For colourists working in TV and movie production, working remotely isn’t new. Studios have always sought out the best in the business, irrespective of location. After all, the actual process of colour correction and grading can still be done with a calibrated reference monitor or TV, and a computer with the appropriate software.
However, as part of a remote team, colourists still need to be able to liaise with directors, DPs and VFX supervisors, and to share their work with everyone in a way that accurately reflects the end result.
Naturally the days of shuttling media back and forth on hard drives has long gone, but typical collaborative tools like Zoom, Google Workspace and Microsoft Teams simply aren’t designed with high quality video in mind. That’s why colourists turn to bespoke solutions, such as Sohonet’s ClearView products.
“To be honest, we’d trialled remote solutions over the last decade without any real success,” says Walt Biljan, colourist at REDLAB. “Everything we tried struggled with latency and communication or poor-quality images and bad compression.”
Biljan and his team then discovered ClearView Flex. “It was a revelation, not least because our clients were surprised and happy about how good the remote experience was. We had some DPs who were sceptical about any kind of remote review but there were no doubts once we’d set them up with ClearView. While I’m colour correcting, they are seeing changes on their screen in real time… They see the output on their monitor. It’s a really efficient workflow.”
The right tools for the job
The ClearView suite of tools feature several key components that make them suitable for colour review work. The first of these is ultra-low streaming latency, so no more lagging video or dropped frames when you’re in the middle of a review.
“Tools need to respond as quickly as the colourist’s brain,” says Robert Keske, Senior VP of technology at Company 3. “They’re often looking at an image on screen and talking with their clients simultaneously and making decisions on-the-fly. This has to happen in real time to achieve the best process.
“Each time they do a keystroke or want to change something or make a colour decision – you can’t have any delay because it breaks up the process. It took people four or five months of the pandemic to understand the implications of this.”
Another major benefit is delivering high resolution video with high bit-depth colour. ClearView Flex offers frame and colour-accurate reviews up to 2K 10-bit 4:2:0 at very low bitrates, while ClearView Flex Glow adds high dynamic range (HDR) at 2K in Rec 709, P3 and Rec 2020 colour space with 10-bit colour depth.
The next step up is ClearView Pivot, which offers 4K HDR with 12-bit colour depth and 4:4:4 chroma sampling for full-colour video streaming. So while Flex and Flex Glow are ideal for early-stage reviews with multiple stakeholders, Pivot is the system of choice for accurate tonal rendition and a final pass on a colour grade.
This level of colour fidelity is of real importance when working with precise colour variations. “When you’re telling a story, you want viewers to become connected and to understand the character’s journey,” explains Jet Omoshebi, a senior colourist at Goldcrest Films. “Colour can help with this very subtly by changing the way you feel in terms of emotional response, in much the same way that music does.”
Consistency is another important aspect, especially when it comes to colour correction for scenes shot non-sequentially or at different times of day. “The technical part of my job is making scenes fit together like a jigsaw puzzle,” she says, “by putting the pieces together to make it look as if everything is in order.”
What you see is what you get
The final element of the remote workflow puzzle is ensuring that the colourist’s work is rendered accurately for the client, however many there are in a review session and wherever they are located. Both ClearView Flex and Pivot can be streamed to multiple viewers – up to 40 with Flex and 5 with Pivot – and Flex can be viewed across a range of consumer devices, including laptops and desktops, iPads and standard televisions via Apple TV 4K.
“I’m very familiar with what the correct calibration should be on a Mac,” says Keske, “so if [the client] is using an Apple device such as putting the ClearView signal through their home TV display via Apple TV, we can be confident in what we’re both seeing.”
Now that the industry has successfully moved to hybrid working, Keske doesn’t see it ending any time soon. “As we look to the future, I can see Apple, Amazon and Netflix execs preferring to review content remotely far more than previously. They don’t have the time to travel, and nor do they need to when the remote experience is so good. There will be a lot more emphasis put on work from home now that technologies like ClearView Flex are so strong.”
Sohonet ClearView Flex Glow enables real-time creative review and collaboration in HDR. To see how it can transform your own remote workflows, contact us to book a demo.