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Grading HDR & Dolby Vision: Patrick & Dan Join The Fun

August 5, 2021

In this installment of 'From The Mailbag' Team Mixing Light discusses Patrick & Dan's newest HDR projects &the challenges they faced.


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FROM THE MAILBAG EPISODE 88

Jumping Into The Deep End Of The HDR Pool

A few weeks ago during one of our Team ML weekly catch up calls the conversation steered to ‘what are we working on’ in our color correction businesses.

After telling the Pat and Dan I was cranking out some more reality TV that week Patrick jumps in with:

’Oh, I’m going to be grading a concert film in HDR/Dolby Vision for Disney +’

On it’s own this statement is pretty simple, but for years Patrick had been saying he wasn’t going to invest in HDR until his clients were asking for it – now all of a sudden he’d be grading a feature length concert film HDR for one the best streaming platforms on the planet?!  Oh, and I should mention his first time both doing anything for Disney + and his first HDR project!  What could go wrong!!!!

After congratulating Patrick, Dan chimed in with:

‘I’m excited too – I’m going to be grading my first Netflix original feature!  But it’s a bit tricky, I have to do a theatrical version and an HDR/Dolby version’

Geez, these guys get the coolest jobs!

In this installment of From The Mailbag we will discuss the challenges that both Patrick & Dan faced.

Have To Jump In At Some Point!

After some additional congratulations back and forth – I started to get worried for Patrick & Dan – like really worried.  Sure, I’m the first to admit that I often project my general anxiety on Patrick and Dan but was this going to be epic fail for both of them?  Did they know what they were getting into?

The short answer? Yes, both Patrick & Dan could do this, and do it well.

A few years ago when Joey and I took similar giant leaps into the HDR pool, Patrick was right there producing  our free Learn Dolby Vision series.

While this was going be Dan’s first Netflix original he did have some HDR experience that he could leverage.

Plus, these guys are pros and weren’t going to be unprepared:

Onboarding – Prior to starting in on these jobs both Dan and Pat reacquainted themselves with HDR/Dolby Vision workflows. Leveraging Dolby’s new individual certification Dolby’s new individual certification, both of them became Dolby certified. Additionally, Dan participated in additional onboarding through Netflix.

Color Management – As you’ll hear in the Mailbag, color management played a large role for both Patrick & Dan in the success of these projects. While they took different approaches – RCM vs ACES, both had well thought out and platform approved color management pipelines.

Dialing In Feel – One of the hardest aspects of HDR grading to grasp is how much is too much. Both Patrick and Dan did the right thing with their clients – doing test grades and having creative conversations before they had to sit down to do the grade. As you hear, both guys still had a few days of dialing in their feel for the grade but knowing a head of time that nearly everyone pushes their first couple HDR grades too far helped both Pat & Dan.

Workflow – both of these projects were a bit complicated from a workflow point of view. Patrick’s had been graded in SDR several years ago – what should he do start from scratch? Grade the SDR master up to HDR?  Dan had the challenge of creating both a theatrical & TV version – which necessitated very different light levels and monitoring on a projector plus a direct view monitor. As you’ll hear, these issues presented some unique challenges

Deliverables – One day we’ll live in a world were everyone has 10,000 Nit monitors and we don’t have to worry about TVs of different capabilities but that’s not happening anytime soon.  Enter Dolby Vision. The Dolby Vision system at its simplest allows one to deliver downstream (lower nit) HDR versions and an SDR version of a project. In the Mailbag, we discuss the challenges of making a good SDR version and monitoring both HDR/SDR at the same time.

While Pat & Dan can’t yet say any more about the projects, I’m proud to say that both guys nailed it – happy clients, happy OTTs and valuable HDR experience under their belts.

If you’re just starting to navigate the world of HDR grading be sure to take a listen to this episode!

Do You Want Team Mixing Light To Answer A Question?

Remember, if you have questions that you’d like to get an opinion on please use the contact form.

Your questions can be aesthetic, technical, or even client-related. We’d love to hear from you, and your question might make future episodes of From The MailBag.

Also, if you have any questions or something to add to the conversation please use the comments below.

Enjoy the MailBag!

-Robbie

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Homepage Forums Grading HDR & Dolby Vision: Patrick & Dan Join The Fun

Viewing 6 reply threads

    • Evan A
      Guest

      Great talks guys! I also work in a ACEScct Node based workflow and also like how the grain works before the IDT for SDR and HDR.


    • R Neil Haugen
      Guest

      Wonderful discussion … actually pretty riveting! Weird as that sounds.But a lot of good discussion of what it’s like to work with a very changed landscape.


