I attended a screening Wednesday of David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Sure, it was shown in 4K and looked great. But that’s not big news, of course. Afterward I heard how the film was edited with Adobe’s Premiere Pro, an app that never seemed so ready for the big time as now. Now that impressed me.
I heard the details on the postproduction from part of the talented editorial team that worked with Fincher for years on this and other of his movies. I heard how they developed a highly scalable, incredibly fast storage system that integrated Adobe Premiere Pro CC and After Effects CC, giving me insights into how the NLE’s rapid development cycle is taking it ever higher into the high-stakes feature market.
The screening and talk, held at the big Loews near Lincoln Center, brought together post-production supervisor Peter Mavromates, assistant editor Tyler Nelson and post-production engineer Jeff Brue (Brue is also a co-founder of Open Drives, a high-end, storage developer crucial to the design of the system used on the film).
MC’ing was Michael Kanfer, a senior solutions consultant for Adobe’s professional film and video team. HP came in as another sponsor of the tour – the company’s workstations were used extensively during post. Hosting it all was Tekserve, which happens to provide HP systems (along with Apple) running Adobe products to post houses throughout the city.
Kanfer notes that Gone Girl was the first mainstream Hollywood feature posted entirely on Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC. Fincher’s team also made extensive use of Adobe After Effects CC during post. The director is a firm believer that compositing-and in the future visual effects-are integral to the future of postproduction. Both effects and compositing should be as quickly and easily available from the timeline as the image.
Mavromates, who has worked on practically all of Fincher’s features, noted that the director was a great innovator, never making “two movies in a row the same way”.
Why Adobe’s NLE? The team noted Premiere Pro’s flexibility, how its architecture lets it integrate with a wide range of post technology. Also noted: Adobe’s willingness to incorporate their suggestions as soon as they could. The company’s constant aim to make a better product ensures that Fincher will be using Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite into the future. HP was also involved as an active part of the post team; beyond workstations, they support a wide array of networking and storage.
As many know, Fincher geeks out on the latest advances in image technology, eager to push his productions to full 6K resolutions, for example, with an eye 8K and even beyond. Mavromates, however, disagrees here. He feels that their digital budget would be better spent by developing greater color bit depth during capture and keeping it intact through post.
“The resolution argument is over,” says Mavromates. “If you’re having problems with your digital production and think it’s a resolution problem, it’s not, it’s with the glass (i.e. lenses).”
Another first of the film: DP Jeff Cronenweth shot entirely in 6K with the Red Epic Dragon camera system. Shooting at that resolution meant that he could set his frame markers at 5K, giving him room for stabilization and repositioning later.
Tyler Nelson has worked as an assistant editor for editor Kirk Baxter ACE – a two-time Academy Award winner – for quite some time. “When we edited ‘Social Network’, David saw how he could stabilize the image by round tripping with After Effects. We used the overscan to extract the clean 1920 x 800 pixel image.”
Making full use of a full loaded RAM cache on the HP machines with Premiere Pro and After Effects, Baxter could quickly split the screen and, for example, in a close-up of stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, quickly and seamlessly melding the best takes of the actors.
Actively using some 342 TB of image and effects, and making all that instantly available to the editors, proved another challenge. That’s where Jeff Brue, a head engineer at Open Systems, came in. “I really enjoyed the process of developing a system that would work with all of the Premiere Pro seats seamlessly,” says Brue. “David gave me instructions to “build whatever you need” to pull all of this off. That flexibility lead us to create new ways to better work with Adobe’s software.”
The tight integration between Premiere Pro and After Effects enabled the post team to create a “huge number” of effects shots in-house says Mavromates. HP and Adobe both provided significant technical support, which allowed Mavromates, the postproduction supervisor, and engineering talent Brue, to suggest specific changes to the software and tweaks to the hardware.
The result? Pro-level capabilities that push these systems further into the realm of top-flight solutions for feature films.
Another disclosure from the discussion: expect to see the results of suggestions by top editorial teams such as Fincher’s on the development of SpeedGrade, Adobe’s color management system. A fairly recent acquisition of Adobe’s, the color app is finally getting the full Creative Suite treatment. Color grading will be more powerful, better integrated and much more intuitive to use, said Michael Kanfer. Expect to see these results at NAB 2015.
The nice part? All these changes and improvements will turn up soon in updates to Adobe’s Creative Suite CC. The same one you and I use.