Mastering technique

Technicolor digital arm positive on negatives

Film processing lab Technicolor has opened the doors to Technique, a new digital mastering division set up to help studios reduce the number of film prints they need to color correct each time a pic is distribbed outside of the theatrical window.

The new Burbank facility, set up this summer and ramping up this fall, is expected to compete heavily with Kodak’s Cinesite arm, which has already begun offering the service for its clients since last year.

Technique and Cinesite aim to be among several players to lead the charge to drastically alter the post-production process that currently requires filmmakers to physically color correct multiple versions of a pic’s print for every platform in which it is distribbed — theaters, television, homevid, etc.

Technique’s new facility features four telecine color correcting suites that enable filmmakers to view side-by-side comparisons of a film’s traditional 35mm look and a digitally projected print. It also is expected to include eight to 12 laser recorders to digitize films and then print them back to film stock.

Company currently employs 15, with plans to ramp up to 30 before the end of the year.

Technique’s roughly six-week process gives distributors a digital negative to transfer to their various output formats. The overall time to complete the process depends on the filmmaker’s needs.

While the costs to initially color correct a film through the new digital film mastering process remains the same as in the current format (estimated at roughly $175,000 per session), studios are expected to see cost savings in the long run as different inhouse divisions will no longer need to hire post-production personnel to color correct a print for distribution avenues other than theaters.

Studio politics

One obstacle to getting the studios to fully adopt digital mastering, however, is the inhouse politics within their divisions. Each division is given a post-production budget, which would be eliminated through digital mastering, since one print will cover all distribution requirements and post-production costs.

“This process enables a studio to create a single digital master day and date to distribute to all media,” said Peter Sternlicht, exec veep of Technicolor Creative Services, who is overseeing Technique. “It enables a studio to protect the quality of a print for years to come from production to distribution.”

Technique, which reports to Technicolor Creative Services, one of three divisions that fall under the Technicolor umbrella, is one of several new operations Technicolor is planning to open or acquire over the next year as the company expands beyond its core business of processing film prints and manufacturing DVDs for the major studios.

Restoration eliminated

It also opens the door to creating businesses for both Technicolor and Cinesite: the storage of digital prints and the elimination of the need to restore a print once it begins degrading.

“This new business is part of the distribution business, which we’re already a part of,” Sternlicht said. “This is a natural fit for us since we process film.”

Disney and HBO already have taken Kodak up on an offer to use digital film mastering to create a digital print of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Conspiracy,” with which to alter the look of the pics and then transfer the digital negative back to traditional 35mm film.

Technique is reportedly close to inking a major studio pic as its first client for its own offerings. It is currently demonstrating its services on two full-length indie features.

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