    • charles w rodriguez
      Guest

      Guys,
      This was a great discussion, thanx. It really encourages me to keep practicing, given the myriad of hurdles and limitations. You know what I think is rather ludicrous? There’s so much criticism directed against us lesser humans that practice,practice, practice at grading in HDR with inadequate monitors. The issues discussed, here, apply regardless of the quality of the monitor used. What separates us from you guys is that we’re not faced with the reality of critical broadcast distribution. Yet, we deal with the same kinds of problems while learning to work in the HDR space. For example, looking over my shoulder at some of my first HDR projects, I routinely overdid the highlights, thinking HDR meant everything should be at a higher brightness.I believe the criticism of not having access to a $30k monitor is misplaced because, regardless of the reference adequacy, the same problems exist. To say we shouldn’t even TRY to grade HDR because we don’t have an adequate reference monitor is leveling unjust criticism against those of us learning the color space and working pipeline. It’s an evolving workflow where the nuances make all the critical differences.


    • Robbie Carman
      Guest

      Hey Charles –

      Thanks! I generally agree with you. The aesthetics of HDR is, as you point out, is a developing language. One only has to turn on Netflix, Disney + etc to see the wide ranging use of HDR – and to me that’s exciting. You’re right – sitting down to grade an HDR project the first few times it’s amazing how everyone sort of makes the same mistakes!

      I do think the elitism has gotten out of control in a lot of places – every time we discuss the HDR consumer vs reference landscape we do try to be inclusive of the entire landscape – and certainly as a training/education website we’d encourage practice, practice practice – if we’ve ever exuded that elitism it was a mistake and I apologize. I agree that a large part of the HDR experience can be had in a proper setup using calibrated popular/common consumer monitors (LG OLEDs etc).

      I think where the push back from the $30k crowd comes (and yes, I think the tone is often wrong) is that there are technical differences right? To say a $1500 monitor is the SAME (in terms of performance) as a $30-$40k HDR reference monitor is a bit disingenuous. Yet, there is a subset of people that will scream with inverse elitism that reference monitors are not worth it, that those that own them are waiting their money, that there is some conspiracy to keep HDR out of peoples hands (yes, really I’ve heard that) or in some strange way these people are trying to exercise technical dominance.

      The fact is there are differences – connectivity, tone mapping, calibration ease, color volume issues etc. Are these any reason to not practice? Not use these monitors at all? I sure don’t think so. Can you create great looking compelling content given these differences – absolutely. But to blanket ignore these kind of issues as 100% trivial I think is also a mistake.

      I think your point about expectations is a great one and one I like to often focus on in these discussions. Many of the projects I, Joey, Dan, Pat and our contributors work on do have an expectation of perfection (however unattainable that is!) as such, an investment is made to have the highest performing equipment possible – and to me no where does this stand out more than translatability of the grade – that’s what reference means to me.

      If it sounds like I’m making the elitist argument, I’m not trying to. I honestly think both ‘sides’ of the discussion should calm down! While technology is and will always be important in this business, I think we should (as you point out) be having fun, experimenting and getting to know the wild world of HDR and I’m stoked you’ve jumped in!


    • Marc Wielage
      Guest

      Terrific discussion as always. I found that my experiences in HDR have kind of affected my approach in SDR, and over the last year or two I’ve wanted to punch up the highlights more to provide the same kind of dynamic feel when I can. As to the cost of HDR displays, I have to say at least FSI has recently announced a more affordable option with the XM312. True, it’s not a $1500 consumer display, but it is more than $10,000 cheaper than its predecessors, and I think that’s progress. And a caveat: don’t let your clients see the SDR and HDR grades at the same time. Even worse if there are multiple displays in the room (like pro & consumer displays, which I see all over LA).


    • Willian Aleman
      Guest

      Thanks guys for sharing this interesting experience on HDR grading for OTTs.

      It would be helpful to know if Patrick and Dan worked as the finishing colorists in each project or just the grade?
      If yes, a future insight in the finishing delivery aspect of the process for these venues, would be amazing.

      Especially, dealing with Netflix specifications, like creating the IMF, XML, a mezzanine, or any video and audio supplements, (stereo/ 5.1) and the different language versions.

      Apart from Netflix written specifications, this is part of the OTT workflow difficult to find in a dedicate online master class. At least, I haven’t found one yet, except some online scattered information here and there, and recently Netflix’s Youtube channel, “New Digital Backlot Brand Account” tutorials done by Diego Yhamá


    • Pat Inhofer
      Guest

      I did both the grade and the finishing on my job. But the finishing aspect was pretty simple for my show.

      RE: Streaming deliverables – They are ALL over the place! Even within a single streamer, they may have mutiple different deliverables depending on what type of deal they have with the Executive Producer. There’s just no one way of doing it. For colorists, the key is to focus on learning color managed workflows. Plus, if you’re delivering HDR – then learn PQ workflows. But when it comes deliverables, get them in writing from the streamer (this is good advice on every job).

      If you’re requested to deliver IMF, we’ve got a few Insights on IMF delivery here on Mixing Light. DPX and Quicktime deliveries are mostly the same as we’ve all done for the past 20 years, you just need to deliver the proper container and (depending on your software) tag the color space and gamma appropriately.

      For Dolby Vision/HDR workflows, definitely check out our Flight Path and don’t forget to follow the External Resources we point to on that page. We also have an HDR category you can browse for even more information.

      I hope this helps.

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