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CALENDAR
8th February: Side Effects released (US)
15th March: Side Effects released (UK)


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UPCOMING PROJECTS

SIDE EFFECTS
Information | Photos | Official website Released: 8th February (US)


BEHIND THE CANDELABRA
Information | Photos | Official website Released: 2013


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DVDs that include an audio commentary track from Steven:
Clean, Shaven - Criterion Collection
Point Blank
The Graduate (40th Anniversary Collector's Edition)
The Third Man - Criterion Collection
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


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Mac, Lies and DV Tape
Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh cuts his first digital film
by Joe Cellini
(Apple.com, April 2002 )


Why did Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh, arguably the hottest director going, follow his unprecedented roll of critical and box office hits (“Traffic,” “Erin Brockovich” and “Ocean’s 11”) with a U-turn back to his indie roots? How would he make his indie hit “sex, lies & videotape,” if he could make it today? Here’s why, here’s how.

Sex, Again
Soderbergh drafts a select cast for “Full Frontal,” a digital sequel to “sex, lies & videotape.”

His fans have come to expect relentlessly inventive, “out-of-the-box” filmmaking from shape-shifting director Steven Soderbergh. Nobody expected “off-the-shelf.” But to realize his vision for “Full Frontal,” an “unauthorized sequel” to his ur-indie hit, “sex, lies, and videotape,” Soderbergh reached for tools accessible to almost any filmmaker, including a “bare bones” Canon XL1s PAL digital camera and Power Mac G4 computers running Final Cut Pro 3.

Following a remarkable succession
of distinguished movies that include “Out of Sight,” “The Limey,” “Erin Brockovich” (Academy Award nominee, Best Director), “Traffic” (Academy Award winner, Best Director), and “Ocean’s 11,” Soderbergh decided with “Full Frontal” to do something small with “a different aesthetic.”

Producer Scott Kramer explains the downshift. “When Steven finishes a film, he relaxes by making a smaller, differently articulated film, something that gives him the opportunity to flex his creative muscles. ‘Full Frontal,’ was an opportunity to get back to the roots of why we all (cast and crew) became involved with movies.

“It’s important to note that we shot and edited with equipment available to everyone. Thanks to the advent of MiniDV and Final Cut Pro, anyone who is so inclined can make a movie. A filmmaker no longer needs the approval of a studio to tell a story.”

More Sex
Not that Soderbergh, with a platinum track record and lethal pitch (“it’s how I would make ‘sex, lies, and videotape,’ today”), had much trouble getting Miramax to greenlight the project.

The pitch worked equally well in pulling off-the-chart talent into his off-the-shelf film. For Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood, David Duchovny, David Hyde Pierce and Catherine Keener, “in” was an easy decision, despite reduced salaries, a tight schedule, and a contract sent to actors by Soderbergh “with a wink” to set expectations for working on a low budget production ($2 million).

Although not many facts have been released about the plot of the film, a time-release movie profile is developing on the “Full Frontal” site, which includes cast journals, QuickTime movies from the set and active message boards. This much is clear: “Full Frontal,” based on a script by Coleman Hough, is about the making of a movie and the strange connections eight people make over a 24-hour period.

The rest, hints Kramer, is worth waiting for. “We asked our favorite people to come work with us and they were exceptional. The actors gave performances that are amazingly layered and immediate. They worked from the moment Steven started rolling until it was time for them to drive themselves home.”

18 Very Full Days
Before Soderbergh had a complete idea of what the movie would be, he had a good idea of how long it would take, a “time frame that we would follow no matter what.” Soderbergh and crew shot the movie, chiefly in DV, in 18 very full days in Los Angeles, wrapping just after Thanksgiving.

“I do think you need to have laws, and walls, to make you think laterally instead of vertically all the time. And so we worked quickly, and the days that we shot on DV, the actors said they would go home exhausted because all day, the entire day, they were acting,” says Soderbergh.

