Connecting the Cinematographer with the da Vinci Suite

Earlier this year, da Vinci Systems and Gamma & Density announced that G&D’s Cinematographer’s Color Correction Process, or 3cP, would work with da Vinci’s Resolve and 2K Plus color-correction systems. The idea is to give cinematographers working on set a way to specify color-grading decisions for both the dailies colorist and the final telecine or DI artist on a given project. Images are input into the 3cP system during production, color-correction decisions are made, and then the files are saved out to a USB memory stick for eventual loading in the da Vinci suite. The system has been used on such recent films as Quantum of Solace and State of Play.

Gamma & Density’s founding partner and CEO is Yuri Neyman, ASC, a cinematographer probably best-known in the U.S. for shooting the trippy New York cult film Liquid Sky. He attended the Moscow Film School, and after graduating made a number of films in the Soviet republics, including The Bedbug, a satire on socialism. Via email, he filled F&V in on some details of the 3cP workflow.

This product category didn’t exist 10 years ago. Can you describe the thinking that led to the inception of Gamma & Density?
Even early on, the problems posed by electronic and digital technologies and processes were apparent to cinematographers. While the traditional negative-positive process uses tightly regulated, controlled, interdependent and measured parameters, the film-to-tape transfer process has between 12 and 43 different non-standardized parameters – including IRE, chrominance level, PEC, tele-cine GAMMA, gain, and enhancement – that affect the quality of the transfer and of the images on tape.

For me ‘ and other cinematographers unable to properly see the results of their on-set work ‘ the frustration was understandable. Reacting to that, my colleague Sacha Riviere and I created a greyscale/color chart prototype using glue, scissors, and cardboard. I used the chart on my own projects, and it was so successful that I later received a patent for it and for the associated system of communication between the set and the telecine. For the first time ever, the new chart linked a scene’s brightness, F-stop, and zone system ‘ photographic elements ‘ with the waveform monitor’s IRE units ‘ telecine elements. It thus created a common, objective language in which the cameraman and telecine colorist could speak about the film-to-tape transfer process.

That chart is at the heart of Thorough Control System [TCS], which was developed by Gamma & Density in Los Angeles. TCS is working successfully in some 30 countries.

How did that lead to the development of the 3cP product?
3cP, which I developed in collaboration with my business partner, Bob Currier, is a computer program and hardware system that enables cinematographers and directors to translate the lighting of the scene on the set into telecine parameters, and immediately to correct tone and color. This high-quality digital image can be output to any facility in the world as a “passport” that indicates how the scene must look.

With 3cP, almost any condition can be emulated on the set: the laboratory’s printing lights, type of film stock, camera filters, printing and negative processes, or video and special effects. By transforming photographic, HD, and video information into computer language, the 3cP system also enables the manipulation of digital images.

How does your technology connect with da Vinci Systems?
That collaboration came from our mutual four-year long work on the ASC Technology Committee and its DI subcommittee. The result of that effort was the ASC CDL XML format, a computer protocol that serves as an industry standard for cross-platform exchange of primary RGB color-correction data using offset (lift), slope (gain), power (gamma), and saturation functions. Additional relevant data will be added to the protocol in the future. This new ASC CDL XML protocol is the one 3cP and da Vinci rely on for creating, saving and transferring color-correction data.

In the course of those technical discussions, representatives of Gamma & Density and da Vinci recognized that we were natural partners. So in late 2007 we developed a single-line technical workflow in conjunction with Panavision’s Genesis camera and demonstrated it in Los Angeles. At that time, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, was working on State of Play. He was impressed with the new workflow and open to the idea of using the 3cP system. He had previously used 3cP on his film Babel, but this time he would have access to the new ASC CDL protocol and be working with a Genesis digital camera. By December 2007, Prieto had successfully implemented the 3cP/ASC CDL/Genesis/da Vinci workflow to create dailies for State of Play.

Is 3cP specific to the Genesis workflow?
No. We are inventing and supplying not only the 3cP software, but workflows that apply to any camera, including Panasonic and the Red One.

Quentin Tarantino, who was his own director of photography on Death Proof, recently said that shooting in digital makes full-time cinematographers obsolete. Is your system a step in that direction?
This is in no way software called “Cinematographer” that does the work of the cinematographer. Far from it. We don’t have the AI chops for that – at least not yet. Instead, we have created a powerful tool to help communication between the cinematographer and the post-production team.