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COLOSSAL CLONING

How Tom Gough DIT handled the huge data workflow on Doctor Strange

 



TOM GOUGH DIT


The on-set digital workflow for Marvel Studio’s $165m mystery thriller, Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson, was supervised by DIT Tom Gough of Flow Motion Picture Services. Working closely with the movie’s cinematographer, Ben Davis BSC, Gough harnessed Codex Vault workflow systems to handle the massive data payload from four ARRI ALEXA 65 large format cameras – two on first unit, the other pair on second unit – plus two ARRI ALEXA XT’s and an ALEXA Mini, creating a fast, reliable and streamlined camera-to-post workflow.

“I have used Codex on every feature I have ever worked on,” says Gough, whose DIT credits using Codex also include Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron, Me Before You and most recently The Commuter. “With major features like Doctor Strange, the safe and fast management of data is not a trivial matter, far from it. It’s essential. The final tally of data on Doctor Strange amounted to a colossal 769 TB for the whole production. But the great thing about Codex kit is that it just works – and always has done.”



During production on Doctor Strange, whenever a Codex Capture Drive in either the ALEXA 65 or ALEXA XT cameras was filled to around 90%, it was marked as “Exposed”, placed in a rugged Peli-case and transported safely to a near-set Codex S-Series Vault. The production used 20 x 2TB SXR Capture Drives for use with the ALEXA 65s and 20 x 512GB XR Capture Drives with the ALEXA XTs.

The Vault was then used to rapidly clone the material on to Codex Transfer Drive (Solid-State). The Codex SXR and XR Capture Drives, containing the camera originals, remained on-set in a safe with Gough. At this stage two versions of the camera originals existed.

Camera formats on Doctor Strange, ingested to the near-set Codex S-Series Vault by Gough’s assistant Rick James, included: ALEXA 65, in open gate mode, shooting 2.11:1 (6560 x 3100); and ALEXA XT, in open gate mode, shooting 1.55:1 (3414 x 2198 usable) and the ALEXA Mini shooting ProRes 1.78:1 (3840 x 2160) for shots using Dave Freeth’s StableEye system.

“We did not have to get into changing the naming conventions for the ALEXA 65 and ALEXA XT, as the Codex Vaults are already optimised to work with ARRI file names, so the Codex system handles that side of things perfectly well,” says Gough.

The Codex Transfer Drive was then dispatched to Pinewood Post at Shepperton Studios, along with camera, sound and LUT reports commensurate with the footage on the drive. Using two XL- Series Vaults supplied by ARRI Rental, the Pinewood Post team, headed by James Corless and Thom Berryman performed the Process65 step of the ARRIRAW 6.5K material, QC’d the footage and created dual LTO back-ups for long-term archive. The material was also copied to Pinewood Post’s central server. At this stage five versions of the camera originals existed.






“I HAVE USED CODEX ON EVERY FEATURE I HAVE EVER WORKED ON”


Once this step was completed, the Transfer Drives were transported back to set. Gough waited for e-mail confirmation of successful transfers at Pinewood Post before wiping the Capture Drives and Transfer Drives and recycling them back into the production. Editorial and VFX deliverables were then made by Pinewood Post and distributed amongst the various vendors on the show.

As so much data was being produced from the cameras, cloning from the Capture Drives was done regularly throughout each day of the production. To even out the workload still further, Gough performed a rushes split, whereby rushes were transferred to from the set to Pinewood Post twice a day – once at lunchtime, and then again when the production wrapped later in the day.

“Although it was early days for the ALEXA 65 back then, the cameras worked extremely well. The quality of the ARRIRAW 6.5K image is really impressive, with its depth and shadow detail that cinematographers love,” says Gough. “It was very nice to work with this new format, and even better to have the reliable Codex system piping all of that data flawlessly into post production.

“Ultimately all filmmaking is about collaboration, and this extends to the data management teams. I have to applaud the fast, efficient and fastidious liaison and support provided to my on-set team by the crew at Pinewood Post, who were just brilliant. The support from Codex was fast and wonderful too.”

Read more on the creative cinematography of Ben Davis BSC on Doctor Strange.










Images courtesy their respective owners.