Written by ioGates co-founder Jesper Andersen
1994 Destiny 601
Before Digital Film Lab, Kris Kolodziejski founded the company Destiny 601. Destiny 601 was a small company in a rough neighborhood in Copenhagen. It was only Kris, VFX artist Anders and me doing around-the-clock-commercials in a combination of linear Digibeta editing and VFX on a small Discreet Logic Flint workstation. Already at that time, Kris pushed for 2K, and somehow, we managed to get a 30-sec commercial through the Flint in 2K!
It was an eye-opener for clients to see the 2K cinema quality when they were used to upscaled Pal TV resolution.
1997 Digital Film Lab. Work in progress
The company grew, and in 1997 Destiny 601 was renamed Digital Film Lab and now owned two Discrete Logic Infernos. The order for the first Spirit DataCine in Scandinavia, was underway and was to be delivered in November that same year. The Spirit would only output SD in the beginning because of the heavy price tag on upgrading the rest of the pipeline to HD equipment. Kris was also much more interested in the data output from the Spirit, but we had to wait another 6 months before we received the first beta version that could output raw data from the telecine. Still, the grading monitor was in SD, and we only had the Spirit primary color corrector to use for the data output.
We did many data scanning tests, trying to match the SD grading monitor’s look to the print. Not an easy task. To make a test, we would:
- Scan about 10-15 seconds to a local drive on an origin server.
- Unmount the disk and run over the VFX department; this was in another building.
- Mount the disk and import the dpx files into Inferno and see how it looked. It was especially critical not to crush the black levels, which could easily happen on the SD monitor.
- Export DPX from the Inferno, make a film recording on the very slow Celco film recorder.
- Take the negative and send it in a taxi to the lab for development.
- We got a print back and could then book a cinema, about 1-2 days after the scanning.
All of us very excited went to the cinema only to be disappointed that the print did not look like the grading monitor. It may seem funny but it was very early days.
1998 front end processing lab
We realized that the main reason that we could not control the entire chain from the grading monitor to the film screen was the development of the re-recorded negative. Processing film is a chemical process, it has to be controlled precisely, so you get the same LAD numbers every time. So, the decision was made to build our own front-end processing lab in February 1998. Much work needed to be done as none of us had any ideas about developing negatives or building a processing lab, but we actually managed it and it was up and running by September.
1998 World first full DI feature film
At the beginning of 1998, we did a full digital intermediate on the Swedish film “Zingo”. Later we discovered that Zingo was the first feature film in the world to be made entirely with a digital intermediate.
Negatives were scanned in as “selected cut” with handles, so it was easier to make the grading. Still using a SD monitor. We could now scan directly to a 36GB array on the Origin server. 36GB did not hold many frames, but the Inferno could now import over “Hippi” network, so no more running with harddisks to the other building. The Inferno did the conforming from the EDL, and the Inferno was running Beta software. In fact, so did most of the hardware we used. During the summer, we also received an Arri film recorder with the serial number 11. Slowly things started coming together. We could now control all the steps from scanning, grading, re-recording, and processing negative, even though we still only had SD grading and Spirit primary color corrector..
1999 HD monitoring and grading
During the winter of 99, we installed the DaVinci 2K color corrector together with a Sony 24″ HD monitor, and now we finally had full HD grading and total control of every part of the process. The board of directors had big ambitions, so they decided to open a London department the year after in 2000, but that’s another story.
This was a story about the early DI workflows, and I have focused on the equipment and workflows. But we need humans to think it all through, and it was Kris that did this, and Kris was the captain and an inspiration to us all, not only at Digital Film Lab but to the whole international Digital Intermedia community.
A special thanks and love to Kris Kolodziejski, it is unfortunate that you are not among us anymore.