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Thursday, July 18, 2024

AJA Gear Helps The Rebel Fleet Envision Video Assist, DIT, Dailies Workflows

As high-resolution, high dynamic range (HDR) workflows have continued to evolve in recent years, innovative video assist, DIT, and dailies solutions offered by companies like The Rebel Fleet have become essential. Founded in 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand, The Rebel Fleet provides these services across New Zealand, Australia, and the Asia Pacific region and recently expanded its offering to include post production in New Zealand. Its clients span high-profile episodic, film, and commercial productions. Clients typically approach The Rebel Fleet for custom workflow solutions, often with a specific camera in mind. Its team then works closely with each client to develop a custom pipeline and deploys a host of AJA gear to envision solutions that align with their unique production environment, budget, crew sizes, DP and director visions, studio requirements, and more.

The kit behind the design

The Rebel Fleet team depends on gear like AJA KUMO 1616 and KUMO 3232 routers, the KUMO Control Panel, and AJA Mini-Converters to build on-set video assist and DIT workflows for clients. Company CEO Mike Urban shared, “AJA KUMO routers and Mini-Converters are built so great and offer solid warranties, which are paramount in the fast-paced environments we work in. We need equipment we can trust, and the AJA kit gives us peace of mind.”

QTAKE software is also central to The Rebel Fleet’s video assist service offering. It integrates seamlessly with AJA KUMO routers through the KUMO’s network interface. The team can quickly and easily establish predefined router settings, so if a client wants all the monitors to display playback or live footage, they can preconfigure it, load it up with their Stream Deck, and changes are reflected across the routers. According to Urban, this provides a massive advantage over making changes manually. He shared, “Being able to bring all this control into the network ecosystem of the rig via KUMO gives our clients more free time to try out fancy ideas. I also love that KUMO routers run off 12-volt batteries.”

When working with clients, The Rebel Fleet occasionally deploys a custom flypack affectionately dubbed the ‘Danny Box’ after the team member who built it. Typically placed on set, it is housed in a Pelican Case and features two AJA HD SDI splitters, two camera inputs, and four camera outputs. According to Urban, the setup supports clients looking to distribute a feed to more monitors or extend a signal because the SDI BNC run is longer than 100M. He said, “Knowing we’ve got reliable equipment from AJA inside the box that we can literally just drop on set and will work without fail is amazing.”

Managing HDR on set and beyond

As HDR continues to play a more prominent role on set, The Rebel Fleet is deploying more HDR gear across projects, including the AJA FS-HDR and AJA HDR Image Analyzer. Paired with Colorfront, these tools help ensure its client’s desired look stays consistent as footage moves from acquisition through dailies. “HDR equipment costs remain a key hurdle to broader adoption of full HDR workflows, which is where tools like AJA FS-HDR have been great. We can easily convert between SDR and HDR and retain a high-quality image,” Urban explained.

When The Rebel Fleet deploys monitors on set, the FS-HDR gives its team the confidence that they’re displaying HDR correctly if they receive a log signal from the camera. Depending upon client needs, they can then route different paths to HDR or SDR. Compatibility with Pomfort Livegrade Pro also enables them to use the device as a dynamic LUT box. HDR Image Analyzer then allows Urban’s team to monitor HDR on set with scopes that match what it’s seeing in Colorfront. He added, “With FS-HDR, we get one rack-mounted device that does everything we could possibly imagine. HDR Image Analyzer also allows us to look at the scopes when monitoring, which is huge for ensuring consistency in dailies.”

Building a workflow for HDR finishing on set

With on-set HDR finishing always a part of the plan for one of The Rebel Fleet’s latest projects, the ability to easily switch between SDR and HDR in the dailies pipeline proved crucial. DPs and other stakeholders needed to know what the HDR looked like during high light or outdoor scenes with high dynamic range, and with every shot effectively a VFX shot, metadata was key. Starting from the cameras – ARRI ALEXA LF cameras with DNA and other smart lenses – The Rebel Fleet designed the workflow so all the metadata from the camera and the lens through the on-set pipeline could be easily read.

“AJA FS-HDR could read all the metadata we brought into the DIT cart. We could then combine it with the notes and information the DIT created for whatever needed to be passed down to the pipeline and marry it with the information coming from QTAKE. We were then able to give the team on set the ability to add metadata directly to a live database for viewing on iPads and other devices,” explained Urban.

All that information ultimately served dailies through Colorfront before making its way into editorial. This colour-consistent pipeline meant that editorial could start working faster. The team worked in the same HDR color space (P3-D65) in post production that they’d monitored on set.

I/O was another important consideration on the project, for which Urban and team deployed AJA Io 4K Plus. He shared, “Io 4K Plus is an amazing output device; it gives us the confidence that what we’re seeing on set matches what we’re seeing in dailies, which is super helpful.”

Being able to switch between HDR and SDR analysing with the AJA HDR Image Analyzer also gave the main DIT confidence that they were providing the DP with the most accurate picture information. As The Rebel Fleet continues to service clients on high-profile projects, innovating its HDR workflow and remote pipelines remains a priority, with AJA gear a crucial part of the design.

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