22nd March, 2013

Interview with Andy Shelley, ONSIGHT

In the lead up to the 3D Creative Summit, March 27th, we speak to ONSIGHT’s Andy Shelley about 4K, 3D and conversion.


Andy steered ONSIGHT’s involvement in Flying Monsters 3D with David Attenborough and has gone on to manage the facilities on a number of the company’s 3D projects, including Meerkats 3D, Kingdom of Plants 3D and Galapagos 3D. He is currently overseeing 3D work for both Sky and the BBC, such as Micro Monsters 3D, Pandas 3D and Hidden Kingdoms 3D.


We started by asking Andy what his thoughts were on 4K production following ONSIGHT’s involvement on Red Dwarf, which was shot in 4K:


Andy: Grant Naylor Productions wanted to put something out that was very polished. It had to have high production values, while still respecting the show's well known style. They were looking for a full end-to-end process so they decided to take advantage of ONSIGHT's shoot to post services. We started very early on, assisting in the design of the workflow.


Production wanted to use a camera with ideally a 35mm digital sensor, allowing them to have the benefits of glossy looking images and shallow depth of field – they chose the RED Epic. Red Dwarf X was a full 4K pipeline and it had a HD output at the end of it. For the team, shooting at higher resolution offered a number of different things, particularly increased flexibility when it came to post production. They could reframe on the characters and zoom into the pictures without compromising the quality for broadcast. It also provides them with the opportunity further down the line of re-delivering the show in 4K – that is still an option on the table for them.


3D Focus: What has been the biggest trend in camera technology over the last few years?


Andy: The trend in camera technology has been twofold. Firstly, moving to digital film cameras, using 35 mm sensors, and secondly, higher resolution with cameras like the RED Epic. Higher resolutions have been happening for a while, since the days of the early RED cameras and now with new releases from the likes of Sony.


3D Focus: Has expected future demand for 4K content changed your workflow?


Andy: Our workflow here has not changed with regard to any particular resolution. It could be 4K, 5K and a lot of the time-lapse we do is native 7/8K. Being renowned as 3D experts, we are used to working at higher resolutions both in that format and in 2D. It's fair to say that the technology has existed for some time in the production environment beyond HD. The missing part of the chain is the broadcast and home viewing environment, which is now picking up.


3D Focus: Are you upscaling any shows to 4K?


Andy: There are a number of shows that we are up-scaling to 4K but I'm currently unable to discuss them. We are taking HD content and up-scaling it to 4K. The process behind that aspect is relatively quick and there are a number of tools that exist to allow us to do that. Really the challenge for us when upscaling pictures from HD is stretching the pixel information you have over an area that is four times larger. That means you sometimes have to apply additional processing to those images to enhance them for a 4K display and it is then when further time and expense enters the process.


Upscaling to 4K is actually real-time in some examples but once you have blown a picture up to that size you really have to take a creative and technical view and ask – what can we do to enhance this so it will look good on a 4K display?


3D Focus: Can 4K upscaling look as good as native 4K capture?


Andy: Native 4K capture on things like the RED Epic will nearly always give you a superior result, simply because you have that number of pixels to fill the frame from the beginning. Basically, interpolating pixels and making a 4K image out of something that wasn’t acquired in that definition involves work. It can be done however, and there are lots of techniques we have developed to get high fidelity results from the process.


3D Focus: Has your 3D work reduced over the past year?


Andy: The level of 3D we are producing is not reducing. If anything, we are seeing more projects. We worked on more 3D productions last year than we did the previous year. We certainly won't be swapping 3D for 4K. Although they're very different viewing experiences, 3D and 4K actually work well together. 4K 3D is something we will be doing more of and appears to be fast approaching in the world of theatrical presentation.


Andy Shelley will join Geoff Mills from SGO for the session, ‘3D Post — Quicker, Smarter, Easier’ at 15.00, March 28th, 3D Creative Summit, BFI London.


3D Focus 20/03/2013