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Stacked for success

by Digital Studio Middle East Staff on Jul 16, 2017

The Lego Batman movie grossed more than $175 million in the US box office.
The Lego Batman movie grossed more than $175 million in the US box office.

Taking the load off

One of the most beneficial aspects of this process was that the team was taking pressure off the up-stream departments. Since they would take on the load, the artists could produce more work.

Explaining the workflow process, Chynoweth said that for every frame of the movie, they got a single EXR file which had three views: the standard left and right stereo 3D channels and they would often have a mono camera as well to maintain symmetry. Packed into each EXR file, they would have a breakdown of mattes for characters, body parts, camera and world position, and so on.

One of the most important layers they used was a surface colour pass, which gives the base, non-reflective colour of the scene. If they found events where maybe things had too much reflection they could multiply that pass back to bring the reflection down. It not only restored natural colour to the characters, but it also helped to control that crazy, saturated look.

“So, we were basically using Baselight like a very fast compositor to combine all these layers. And although we did not need to use keying a huge amount as we had all the mattes in the EXR files, we used a lot of shape mattes to do subtle re-lighting. It was much quicker for us to accent things than to send it back to production for relighting,” Chynoweth stated.

Bram Tulloch, editorial and DI Engineer at Animal Logic noted that the power and flexibility of the Baselight grading system and the cloud network architecture enabled them to work this way relatively easily. “We have a Baselight TWO as our hero seat in the grading theatre, and also a Baselight ONE to do some supplementary grading as well as handling much of the stereo 3D work.  We needed a massive amount of storage – the EXR images were between 50 and 150 megabytes a frame – but the FLUX Store sorted that out for us. In fact, we worked with the same data on both on the FLUX Store and the Baselight TWO, because that gave us added security and the ability to switch between machines almost instantly if anything went down.”

Chynoweth further explained that the generalised colour spaces in Baselight allowed them to work flexibly as they could switch in and out of colour spaces non-destructively to get the most out of our images. Sometimes they needed a big gamut, but sometimes that big gamut started hampering things when they were trying to fine tune the grade.

“We were working primarily in ACEScc with some custom tweaks, but we would switch in and out of different spaces as we needed them for different tools. That allowed us to stretch the image in such a way that we could get the most out of it: we could push sections while still maintaining key colours, like Batman’s eyes or Robin’s cape. Even when we were pushing our crazy apocalypse colours we had to keep those catch colours in there so people could easily recognise the characters.”

A scene that Chynoweth said he particularly enjoyed to work on is a dog-fight sequence at the climax of the film, and here the whole ‘more is more’ ethos came into play. “We scaled the saturation and the dynamic range up to the maximum, but we used a lot of fast tracking for key characters. There were a lot of important things you needed to be following, but at the same time we wanted to present a spectacle you could just sit back and watch.”

And that sums up the appeal of The Lego Batman movie – there is more to it than meets the eye.


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