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Gramercy Park Studios in London has tackled the issue of shrinkingGPS-live-edit
timeframes and budgets for TV commercials with GPS Live Edit, a new
workflow that brings editorial on-set, close to video capture.


Gramercy Park Studios – Fixing it On Set Before Fixing it in Post

Francisco Lima, VFX Technology Supervisor atGramercy Park Studiosin London has tackled the issue of shrinking timeframes and budgets for TV commercials with a new workflow that brings editorial on-set, close to video capture. While the expectation for a high-quality finish is still the same, projects need to be delivered within tighter constraints.
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Focussing on efficiency to make sure his team can stay on top of overheads, Francisco and GPS Head of Editing,Vee Pinot, designed a process calledGPS Live Edit, a workflow that interconnects the editing system to video equipment typically available on most sets. GPS Live Edit allows the editor to assemble shots and plates into the timeline immediately after it has been captured, while the shoot is still in progress.

The benefit is that everyone on set, the director, DP and VFX supervisor, is able to instantly see the rough comps and edits and evaluate how, and if, the shots are working together from a creative and technical point of view. Previously, the editor would have to either wait until the camera card was full on set and the footage converted to Apple ProRes or MXF files, or capture to a small external digital recorder that would then have to be mounted to the editing system in order to cut the rushes into the timeline.  

The Cat Test

“Because a production must concentrate on changing the lighting rigs, camera position and lenses multiple times throughout a shoot, waiting for the card to fill up, or mounting and dismounting an external digital recorder, to check on progress is unlikely to be practical. This means there’s no way of telling if the shots would work later on in the edit, and if a reshoot is needed, it can be painstaking and expensive to re-establish a previous setup. Since the production can't usually spare the time or doesn’t have the budget for a re-shoot, the default answer is to ‘fix it in post’,” Francisco said.

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Developed and trialed during a Homebase commercial, Vee recently put GPS Live Edit to work on a shoot for pet care company Purina, featuring cats interacting with actors. When persuading the cats to act as required proved to be a major challenge, it quickly became apparent that the human talent would have to be shot separately from the cats. Consequently, the two-day shoot was intensive, working through 11 different setups on the first day and 12 on the second.
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The Process On Set

GPS’ on-set editing kit consists of a 15" Mac Book Pro retina display running Final Cut Pro connected to external Thunderbolt hard drives and to a large 27" Apple monitor to give the editor plenty of working area. They have designed the process in a way that is straightforward to set up, because specific issues always arise during a shoot. For example, they have to arrange to send a wireless signal to the playback team if the camera is far away from the video village, or a camera running at high speed may require a change to the configuration.  

“It’s always good to have a dedicated person to look after the technical details because the editor needs to be fully focused on loading the clips, cutting and advising the director,” said Francisco. “The technical person can then collaborate with the camera and playback team, make any modifications to the configuration to keep the system running, and then pass on any information about how this will affect the edit in post when it’s time to reconnect the Final Cut project with the transcoded rushes. This is critical to finalising the edit in post in a way that allows the final XML to work directly with the Baselight for colour grading, Flame for online and visual effects, and Pro Tools for audio.

“Nevertheless, the process will only be as good as the editor cutting on set. There's no benefit in gaining quick access to the clips if the editor can't cut the story together quickly. Vee is extremely fast, and by being on set she's able to cut and provide valuable information for the entire team - the director, producer, VFX supervisor and others.”

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Planning Resources

On the Purina commercial, they knew at an early stage they would face the challenge in post of matching up the plates to correct the differences in height, eye-line and shadows. If the plates really didn’t match, it would take even more time to fix. Vee said, "Using GPS Live Edit enables me to continue working closely with the director to understand his or her vision, gaining a really good understanding of the rushes by the end of the shoot. Then, back in the edit suite, my time is spent editing and crafting the film. Being on set also allows me to spot technical problems that would affect the post and to suggest reshooting elements when necessary.”

Vee’s position also allows her to send the team in London specific shots and pre-comps created throughout the shoot, while she and the rest of the team on set keep them up-to-date with the production’s feedback, helping to plan and work out resources in advance should extra post work be needed. This saved valuable time and the client’s money in the edit suites. 

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Even in remote locations, most production companies will run at least a mobile WiFi 3G or 4G connection they can use to transfer shots over to the studio quickly. The size of the images and pre-comp clips are kept as small as possible - using JPG and ProRes 422 LT - so they can be transferred even in slow connections.  

To send multiple, very large images and clips, they may then useZONZA, the Asset Management system developed by Hogarth Worldwide. Francisco said, “This way when we return we know the team has had time to review, think, plan and take the necessary actions to accommodate the data that is arriving from the shoot. The producer will receive the files and make sure they are available to whoever needs to evaluate and respond regarding timing or resources they might need for the project. 

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Editor Vee Pinot works on shots for the Purina commercial.


“Meanwhile, the whole production was put at ease because they knew whatever was being shot on set was fulfilling the creative brief. We could move forward and reduce any delays and Vee could bring the storytelling to life by cutting on set, safe in the knowledge that everyone who needed to review it, actually had reviewed it."

Step Back and Visualise

When designing this system, Francisco feels it has been crucial to step back and visualise the entire process - to understand in what context you will be operating, who you will be collaborating with and who will be receiving the data you produce. All team members have to make sure they can do their work without disrupting what others need to do, during the process and later on, especially on set when things need to move extremely fast and everyone needs to be as transparent as possible, adding value and not getting in the way.

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“Producing an advert from concept to final delivery is comprised of thousands of high speed interactions between people from different departments who work together throughout different stages,” he said. “The teams that understand this develop a sense of trust, knowing that each one is there trying to perform his or her best. They can use the collective knowledge of the team and work in unison to deliver the best overall outcomes, not only in terms of imagery but in terms of experiences for themselves and for their clients. This is the beauty of working in our industry.

“Applying the GPS Live Edit workflow allowed us to reduce the number of issues during the shoot so we could deliver the post without any ‘fix it’ surprises. It also meant we could spend more time on creative aspects of the shoot and not worry about expensive reshoots. We’ve learned a lot since we first started using this system and have ironed out most of the issues and configurations that can happen during a shoot.

"We’re now training our edit assists so they can attend the shoot and support Vee with the configuration of the system. Even though every shoot can have a unique set of challenges, by training assistants and making sure they understand why we configure the system the way we do and how it’s done, they can think, troubleshoot and find solutions during production." www.gramercyparkstudios.com