Open Source for Film and TV Production


Dan Mulligan TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
by Dan Mulligan
Issue 98 - February 2015

There's nothing like a new project to make you feel excited about life, and excited is definitely how I've been feeling since I adopted an Open Source policy to my companies' camera and workflow divisions.

My background is in cameras. I started out assisting and focus pulling before moving up the ranks to Camera Operating for F1, BBC Dramas and eventually Second Unit Cinematography for Feature Theatrical Productions. During this time I set up Rogue Element Digital and Pure Digital Services, companies that specialise in all aspects of digital cinematography including camera rental, workflow services and location post. Both ran successfully until 2011 when I was offered a job by Technicolour to set up and run its Digital/Data Operations. As locations and digital dailies supervisor I was involved in a variety of projects including Jupiter Ascending, Mortdecai and The Man from UNCLE.

Fast forward now to the summer of 2014 when my time at Technicolour came to an end. After a few weeks off to watch the FIFA World Cup, I decided to resurrect my existing businesses and start trading again - only this time with a difference. Just prior to leaving Technicolour I developed an interest in the Open Source concept and started researching it in more depth. It seemed to me that if Open Source could be applied to film and television production, there was the possibility to really revolutionise the industry and encourage creativity in an entirely new way.

During the many years I've spent in this industry I've seen a few changes and re-iterations of the current digital workflows and it has struck me how much we rely on proprietary systems for most delivery. There's nothing wrong with this because, for VFX to DI to onset LUTs and more, they do a good job. However, my research into Open Source led me to believe we could do more and I started asking myself some fundamental questions:

What if we could ensure that 4k cinema (and beyond) was fully open to everyone? What if digital filming equipment could be made available to all via a transparent open policy? If this was possible, could we expand 4k out of the domain of paid Professional Feature projects and make it accessible to filmmakers who couldn't normally afford to work with 4k cameras? If we took a truly Open Source approach to film and television production, couldn't we liberate the creative spirit and inspire freedom of expression?

Of course, having a dream is good but if you want to make dreams come true you need to get practical. And that's exactly what the Open Source movement is doing.

What Areas Can Open Source Be Applied To?

When you start discussing Open Source in relation to film and television production, you soon recognise that this topic has many strands. Basically it covers everything from cameras and location post through the entire production pipeline and workflows including sensor processing, transcoding, VFX, DI and colour, LUTs and more. In reality, though, the first areas that need to be tackled are digital camera technology, network/server support and delivery and distribution.

Ideally we need to see products and solutions maturing and establishing credibility through proven use. People who have open sourced their work and their projects by allowing access and inviting collaboration need to be recognised. We also need to give people the freedom to study, understand, modify and sell their products or derivatives so that the ideas and principles of Open Source can be consolidated within a forum.

To this end, Open Source Cinema UK has been set up to help develop and create solutions for Open Source Film production. The aim of this web site and community forum is to introduce new ways of working so that we can enhance creativity, cut costs and explore different approaches to technological development and financing.

Open Source Digital Cameras
- The First Link In The Chain


If we want an Open Source film and television industry, then the first obvious step has to be the development of an Open Source digital camera. As a former cameraman, it was hearing about an organisation called apertus and the work they were doing that first got me interested in the whole Open Source concept.

Based in Vienna, apertus is an Open Source cinema organisation founded by film makers and financed through crowd funding. The people behind apertus were galvanised into action when they became concerned with the expensive and limited tools they were forced to work with every day. Instead, they wanted access to affordable devices and technology that delivered the highest possible image quality and could be customised to exactly suit their needs.

I heard about the initiative and when I learned that apertus was developing an Open Source 4k camera, I decided to pay them a visit. I was immediately struck by how little Open Source, for both software and hardware, is utilised by the Film Production community. Certain single elements are there, Blender for 3D, DCP creation, but nothing has been created and developed as an entire production workflow for shooting films digitally.

Since its formation in 2007, the apertus project has applied an Open Source philosophy to everything it has developed. As no patents have been filed, anyone can access the technology behind its cameras and people are actively encouraged to adapt, modify, repair and even replicate them. To date, reaction has been very positive. Not only has the company achieved - and exceeded - its initial crowd funding target but it also has the backing of some very important film makers and cinematographers, including ASC and AIC Cinematographer Roberto Schaefer and Emmy and Academy Award-winning DOP and Visual Effects Supervisor, David Stump.

The Axiom Open Digital Cinema Camera

The first product developed by apertus is the AXIOM camera, which is due for beta release in April at NAB 2015. Initially it will only be available at cost to the community that backed the crowd funding campaign. Rogue Element was one of those backers and we are delighted to be supporting apertus by investing in a number of 4k Axiom camera systems and making them available to the UK rental market.

