When the COVID pandemic commenced, Temprimental VFX was well-equipped to make the WFH transition.
The ease of transition was due to Temprimental’s core business model: ever since the company’s inception in 2015, Temprimental’s artists, supervisors, producers, pipelined devs, and more all work from their homes or remote offices, sharing work and collaborating via technology like cineSync. So, as the rigors of 2020 set in and facilities fought to transition significant workflows from on-premise to remote, Temprimental needed to change very little. Indeed, they hit the ground running.
For Executive Producer and company founder Raoul Bolognini, remote was the obvious choice for Temprimental from the start, even in 2015 when the concept was largely alien to the VFX business.
“We weren’t ever going to be a brick and mortar facility with hundreds of seats,” begins Bolognini. “We always liked the nimbleness of the remote model, which offered access to a global selection of artists and boutique houses with whom we could partner. Remote also enabled us to offer our clients the flexibility they desired from VFX; we could come in at a certain budget level aligned with the type of films and TV work we wanted to take on. Remote work gave us the flexibility to stretch the dollars, approach exciting projects, and even explore different markets. And it certainly set us in good stead ahead of the global changes in 2020 that forced the industry to evolve.”
Temprimental was working on three films at the start of the COVID pandemic; Sony Pictures’ horror The Unholy, Andrew Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, and Lionsgate’s comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, on which Temprimental had just been asked to deliver 500 shots—all while many other facilities were still searching for new ways to work remotely.
“If we didn’t already have the remote working model in place, I think we would have struggled immensely to complete Barb and Star,” says Bolognini.
At the time, the Temprimental team rarely used cineSync for anything other than internal calls; creatives were seldom involved in cineSync sessions. COVID changed the studio’s approach, as Temprimental needed an alternative solution to screening room dailies. Although Temprimental explored other remote work software and screen sharing solutions, the technology proved to be too unstable, too lacking in annotation features, or it compressed footage that required the best visual quality if it were to be accurately reviewed. cineSync, however, featured none of these problems. Sessions were reliably real-time, with everyone watching the same frame simultaneously. Furthermore, as the media under review was local to each machine, the footage was consistently high quality regardless of bandwidth.
Temprimental trained its editorial team on cineSync and devised a system whereby all necessary parties could join a cineSync session simultaneously. “From then on, we performed a cineSync session every single day. As a result, we were able to move the ship along and continue production, even when team members were in a completely different room, or city or country!”
A horrifying challenge
Sony Pictures’ The Unholy posed a different challenge. Whereas Barb and Star had finished filming when lockdown struck, COVID forced The Unholy to stop shooting before production had finished, presenting many new post-production challenges.
“The Unholy shut down ten days prior to completing filming, which opened a whole Pandora’s Box,” says Bolognini. “We had actors stuck on location, scenes to finish, and digital characters to create to complete some of those scenes.”
At one point during The Unholy‘s COVID-disrupted production, it became necessary to shoot two actors in two different countries, then insert their performances into a single shot of existing footage. “That was a first,” says Robert Grasmere, Temprimental’s Creative Supervisor. “I remotely supervised bluescreen shoots with two of The Unholy‘s actors; one in Portugal and the other in LA. We then had to take the footage and composite the actors into scenes we’d shot on-set months earlier with another actor. All three actors had to look like they were in the same place and conversing naturally, rather than in three different places and talking at completely different times!”
cineSync proved instrumental in combining the three performances into a single, unified sequence. “cineSync was the only tool out there that allowed us to review the scene remotely at such high-resolution,” says Bolognini. “They were challenging shots to line up, and we really needed to ensure the audience wasn’t taken out of the story by seeing an obvious visual effect. However, thanks to cineSync’s visual fidelity, we were able to review the sequence in considerable detail and ensure our VFX implementation was 100% invisible. The story was what mattered, and we managed to make it the focus of the scene.”
Post-production on the Ana de Armas-starring Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde also received the benefits of remote review and approval in cineSync. “Every part of Blonde‘s editorial review process, top to bottom, was performed in cineSync,” says Temprimental’s Christine McDermott, Head of Production.
Christine remembers one particular sequence in Blonde that benefited greatly from remote review and approval in cineSync. In the scene, embers emanating from a fire passed in front of an actor; the director wanted creative control over each ember’s movement. “We were going in frame by frame and annotating individual embers in cineSync across some 30–40 shots,” says Christine. “cineSync had a hugely positive impact in discussing the fine detail of what we needed to do with each ember and how it needed to move.”
Another sequence in Blonde takes place at the top of a staircase at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the appearance of which has dramatically changed since the film’s 1950s setting. Again, Temprimental employed invisible VFX to turn the clock back and transform the environment into its original appearance.
“We painstakingly removed and rebuilt the bars of the staircase and the background,” says Bolognini. “Going through each shot in cineSync to make it technically correct took months. We reviewed shots with the director every few days to ensure things were heading in the right direction. We even discussed things like getting the curvature of the window exactly right; we’d have pixel-accurate conversations, zooming right in on cineSync to see what we needed to do. That’s the level of detail we were working with.”
Quality, speed, and security
cineSync has always been a key tool at Temprimental, but now that dailies sessions and shot reviews with directors and editorial teams must be performed online, cineSync has taken on an even more prominent role. The studio used to have three licenses; now, they have ten.
Temprimental’s continued confidence in cineSync comes down to three factors: quality, speed, and security.
“Using cineSync, you can review as high-resolution imagery as the editorial team wants to send, so you’re always looking at fine-grade material,” says Grasmere of cineSync quality level. “With cloud-based review setups, you tend to get a lot of compression on such images, but not with cineSync. Furthermore, as cineSync only sends command lines back and forth to everyone in the session, the sync is immediate. If I fast forward through a file, everyone sees the same imagery fast forward. It’s so fast—you’re collaborating in real-time.”
Regarding security, Temprimental enjoyed cineSync’s local setup, where the media under review exists only on the computers involved in the session. No media file passes through cineSync’s servers or those of a third party. “We’re controlling the media going into cineSync, and it’s all siloed off into its own process, so I’ve always felt much more comfortable using cineSync than I am with a tool running in a web browser,” says Christine. “It’s an app that acts on the footage as opposed to something the material lives within, so everything is kept safely in an isolated place on everyone’s computer. In the film business, such security is critical.
“You couldn’t ask for more from cineSync. It’s kept production running throughout COVID; we’ll be using it a lot more here at Temprimental.”