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Extras for premiere digital film production

22.12.2004


Film-makers often prefer tried-and-tested analogue technology. But they may change when they see a new electronic production system. An IST Prize 2005 nominee combining the best from the analogue and digital worlds, it results in more flexible shooting and editing, and innovative 3D and motion effects.

“We defined a broad system architecture for digital production and delivery,” says Paul Walland, who coordinated the IST MetaVision project. “The goal was to revolutionise the way films and TV programmes are captured, produced, stored and distributed.”

Using metadata throughout production



To preserve the highest quality possible from production to distribution, the system uses the same ‘metadata’ at each stage of the chain. Metadata is information that describes the content (footage) throughout the production and archiving process. It includes everything from the type of camera and lighting employed to details of the production crew.

The MetaVision system goes further, using ‘intimate’ metadata – information captured at the same time as the original footage. This information allows film-makers to convert films into different formats, such as streaming media or digital cinema, without worrying about loss of quality.

They can also use metadata during post-production to create effects impossible to reproduce with analogue technology. By positioning stereo cameras on either side of the main electronic film camera and synchronising all the recorded images, the system generates a depth map. The resulting metadata may be used in post-production for adding 3D effects, such as virtual objects or scenery.

All this information – depth metadata and the primary material – are stored in the Material eXchange Format (MXF). A content-exchange format, MXF is seen as the ‘wrapper’ into which the system places video, audio and metadata. “The format has a significant European input, largely supported by this project,” says Walland. “We ensured MXF remains an open format.”

Introducing a revolutionary camera

The project developed a groundbreaking digital camera. It captures images at the standard film rate of 24 frames per second (fps), while capturing motion within the scene at higher rates (72 up to 150 fps). To avoid system overload, the motion is transferred at a lower resolution per frame. Engineers can reconstruct any frame rate from knowledge of the closest frames and the motion between them. This is ideal for high-quality slow-motion effects in sports or action films.

Europe’s leading broadcasters were shown a working demonstrator of the project’s concepts. One spin-off is the Ingest Station, sold by project partner Snell & Wilcox. It integrates software and hardware, and is used for media mastering and management, using open standards and architecture. The same firm won the 2004 International Association of Broadcasting Manufacturers (IABM) Peter Wayne Award for its MXF Developer Tools and Player – which also stem from MetaVision findings.

In February 2005, partners in MetaCamera – the IST project that builds on the metadata work done in MetaVision – will release a show-reel. This will demonstrate what is now possible in terms of handling a wide range of picture content from the latest high-resolution, high frame-rate cameras. Adds Walland: “We are using some of the equipment and algorithms developed under MetaVision plus a new development of our digital film-type camera.”

Tara Morris | alfa
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.lu/

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