American Cinematographer: Cinelicious Invests in Film’s Future

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Cinelicious Invests in Film’s Future
By Jay Holben

Opening a boutique post house with a focus on film projects could be perceived as risky in this day and age, but Paul Korver, the principal officer at Cinelicious in Hollywood, believes now is the perfect time to invest in film. “So many people believe that progress is only happening in digital, that no one is innovating in film, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he says. “Film stocks are better, and today’s film-scanning technology allows us to really get the absolute best out of the negative, which is especially important with the coming of 4k projection.”
 
Located in a hip, 1960’s industrial environment a few blocks West of Paramount Studios, Cinelicious currently offers one color room — a DaVinci system connected to a Spirit Datacine and a state-of-the-art Scanity 4K digital film scanner — but a 4K-DLP projection DI Theater with a 24’ screen was under construction at press time.
 
Digital Film Technology’s Scanity is the star of the facility’s workflow. Capable of scanning at 4K at 15 fps, and offering a dynamic range of 3.5 density, the Scanity features an LED lamp source, a Time Delay Integration line sensor and dedicated Field-Programmable Gate-Array image processing.
 
The Scanity is a sprocket-less tension-driven system, utilizing a computer-controlled positioning driven by a photographic sensor that locks each frame in place within 6μ (microns, the size of one 4K pixel), delivering pin-registration accuracy without ever penetrating a perf. This combination of gentleness and accuracy makes the Scanity ideal for not only visual-effects and feature DI scanning, but also archival and restoration work, which often involves delicate materials. (Cinelicious also offers a temperature-controlled vault for the proper storage of nitrate film materials.)
 
The Scanity has a 16mm gate that is prepared for 16mm, Super 16mm and Ultra 16; the latter uses a wide area of regular 16mm (into the perfs) to create an organic 1.85:1 aspect ratio without requiring the lens re-centering that is necessary when converting 16mm cameras to Super 16mm. The scanner can also accommodate 2-perf, 3-perf and 4-perf 35mm and 8-perf 35mm VistaVision.
 
“In choosing a scanner, I wanted the best technology possible, and we took about a year to find the Scanity,” says Korver. “We created a roll of test film that had resolution charts up to 250 line-pairs per millimeter, which is way beyond the range of any scanners [in the 80-150 lp/mm range], and created density wedges from 0 to 4, in addition to shooting registration charts at Panavision Hollywood. I wanted to create a film loop that would push any scanner to the absolute limit of what it could do. Then we graded the results based on resolution, registration and dynamic range.
 
“Registration and resolution was on par with other high-end, pin-registered scanners but what blew us away about the Scanity was it’s dynamic range. Vision 3 stocks have 3.1-3.3 density range. All other scanners were hovering around 2.3 density, the Scanity came in at a whopping 3.5. This should be great news for DPs who want all that information to play with in their DI.”
 
Korver got his start in the business by creating Fifty Foot Films, a company that filmed special events on 35mm, 16mm and Super 8mm. Shortly after opening the doors, Korver had teams shooting private events all around the country, but he was frustrated by post facilities’ insistence on tape and digital workflows. “I was looking for a post house that could simply telecine straight to ProRes files, and back in 2008 I couldn’t find anyone,” he recalls. “Everyone wanted to go to tape first and then charge us for digitizing the tape to ProRes. Instead, we bought an Ursa Diamond telecine, hired a colorist and offered our own post workflow in a high-end studio we built in my garage which is how Cinelicious was born.”
 
Cinelicious began taking on outside clients, and was soon receiving film and hard drives from productions all around the world. “We set up a pipeline that allowed us to offer ColorCast Live sessions, which streamed the color session over the Internet with live Flash Encoding so that the client could watch the session from anywhere in the world,” he says. “We started getting requests for agency supervised finishing at the studio, but I was reluctant given the location. I knew that we had to evolve to a new space to be truly client friendly.”
 
Korver soon moved the work out of his garage and into the full service facility on Melrose Avenue. Just as he wished, Cinelicious works off of a completely data-centric workflow, forgoing the antiquated tape rooms for a large SAN server and Quantum LTO-5 robot for backup and storage.
 
Cinelicious feels like a high-end commercial post house – commercials being part of the company’s client base – but it caters to independent and studio productions as well. “Two years ago, fewer than 10 features had a 4K finish, and they were all $100 million productions,” says Korver. “Now, with the Scanity and our streamlined post workflow, we can bring the cost of a 4K DI down into the range of $20 million productions, maybe even $10 million productions.
 
“We don’t shy away from all-digital filmmakers,” he adds. “We just happen to really, really love film. With artists who are passionate about image making, you don’t hear, ‘I want to make film look like digital’ You hear, ‘I want digital to look like film.’
 
“We are dedicated to supporting filmmakers at the highest level, no matter if the tool of choice is film, digital or 3D. Other might people say we’re crazy for investing in film at all, but I say we’re blazing a trail for DPs to get the most out of their images.”
 
Cinelicious, 5735 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA, 90038, phone: (323) 464-3700, website: http://cinelicious.tv/.