Adds Kramer, “The “go-go-go” filming attitude of Full Frontal was decided as a means of producing not only the volume of material needed, but also the ‘look’ we wanted. Steven not only directs, he also operates the camera. And working with the Canon XL1s allowed him a freedom he hadn’t experienced before. Shooting MiniDV without having to stop for lighting setups also meant that the actors had long uninterrupted takes, very different from the stuttering stop and go of the usual production.

“The shortened schedule was actually freeing in that we accepted what we got on the day and that lent to an air of spontaneity that one feels viewing the film. It feels more alive and immediate than a more polished production would have allowed. The look of MiniDV is spectacular. Other cameras were used to shoot portions of the film, and we hope the effect of seeing the two different types of images will be startling and add yet another layer to the story.”

Pro Active Post
Crew and consultants design state-of-the-art postproduction workflow around Final Cut Pro, Cinema Tools and a shared area network with 1.2 terabytes of storage.

Red plays a role in the film

Consummate Pro
Soderbergh and Kramer created a postproduction workflow around Final Cut Pro 3, which Kramer calls the perfect solution for their take-no-prisoners approach to filmmaking.

The Full Frontal team worked with Apple and Outpost Digital, a postproduction facility in New York, to design a workflow that would satisfy the unique requirements that included a combination of DV and film acquisition (80% DV, 20% 35mm), and a SAN (shared area network)-based editing suite (for efficient media management and storage) that would be available for editing during shooting in LA and then moved to New York for final cut and finishing.

The editors began capturing and editing during production in an edit suite set up in the Los Angeles offices of Universal Pictures, installed by DigitalFilm Tree, a notable Final Cut Pro post shop in Los Angeles.

“Full Frontal” editor Sarah Flack had been trained in Final Cut Pro by Outpost, who also brought assistant editor Susan Litttenberg, a Final Cut Pro veteran, up to speed on the new features of Final Cut Pro 3. Although the volume of footage was much higher than for a typical film, the workflow worked as planned. And when editing resumed at Outpost Digital in New York, Flack, working closely with Soderbergh, was able to quickly achieve a director’s cut.

Evan Schechtman, principal of Outpost Digital, says “The real beauty of doing it on Final Cut Pro this way was the fact that their systems in essence were DV systems. Everything was transferred to DVCAM and loaded that way. And they definitely used Rorke Galaxy 60 SAN to its fullest extent, not just for centralized storage, but to share volumes to enhance their workflow. In the past people were saying one of the problems with Final Cut Pro is that you can’t have shared storage. Obviously, you can.”

Off Color
To bring out the look of DV against film, a meaningful contrast required by the story line, Outpost Digital colorist Peter McCoubrey used Final Cut Pro and CinéWave RT to color correct DV footage to the director’s specifications and to produce several tests of effects before the footage was printed to film.

Says McCoubrey, “We used a CinéWave RT system with 2.1 drivers to color correct in SDI colorspace in realtime, basically color correcting the entire DV part of film in one day. Red plays a role in the film, and in a specific scene where a woman had a red shirt on, Steven didn’t want her shirt to be red. So using the Final Cut Color corrector, we were able to select the red and bring it down. In scenes where he wanted the red to boom, we were able to select the red and bring it out.

“I came from color correcting with knobs and dials, but with FCP, I could color correct everything in the timeline. If I wanted to change something, it was just a couple of switches, click click click, and he liked it.”

Outpost’s Schechtman is equally high on the efficiency of Final Cut. “We wouldn’t be able to turn around as many versions of the film as fast as we did if it wasn’t for the realtime architecture of Final Cut and CinéWave together.”

Full Release
“Full Frontal,” recently locked and printed, is not yet scheduled for release. Kramer says that the film will “platform release in 10 cities, on 15 screens. After our first week the picture will open wider, in more markets.”

Because Soderbergh is a strong proponent of digital distribution, Kramer is negotiating for a digital release as well. “It would be nice to have a digital release, and those discussions are being had with our distributor, Miramax, who 13 years ago released ‘“sex, lies and videotape.’”

Work flow
How they did it, pitch to print, coast to coast.

