The Creative-Cartel team has steadily grown to a crew of 15 full time staff, and offers–in-depth digital workflow knowledge from on-set to post production.
Along with running Colorfront On-Set Dailies systems for near-set operations, the company also uses Transkoder Engine to power six Joust VFX management systems. These flight-cased packages are designed to follow productions, with SFTP or Aspera connections providing fast broadband connectivity for the chosen VFX vendors, editorial and DI partners.
The Creative-Cartel collaborates with each production in advance to establish a blueprint of the workflow, the file formats and file-naming conventions required, and assign Transkoder Engine pre-sets accordingly. Pressed into immediate service, Transkoder Engine typically undertakes the “heavy lifting” procedures of RAW transcoding to a variety of DPX, EXR, QT and MXF files formats for the VFX and editorial teams and the DI finishing house, although it is also capable of delivering the vast majority of codecs and mezzanine delivery formats in use today.
In practice, EDLs are continuously read and auto-conformed by Transkoder Engine. Users can make selections of the RAW pulls and deliverables they need using the presets in Joust, which then pushes theses assets to the vendor in the required format. Joust also has a dailies viewer, enabling users to review shots-in-progress, and a live interactive review capability for multiple users around the world.
“The digital revolution has enabled us to introduce Joust as a self-service model into the VFX pipeline, to take the complication and voodoo out of the process, and to make things as simple as possible,” says Fulle. “Being able to harness Transkoder as part of an automated system, meant we could develop Joust into an easy-to use standalone package that users can interact with directly themselves. With Joust there’s hardly any learning curve, and as soon as production is set in motion it’s all automated via a simple web user-interface. Depending on the file sizes this means that turnaround times have diminished to the point that it’s pretty much immediate.”
Fulle notes, “Editors and editorial teams are loving that they don’t have to wait for their VFX pulls anymore. Previously, the turnover time in getting plates from the lab might have been several days, which could total literally thousands of man-days over the course of a production. Thanks to Transkoder Engine it’s now all-but instant, which means those previously lost man-days can be reallocated to the creative artists so they can focus on keeping the quality bar high.
“Furthermore, on a typical VFX movie it might have cost in the region of $250,000 for just the plate pulls, but that expense has been eliminated completely now. Additionally, Joust powered by Transkoder Engine can pre-conform RAW files, and transcode to whatever format DI house needs for the final DI grade. The ability to download frame accurate pulls for opticals, reverse-outs and skip frames, is saving a huge amount of conform time at the DI house.”
Obviously, with new cameras and formats being developed the whole time, specifications can and do change. And Fulle is quick to acknowledge Colorfront’s leading-edge development in this respect. “When a new technology comes along Colorfront are already ready there with support. We can rely to them to be ahead of the curve. We can always tell clients, ‘Yes, we can we can support those new cameras you want to utilize’.”
Asked what she would say to anyone else considering their transcoding and asset management options with Colorfront, Fulle says, “It’s a good bet. Being in business with Colorfront you can rely on consistency and advanced technology. While we have tested and used other transcoding systems in the past, what has separated Transkoder Engine from them is the superior technical support we get from Colorfront, and the ability for us to write directly into the Transkoder API. Other systems we evaluated had a translator step in between, making for a less streamlined workflow.”
Looking towards the future Fulle remarks, “There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t move into automated cloud-based operations and are really looking forward to the next developments from Colorfront.”