With an Open module approach, we anticipate that users will soon suggest the modules they want to see adopted. This perfectly fits the apertus goal of creating a free and open technology for today's professional cinema and film production landscape, and making all the generated knowledge freely available. By creating and building an open modular camera system consisting of several hardware and software parts, apertus has already evolved into a platform for film-makers, creative industry professionals, artists and enthusiasts. apertus is more than just a software/hardware collection; it's a knowledge library, an ecosystem of people supporting each other and advocating freedom.

Software For Collaboration, Innovation And Delivery

The introduction of the Axiom camera inevitably makes other areas of the production process ripe for Open source treatment. First among these is workflow, which is why Rogue Element, in conjunction with the Open Source community, is creating OpenFlow, a complete suite of workflow solutions to ensure that Open Source is at the forefront of film and television production for years to come.

The 4k CMV12000 CMOSIS sensor adopted for the Axiom will need processing and transcoding. Cinema DNG is being adopted for the initial RAW workflow and from these Masters other copies can be created.

OpenFlow will also develop software that embraces open collaboration and allows a more efficient and faster software suite to be developed by anyone who wishes to contribute. Think of an open and freely available code that can be adopted and worked on by anyone, creating an extremely fast and efficient software workflow designed purely for the task at hand, whether this is to create copies for Editorial or other viewing versions to take onwards to VFX and other departments. We will also apply Open Source to DI and colour, thus allowing full access to the Masters and their colour science. It is very exciting - by making formats such as OpenEXR and Cinema DNG open to all, we can achieve real transparency as well as better, faster results.

Ethical Film Production

As part of its plans for 2015, Open Source Cinema UK will be embracing other new approaches to film and television production, including the adoption of more ethical solutions.

An example of this is Fairphone (www.fairphone.com), which incorporates social values and ethics into its supply chain to create a product with longevity and repairability. This type of thinking can easily drip down into film production. For example, why not use electric vehicles and location generators that incorporate battery power and newly developed Hydrogen Power options? This isn't wishful thinking or science fiction as this efficient technology is already being used on some BBC wildlife Productions to power cameras left in place for days at a time.

Aligning an ethical approach to programme and film making with new and developing Open Source Hardware and Software is novel, but there is a growing requirement for these kind of services and in a few years it could well be a lot more common than it is today.

So Where Does All This Lead?

While the Open Source concept may still seem unfamiliar to some people, there is no doubt that it will eventually become perfectly normal for both hardware and software development and in terms of services and equipment procurement.

IP restrictions are already being lifted and when this happens you soon get a global community of many thousands who are collaborating and engaging in product development. The evidence for this lies in software such as OpenOffice and other free/libre OSS solutions, as well as hardware support for Cloud and other media services.

Align this approach with an ethical supply procedure and there is no reason why Open Source solutions shouldn't become an established part of film production. Digital productions, in particular, are increasingly relying on software to drive evolving hardware (sensors, storage). Given that productions, especially those destined for TV, have seen an increase in shooting hours, it is perhaps inevitable that cheaper Open Source technology will come into its own as a way of cutting costs.

Personally I can see immediate benefits for Arts based productions on ever tighter budgets but still needing 4k to support broadcasting requirements. Surely with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5 all actively looking for new ways to save costs while retaining quality, the future must include embracing an Open Source and ethical production environment.

