Since the digital formats entered the market we have been trying to make the transition from film to digital as painless as possible for the director, producer and DP. The first thing that happened was that we moved the lab out on set. We where able to "develop" the digital negative there and then, close to the lens. This made it possible to give the creative team feedback very quickly. At the beginning this happened trough DVDs, hard drives and FTP accounts. This was all good, although we had very little control over the device it was screened on. The quality varied a lot. When Apple introduced the iPad, a new world of content sharing was established. With iPad 2 and 3 the quality was consistent, with great resolution and flexibility.
Birth of the Dailies apps
It was at this point we started the development of the Drylab Dailies tools. We had earlier created the Cam Report to gather as much useful data on set as possible. I will make this short, but I will share a few thoughts on how we wanted to develop the Dailies tools. In 2009 our team almost released an application called Rushes Control. This was a tool for copying raw data, do a first light, transcode and make reports. This was a very ambitious project for a team that did this during our spare time. When we realised that we never could compete with REDCINE, Resolve, STORM (at that point), SpeedGrade and so on we had to cut down to the bone. I asked myself a question that became the start of Dailies Creator and Viewer. The question was: What are we really trying to do? And the answer came quickly: We are trying to share content fast and as correctly as possible.
So with this as a starting point Audun (our CTO) and I made a quick sketch of what Dailies Creator might look like. We also mapped out a path of how this tool could develop into something more than just distribution. What you all see today is our first step where the focus is on a robust backbone that is easy to use. At the end of this post I will give you some insight on our next steps. That said I want to tell you more in detail how we use DC in professional feature film production today. There is no secret that our tools are more designed for feature films/drama productions than commercial and one-two days shoots. The database is designed to handle thousands of clips.
Using the Dailies apps on-set
Today a feature film will contain many different formats. As a DIT on set we need to handle Alexa ProRes, ARRIRAW, REDCODE, MP4 from GoPros and usually some 5D stuff. Today my tool of choice is Resolve from Blackmagic, as this application can swallow all formats and output to anything I want. Not all of you may have the setup we professionals have on set. But I think Resolve is solving a lot for a fair price. Our setup is based on a 12-core Mac Pro, Cyclone PCI expander with 2x GTX 285 cards, RED ROCKET, SAS card, eSATA, internal LTO-5 drive for LTFS backup. For RAID backup we use Synology with 10GbE interface. We always have a Thunderbolt MBP to copy SxS cards that connects with a Sonnet Thunderbolt PCI expander with 10GbE card to connect with the Synology main project backup. For reference we have a Barco. All this is nicely integrated in a Ford Transit with its own power source. This setup uses about 800 watts with two monitors active. At startup we peak at 950. Our weak point right now is mobile internet connection. But we will as soon as possible go overt to 4G. This will give us a decent speed on uploads.
I also want to mention the possebility to use material generated from the wonderfull Sound Devices PIX240. This solution is perfect when you only have a laptop and not a huge setup as above. I sometimes use this when shooting RED Epic. Clean feed out on HDSDI with embedded look. The PIX then generates ProRes files ready to import in DC. This also work for Alexa when shooting HD, not 2K. Then you can output a clean feed on REC OUT.
OK, now you know the setup. Today my workflow would be to backup first to Synology, LTO and a small raid cabinet. I use Silverstack SET to do my backup. Then I will first-light in Resolve and transcode to Avid MXF for edit, and to ProRes for dailies. As we don't have MXF support in DC I have to transcode both. Usually, I need both anyway because some directors or DPs want the dailies on disk to start work on the scenes in Final Cut. I will come back to the MXF issue later, but I can mention that Alexa ProRes material is coded at 80 FPS and REDCODE in realtime, so I don't have any real time issues with transcoding both. I now have a ProRes source to import in Dailies Creator. At this point I have received the Cam Report data from the camera assistant (2nd AC). This is possible when I have set up a local wifi network that the Cam Report iPod is active on. All shots and takes are visible in my DC project. I usually limit the view to the reel we are at. When importing, the ProRes files that have the same filenames as the source that the Cam Report data and ProRes files will merge. When I don't have a Cam Report on set, I will quickly sort out the shots and takes looking at the clapper board. With the drag-and-drop interface in Dailies Creator this goes relatively fast. As I usually work on one reel at the time and I always try to change reel at 20 or so takes, this method is not slowing me down at all. Now DC is transcoding to H.264s and starts pushing it out locally to my paired iPads and out to my Dropbox account. As long as my local wifi is within limits of the crew, they will receive it very quickly. My turnaround is about 60 minutes on a reel.
So: Today Dailies Creator and the Viewers on my clients' iPads make it possible for me to have one consistent workflow for dailies. Yes, some still want he hard drive to start working on the scenes, but I'm experiencing that the producers are very happy. They finally have a app that gives them total control of what's happening. And lets face it: It's the producers who pay our salary and book us for the next job. So IMO anything that makes the producers happy makes me happy :) Some directors hate the fact that producers have this control, but the only thing we do is to force dialog between the departments that always is for the best for the project/story they try to tell.
So what are our next steps? As mentioned MXF support is an issue we will solve. We need to integrate the MXF SDK to support AAF import (sound and picture), as Apple have done an impressive job sowing doubt about the future of Final Cut Pro. FCP X might be good for many people, but we see that the professional editor won't even consider using it. This might change when FCP X starts supporting some standard workflows again. Anyway, we are working on this, but are not sure exactly when we are able to support it.
The second issue we want to support is ProRes Log C material. We want a simple Log C to Rec.709 feature and a simple CDL workflow. At first the CDL must be created somewhere else; then you can import it and add it to your clips that are in Log C space. At this point I'm pretty sure we will not support the RED SDK to read R3Ds, which would make the application much more complex. But if enough of you want this we'll do it, although I really see no point in using something other than REDCINE for RED work. Other features in Creator we are working on is a search field, more detailed monitoring of paired iPads, and Silverstack support (export to Dailies Creator in Silverstack),
We'll add features to Dailies Viewer as well, for instance adding comments, manually choosing which clips to download, setting in and out points, making playlists, adding notifications, branding, and remote pairing.
As a final note I want you all to tell us what you want. We are a very small and flexible company. We have a path we will follow, but all suggestions and thoughts are most welcome!
- Andreas Herzog Grimsø