THE DIGITAL INTERMEDIATE GUIDE'S AUTHOR
I originally wrote this page well over a decade ago now. That is how long the DI Guide has been online, having gone through 5 facelifts surviving a domain identity crisis, finally resting here. In that time a lot has changed in the industry and so have I. Personally I left to follow my own dream of writing a novel, which I have done, which is called 'The Great Carrier Reef'. If you are interested you can find it on Amazon, or if you would like to know more hop across to my personal website www.pgreen.co.uk. I also suffered a freak accident in 2012, which changed my life dramatically and after almost 7 years of pain, in the July of 2018 I opted to have my lower right leg amputated. So life and direction yet again hits a fork in the road.
Thank you to those that read the information and drop me the odd message. I'm glad it still serves a purpose and helps those looking for information. Hopefully it will see another incarnations before, like the digital intermediate realm this guide becomes obsolete like myself.
When I acquired my first credit for a feature film, Tomb Raider, I was asked how I wanted the credit. I had crept towards that goal my entire life; however it was a bit like being asked how I wanted my eggs done for breakfast ... over easy? I had concentrated so much on the journey, I had not really thought about it seriously and exactly what it meant. Everyone called me Phil - so that was how I gained my first credit, as Phil Green.
As the lights went up, watching the credits roll with my family in tow, it seemed like an end of a chapter, I had done it, finally! As we all walked from the auditorium quite elated, not really about the film as such but the achievement, my brother suddenly asked a very pertinent question, why had I not used my proper name - Philip Green? In truth I had never even thought about my actions but it obviously struck a cord with my family as I had not use my real name! However now I have a name, or alter ego, it seems even more strange that within the film world I have an even more improbable title Phil Green VI, seeming more like royalty than who I actually am, bless IMDB for not allowing multiple names.
Film for me has always been my biggest escape. I seem to always remember a particular year not by an event but by what film was released and how old I was when I saw it! Many people I know seem to associate music to their life but mine seems to be a smattering of films which made severe impacts or jolted me from reality. Let’s face it, escapism and release from the mundane is what films and reading (another passion) is all about. I can tell you the first film I ever saw at the cinema, it was when I was five - Disney's Bedknobs & Broomsticks, starring Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson; apparently I talked all the way through it! However a simple holiday jaunt with my parents, which incidentally was a treat that happened as a family only once a year at most, paved the way for my future. I fell in love with film and escapism.
To be fair it was not necessarily cinema which captured my imagination. TV played a major roll as well, mainly Doctor Who. I used to watch straddling the door well of the lounge, usually peering through the gap. My mother would explain it was not real and was fiction, captured by a camera. I think this in part was responsible to my fascination with effects in film and how something extraordinary was brought to the screen and made.
I had the privilege of meeting him when he was invited to one of the first companies I ever worked for. If you meet me you might realise I'm not exactly a retiring person and had never been star struck, having met plenty of celebs over the years but I was visibly speechless when the man appeared in reception. My colleagues thought it was hilarious but when we were having a question and answer session, it could have just been the pair of us chatting, that was how it felt - he had true warmth, charisma and love of the film industry, plus some truly great stories.
His wife Diana, was impressed about how much I knew about Ray and his work, chatting afterwards she invited me to lunch. I readily accepted and spent an afternoon with Ray, possibly one of my most cherished memories from the industry. One of the highlights was holding his Oscar, which was awarded to him in 1992. Ray was honoured for his lifetime of extraordinary achievements at the sixty-fourth Academy Awards.
Obviously because of this I started with the idea I wanted to go into animation, not particularly stop motion but animatronics which was basically in camera effects. However as I progressed through education and after a work experience placement within the hallowed walls of Jim Henson's Creature Workshops in Camden, London, I realised the art was dying and the way forward was digital. I graduated from my degree and embarked a Post Graduate Diploma and then an MA in Digital Special Effects at Bournemouth University. To be honest I surprised myself and everyone around me, I was the last person who ever thought I'd go to University, let alone attain a Masters!
When I left University, I started my career with Cinesite, a Kodak company in London. Although I had envisaged becoming a 2D compositor, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I guess pure chance took me in a different direction. I was originally involved at a more technical level with data operations and the scanning & recording department. Plus looking after the calibration within the facility, which could possibly explain where my eyes were honed. Especially when creatives complained about their monitor and I could usually tell whether it would pass inspection from a quick glance - one hapless compositor always complained every morning, basically he could not fully grasp his monitor took a while to reach working colour temperature having been turned off overnight! There were approximately sixty monitors within the facility which needed to be kept calibrated permanently for film work - as you may imagine, it was a never ending thankless task as at the time it was a manual operation, I shall not bore you with the technical details!
During my tenure, Cinesite opened the first Digital Lab in the UK. Built for the ground breaking and award winning Band Of Brothers, it was the company's first job to be fully graded in house. In fact I spent around eighteen months of my life dedicated to the project, so gained a very sound knowledge of the Digital Intermediate workflow as it evolved and was permanently being reinvented!
When the lab first opened I was fascinated by the idea, maintaining an entire feature film online and adding digital colour correction, which previously would have been a visual effect. The idea was revolutionary, the data was extraordinary and the suite itself would not have looked out of place on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise. The digital lab was based around the Pandora MegaDef grading panel, a spirit telecine and a collection of massive disks known as Spectre, one would have been forgiven thinking we were on the set of Bond! A monumental suite in its hey day, although I spent many hours sat idling, as engineers tried in vain to keep it alive - a painful experience to be honest but ground breaking and therefore understandable with anything new.
