With over 65 features under his belt including major Marvel shows Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Thor Ragnarok and Spider-Man: Homecoming, VFX Editor Daniel Kepler is amongst the best and most prolific. Recently he’s been kept busy by CBS Studios on the drama series Charmed and Showtime’s Your Honor. Kepler favours working remotely out of his home studio hooked into the production’s editorial, VFX dept and external vendors, and reviewing via Sohonet ClearView Flex.
Naturally, it was the pandemic that provided Kepler and his show producers insight into what was possible and what was challenging in the remote office environment. “There was this mad scramble in early 2020 across the industry to get any form of remote workflow system in place,” he recalls. At the time he was halfway through a post on Season 2 of the fantasy drama Charmed and had to relocate to his home studio from the editorial hub in Sherman Oaks, California.
“The system we were using for reviewing the media and streaming to our home desktop just wasn’t working,”
“The system we were using for reviewing the media and streaming to our home desktop just wasn’t working,” says Kepler. “The stream was inconsistent, and the quality of the images we were seeing at home was terrible. There were so many issues. On the plus side, Moviola Post Tech Chad Wilkerson recommended a preview of ClearView Flex to Kepler, and with the support from Kepler’s supervising producer overseeing post, Peter Chomsky, and CBS VP Blythe Klippsten, the path to a better review system began. They were very willing to do whatever I needed to keep the work on track and trusted me to handle the remote workflow.”
The main problem for Kepler was image quality. The existing live-streaming solution used by ClearView Flex’s competitor was not near the level required.
“I needed a solution for working remotely, which still enabled me to do my job at the highest level, with ZERO latency”
“I needed a solution for working remotely, which still enabled me to do my job at the highest level, with ZERO latency. I’ve worked on a lot of big VFX shows and I knew I needed the absolute best image possible to final shots. VFX Editors may not have final say on shots that go to the DI, but we are the last ones to QC in editorial before they potentially go to the theater or television.”
“So, the struggles we were having with the early streaming package were just not viable long term. The studio was immediately supportive of me testing ClearView Flex with Chad and Moviola Post. As soon as I did, it was a no-brainer. I called our supervisor producer and said, ‘We need to use this.’”
To complete Charmed Season 3 and for all of Season 4, Kepler convinced CBS Studios that VFX could only best be completed using ClearView Flex. Both he, as VFX Editorial lead, and fellow VFX Editor Rob Ehrenreich worked with a [Flex] box.
“I was looking for something more consistent with higher image quality and software that suited everyone’s needs on the editorial side as well”
Kepler notes, “I was looking for something more consistent with higher image quality and software that suited everyone’s needs on the editorial side as well. ClearView Flex is a positive addition to the workflow, not a weight slowing the chain down.”
In his home studio, Kepler has a Mac Pro, ultra-wide and client monitor, MacBook Pro laptop, iPad Pro and a 65-inch OLED TV. “The second I learned I could use my Apple TV with the ClearView Flex app as the source of my streaming to give me the best-looking output, I started using it all the time. It runs all day through my Apple TV to my OLED when I’m comping shots, reviewing VFX with vendors, or reviewing general technical information to be sure of what I am looking at. There is not a better option now.”
With post on Charmed finished, CBS swiftly got Kepler back in the saddle to work on his first season of Showtime’s crime drama Your Honor, starring Bryan Cranston as a New Orleans judge.
Starting from scratch on a new show, Kepler persuaded Post Producer Devin Rich, and SVP Jeff Henry at the studio to add three more ClearView Flex boxes for the entire picture editorial team.
“They understood how imperative it was for us to get the best quality stream,”
“They understood how imperative it was for us to get the best quality stream,” he says. “I’m using ClearView nonstop as a primary monitor source.”
“Most producers and posthouses understand the need for remote streaming solutions but very few actually know what pain it causes for those who really use it the most. If a user just jumps on and has to refresh one or two times per session, it is all kind of the same to them. That’s not the way we work. It’s a waste of time, and everyone’s time is valuable.”
Even now, and with Your Honor renewed for a second run, Kepler isn’t about to give up the personal and professional advantages he finds to working from home.
“I am a very social person and when I am at the studio I love to chat and help colleagues with issues, but I work way more efficiently from home,” he notes. “There is an important element in VFX editing to be being open to other editors so that they can walk in at any time to your bay and ask you to do something. It is an essential part of creative collaboration but doing so remotely means these interactions have to be scheduled and personally, it allows me to have a bit more personal mind-space to turnover VFX and handle the myriad of technical things I need to focus on. Instead of often being distracted, which is a risk in the office, I get things done in a fraction of the time.
“With ClearView Flex, I can potentially save the studio a lot of money by managing my own pipeline and workflow.”
“With ClearView Flex, I can potentially save the studio a lot of money by managing my own pipeline and workflow. It allows me to be in control of my life and my career and it seems like it’s working because I’m able to enjoy a lifestyle near the ocean where I can surf or play volleyball at dawn and be up and running before anyone hits the office.
“I use it so regularly now, that for the last two shows I’ve basically said, we’ll need the Flex.”