Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart in Rabbit Hole

“One of the greatest things about growing as a company,” says John Eremic, “is that moment you realize, ‘Hey, I could delegate that.'” Eremic, better known to clients as Pliny, oversees all of post-production at New York City’s Offhollywood, which specializes in digital production and post, owns the first two RED ONE cameras shipped to the public (they are numbers 0006 and 0007) and runs a RED camera rental business on site. The company has been in business for seven and a half years, and Eremic joined six and a half years ago. Over that time, it’s evolved so that Eremic is no longer handling the day-to-day business of DI production, but rather overseeing everything from color-management and DI systems and workflows to enterprise software. He calls Offhollywood a “digital cinema enabler,” working on shows originated with a variety of digital cameras and partnering with labs on both coasts for film-outs, including such titles as Fair Game and the current limited release Rabbit Hole. We asked him five questions about life, work, and the ongoing transformation of the post-production business.

Q: What are you working on today?

A: Some really great new projects buried under NDAs.  (Seriously.)  We’re also just finishing out the last DCP, and DCDM deliveries of a wonderful film called Rabbit Hole. We’ve been involved in this film for the past 18 months: Offhollywood was the RED camera house and the VFX house, and the color-correct and mastering happened here as well. We’ve had some other Oscar-nominated work come through here (Frozen River) but I think this film will have great success. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star, but the whole cast is fantastic.

Q: What’s the most important technological development you’ve seen over the last 12 months?

A: That’s certainly a loaded question. It’s hard to remember what life was like before the RED Rocket acceleration hardware.  We do a fair amount of RED DI, and it’s pretty amazing to drive and color-time raw 4K RAW footage in real time.  It’s even more fun to drive and color time two streams of 4K RAW—on stereoscopic projects—in real time.

We’ve recently finished Fair Game (Sean Penn) and Beginners (Ewan MacGregor), all in Assimilate Scratch. There is really no line left between this new generation of DI tools (like Scratch) and the traditional, established systems. When a client can sit in your theater and have the same experience he is accustomed to from a DI system that costs five or 10 times as much, that’s when you know a line has been crossed.  Terms like “heavy iron” and “light iron” will be meaningless in another couple of years.

I recently had a director sitting in our DI theater watching and color grading 3D rushes, and he kept asking me, “You have to render now, right?  No?  What about now?” Exceeding expectations is a fun part of the job.

On a different note, as a media-center nerd at home I’m having a blast playing with new builds of both Boxee and Plex.
Q: What’s the toughest part of your job?

A: Whenever I have to miss my kids’ bed time.
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing the industry in 2011?

A: I like to say that post production used to be like Apple Computers—simple, few options, and everything was more or less cross-compatible.  Today’s post workflows are more like the Windows—a wild ecosystem of acquisition formats, codecs, frame rates, hardware and software options. Dictatorships are simple, but democracy is messy. The democratizing of post has made things very messy indeed. Producers and post supes have to be tech-savvy in a way they didn’t have to even 10 years ago. Your DP asking to shoot with a different camera has ripple effects on your post workflow 12 and 18 months down the road.

Post vendors now have to step into that gap play and play the role of consultants to an unprecedented degree. You don’t simply spit out a quote—you need to understand what your client is after and help them design the road map to get there. A less generous person might say you have to do half of the post supe’s job for them.  So that’s one challenge.

Meanwhile, the collision of legacy post pipelines and next-gen digital acquisition is a big deal right now. A lot is going to shake out in 2011. But if you are deeply invested in DPX-based pipelines, for example, you are probably not going to do justice to an ARRIRAW image, or an EPIC 5K RAW image, etc.  A lot of Red-acquired projects, for example, receive a poor best-light transfer to 10-bit RGB files before ever going to color-correct, so the director and DP never get to see what they actually shot. Most Alexa shoots today are recording directly to ProRes HQ on SxS cards — kind of like using a Canon DSLR to shoot JPEG.

In other words, DPs and producers are forming impressions of production technology, but the impressions are based on a round peg of digital cinema being wedged into the square hole of legacy post. Pretty soon everyone is going to wake up to that.

Q: Who are the top five artists on your iPod?

A: The Economist finally launched a proper iOS app that is rocking my world. Huge fan. Then there’s … M83, Saturdays=Youth; Gil Scott-Heron, I’m New Here; Nick Cave/Grinderman; and a series of sermons by Dr. Timothy Keller.