However one of the colourists, in its many down times explained the theory of how to use the colour corrector. I realised I found it extremely interesting and 'apparently' I had a creative flair but ultimately a good set of eyes. I was hooked and used to spend a lot of my free time learning the tools - looking back I would probably have been in a lot of trouble, but then it was usually at stupid o'clock, when no one was around. Realising I wanted to change direction I happened to read about a new machine a UK company was developing, I had also been in contact with them throughout University - Quantel, having used previous products.
Their pedigree was exemplary; they had developed one of the first 'turnkey' film system for effects, Domino, which scanned the material, performed visual effects, including colour correction and then printed it back to film. Astounding at the time and very much ahead of the competition. I was already a Henry and Hal operator, which were Quantel machines albeit for television, so I left London for the heady heights of Newbury, Berkshire. The reason was a machine called iQ; it had the same promise as a Spectre but many more tricks up its sleeve. It could play High Definition in real time but also 2K material, nothing else could, I was amazed, plus it was about 1/100th the size of Spectre, it was extraordinary, but at that stage about as reliable as the Spectre's birth.
However I could forgive its foibles because I could see its potential. It did not care about resolution or colour space, it was not clouded by conformity, it was an open machine and its possibilities were new and exciting. Ultimately the iQ was a system which allowed the creative to be in control, by allowing misunderstood technicalities to be hidden, making life easier and increasingly more creative. You never had to worry about the correct conversion of one colour space to another or how to store different media's in a single project. I could see it would become the system around which a Digital Lab could and would grow, I was proved right.
At Quantel, I was their DI Specialist and I spent nearly five years globe trotting from continent to continent. As new Digital Labs emerged all round the globe, it was very challenging fitting the iQ seamlessly within their developed infrastructure. One company I spent a considerable amount of time at, in the very early days of DI, driving the lab, was at Cinécitta Digital within Cinécitta Studios, Rome. David Bush (MD) was a great visionary and certainly helped pioneer the technology and probably became one of its biggest advocates. Both of us had surreptitiously worked with Spectre and could see the future of iQ, it was a great experience. Many of the pitfalls we encountered happened again in pretty much every Digital Lab I set foot in, from that day to this. I graded a myriad of projects including 2 perf, restoration, 35mm, 16mm, plus black and white and many new projects and features. During my sabbatical at Cinécitta I also encountered many innovative and new technologies, such as the Viper camera, I believe we were the first to use it for a full project at Cinécitta.
Quantel understood the potential and developed a new grading system, which as colourists, we were more familiar with. The colour correction tools were originally only in software or without hardware to drive it as a traditional colourist would understand. Quantel developed what would become Qcolor, bringing the tactile nature for the colourist to the iQ, which propelled the machine to the forefront of the digital lab. I was responsible for helping develop the interface of the colour correction tools and spent a large proportion of my time within labs worldwide talking with other colourists, expanding the toolset and helping improve the DI workflow. Since I left Quantel they have certainly made an impressive leap with grading and I personally believe the latest incarnation of their grading panel has to be the sexiest and most ergonomically designed on the planet - it simply looks fantastic.
Quantel was a heady time; one in which I made friends that will last a lifetime. I worked on fun projects, many would be considered low budget and some very high budgets in many different countries. Working with emerging new digital labs, trying to push the iQs limits, which were boundless. It proved time and time again to deliver the goods. I also learnt as a consultant drafted in from a manufacturer, no matter what project you worked on, film credits were not negotiable. You had to be a member of staff no matter how hard you worked on a project. However after nearly five years of spending my time helping companies develop their own labs and spending time helping with the grading and editorial on a myriad of films and television, some unforgettable, some very painful, an opportunity came my way which seemed huge and I left the hallowed walls of Quantel to tread the formidable path on board of a brand new start up company.
Dragon DI was unofficially opened July 4th 2005 - independence day. The company had taken nearly three years to get off the ground, a purpose built Digital Lab, the only dedicated digital intermediate facility in the world. Most facilities have grown from optical houses, video or effects groups. With an investment of over £2 million, I was the Creative Director and Colourist. The facility was built and designed from the ground up, utilising the most innovative and cutting edge machinery available at that present time. Principally designed around the iQ for the main grading theatre, which was and I believe still is, the biggest in the UK. Scanning and recording was via the Arriscan and Arri recorder which offers the highest quality and workflow, plus the Arriscan uses LED technology which was a first and, from my own personal experience, is highly recommended for restoration work!
I was very proud of what I achieved at Dragon, although for me it was very different as I was responsible on many other levels, because I was not only a creative, I was also management! Having a say in the logo for the company was fun and I cherished the moments of madness, like constructing a bespoke table in the shape of the claw, for the conference room! The company however certainly hit the ground running - the first three features and a few restoration projects certainly were taxing, but I ultimately proved what I had spent half a decade telling others to do was possible and that for me was the main challenge. A couple of the restoration projects were extremely interesting, especially proving we could restore a section of a Technicolor 3 strip better than a much larger American company and in a much shorter timescale was most gratifying. The planning and my knowledge paid dividends to the workflow behind the infrastructure at Dragon, as well as my colleagues there, which made it an exciting time.
The Future: Who knows where the future will take me? I still love film and it never really loses its magical hold over me - but I love how new technology evolves and changes. I like a challenge and I like learning new equipment or software, so for now I am taking a back seat and applying old tricks to new equipment. It can be said you can in fact teach an old dog new tricks. I am learning yet another colour corrector and other software, plus brushing up on old skills unused, my brain only seems finite - I'm sure these things are never truly forgotten but software does have a horrible habit of transmogrifying. My eyes still seem to be as vivid as they ever were but I am sure life, as ever will ultimately lead me into another chapter, which seems to be the way it is leading with another novel in the pipeline - watch this space.