We've talked a lot about Magic Lantern RAW video and how cool it is, but is it ready for use on a MAJOR project with a big budget?
Of course it is!
We saw this SWISS Air Magic Lantern RAW video piece a couple of weeks ago as it made the news circuit, but instead of just rushing to post, I contacted the creators and asked for some detailed behind-the-scenes data about how well Magic Lantern worked for a major production… and we got it!
The project started about one year ago when SWISS asked us (together with Hinderling Volkart – the agency behind the platform) to come up with an idea to create a world that would give you a similar feeling about the airline, as if you where flying with them. It should also be a place to learn more about what makes SWISS so Swiss. (www.world-of-swiss.com)
It was always clear that it had to be real. We didn't want to produce an ad or a promotion movie, we wanted to actually tell real stories with real people who are doing what they do in their environment. We were looking for a high-end behind the scene kind of thing. Interesting, authentic and enjoyable.
We were involved in many different projects over the years. Some more film based, others more motion graphics and 3d. We try deliberately not to specialize in a specific field but to keep an open mind and focus on meaningful storytelling with cutting edge production techniques.
In order to produce those films we had to be agile, we had to be fast and flexible. At the same time we aimed for a very high production value, something that represents not only our ambition but also the quality of the SWISS brand. We talked about various camera options and it became very clear that we had to stay light. If we can't keep the weight low it has consequences on everything, tripod, slider, gimbal, accessories and so on. It would also change the mood on locations and slow everything down. In order to get that real and authentic feeling we had to be as least invasive as possible.
Although we followed the Magic Lantern story closely, we never actually used it before. We did some tests but that was it. In the past we switched to a RED for those kind of projects. So we ordered some fast cards and started testing. We were extremely impressed. Suddenly we had a small and portable camera system that would allow us to stay stealth and agile but also have all the options later on. At that point we ordered 8 SanDisk 128GB Cards and decided to go for it.
At the same time we got our BeSteady one, the Kickstarter Project that we supported a few months earlier. The gimbal then became the second new “thing” (apart form Magic Lantern) to learn while developing stories for 6 productions at the same time.
SWISS Over the Alps
But we had one last part that wasn't flexible at all. Lighting.
Although the camera is mind-blowing at low light we really wanted to enhance each shot further. The goal was not to have a “lit” feeling. but to make it beautiful.
We found the Area 48 from BBS Lighting, originally reviewed by the guys from Visual Buddha. We ordered two of them with stands and some battery backs. They would last a full production day and we would have the most amazing portable light source we've ever shot with. Using a set of differently coated panels, those remote phosphor lights produce an adjustable light with an extremely high CRI and beautifully soft texture.
So we ended up shooting over 10TB of RAW footage at over 20 locations in about 12 shooting days during a period of about 2 months and had no serious failure.. People were always impressed by the portability and we never had to invade their space. We shot real people doing what they do in their environment.
Dealing with those huge files is no easy task, thats for sure. However, it's not impossible either. Our main storage is a 64GB fibre raid on a os x server with a 10G connection to our workstations. That gives us plenty of performance to handle that. For backup and archive we use LTO Tapes.
* Copy of all *.RAW files to our main storage
* Rename the files to have unique file names for the project.
* Backup / archive everything
* Convert the RAW files to DNG sequences using raw2dng by Magic Lantern
* Rename everything to avoid duplicates on frame level (“A Better Finder Rename 9” is a great help for that task)
* Import and color balance everything in Resolve 10
* Export as ProRes422 with metadata
* Editing in Premiere Pro CC
* Export xml for roundtrip
* Color grading and stabilizing in Resolve
* Export as ProRes 4444 back to Premiere
* Further Stabilizing and De-Noising (with Neat Video) inside Premiere for some shots
* On some shots we did some retouching, that was done in After Effects
* Final export and later H264 compression with the Media Encoder
For color reference we use calibrated screens, wave forms and tests on various devices.
We did use audio on some films. For that we used two workflows. We had small recorders and would record manually with each camera and sync it later with the ML sync/rec-beeptone. We recorded the camera output on one channel and made a special software that would trim the recording by identifying the beep. The other workflow was the newly developed audio module from ML, that worked as well but we felt a little saver with raw_rec.
Music / Voice
The platform (world-of-swiss.com) is available in 9 languages, which basically eliminated the option of having voice over to explain something. However, it also forced us to be specific with each shot. It had to work without words. But one thing we could use, was Music and (on some films) recorded audio. Michael Ricar did an incredible job composing 6 different tracks for this project. It was a close collaboration between him and us. The final movies would not be the same without his compositions. We were lucky to have him on board.
On the platform you'll find tracked hotspots in some parts of the films. These html elements (in 9 languages) add a second layer of information and help with the structure. They are not visible on vimeo.
So at the end it was an amazing production and we developed new workflows all along. Using a gimbal and having the camera image wirelessly on a second screen changed the way we shoot. In the past we were really big fans of the Glidecam stabilizer, but being able to work together on one camera movement really pushes it to the next level.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Magic Lantern is an amazing combination of portability and quality.
And even though RAW is huge, has no real playback option (something we actually never missed) and is slower to post process – if you have color graded RAW files once, its hard to go back.
The Making of SWISS cabin
This film is part of an online brand experience plattform for the Swiss International Air Lines.
Overall responsibility: Hinderling Volkart
Concept: Hinderling Volkart / LAUSCHSICHT
Online plattform: Hinderling Volkart
Moving Images: LAUSCHSICHT
Concept and Direction: Kevin Blanc / Alain Renold
Camera: Alain Renold / Kevin Blanc
Post-Production: Alain Renold / Kevin Blanc
Producer: Muriel Droz
Music: Michael Ricar (ricar.ch)
Hair/Makeup: Julia Ritter (gschminkt.ch)
So, did Magic Lantern RAW work?
What do you think? Was Magic Lantern RAW the right choice?
I think Kevin and the team did an amazing job and I want to thank them for taking the time to help us all understand how Magic Lantern is changing the world.
Let us know in the comments below if you're using Magic Lantern for a major project (or contact me!)
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)