Soderbergh shot 50 hours of video and 10 hours of film

Pre-production

Acquisition
Director Steven Soderbergh and producer Scott Kramer shot “Full Frontal” chiefly in digital video (MiniDV), using Canon XL1s PAL cameras. The camera was selected for its maneuverability, which allowed Soderbergh to hand hold the camera, and for the image quality it generated, which conformed perfectly with the director’s vision for the movie.

At 25fps, PAL translates easier to film (24fps) than NTSC (30fps), is slightly richer in color space (4:2:0 versus 4:1:1 for NTSC), and has 100 more lines of horizontal line resolution. As a requirement of the story line, about 20% of the picture was shot in film, but at 25fps, to create the same pitch as the PAL video sequences.

Aspect Ratio
The director and producer decided to shoot 4:3 instead of 16:9 (the XL1s doesn’t shoot true 16:9, but instead stretches pixels to achieve that ratio), accepting some frame loss from the top and bottom of their frames when they transferred to film.

Workflow
Because the movie’s schedule required a completed film within 4 months (a typical feature takes 6-12 months), in early September representatives from Apple and Outpost Digital, a New York-based Final Cut Pro online postproduction facility, helped design an optimal workflow and an efficient Final Cut Pro 3-based editorial suite featuring two Dual 800 Power Macintosh G4 computers and a shared area network. The “Full Frontal” team wanted to use SAN not just for centralized storage, but also to share volumes on multiple systems to enhance their workflow.

Training
Outpost principal Evan Schechtman trained the editor, Sarah Flack, who had cut previously on Avid, and brought assistant editor Susan Littenberg, a seasoned Final Cut Pro veteran, up to speed on the new features of Final Cut Pro 3.

Production

Location Shooting
Soderbergh shot approximately 50 hours of video footage and 10 hours of film footage in 18 days, and wrapped just after Thanksgiving.

Capture & Edit
Outpost coordinated with DigitalFilm Tree, a notable Final Cut Pro-based post facility in Los Angeles, to install the editing suite in the studios of Universal Pictures for the duration of the shoot. This allowed the editor and assistant editor to capture, log and edit large amounts of daily footage from multiple cameras. And the shared area network allowed the assistant editor to quickly move captured and logged date to volumes that were immediately accessible to the editor.

DV Capture
The digital video was loaded straight out of the camera onto the assistant editor’s editing station through a Sony DSR-2000P DVCAM PAL deck. The DAT audio was captured independently using a Digigram VX222 digital audio capture card and was synched with the video. The shoots were slated, just as with film shoots, so the assistant editor synched sound and video by lining up the sound clap to the visual clap.

Film Capture
35mm negatives shot at 25fps were processed and telecined at CFI in Los Angeles. The assistant editor used Cinema Tools (formerly FilmLogic) to track and manage the 25fps film footage, which came in already logged in telecine. She moved the footage into Cinema Tools, created batch lists,\ and batch captured the telecined tapes into her Final Cut system using the DSR-2000P deck. The editor was able to immediately identify takes and begin cutting, because Cinema Tools sorts the list into slate order. The sound for the film footage was also recorded on DAT. The synched DAT audio on the transfer tape was pristine, so the editors used it to make their cuts.

Post production

After shooting wrapped, the edit suite and a completely digitized rough assembly of the entire movie were shipped to Outpost Digital’s New York offices and reassembled for final editing and postproduction. As a precaution, before shipping, DigitalFilm Tree successfully backed up all 800 gigabytes of data, copying one Rorke Data terabyte drive to another. (The shipped Galaxy unit worked flawlessly.)

Final Editing
The editor and director “hit the ground cutting” in the reconstructed edit suite at Outpost Digital, completing a first cut within two to three weeks of the move. All audio and video were synched in Final Cut Pro.

Because the movie would eventually run in theater at a slightly slower rate than the 25fps at which they were editing, prior to scanning the film, the editors checked pacing by transfering 25fps PAL to NTSC and slowing it down to 24fps.

Online
After the picture was locked in January, Outpost took the DV portion of film, exported by the editors as pure PAL DV files from Final Cut Pro, then processed the files to transcode and field merge the material. The transcoding brought the video into the 4:2:2 color space as 16bit YUV. The field merge technique used by Outpost saves a step usually done at the point of transfer and satisfied the technical requirements of their film lab, FotoKem. The Outpost process yields virtually no jaggy artifacts usually found on DV when heavily treated.

