Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Phantom HD / Panavision Genesis / Magic Lantern HD Framestore™

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to work with the Vision Research Phantom HD high speed camera as a Digital Imaging Technician. This particular project involved the Panavision Genesis as the 'A' Camera and the Phantom as a dedicated high speed camera. To round out our tool set we employed the Magic Lantern HD Framestore™ as an on-set HD reference tool and HD playback device.

The workflow was quite interesting . . . and more than a few mysteries about each of the cameras were clarified for me.

Since this commercial was one of the first HD outings for this client it became clear that maintaining client confidence was of tantamount importance. The D.P. Doug Koch wanted both the agency and the clients to see imagery that wowed them. Rather than simply feed the RAW output from the Genesis we opted to correct the image using the Panavision GDP (Genesis Display Processor).

In prep Doug and I developed the basic LUT looks using the GDP. Doug was very fluent with creating LUT's after having just completed the filming of The Bronx is Burning, an ESPN mini-series shot on Viper. In just a few minutes we familiarized ourselves with the GDP and setup some simple looks using the left to right - 'in to out' signal flow of the GDP Controller software version 1.44 as illustrated by the screen grabs below.

Although generating a look wasn't difficult, it turned out that properly saving the .gdf files and the corresponding LUT files, as well as the .acv curve files was slightly unintuitive. Care had to be taken to submit and save the pre- and post-gamma sections of the look. For safety we exported the LUT to the DaVinci file format using the File/Export requester and also saved the file to Luther Ascii foramt using the Lut/Create 3D LUT . . . file requester. In addition to the LUT files and Curve files it was all too easy to forget to save the main .gbf file! In future versions of the software it would be nice to be able see the name of the .gbf file that your are tweaking in a header just to help keep track of the files.

In order to keep the system intuitive we utilized the Magic Lantern HD Framestore™ to capture a still reference frame of the before and after for each look.

The Panavision Genesis signal was recorded to HDCamSR on-board. This is a simple single system recording in 4:4:4 to the on-board SRW-1 recorder. The Phantom, on the other hand involves a different approach. To preserve the Phantom footage, a time consuming transfer process was required. Once the footage is captured to on-board RAM(8 Gb max at that time) it then had to be transferred via Gigabit Ethernet to a PC laptop supplied with the camera. The laptop also acts as the controller for the Phantom settings and triggers the camera to start or stop recording. The specific model we used was the Phantom V10 which has no viewfinder or controls on the camera at all.

To be continued . . .

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