FilmLight stands apart as a dedicated high end color grading tool, but it still has adapted to integrated workflows and that means also working from inside products like Nuke and AVID. FilmLight has produced a suite of plugins for popular third-party products called Baselight Editions.
Baselight for AVID
An example is the Baselight plugin for Avid. Flimlight will be showing a new expanded version of this plugin at IBC2017 in September, in Amsterdam.
The Baselight for Avid plugin using FilmLight’s render-free, metadata-driven workflows, allows editors to always see the latest grade, and they can make their own adjustments to it without leaving the Avid environment.
The new release brings even greater efficiencies. A new visual timeline allows the user to see and move easily between shots. Combined with the new relational navigation tool, which allows users to narrow down material very quickly and move between shots with the same clip or tape name, navigation is both seamless and simple.The Baselight workspaces tool is also available in Baselight for Avid 5.0, allowing users to customise their screen and arrange panels within the Baselight UI according to their individual needs and preferences.Beyond navigation and layout, the addition of relational grading replicates Baselight’s powerful multi-shot grade application, by allowing grades to be copied and imposed on shots defined by the same category, such as clip name, bin name, camera and so on.The latest version also brings the new grading tools introduced in Baselight 5.0 into the Avid workspace. This includes the Base Grade concept from FilmLight, which gives the artist access to a set of controls that accurately mimic the way the eye appreciates colour, rather than the traditional lift/gamma/gain approach. Also included is the texture equaliser, which can be used for skintone fixes: giving the editor the ability to clean up skin issues without handing the shot off to a colourist. Other new functionality includes perspective tracking for grading windows, gamut tools for moving between colour spaces, and denoise.
The raw images are retained throughout, with the grade captured in metadata in the FilmLight BLG format. Any device, from Prelight ON-SET or the Daylight dailies tool through Baselight for Avid to the full colourist suite, will interpret the BLG metadata and impose the latest version of the grade in real time.
Baselight for Nuke.
Return of the Snowman
For the 2017 Super Bowl, Nissan decided to take a wintry look at its latest model in a spot called Return of the Snowman. Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan developed the idea and shot the background plates, but the success of the spot would lie in post. In particular, the commercial needed a lot of VFX to create the battle between the army of snowmen and the vehicles.
The task of finishing the commercial was given to Alter Ego in Toronto. The Alter Ego colour grading suites and theatre feature five Baselight systems. Alter Ego collaborated with The Embassy – 3,400km across Canada in Vancouver. Starting with the popular Citroen dancing robot, The Embassy is well known for its photo-realistic, hard surface VFX work. It has a strong reputation in the VFX world, delivering on major movies like the Iron Man trilogy and building the dropship hangers for The Hunger Games as well as stunning commercials. The Embassy use the integrated Baselight for NUKE plugin into its VFX pipeline.
Transcontinental BLG colour collaboration
The timescales were tight, on the project. It was vital that the live action and VFX composite perfectly, which really implies the comp artists being able to see the finished and graded backgrounds, and not trying to second guess the direction that the colourist would take the images.
The key was for everyone to see the current version of the grade, so that they could all see what the results should be. FilmLight – with its BLG (Baselight Linked Grade) workflow – provided the solution. The idea behind the BLG workflow is that the raw footage is never altered. All grading is non-destructive, retaining the original material and capturing all the grading decisions in metadata: as a compact Baselight BLG file. The BLG file contains the entire grade, including the de-Bayering and LUTs for the raw camera footage, and all the layers, mattes and keyframes as well as the grades. This means that any Baselight workstation can pick up a project, see the progress so far, and perform more work on the grade if required. At the end of any session, the output is just a relatively small BLG metadata file.
Full EXR linear workflow between compositing and grading suites
Both Alter Ego in Toronto and The Embassy in Vancouver used the Baselight for NUKE plugin. Led by VFX supervisor David Casey at The Embassy, the compositors working on Return of the Snowman all had Baselight for NUKE running on their workstations. They could then see the raw background footage exactly as Alter Ego colourist Wade Odlum had graded it. If Odlum updated the grade, then all that was needed was to email a compact metadata file, measured in kilobytes, and everyone instantly saw the changes. Not only do the Baselight Editions provide a matching, realtime rendering of the grade, they also give the Comp artist access to the grading toolset, via their familiar environment and without the need to open different software. So VFX artists could tweak the grade within NUKE, with the updated BLG file going back to colourist Odlum for finishing.
“We wanted to be able to work in the context of the creative grade, while still working with the original scene-referenced imagery,” said VFX supervisor David Casey. “I was blown away by the potential of Baselight Editions for NUKE. “We have a very good relationship with Alter Ego and have worked on countless commercials with them,” Casey added. “As they run Baselight as their flagship grading system it made sense to become part of the creative process for grading, to improve our VFX work, streamline schedules and present a consistent preview to our clients. Baselight for NUKE provides this opportunity.”
In the case of the Nissan spot, the VFX artists could make tweaks on the grade as they went, for instance adjusting colour suppression that was no longer required, or making small adjustments to mattes once the CG characters were placed in the scene. “To create the look for the Nissan commercial we decided to go with a desaturated winter feel, slightly on the cool side but it had to maintain the car colours and skin tone throughout,” explained Odlum. “But the best thing was that, every time a work in progress was made for the clients to see, everyone was looking at the spot with the colour correction that we set. “Once it came time for the final grade, we were simply passed the ungraded VFX shots and put them back in our timeline. All of our original colour correction applied perfectly, and with the supplied mattes we were able to finish the spot on time.”
For David Casey, the advantage of the workflow is all about flexibility. “When compositors have a visual target for what their work is going to look like they get a lot more relaxed!” he said. “No more second guessing about the final output means they can concentrate on the details that will be seen.“So many times subtle details added in a shot are lost in a grade that is pushed in an unexpected direction. That for me is wasted effort, and with the compressed schedule of commercials time is a valuable commodity.”