In a joint venture, EFILM, a subsidiary of Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, and Universal Studios opened a digital intermediate suite on the Universal Studios lot, in proximity to the studio’s sound-mixing stages, sound-editorial rooms, picture-editing suites and other sound services. Since both final sound mixing and the DI come at the end of the post-production chain for feature films, having both services in physical proximity allows the director to walk from room to room, rather than get in a car and battle traffic from Burbank to Hollywood or Santa Monica to Universal City.

What makes this new suite stand out is that it is a virtual DI room. The room is connected to EFILM’s Hollywood facility via a secure, private fiber link that transmits uncompressed 2K 4:4:4 images. That means that there is no machine room, no scanner and a minimum of hardware and software in the Universal Studios DI suite.

Deluxe Entertainment Services Group COO Warren Stein notes that the company has similar configurations of adjacent sound stages and DI rooms in Toronto and Australia. Deluxe also has a similar virtual DI suite on the Fox lot, for internal use. The Universal Studios DI suite is the first such virtual suite to be available to incoming projects.

According to Universal Senior VP, Sound Services Christopher Jenkins, his filmmaker clients have been asking for this kind of set-up. “All the directors want a DI suite [on the lot],” he says. “As soon as they’re into final mixing, it’s a loss of their time and attention to have sound services on the lot but have to leave to do the DI. We’ve got the sound facility here, and now we have a DI suite for all comers.”

The DI suite features both film and digital projection, with a 2K digital projector, and is capable of screening 3D for both XpanD and RealD 3D systems.  EFILM Executive VP/GM Kevin Dillon, who also manages the EFILM virtual DI room, notes that EFILM uses a proprietary version of Autodesk Lustre for color-correction. “We have worked closely with Autodesk to build out from the Lustre,” he says. “We have our own image science team and we’ve built our own LUTs for the variety of film stocks and film labs, as well as the new digital cameras such as the Canon DSLRs and ARRI Alexa.”EFILM also works with VFX houses for plate timing. “We provide them with viewing LUTs so they don’t go off in a different direction,” he says, adding that the company works on testing with VFX supervisors at no charge.

The new virtual suite has no resident DI; DI artists from EFILM’s Hollywood facility will work on the lot, as requested by specific directors. The first films to go through this new DI pipeline on the Universal lot are Fast & Furious 5, The Little Fockers and The Thing. Filmmakers who work in the room will have their films scanned at EFILM’s Hollywood facility, but can see the exact same images they’d see in the DI room on the Universal Studios lot.