The Foundry released STORM 1.0 recently, but it’s already been widely in use in production during the beta process. Manchester-based Space Digital utilized the app along with Nuke, some Apple TVs, and Dropbox to create a useful on-set workflow for a recent Castrol engine oil project.
Space Digital VFX Supervisor Simon Blackledge lead the project. Andy Hayward, Creative Director at DigForFireDMG, envisioned a rolling Audi A5 car reflecting the environment as well as reflecting flowing golden Castrol motor oil. Instead of shooting the car moving on a road, Blackledge suggested simplifying the shoot environment to control costs, and instead film the car in a studio with footage projected back onto the car practically. By shooting with a RED ONE, grading cgi renders using Nuke, and using STORM to screen the footage on-set, they could verify they got what they wanted.
On-set, the car was surrounded by two projector screens, each being fed by an Apple TV. Prior to going on-set, Blackledge categorized the QuickTime running footage in iTunes and then transferred the footage to the AppleTV units. This way, he could simply and easily find and cue shots up on the Apple TV.
Timelapse clip shot on set during production
A critical aspect of this shoot was the hero motor oil and ensuring that the color of the motor oil was what the client demanded. Utilizing CGI renders of flowing motor oil being projected onto the cars, the crew could capture the footage and then immediately take into STORM and grade it.
Having this on-set verification was critical, because what they found in the process was the projector was a bit too green…something the Castrol clients obviously wouldn’t accept. In addition, the highlights and contrast wasn’t working correctly.
Having Nuke on-set, Blackledge could quite easily adjust the projected footage to compensate, but they didn’t have the full range they needed in the renders. However, they had their artists standing by at the Space Digital studios across town in case something needed to be adjusted. The artists would make the tweaks and then render out the footage.
However, instead of messengering the footage or using FTP, artists back at Space Digital would simply save the renders to their Dropbox folder. Since the oil renders were on black, the size of the files weren’t that large so they would quickly sync back to Blackledge’s computer on-set. This would automatically load the revised renders into his Nuke scene for compositing.
They’d then process the tree, saving a QuickTime off to the AppleTV and repeating the process. Blackledge explained “because they wanted a kind of crushed look, but there was that green from one of the projectors, I could throw some of Storm’s colour effects such as ‘Curves’ and ‘Adjust HSV’ onto the footage to quickly make sure we could remove the green whilst keeping the reflections, and preview the look the director wanted.”
So the on-set tools of NUKE and STORM proved to be a powerful combination. “Clients love to see shots previewed on set, they always want to go further and further, STORM helps me show them what is possible, confirm that we have and what we need to deliver the Director’s vision, and deliver just the right content to editorial.” remarked Blackledge. There have been other tools to do this on-set, but nothing that combines the right tools and price to make it as affordable as it is.
Having a tool such as STORM on set also allows them to be more efficient in post by transcoding “first-light rushes” on set for offline (basically getting rid of footage that would never be used). They can also organize the footage with metadata so that if they need to come back and find something it becomes much easier than it used to in the past. This is key so if the editor is looking for something that might not have made it into the “first-light” cut they can find something useful in the outtakes.
STORM has also changed the way Space Digital is archiving their jobs. Obviously, they are still saving all the original R3D sources from the shoot. However, since STORM can track the metadata and XML so well, they have found that they don’t need to archive the hires selects they provide for online. Simon found that using STORM makes accessing the original footage so easy that he is moving his archive of R3D projects into the software. To save space they only archive the original R3D footage, Final Cut project, setups from NUKE, Resolve, and final comps.