Cinesite breaks f/x ground in digitized ‘Pleasantville’

First time an entire pic was converted to digital format

Visual f/x studio Cinesite has broken new ground in digital filmmaking on New Line Cinema’s “Pleasantville.”

In order to create the mixed black-and-white and color imagery for the pic, Cinesite had to first convert 178,000 frames — nearly the entire film — to a digital format.

This marks the first time an entire feature film has been digitized, other than for restoration projects. Normally, films which incorporate visual f/x typically require only 30,000 or so frames to be converted to digital format, a Cinesite spokesman said.

Cinesite achieved this digital conversion in only nine weeks with the use of a high speed digital scanner, the Philips Spirit DataCine, augmented with new data output software developed by Cinesite’s parent company, Kodak.

“To scan this volume of frames on the schedule that feature films have is impossible without the processes we put in place,” said Forrest Fleming, VP of Cinesite digital imaging.

Supplying a digital inter-negative to the printing lab is also a first, at least in this volume. “This use of a digital intermediate film on a live-action feature opens a new frontier in narrative filmmaking,” said Bob Fernley, director of operations and digital imaging.

Also unique was Cinesite’s employment of a pre-timing session prior to transferring the film to data. “‘Pleasantville’ represents a milestone in showing how color timing with a digital intermediate can be used to tell a powerful story for a budget of less than $40 million,” said Fleming.

“It’s by and far the largest project as far as the number of f/x shots,” said Fernley. “There are some 1666 shots in this film and about 1600 of them are ‘f/x shots,’ probably about three times what any other feature film has ever done.”