Digital dailies save on production time

Sep 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Television shows are waving goodbye to the fish flight.
TV studios are using high-speed connectivity and associated tools with greater frequency to transfer video files from location to directors and producers back in Hollywood. The use of digital dailies, which eliminates the long-standing traditional method of shipping film to Los Angeles on the “fish” flight full of seafood cargo at the end of the day, is gaining traction in Hollywood as a way to speed up the production process.
Shows such as WB’s “Smallville,” Showtime’s “Odyssey V” and UPN’s “The Twilight Zone” rely on such technology to deliver the dailies from location to the studio executives’ desks for approval.
For example, “Smallville” shoots in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. At the end of the shooting day, the film is digitized and the video files are sent over Media.net’s network to editors in Los Angeles. “It’s the difference between sending a letter and sending an e-mail,” said Kevin Gavin, chief operating officer of Media.net in Los Angeles.
Material is sent to Rainmaker Entertainment Group in Vancouver, the show’s post-production facility, where it is worked on until the wee hours of the morning. The video is then in the early morning transmitted on Media.net’s network to its servers and is available for executives to view by 8 a.m. “Without us [they] wouldn’t see the dailies till the evening,” Mr. Gavin said.
Such technology saves time and money and allows the director and producer to see dailies as soon as possible, said Barry Chambers, general manager for Rainmaker. “It allows more versatility,” he said. “It’s much quicker. Before, we made dubbing copies, put them on a fish flight or FedEx and on a good day they would get there by noon.”
Media.net is one of a few companies capitalizing on the concept of digital dailies. Media.net’s solution, called Edit System Dailies, includes a desktop application to view media and digital material on a computer, a data transport network and content storage. Content is encoded into digital files at the post facility, transmitted across Media.net’s private high-speed network to its data center and then downloaded into the appropriate editor’s editing machine. The cost for the solution depends on the project and can average $3,500 for an episodic drama.
Telestream is also in the business of digital dailies. Its ClipMail Pro appliance is like a video-fax machine and can send video over the Internet to another ClipMail appliance or to a video server. It has been used to transmit digital dailies for HBO’s “Band of Brothers” as well as for promotional and program material for Discovery, said Janet Swift, spokesperson for the company in Nevada City, Calif. ClipMail Pro ingests video from a tape machine, digitizes to MPEG and sends the highly compressed video over an IP network.
Ednet in San Francisco is the largest dealer of ClipMail Pro and has been distributing it for three years, along with connectivity services, said Tom Scott, VP of engineering and chief technology officer for the company. In addition to dailies, the HBO movie “Normal,” which is scheduled to air in December, is using the device to transmit rough cuts from the San Francisco-based editors back to the director on location in DeKalb, Ill.
“It made a huge difference,” said Bob Marty, first assistant editor on “Normal.” “We had a direct pipeline to the set. Normally, we’d get the call, make a tape, FedEx it. We were lucky if it would be there in 12 to 24 hours. This allowed us to do it in almost a half-hour.”
That means an editor has more time to label, date and assemble the material for better reference later, he said. The process was necessary since the movie was on a tight shooting schedule of 33 to 35 days. “The director just wanted to see if things were coming together,” Mr. Marty said. “We realized two weeks into the shoot that the cutting room was going to need feedback.”
NBC’s “Third Watch” uses technology from TRW/Picture Pipeline for a similar purpose. The show has relied on the company’s application and connectivity to transmit cut sequences from Los Angeles back to New York, where the show is shot. In addition, the editing sessions are conducted in real time and the sequences are streamed so that editors in Los Angeles can collaborate in an online editing session with the producers in New York, said Joel Quirt, VP of system integration for TRW/Picture Pipeline.
Another tool to assist in the delivery of television video is Editvu from Chick Inc., an ad agency and online service provider in North Hollywood, Calif. Editvu sends video files over the Internet rather than via a private network such as Media.net. The service is used by ABC Daytime for commercials so that editors in Los Angeles can confer quickly with producers in New York, said Chick Ciccarelli, president of Chick. It’s been also used by Disney Channel for promotions. “You won’t get a DVD quality on Editvu but if you want something quick and fast that shows editing cuts, this is the way to do it,” he said.
Technology company Avid plans to introduce its Media Manager Select at the end of September, which will serve as an “on lot” dailies viewing application, said Karin Monsler, product manager for Avid. With the software users can browse and send the takes to a dailies file to be accessed via a local area network.