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The Lost Lederhosen

AWS and partners showcased a real-time filmmaking workflow at the HPA Tech Retreat’s Supersession

The Supersession is a tradition at the annual Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) Tech Retreat, where a full day of presentations are grouped around a single unifying technology theme. 

This year’s very novel Supersession was dreamed up by Joachim ‘JZ’ Zell, vice-president of technologies at EFILM. He’s also vice-chair of the motion picture academy’s ACES project and organiser of the Hollywood Beer Alliance (HBA), a regularly scheduled, but less formal get together where filmmaking professionals meet for drinking and socialising. 

By the time they’d finished shooting a scene it was up in the AWS cloud

Wearing his many hats, JZ decided to produce a short film, with much of it captured, assembled and premiered all in the same day for the presentation. 

The Lost Lederhosen follows the story of Helga and Hans, JZ’s German beer buddies, as they make their way to LA to meet their friend before heading to the HPA. It was designed to demonstrate how standards like ACES and OpenEXR, as well as cloud-amplified technologies can enable a rich set of creative services for to filmmakers, allowing operations that formerly took days, weeks and months of post-production effort to be done in near-real time.

Beer buddies The Lost Lederhosen showcased the technologies available to filmmakers, with AWS the hub for post-production

Calling in the industry pros

To achieve this speedy turnaround, JZ reached out to AWS for its cloud storage services, but the role grew to support a number of chosen partner technologies running on AWS to act as the central hub for all post-production service activity. 

“JZ approached us with the idea of producing a movie in real time – and I’m game for crazy ideas,” laughs Jack Wenzinger, Global M&E Partners SA at AWS. “I agreed, thinking we were going to do a couple of minutes of footage. But that went straight out of the window when JZ recruited professional filmmakers.”

Although some of the film’s scenes were recorded earlier, a large portion of the action was captured on the day, with Steve Shaw, ASC, directing, DOP Roy Wagner, ASC, lending his cinematography skills, and Sam Nicholson from Stargate Studios. 

“By the time they had finished shooting a scene, it was already up in the AWS cloud for creatives anywhere on the planet with an internet connection to work on,” explains Wenzinger.

It was shot on the Sony Venice, Arri Alexa, Red Monstro, Panavision DXL, Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with lenses from Zeiss, Sigma and Panavision, HDR monitoring care of Canon, wireless via Teradek and lighting from Rosco, Kino Flo and Dedolight. 

Big collaboration

Post-production brought several companies into the collaborative effort, including Dell, Blackmagic’s Resolve, BeBop Technology, Pixelworks, PixSpan, Frame.io, Ownzones, Colorfront, Filmlight, Skywalker Sound, Ownzones, Red Bee, BorisFX, Pomfort, Sohonet, Graymeta and The Foundry’s Nuke. 

“Realising how many technology partners were needed to make this project work was one of our biggest challenges,” explains Wenzinger. 

“We had a few drop out at the last minute, because they didn’t have enough bandwidth to support it. JZ was very reactive, though. He would immediately call me up and say, add this partner, or these three partners to access multiple terabytes of content that will enable creatives to do their conform work or their graphics or promos work.” 

He adds: I come from a media asset management space, so understanding what production creatives required was new to me. I relied on AWS expertise.”

The short incorporated all elements of a real Hollywood production, including delivery of dailies, editing, colour grading, conform and an outtakes reel. This was performed live at the Supersession and achieved in support of AWS partners Frame.io and Colorfront, which helped connect every participant and every company to its framework.

“Because of our partnerships, integrating all these technology partners into the cloud was easy,” Wenzinger notes. 

Successes and feedback

The film’s primary goal was to educate industry pros about working in the cloud, as it’s going to be increasingly employed going forward. And while it may not be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, it proved the value of a “AWS content lake architecture”, where the content resides in one central location and numerous collaborators can access it at any time, with any number of applications. 

The hills are alive The Lost Lederhosen follows the story of Helga and Hans as they make their way to Los Angeles to meet their friends

“The feedback we got back from creatives was positive,” Wenzinger enthuses. “A conform artist had his first experience with the cloud on this project and he was amazed by how fast the Nuke UI was. He said it was a lot faster than his on-premises implementations of the software, and that’s simply because he was accessing the AWS Local Zone in LA using GPU capabilities.” 

He adds: “It piqued everybody’s interest as they realised they didn’t have to wait a day to review shots. To prove this, the gentleman from Frame.io was able to take shots and create a rough-cut sequence just from using Final Cut and then showed it to the director, who realised he had missed a shot. It’s immediate feedback you wouldn’t get on a typical production.”

The challenges for creatives, however, are more cultural. Getting people comfortable with a new way of working is always difficult, but AWS is reviewing the experience for future use.

This article first appeared in the April 2020 issue of FEED magazine.