One of my favorite things about starting a movie is the trip to the lab. Actually, I hate the trip to the lab, because it involves driving the gauntlet that is I-20 from Birmingham to Atlanta. The lab itself is great, though.
(Wall o' equipment at CineFilm...)
The lab in question is CineFilm. They take the exposed 16mm negative, develop it, and transfer the developed image to video. That's the really simple version -- motion picture negative film contains a lot of information, and it can be tweaked in many ways on its journey to video. I usually leave the details of the transfer to the colorist, the person who runs the machine that allows for all those tweaks to the image. But I like to sit down with him for the first batch of footage to discuss the project and the look we're going for (not that I ever go for anything too fancy, image-wise).
(The big machine that scans the negative...)
So Carl, John, Jen (John's girlfriend and occasional member of the Interplanetary art department), and I loaded up in the Honda Element for a relaxing trip to the lab. Yeah, right. We left a half an hour early and got there 45 minutes late, due to road construction, accidents, cops... everything but hordes of locusts. The drive to Atlanta is usually a bit of a grind, but this one was the worst I've ever experienced.
Thankfully, the guys at CineFilm didn't have another appointment near ours, so we had plenty of time to check out and discuss the footage.
(Colorist John and I check out some footage of Amanda...)
And I'm happy to say the footage looked pretty darn good. I recently had the camera serviced and bought some new prime lenses for it, hoping to get a sharper image than we got from our old zoom lens. And the new lenses are, indeed, sharp. To my untrained eye, they look about as sharp as you could want.
We really got to check out the sharpness when the guys piped the feed from our negative into their new digital cinema room. The cinema room is basically a smaller version of the kind of digital projection theater you see more and more new movie releases on (locally, many of the projectors in the Rave theaters are digital). I think there were 9 or so (very comfortable) chairs in the room, and the screen was 8 or so feet wide.
So I'm watching a high def feed of our footage shot with our sharp lenses on this huge screen... and I realized that all those little details I thought no one would notice were very noticable. I even saw a safety pin we'd used to secure part of Chuck's space suit. Needless to say, we've been paying much more attention to sets and costumes since seeing everything larger than life.
(Jen and John watching the transfer...)
The trip back to Birmingham was miserable, but not as miserable as the trip from Birmingham -- we got back in three hours or so. Thankfully, with John, Jen, and Carl along for the ride, the company was good.
As cool as it is to be there in the lab and watch the footage as it comes right off the negative, I think I might skip the drive the next time. CineFilm is offering something new, a "virtual" telecine session, where you watch the colorist work from the comfort of your own home, via QuickTime and an Internet connection.