Sohonet meets with Picture Shop’s Don Thompson and Allan Pinvidic to talk remote tools, hybrid workflows and delivering shows for Disney+ and Nickelodeon with ClearView Flex
Ever the forward-thinking facility, Vancouver’s Picture Shop (formerly Finale Post) began investigating remote solutions several years ago, even partnering with Sohonet on development tests.
“The challenge at that point was convincing clients of the ‘how and why’ when they needed to be remote,” says Don Thompson, executive vice president and general manager of the Vancouver facility. “The pandemic changed all that. Suddenly, there was a real-world business case and pressing need for remote solutions.”
At the beginning of the upheaval, the Picture Shop Vancouver team had major Netflix musical drama series Julie and the Phantoms to finish with editorial, online conform and colour. Stay-at-home orders forced creators Dan Cross and David Hoge and studio executives to remain in Los Angeles while DP Jon Joffin, ASC was in Vancouver. Covid-safety restrictions were paramount.
“We tested a number of remote solutions to learn how they would interact with different shows with various budgets, schedules and creative post needs,” Thompson says. “We tested in-house along with our operators, who were hybrid at home and in the office, to find which solution would achieve the low latency, high quality and the ease of use that both Picture Shop and our clients needed.”
He continues, “We were disappointed with the results we got from most of the technologies. They exhibited extreme lag, difficulty logging on, or would continually drop either picture or sound or both.”
“ClearView Flex, however, delivered on everything we needed including ease of use and the number of users who could participate in the same session. Client feedback was immediate on the difference in experience.”
With Picture Shop operators in the facility streaming sessions over ClearView Flex to the client, Julie and the Phantoms was completed on time and with confidence in the colour accuracy of the sessions. The success of that approach immediately led Picture Shop Vancouver to swap its other shows over to ClearView as well.
“Clients universally loved the change,” Thompson says. “They were no longer looking at small, pixelated windows or experiencing drops in service but had a solid secure, efficient process day in and day out that could be repeated.”
Among shows that went this route using ClearView Flex was The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, an animation produced by Atomic Kid Studios for Disney+.
“The producers were amazed at the shift to Flex and particularly how the colour matched up to their expectations. The show’s sound facility, The Mix Room in Vancouver, was coincidentally also swapping to ClearView Flex at the time, so all round Flex just made post sessions a trusted, repeatable process for them.”
Picture Shop Senior Colorist Lorne Wright used ClearView Flex for remote grading sessions of the Nickelodeon series The Barbarian and the Troll. “Once the producer had returned to LA, ClearView Flex saved them a return trip to Vancouver and the need to quarantine in order to review the last few episodes,” Wright says. “That would have never been achievable without our trust in the colour accuracy and consistency of the Flex review sessions.”
Picture Shop Senior Colorist Lorne Wright used ClearView Flex for remote grading sessions of the Nickelodeon series The Barbarian and the Troll. “Once the producer had returned to LA, ClearView Flex saved them a return trip to Vancouver and the need to quarantine in order to review the last few episodes,” Wright says.
Senior Finishing Editor Allan Pinvidic says, “ClearView Flex hits the sweet spot of security and offers ease of use. It allowed us to include clients from all over North America in colour critical streaming sessions.”
Pinvidic especially appreciated “the flawless integration of the notifications sent out to clients from the ClearView Flex interface,” while Bogdan Grigorescu, the facility’s director of engineering commends the solution’s ability to preserve accurate signal levels, colour and greyscale reproduction throughout the chain to client displays including Apple TV and iPads, as well as Sony BVX and LG OLEDs.
The Canadian government’s support during the Covid crisis “of a controlled business reduction, as opposed to complete close down” was instrumental in the survival of many local businesses including those in production and post, according to Thompson.
“A well-planned Covid safety plan for British Columbia was crafted by the industry and labour allowing physical production to slowly get back to work over last summer,” he notes. “It was full scale by September, which meant that it was critical for us to be able to continue work at full levels. Thanks to Sohonet, we were able to maintain a level of service that kept us busy, while other facilities and locations worldwide were not. That success and the trust we built with clients has extended into what is now, a normal review and approval process using Clearview Flex.”