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The digital workflow on the political thriller Snowden, was supervised by DIT Dan Carling.



Working in collaboration with the movie’s cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle DFF BSC ASC, Carling harnessed Codex systems for the ARRI ALEXA 65, ARRI ALEXA XT, Canon C500 and Codex Action Cam cameras used on the shoot, to create a fast and efficient camera-to-post pipeline.

“The workflow for this job was by far my favourite,” says Carling, whose DIT credits using Codex also include Gambit (2012, DP Florian Ballhaus), In The Heart Of The Sea (2015, DP Anthony Dod Mantle), and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016, DP Greig Fraser ACS). “I think this is partly because we were one of the first productions to use the ARRI ALEXA 65, and also partly because all the formats could be recorded to Codex Capture Drives, which made the on-set side really smooth.”

Camera formats on Snowden, ingested to an on-set Codex S-Series Vault from Codex Capture Drives by DIT assistant/data wrangler Mateusz Szczeniak, included: ALEXA 65, in open gate mode, shooting 2.11:1 (6560 x 3100); ALEXA XT, in open gate mode, shooting 1.55:1 (3414 x 2198 usable); Canon C500, shooting 4K RAW, 1.89:1 (4116 x 2178) via a Codex Onboard Recorder; and Codex Action Cam, shooting 1.78:1 (1920 x 1080).

“I changed the naming conventions for the Canon C500 and Codex Action Cam footage to match those of the ALEXA 65 and XT, so that the Data Lab, which was based nearby our Munich production base at ARRI’s headquarters in Türkenstraße, would have streamlined file names for all the data, thereby also simplifying things downstream in post,” says Carling.

As the production involved a lot of subtle live grading for different points in the narrative, Carling supervised on-set colour correction on all formats, setting a quick look for the dailies. The CDL colour correction data was passed to the Data Lab along with the rushes, and this base look was applied and further enhanced as required by Dod Mantle for dailies review.

All of the footage from the various cameras was ingested into the on-set Codex S-Series Vault, and stored on removable 8TB Codex Transfer Drives. Five Transfer Drives were used during production: four to transfer material between the set and the Data Lab, with the fifth used as a back-up copy of the data for security purposes, which remained on-set alongside the original Codex Capture Drives. The drives from the cameras remained on-set until Carling was given the OK from the Data Lab to delete and reuse.

“Backing up all of camera media, and processing the ALEXA 65 material on-set, saved time for the Data Lab and helped to make the whole workflow more efficient,” says Carling. “To further smooth the workload, we performed a rushes split, whereby rushes were transferred to the Data Lab at call time plus five hours, twice a day.”

Carling notes: “At the time of shooting (February 2015), the Codex Capture Drives were 512GB, which allowed for ten minutes of 6.5K material. Now, the new generation Codex Capture Drive 2.0 is 2TB and gives a phenomenal 43 minutes of 6.5K recording time.”


Over at the Data Lab material on the 8TB Transfer Drives was ingested into a Codex XL-Series Vault, which offers additional CPU processing power. This was used to create LTO back-ups and transcode materials for editorial. Once the LTO tapes were written and verified, Carling was given the go-ahead to recycle the original Codex Capture Drives, normally on a 24 to 36-hour turnaround.

“I have to say that the Codex workflow is brilliant,” remarks Carling. “The Codex S and XL-Series are impressive in handling the vast amount of data delivered by the ALEXA 65, and delivered efficient use of time for the workflow on Snowden. And the workflow is now even more impressive with the latest Codex Capture Drive 2.0 technology, which delivers bandwidth of up to 20Gb/s, and is optimized to work with new cameras such as the ALEXA SXT and the Panasonic VariCam Pure. If you want to make things easier for yourself, and raise your degree of certainty to the very highest level, then Codex is the only way to go.”

A look at the creative cinematography of Anthony Dod Mantle DFF BSC ASC on Snowden is available here.

Images courtesy Dan Carling and their respective owners.

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