Color Correction
The video portion of the film was color corrected scene-by-scene on Outpost’s online Final Cut Pro and CinéWave system, using Final Cut Pro’s 3-way color corrector and real-time color correction capabilities and laid back to PAL DigiBeta, then tested by Outpost colorist Pete McCoubrey with the director.

Sound
During the final edit, the director and editor were able to try different pieces of music by importing CD audio. After locking the picture, Outpost the editors exported sound reels to the sound editors as OMF files in QuickTime, along with with QuickTime video.

Finish
FotoKem received the final cut of the original movie in PAL video, de-interlaced it and converted it to files using a disk array. The files were shipped across the network to their film recorder, which had been calibrated to shoot on 5298 film to enhance graininess. A two-stop push during negative processing further enhanced grain and contrast. A double chrome-reversal process was used to create the final negative and print. The 4:3 images were matted and converted to a1:66:1 (European) widescreen aspect ratio for theatrical projection.

Toolbox
In detail: cameras, computers, decks, networks, hard disks, peripherals, cables and applications.

What they used

- 4 Canon XL1s PAL cameras, with Century wide angle lens converter
- Dual 800MHz Power Mac G4, Mac OS 9.2.2, QuickTime 5.0.5
- 2 22-inch Apple Cinema Displays
- Dr. Bott DVIator for second Cinema Display
- Atto 2 Gigabit PCI Fibre Channel PCI host card
- StudioNet Fibre Channel Management Software
- Final Cut Pro 3
- Cinema Tools (formerly FilmLogic)
- Sony DSR-2000P DVCAM PAL deck with FireWire (iLink) connectivity
- Sony PVM-20M4U 20” NTSC/PAL Monitor
- Mackie CR1604-VLZ 16CH audio mixer
- 2 Mackie HR824 speakers
- Dual 800MHz Power Mac G4, Mac OS 9.2.2, QuickTime 5.0.5
- 2 22-inch Apple Cinema Displays
- Dr. Bott DVIator for second Apple Cinema Display
- Atto 2 Gigabit PCI Fibre Channel PCI host card
- StudioNet Fibre Channel Management Software
- Final Cut Pro 3
- Cinema Tools (formerly FilmLogic)
- Macally USB Floppy drive for Telecine Files
- Sony DSR-2000P DVCAM PAL deck with FireWire (iLink) connectivity
- Sony PVM-14N6U
- Sony PCM7040 DAT Recorder
- Mackie 1402-VLZ PRO audio mixer
- 2 Event PS5 speakers
- Wacom Graphire2 Tablet
- Digigram VX222 digital audio capture card
- Panasonic AG-W3 Multistandard VHS deck
- Horita BSG50 PAL Black Burst Generator
Both systems were on a SAN via Fibre Channel (glass)
Rorke Data 1.2 Terabyte Galaxy 60 FC JBOD (16x72GB 10K drives)
Project Files (not media) were backed up daily by burning to CD via the Power Mac G4 SuperDrive.
- Dual 800MHz Power Mac G4 1.5GB RAM, Mac OS 9.2.2, QuickTime 5.0.4
- CinéWave Pro Analog and Digital BOB driver v2.1
- Final Cut Pro 3.0
- 2 22-inch Apple Cinema Displays, DVIator
- Rorke Galaxyi 8i (Copper 1 gig Fibre) 600GB Raid level 5 with distributed parity
- Atto Fibre Card
- Sony BVM-20E1U 20” Multi Format 4:3 Display SDI
- Sony BVMD-20E1U 20” Multi format 16:9 Display SDI
- Sony DSR-2000P
- Sony DVW-A500P Digital Betacam Edit VTR
- Videotek VTM-320 XGA Waveform Vectorscope
- Videotek SDC-831 legalizer, 4:4:4 color corrector
- Mackie 1402 VLZ
- Yamaha MSP-5 Amplified Speakers

 


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