FRANCESCO GIARDIELLO DIT
Francesco Giardiello is one of the busiest DITs around, working on major motion pictures and high-end TV productions. Over the years, and more often than not, he’s been among the first to deploy the latest Codex technology at key steps in his meteoric career. As he transitions into digital workflow supervision, Francesco remembers some landmark moments...
Selected filmography: Knights Of The Roundtable: King Arthur, Christ The Lord, Ben-Hur, Pan, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Black Sea, Thor: The Dark World, Romeo & Juliet, The Vatican, Game Of Thrones...
When did you first see Codex?
It was at the end of 2009, when prepping the first season of HBO’s Game Of Thrones at ARRI Media in London. I had heard about Codex, their external recorder and their road map for ARRIRAW recording from the ARRI ALEXA cameras. So we got a prototype to test. Although ALEXA was yet to be released, and it was still early days of the science behind ARRIRAW debayering, the potential of Codex to streamline and accelerate the workflow was blindingly obvious.
We had to go with Sony HDCAM SR tape and tape decks for that first season, but kept an eye on the progress of the Codex technology. In 2010, after ALEXA was launched, we looked at Codex again, and saw the chance to get rid of tape for recording completely. It was the start of a great relationship with Codex, that continues to this day.
Francesco and John Mathieson BSC on King Arthur setting up the look on-set
How did you implement Codex on Game Of Thrones?
On the second season we wanted a tapeless workflow, but it still needed to be 1080p to accommodate the delivery specs. So we used the Codex Onboard M recorder to facilitate a 10-bit 1080p 444 DPX workflow from camera into post.
One of the really exciting things with Codex is the ability to manage the static and dynamic metadata in digital image files. I realised that along with speeding up QC, back-up and dailies deliverables operations, we had the chance to implement a colour pipeline with Codex, using the CDL server to record colour information straight into the file headers. This was really important as during the first season of Game of Thrones – and on so many other jobs – we had no proper way to reference and apply looks from the set, and colour accuracy was sometimes a lottery.
Before Codex, we had to communicate to post which LUT/CDL had to be applied through USB sticks, using a naming convention, and writing it on the slate/camera sheet, with no scientific method to reference and apply looks. Changing the look more than few times a day had the potential to make life a nightmare for the post guys.
However, with the CDL server, and the powerful ability of Codex to input new metadata via filecards, we could eliminate colour issues, not to mention stress and wasted time, and created a colour-consistent pipeline, which was really important on a big, fast turnaround show like Game of Thrones.
What did you learn from deploying Codex on Thor: The Dark World?
Thor: The Dark World was a big step. It was a VFX-heavy movie, and my first experience of a workflow with mixed anamorphic and spherical lens metadata. With the various lenses, and aspect ratios – such as 16:9, 4:3 scope and flat – we had around ten different camera formats to deal with. It was complex, but I quickly learnt how to use the metadata coming off the Codex to streamline the whole post process. This was especially helpful for the VFX vendors. We were able to tell them how to extract target frames from recorded footage – with different extractions of anamorphic and spherical frames – which they could then use to create floating windows and to stabilise or reframe the picture.
“IF YOU WANT TOTAL FIDELITY, AND A WORKFLOW YOU CAN RELY ON, CHOOSE CODEX”
Francesco (c-r) with Rodrigo Prieto ASC (c) and director Edoardo Ponti (l) while testing the Canon C500 for The Human Voice
What’s your take-away of using Codex on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.?
I think that my experience on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. destroyed any doubt that anyone had about digital cinematography with ALEXA XT. The technical development work that Codex did with ARRI to allow direct RAW recording in-camera on the ALEXA XT was a massive benefit to the camera department and proved just how good the Codex workflow really is. Nothing had changed in terms of quality, which was already there, and nothing had really changed for the DIT, apart from making life much easier on the floor. But what had changed was the perception of the camera. Suddenly, here was a digital cinematography camera with the option of an optical viewfinder, but without an external recorder and far fewer cables. It felt more like working with an Arriflex 435, and it made for an easier move for people from film to digital cameras.
Tell us about your experience of using Codex Vault with the ACES workflow on Pan?
Pan was my first job with the Codex Vault, and its speed and capacity certainly helped to accelerate the QC, back-up, dailies and post workflows. But crucially, I was able to bring my previous Codex metadata and colour pipeline experiences together from previous shows to create the first camera-to-post ACES colour pipeline for ALEXA ARRIRAW and RED EPIC footage.
The result of working with Codex, in tandem with other technology vendors, was that the images we viewed on-set from the ARRI ALEXA and RED cameras, were visually identical to those seen in dailies, by the editorial and VFX teams, and in the final DI grade.
In Vault Review we could review the full ACES colour pipeline, make tweaks, check timecode and clone the material to a temporary storage archive – all on-set before we sent the footage for dailies processing. Furthermore, three-quarters of the movie has VFX content, and Codex Vault also proved invaluable in streamlining the metadata archive for efficient VFX delivery.
Vault formed a seamless bridge for the assets to move into post production, delivering peace-of-mind by ensuring complete colour precision throughout. The uncertainty between on-set look management and downstream colour correction just vanished. That’s the level of consistency and reassurance that ACES aims to deliver and that’s exactly what we achieved.
Ridley Scott and Francesco Giardiello on-set
How has Codex changed your work and camera-to-post workflow?
The truth is there are no words to describe how important Codex systems have been in advancing my career and in opening my mind to new possibilities. Workflows have become more dependable, more secure and much, much quicker. Because of this reliability, I see Codex as a pillar, a solid building block, upon which you can work to lay down the blueprint for the digital workflow from the camera, through to dailies, backup, and into post production. I am now able to imagine a career as a digital workflow supervisor who bridges the gap, and ensures collaboration, between the DIT, production, editorial and the various VFX vendors by establishing solid workflows at an early stage that meet everyone’s needs.
What would you say to anyone considering their workflow options with and without Codex?
Workflow without Codex? I dread to think about that. I have used Codex every single day of my working life since 2010, and can genuinely say that you can trust it, it works. Plus, Codex really care. In the last five years I have been on a journey with Codex, and they have been on a journey with me. They have listened to my needs, from the coalface of digital moviemaking, and have quickly developed features and performance capabilities accordingly. If you want total fidelity, and a workflow you can rely on, choose Codex.
Images courtesy Francesco Giardiello