Silicon Imaging 2K on The Mutant Chronicles
On the feature film The Mutant Chronicles, DP Geoff Boyle experimented with an alpha version of Silicon Imaging’s new 2K MINI camera for inserts, greenscreen shots and even an entire scene in the film. The bulk of the film, however, was shot with the Grass Valley Viper camera.
Having been quite impressed by the footage he saw from the 1920 SI camera at NAB last spring, Boyle got his hands on the 2K MINI and leveraged the compact size of the camera.
"The MINI was interesting in that we used it for a lot of stuff where we didn’t want ultra slow motion, just 72 fps, but we would clamp it onto the matte box bars of the Viper," he says. "Basically, we were doing the same shot with two cameras, but one was shooting at 24 and the other at 72 fps. The 2K MINI is so small that you can actually put it in the middle of a shot with a wide-angle lens while you’re shooting with the Viper and have the actors move around it; in our case, it was concealed from the Viper the entire time."
The digital images were sent via Ethernet directly to a laptop that Boyle notes "wasn’t a terribly fast computer at all; certainly not a Core 2 Duo, which Silicon Imaging recommends, but we recorded straight to it." The CineForm RAW files were then assigned a base color correction and converted to a series of 16-bit TIFF files. The TIFF files, as well as the DPX files from the Viper, were then taken into DVS Clipster and transformed into DVCPRO HD QuickTime files to be edited in Apple Final Cut Pro.
"In the past I have been so anti-compression, but I am amazed by what is coming off this. I have fought and fought with production people not to use systems with compression, but the CineForm compression surprised me, to say the least," he says. "When people see these images the common response wasÃ¢Â€Â˜that footage looks smooth.’ I hate to use the word, but it really does lookÃ¢Â€Â˜filmic’; they have a smoothness to them like film and it lacks that hardness you usually get from aperture and gamma correction in digital images. It takes beautiful skin tones. We had a lot of scenes with people and fire in the same shot and it handled the highlights of the fire, and the skin tones on both black and white people looked amazing."
The Mutant Chronicles wrapped in October and entered into what will likely be a long post process (there are some 1,500 visual effects shots), Boyle has been at home doing color correction and compositing tests with the images from the MINI on his laptop. "I am playing with the CineForm Prospect HD, After Effects and Premiere Pro and working with the SI images, and it’s remarkably easy to color correct the RAW files," he says. "I’ve also been doing tests with the greenscreen footage we shot with the camera and it looks very, very clean, with nice keys and clean edges. It really is a remarkable system."