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Grading Across Borders

So, what do you do when your co-workers are stuck in different countries, nobody is allowed to travel, and there is still work left to do on your film? You book a remote grading session, that is what you do.

Storyline Studios has now facilitated and implemented quite a few sessions where the director was in one country, the photographer in another and the colorist in the third. Based on the type of equipment in the various countries, Storyline managed to tweak solutions to enable remote grading in Amsterdam – Helsinki – Oslo and in Trollhättan - Amsterdam – Oslo, as well as New York - Oslo. More projects are on their way, and Storyline Studios are right at the cutting edge.

- The technology was already there, but the pandemic has really sped up the various ways we can utilise it, Torulf Henriksen, CTO of Storyline Studios, says.

Remote ability, pre pandemic

The company Filmlight, which manufactures Baselight, the grading system, already developed remote grading between their kits a few years ago. This means that all grades that are made on Baselight are stored in a database that can be accessed from any Baselight system in the world.

Originally, it was to enable several pieces of kit within one production house to speak with each other, and this is how it was used both at Filmmore in Amsterdam, and at Storyline already. Since it is a straight forward internet protocol, it wasn't particularly difficult to extend it across nation borders.

A box for every purpose

Remote grading does not entirely lean itself on one solution, and Storyline is not dependent on Baselight alone. Nevion, an international hardware company from Lysaker, Norway, manufactures boxes for transferring large quantities of data back and forth, and are already installed in many post houses, particularly in the US. The Nevion box can deliver a high quality cinema-grade image stream in real time. 

To be able to remotely grade the feature After Yang, Storyline purchased its first Nevion box. This session was split between New York and Oslo, this time the grading took place in New York, and Storyline offered viewing facilities in Oslo. 

For the Swedish feature The Emigrants, Storyline purchased a second box, which can now be shipped to different countries, and act as either encoder or decoder, depending on which end it is placed. 

- You need a decoder for where you will view the material, and an encoder for where you will grade the material, Torulf Henriksen explains, the rest of the communication takes place over common platforms as Teams, Zoom or Skype.

Even so, the session takes place in movie theaters at post houses to make the experience as close to what it would have been with everybody present, to ensure maximum quality.

Nevion

Nevion boxes in a rack, marked as decoder and encoder.

Getting everything up and running smoothly

Setting up a secure port between each post house can sometimes be a bit challenging.

-We cannot compromise on security, so it's important to find a secure route to allow information to flow between the companies, Torulf Henriksen explains. 

-But once the connection is securely established, it is very easy to do another remote session with the same parties involved, he adds.

Nothing can replace human contact

For the creators of Sihja – the Rebel Fairy, a remote grading session between no less than three countries proved necessary to get the film finished on time, but producer Kristine M.I. Knudsen missed having human contact.

-Technically, this worked brilliantly, but I missed the human aspect. However, it is a great alternative when there is no other option, and the work needs to be done, Kristine says.


Oslo

Producer Kristine M. I. Knudsen with colorist Christian Wieberg-Nilsen in Oslo.

A joint venture between three countries

The family feature Sihja – the Rebel Fairy is a joint production between Tuffi Films in Finland, Windmill Film in the Netherlands, and Den siste skilling in Norway. During the session director Marja Pyykkö and producers Venla Hellstedt and Elli Toivoniemi were in Helsinki at Post Control. DOP Remko Schnorr and co-producer Annemiek van der Hell were in Amsterdam at Filmmore, and colorist Christian Wieberg-Nilsen were with Kristine M. I. Knudsen at Storyline in Oslo, Norway. Or at the “mothership” as Kristine calls it.

Finland

The Finnish crew, from left director Marja Pyykkö, producers Venla Hellstedt and Elli Toivoniemi. Photo: Mikko Sippola

Amsterdam



And in Amsterdam, co-producer Annemiek van der Hell and DOP Remko Schnorr. Photo: Selfie



The way forward?

How and when we will be back to what we saw as normal before, is difficult to say.

-There are really obvious benefits, Christian Wieberg-Nilsen, senior colorist at Storyline Studios, says.

-It’s so great that we are actually able to do it, and thus keeping the time schedule of the production. Also, not having to travel saves time, and stress, and on a bigger scale, benefits the environment, he adds.

For whatever reason, pandemic or not, if your co-workers across the world are not able to meet in person, there is now an alternative. To meet up in cyberspace and grade that film remotely.

Remote grading sessions carried out at Storyline so far: 

  • After Yang – New York / Oslo

  • Dragon Girl - Amsterdam / Oslo

  • Utvandrarna - Oslo / Trollhättan (Sweden)

  • Pieces of a Woman - Vancouver / Oslo 

  • Sihja - the Rebel Fairy - Helsinki / Oslo / Amsterdam



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