Tags: iss098 | open source | tv film production | 4k | camera | axiom | raw | Dan Mulligan
Submitted by Dan Mulligan Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
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Submitted by Jon Ridel Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
The UPs and Downs At NAB with Mr MXF
Bruce Devlin - new "Nothing is finer than the pictures on that monitor", said my colleague as we stood in front of the enormous Sony LED screen showing super bright, super wide HDR pictures that were beautifully shot and carefully presented.
Tags: iss125 | mr mxf | nab | mam | Bruce Devlin - new
Submitted by Bruce Devlin - new Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Can university really set you up?
Jess Sutton When deciding what career you want to go into and which University to go to, there are so many questions that go through your head. I know when I first started considering University, my grades just weren't good enough. I knew which undergraduate course I wanted to do, but I still had a way to go.
Tags: iss125 | university | portsmouth | Jess Sutton
Submitted by Jess Sutton Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Live Event Wireless Intercoms
Tom Turkington Live programming is a powerful tool for broadcasters against the encroachment of OTT services and the ensuing loss of advertisement revenues. Live content is the answer to drawing viewers. Broadcasters are constantly searching for ways to provide more live sports, news and other live content to viewers.
Tags: iss125 | intercom | pliant | ob | Tom Turkington
Submitted by Tom Turkington Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
A Bluffer Guide to....CMOS
Mike Colyer I like to break my employers' cameras. For me, there is nothing more exciting than considering a daring location to install a micro camera system. It could be in a trackside breaking board at a motorsport event (culminating in slightly-too-extreme close up of, say, a Porsche bumper) - or a system installed a tad too high up a tree in a jungle (where a direct lightning strike can push the system somewhat over its 12 volt max). Thanks to modern CMOS camera design, however, not only can this be done safely (unless you are a camera) - but it can be done cheaply, often with impressive results.
Tags: iss125 | cmos | bluffers guide | ccd | Mike Colyer
Submitted by Mike Colyer Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Object Based Audio - The first steps
Peter Poers The world of broadcast audio is about to reach new levels as we embrace the future in terms of Next Generation Audio (NGA). Although at this stage we can't be precise about what this will bring, we do know that some 3D Immersive formats are already under development and will find their way into broadcast production and distribution very soon. Unlike the world of relatively constrained channel based coding that we are accustomed to, these new codec systems will support more channels and/or object based audio coding. For the end consumer, there will be two major benefits - a greater sense of involvement or immersion and a degree of personalisation. That's what the promises are.
Tags: iss125 | immersive audio | junger | nga | oba | Peter Poers
Submitted by Peter Poers Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Remote Production - Speed, Control, Infrastructure
Ian Cookson - new Remote production gives broadcasters the ability to capture a wider range of live events, such as regional sports, news or music festivals, and mix them in a remote facility hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Tags: iss125 | calrec | live production | pac-12 | artemis | Ian Cookson - new
Submitted by Ian Cookson - new Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Audio at 750mph
Sam Ashwell London-based 750mph has recently completed the finishing touches to a massive refit and upgrade of this audio post stalwart's Soho HQ which will bring even more, newly immersive, audio online.
Tags: iss125 | blackmagic | bmd | 750mph | audio | 3daw | 3d audio | dolby atmos | Sam Ashwell
Submitted by Sam Ashwell Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Insiders View - A few Days in the Desert
Giles Bendig At Finepoint, we always get excited about attending the NAB show. With tens of thousands of video professionals from around the world gathering together, NAB is a great opportunity for us to get exposure to all the latest news and technology in the world of video and post production, as well as giving us the chance to catch up with all our industry friends and customers. We always come away exhausted but full of ideas.
Tags: iss125 | nab | finepoint | amira | blackmagic | arri | canon | vinten | sony hdrc-4000 | atomos sumo | jvc gy-hm850 | gy-hm890 | aja kona | Giles Bendig
Submitted by Giles Bendig Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
The Masters of Dirt - Extreme Production
Rian Bester On 22nd April 2017 Inside the Masters of Dirt, the world's wildest unscripted motocross reality series, will launch exclusively on INSIGHT TV in 4K UHD. Produced by Masters Of Dirt (M.O.D) and XTreme Video, the series follows the adrenaline-addicted crew that produces the popular freestyle motocross arena show of the same name.
Tags: iss124 | insight | masters of dirt | motocross | freestyle | fs700 | sony fs700 | 4k | uhd | Rian Bester
Submitted by Rian Bester Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Welcome to the world of filming The Island with Bear Grylls
Paul Scurrell How do you make a polished television show worthy of broadcast on Channel 4 when the camera operators are starving, dehydrated and sleep deprived? Most of them also have no previous experience of professional filming and are more concerned with finding their next meal than making sure they've got their cameras switched on ready to record. Welcome to the world of filming The Island with Bear Grylls.
Tags: iss124 | bear grylls | channel 4 | gopro | timecode | sync | Paul Scurrell
Submitted by Paul Scurrell Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Navigating Unfamiliar Territory
