Friday, March 5, 2010

New Post, Old Post

For many decades, the "post path" of a film remained essentially unchanged. For those reading who aren't movie makers, what this means is that there was an established system for how a film got finished from the moment they yelled "wrap" to when it was released on the silver screen or later on DVD.

A movie was shot on actual film. The negative was transferred to a cutable source-- either another piece of film or later onto tape. These were cut and assembled into the official edit. Then the original negative was conformed to this edit.

Then the original negative was transferred, film to film, to an "interpositive (IP)." The reasoning here is that, at most, you don't want to run that original negative through the projector more than four or five times max. Each time through introduces hair, dirt and scratches.

The IP was colored and then an "internegative (IN)" was struck, so that release prints to all the theaters could be made.

The sound had it's own road through the post path. After the edit was "locked", sound was designed, re-recorded and effects added. Separately, music was worked on. Eventually sound and music came together in the "mix" and then that mix was shot out to film, on what is called "optical negative." This film was synced with the original negative so that when the IP was made, it might have sound.

With the advent of home video, these masters for the videos were made from the IP.

So now, we enter the digital age. Even a few years ago, Hollywood was resisting change, insisting us filmmakers deliver the sound and picture elements on old school technology. However, it's starting to change. When we delivered our sound elements to Sony for "Striking Range", they wanted DA-88 tapes. We talked them in to the Pro Tool session files, so instead of tape, we delivered data DVD's.

Now, instead of an IP, you have what's called a "Digital Intermediate" (DI). The Di has replaced the IP. You edit on high quality digital files, then at your best, raw high quality, you color that assembled edit and you have your DI-- from whence all the masters can be made, whether it's back out to 35mm film for theaters, or a digital file for digital projection, or high def tape if they want that. But even better is just delivering the DI to the distributor.

Sound is still the same. They work on it and marry up with music and then the "stems" are sent to the computer to match up with the DI. In the case of "Rising Stars," Johnny Marshall, our sound designer is working on delivering the 5.1 and the left/right (LT/RT) mix for the morning. It will be the moment when the clean, great sound is brought together with the beautifully colored picture.

Needless to say, we're excited. Class dismissed.

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