns out, there was something pretty cool going on behind the scenes in post-production. 

Safety utilized an all Blackmagic Design workflow from principal photography to post. During production, the team used a digital asset management (DAM) system on set that was built around its switchers, recorders, routers, and monitors, and then was edited and graded using DaVinci Resolve Studio

Why is this cool? 

There's a free version of DaVinci Resolve, meaning you or I can do the same thing. Even though this was a studio film, they still opted to use Resolve as their non-linear editor because they felt it offered them the best way to get their story to the screen and to save money in their budget for effects, locations, and other really expensive parts of production. 

So where did choosing Resolve come in? 

When the team behind Safety embarked on the film, they knew they needed to be more efficient and cost-effective, both on set and in post. Executive Producer Doug Jones knew the practical answer was to improve the technological workflow on set, get rid of the unnecessary roadblocks between set and post, and allow editors to better interface with production.

Credit: Black Magic

Lucky for the movie, Jones had been one of the first pushing for full digital filmmaking and had always felt technology was something to be embraced.

The DAM workflow on the film came together out of an understanding that many of the tools used for broadcast work are equally compatible for feature film production. Jones began to see how DaVinci Resolve, combined with integrated Blackmagic hardware on set, could provide an “online all the time” pipeline, and would not only save time but also save money.

That money shows on the screen, helping them nail extra emotional takes and some of the huge crowd scenes. That worked out really well for director Reginald Hudlin. He, cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, and editor Terel Gibson outlined how the pipeline could help make production more efficient.

“There are amazing things that we have done for over a century of film production that are tried and true, and you just do not upset that apple cart,” said Hurlbut. “And then there are things that come along that look like they are going to flip the paradigm and kind of change the channel. When Doug Jones came to me with this Digital Asset Management system, and showed me how it completely unified the process from pre-production to production, to post-production, I felt it was pretty extraordinary.”

When you have a fluid process, it will lead to dynamic teamwork between people shooting and post-production. This was something they all plan on using on future projects.

The process they developed was simple and manageable by one operator on set. When cameras rolled, they automatically triggered Hyperdeck Studio Mini recorders on the DAM cart to record simultaneously with matching time code, creating immediate playback footage.

That same video feed was live graded on set with DaVinci Resolve, allowing video village and remote creatives to view only colored footage rather than RAW, uncolored imagery. Thus, colored playback was available right away, with dailies available twice daily both onset as well as remotely, when uploaded to secure cloud services. Live images and recorded shots were immediately available throughout the set via ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio 4K switchers and Teranex Mini SDI Distribution 12G boxes. Audio was handled by the Blackmagic Audio Monitor 12G.

None of these are expensive, and hearing that work together is something we can definitely emulate. The nice thing here is that this helped them shoot and assemble scenes and give them to the studio for approval, all at a rapid pace. 

Credit: Black Magic

Hurlbut said he appreciated the ability to provide clear communication, all the way to the studio level.

“We were able to track all metadata coming out of the cameras and put that right into our RAID system, send shots all the way up to Disney and keep everyone on the same communication level, with same day dailies that kept the studio feeling very connected to the film,” he said.

The comprehensive system gave creatives at every level not only a sense of involvement but the ability to directly interact, something Hurlbut felt was critical.

“The system enables us to engage the studio with decisions because now they're seeing same day dailies. Imagine that we're shooting in Atlanta and we are processing all the dailies at lunch, and again at wrap. The studio is seeing dailies at four o'clock on the west coast, right before they go home. They're able to talk to Reggie. They're able to talk to the other producers. They're getting everyone dialed in. Everyone feels like they have a voice. And everyone feels like they're absolutely included in the creative process.”

Here's the thing I think we all like to hear, because of all this stuff coming in, they were not just assembling dailies to fire off, they were simultaneously editing the entire feature. Editor Terel Gibson set up editorial in the same building as production.

“We were able to stay very close to camera, which was great.”

Gibson cut the movie entirely in DaVinci Resolve Studio.

The editorial process began on set, as digital asset manager Michael Smollin would sync sound with camera files, add non-destructive color correction, and then create an editorial timeline, all within Resolve.

“Dailies we're delivered from set and were ingested into the system faster than they would be with a traditional workflow. Working with RAW dailies meant no need for transcoding. We were in essence the lab.”

Dailies were viewable within six hours after the start of each day, and a full day of dailies was available and uploaded within 16 hours from the start of the day. Editorial was never more than six hours behind the actual shoot, making the entire process responsive to changes and notes, even from the studio.

That meant they could plan reshoots and incorporate notes ASAP, so they were not wasting time. 

With such a fast turnaround, the editorial was able to assemble scenes from the shoot day upon arrival to editorial, sometimes creating edits of scenes while they were still being shot. Rough cuts were often viewed by the end of the day or the next morning.

“I have never felt so close to the camera as I did during this project,” said Gibson.

So if it works for Disney+, it might be a workflow worth considering for your next project. 

Have you ever worked with DaVinci Resolve as the exclusive program for post? What were some of the tips and tricks you'd offer the team from Safety

Let us know in the comments.      

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2 Comments

It was the next logical step of the digital revolution.

All the hardware that was analogic can now be replaced with digital, so now the focus is becoming more and more "can we combine this and that to change this".

That's what extended reality is about too. But we're still living in the infancy of digital, a lot more innovations are coming.

December 21, 2020 at 1:18PM

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I have been using Resolve front to back for about 3 years now and would never ever go back.

August 24, 2021 at 6:06AM

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