Creative Post Explores the Arctic in IMAX 3D with Mistika

Supervising Editor Adrian Saywell at Creative Post Inc. in Toronto talks here about the challenges of grading and finishing the recent IMAX documentary Wonders of the Arctic 3D, and the reasons behind selecting Mistika for online, colour correction and titling.

‘Wonders of the Arctic 3D’ is a 42-minute documentary produced partly by Science North interactive science museum in Ontario, Canada, their fifth IMAX production. It has been distributed in more than 100 theatres around the world, and focuses on the effects of climate change to the Arctic environment and the impact on humans and animals, such as the resourceful Inuit people and polar bears that live there. View the Wonders of the Arctic 3D film trailer here.
The film shows what makes the Arctic region one of the toughest, harshest places to live on earth and how creatures manage to survive there. Historically, more than half of the Arctic Ocean was covered by ice all year round but in the past 50 years, ice cover has been reduced by 70 per cent. According to the film's producer, director and writer David Lickley, predictions indicate that within 15 years, the Arctic may remain completely ice-free during some months of the year. The film aims to educate and inform audiences about this topic.

Creative Post started work on the film in 2010, when primary camera shooting started. The project was shot mainly on IMAX Dual Phantom 4K and RED Epic 5K cameras, and the workflow began with onset processing and backup of the Phantom footage. Once backed up and shipped to Creative Post, the processing of dailies for all digital material in both Phantom and RED formats was completed using Mistika, generating HD ProRes files with matching names and timecodes for the offline edit.

Adrian said, “Before we purchased Mistika, the Phantom’s timecode would not match the QT created by other programs. Footage was supplied by DKP and Science North at resolutions ranging from 4K to 8K in both 2D and 3D. Because Mistika is an open platform, we were able to scale all the various formats to a final result of 5616X4096, which was then filmed out to 70MM for IMAX Projection. As it is almost impossible to work in 3D at the full 5.6K resolution, the proxy and render options in the Mistika enabled us to scale to 2K in 3D, where all work was completed before applying the corrections back to the raw camera material. This made it faster and relatively easy to work in such a large format.”

Full online finishing, stereoscopic 3D alignments, colour correction and titling were performed in Mistika. Creative Post had to produce numerous versions of the project, which meant final versioning in 5.6K 3D, 4K Scope 3D and 2K Scope 3D. The new tools in version 7.2 were used to apply display filters such as log to linear LUTs, and crop 1.85 and 1.79 images into the 70MM format without actually applying any effects to the environment.

Creative Post's owner and CEO, Ken MacNeil remarked that before they had a Mistika on board, he doesn’t believe they would have been able to complete the work on a film of this scope within the given deadlines. When it was purchased in 2011, Mistika was chosen for its multi-resolution capability and the 3D tools required for the 4K+ resolution that Creative Post generally masters in. As online editor, Adrian Saywell was also able to use Mistika’s tools, including those for colour matching and alignment, to stabilise and fix 3D shots that would otherwise have been deemed unusable.
Senior colourist Jim Fleming was using the system’s colour grading tools to pull the best images out of the footage. The 3D colour grading session was technically straightforward because the left and right images were already exactly colour-matched in the pre-grade processing. This made the film easier and more realistic to watch overall without distractions from the images caused by inaccurate stereoscopic effects.