Vijay Sagar Vinnakota The traditional broadcast model - where TV networks play content on a linear schedule, and viewers tune in on their TV sets - is under siege. Linear TV is not going away anytime soon, but the model is becoming less and less relevant. Thanks to the rise of OTT services, viewers have become accustomed to watching content when and where they want, on just about any device with an internet connection. For that reason, broadcasters must add an OTT component to their offerings.
Tags: iss124 | cloud | amagi | ott | hls | rtmp | mpeg-dash | yupp tv | netflix | amazon prime | sling tv | Vijay Sagar Vinnakota
Submitted by Vijay Sagar Vinnakota Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
You need wave power if you are going surfing
Tim Bonython Tim Bonython's association with surfing films began in 1978, when armed with a Super-8 camera he set off to Hawaii's infamous North Shore, to capture the big waves and their riders. From that moment he fell in love with the sport, and became obsessed with making it the subject of breathtaking and inspiring films.
Tags: iss124 | surfing | red scarlet weapon | red brick | pag | battery | paglink system | 153wh | Tim Bonython
Submitted by Tim Bonython Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Why is drone training even an option
Tim Bearder It's fair to say that one of the most disruptive, liberating and inventive technological advances for independent filmmakers in recent years has been the incredible leaps made in the world of Drones.
Tags: iss124 | caa | drone | drone training | drone academy | Tim Bearder
Submitted by Tim Bearder Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Motor Sports - Some Like it Hot
Gordon Capaccio High performance race cars, their drivers, and teams supported by manufacturers participating in a sport for which the combined, visceral thrills and sensations of burning tires, megadecibel roars, pungent racing fuel and throngs of enthusiasts can be difficult to convey, even on the largest big screen television.
Tags: iss124 | motorsport | 3g wireless | imsa | rolex 24 | domo | dtc | prorxd | diversity rf | Gordon Capaccio
Submitted by Gordon Capaccio Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Controlling the Chaos of Remote Uplinks
Roger Franklin For Satellite Broadcasters, consumer needs have never been so varied. Audiences are increasingly accustomed to personalisation in every type of content they consume. They now demand, or rather expect to receive breaking news from a scene, content specific to their regions and access to live sporting events held thousands of miles away.
Tags: iss124 | uplink | satellite broadcast | crystal | Roger Franklin
Submitted by Roger Franklin Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Modernizing the Cutting Edge
Myles Carter - new Over the last decade, streaming as a medium has seen tremendous growth. Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video are no longer just post-hoc distributors of broadcast television content, they have become content creators and are producing some of the most well received "television" content of the past few years.
Tags: iss124 | matrox | ip | h.264 | h.265 | streaming | Myles Carter - new
Submitted by Myles Carter - new Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Dick brings out his cutting room scales
Dick Hobbs - new At this time of year, in the run-up to NAB, my in-box is even more filled than usual with press releases craving my attention. It is one of the universal truths so unloved by PR people that the sheer weight of numbers threatens to overwhelm.
Tags: iss124 | cutting room | nab | kpmp | dick hobbs | Dick Hobbs - new
Submitted by Dick Hobbs - new Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Mr MXF does Vegas
Bruce Devlin - new For quarter of a century I have been boarding planes to Las Vegas every April and the thing I look forward to most is the Sunday morning cycle from the Strip up to the top of Red Rock Canyon to look back down upon Vegas. From up there, you get a sense of perspective of how alien the city stuck in the desert really is.
Tags: iss124 | nab | mrmxf | cloud | ptp | imf | ip | Bruce Devlin - new
Submitted by Bruce Devlin - new Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Thinking clearly about the cloud
Chris Steel 2 As someone who is constantly trying to build better products, I'm always asking questions and listening to the ones I get asked. For several years now I've asked every broadcaster and media production company I've met what they plan to do about 'the cloud'
Tags: iss124 | cloud | marquis | archive | network | Chris Steel 2
Submitted by Chris Steel 2 Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Is now the time to compromise on investment
Mike Ransome - new It would seem on the face of it that many broadcasters and production companies are trimming spending to the bone, or at least postponing it in anticipation of more lucrative days to come.
Tags: iss124 | investment | presteigne broadcast hire | 4k | eng | Mike Ransome - new
Submitted by Mike Ransome - new Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Designing the correct workflow
Harry Smith Last year I took a year-long placement as a video editing support technician. The role exposed me to the common issues that students run into when editing their projects, and I developed an understanding as to why they might struggle understanding the complexities of video workflow.
Tags: iss124 | portsmouth | tvfutures | ccitv | post production | Harry Smith
Submitted by Harry Smith Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel from Blackmagic Design - Reviewed
Rebecca Goodeve - new Blackmagic's new, more affordable control surface for professionals is probably the most perfect panel I've ever used......
Tags: iss123 | blackmagic design | minipanel | davinci | grading | Rebecca Goodeve - new
Submitted by Rebecca Goodeve - new Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
More than just selling cable
Chris Smeeton - new Choices facing technology decision-makers are becoming increasingly complex due to rapid changes in the industry like broadcast and IP technology convergence, multiplatform demands, and the rise of 4K and 8K. It is now a constant challenge to balance the need to maintain already-installed equipment and fulfil the desire to provide the highest resolution picture and sound.
Tags: iss123 | argosy | cable | infrastructure | hd-sdi | 4k | coaxial | Chris Smeeton - new
Submitted by Chris Smeeton - new Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine