Tools Knock Down Roadblocks in Filmmaking Workflow

Bandito Brothers is a Los Angeles-based media company that uses the latest technology to create high-quality audio and visual content, such as feature films and commercials for customers such as Loctite and NASCAR. Like any company, though, managers need to pay attention to the bottom line.

After Bandito Brothers outfitted its producers with new high-end workstations and the latest video-editing tools from Adobe Creative Suite 5, digital workflow improvements helped make possible same-day edits and speedier postproduction processing, ultimately stepping up the team’s productivity.

Jacob Rosenberg, chief technology officer and a director of Bandito Brothers, speaks about the impact of the new workstations and tools on processing time, workflow and productivity, and new potential avenues of business for the company. Rosenberg is also a filmmaker and author who has been an Adobe senior consultant for almost a decade.

Making Short Work of Processing Time

Upgrading to high-end HP Z800 Workstations, which can handle six-core, 3.33 GHz processors and populations of 192 GB of SDRAM, has helped Bandito Brothers work with extremely large files yet dramatically cut its processing time.

The company found out just how much faster processing was during a recent interpolation process involving highly compressed H264 files off of Canon HDSLR cameras. Producers were using a plug-in called Twixtor from RE:Vision Effects, which uses motion compensation and motion interpretation to convert from a frame rate of 30 frames per second (fps) to 24 fps. “You’re taking a highly compressed source and running it through a highly rigorous process to kick out a new file at a new frame rate that looks the same as that original file,” Rosenberg says.

How much faster is the encoding being done now? “We were queuing 10 hours of work and doing it in three to four hours,” Rosenberg says. “That is one of the biggest things for us in terms of encoding and rendering files and processing some of the effects on files — it’s just happening incredibly faster.”

Easing the Workflow

Adobe Creative Suite 5 has also been reworked to take advantage of the multithreaded design of new, state-of-the-art processors. Tasks that once forced the user to wait until completion, with a lag time as encoders or other processors were launched, now simply operate within a thread, allowing the user to work on several files simultaneously.

Jobs that once took minutes are now done in seconds. “The workflow may tell us we need to output four or five different files. With a six-core processor, we can have all of those four or five different ones crunching in the background while still continuing to work on another sequence,” says David Helmly, senior business-development manager at Adobe Systems.

Rosenberg says Bandito has noticed a dramatic difference in workflow, as it did during production of a Mountain Dew commercial on the Canon 5D. After filming, the files were imported to Adobe Creative Suite 5 for editing, color correction and visual effects.

The files were huge — they occupy 8 MB per frame. So at 24 fps, 192 MB of hard disk space is required per second of video. A 30-second commercial, not counting outtakes, would be stored in a file about 5.8 GB in size. “In the past, we needed a week to do the work,” Rosenberg says. “And now it takes just a couple of days to do conversions or set up files.”

Now that there’s no longer an extensive conversion process, Bandito producers can conduct same-day edits, allowing crews to quickly turn around content they’ve just shot. “Before, playing back these heavily compressed files in real time wasn’t a reality,” Rosenberg says, “but now, thanks to a new capability in Creative Suite 5, we can open those files natively in Premiere.”

Freedom to Explore New Opportunities

Faster machines and multithreaded processing allow Bandito Brothers to explore new areas of the business and bring in temporary help when needed. “Visual effects processes — graphics processes that traditionally have required lots of heavy lifting and lots of resources — are a little bit more homegrown now,” Rosenberg says. “When a client asks for something, we don’t have to go to five other places to get it.”

The new technology helps Bandito step up production while improving the bottom line, so the company can pursue artistic projects along with its commercial work. For example, the company has been working on a feature film, Act of Valor. “We just finished principal photography and are working to get our distributor lined up and release the film theatrically,” Rosenberg says. “The film was produced in cooperation with the U.S. Navy and stars actual U.S. Navy SEALs.”