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Digital Intermediate

Digital Intermediate

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Published by Moji Piyapong

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Published by: Moji Piyapong on Feb 27, 2012
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Digital intermediate
Digital intermediate
(typically abbreviated to
DI
) is a motion picturefinishing process which classically involves digitizing amotion pictureandmanipulating the color and other image characteristics. It often replacesor augments the photochemical timing process and is usually the finalcreative adjustment to a movie beforedistributionintheaters. It is distinguished from thetelecineprocess in which film is scanned and coloris manipulated early in the process to facilitate editing. However the linesbetween telecine and DI are continually blurred and are often executed onthe same hardware by colorists of the same background. These two stepsare typically part of the overall color management process in a motionpicture at different points in time. A digital intermediate is alsocustomarily done at higherresolutionand with greater color fidelity thantelecine transfers.Although originally used to describe a process that started withfilmscanningand ended withfilm recording, digital intermediate is also used to describecolor gradingand final mastering even when a digital camerais used as the image source and/or when the final movie is not output tofilm. This is due to recent advances indigital cinematographyanddigital projectiontechnologies that strive to matchfilmorigination andfilm projection.In traditional photochemical film finishing, an intermediate is produced byexposing film to the original camera negative. The intermediate is thenused to mass-produce the films that get distributed to theaters.Colorgradingis done by varying the amount of red, green, and blue light usedto expose the intermediate. This seeks to be able to replace or augmentthe photochemical approach to creating this intermediate. The digital intermediate process uses digital tools to color grade, whichallows for much finer control of individual colors and areas of the image,and allows for the adjustment of image structure (grain, sharpness, etc.). The intermediate for film reproduction can then be produced by means of afilm recorder. The physical intermediate film that is a result of therecording process is sometimes also called a digital intermediate, and isusually recorded to internegative (IN) stock, which is inherently finer-grainthan camera negative (OCN).One of the key technical achievements that makes the DI possible is thelook-up table(aka "LUT"), which can be made to mimic how the digitalimage will look, once it's printed onto normal release print stock. DIfacilities generally allow comparing the digital image directly to a print onthe same screen, ensuring precise calibration of the process.
 
 The digital master, created during the Digital Intermediate process, canbe recorded to very stable yellow-cyan-magenta (YCM) separations onblack-and-white film with an expected 100-year or longer life. The digital master is often used as a source for aDigital Cinema Initiatives(DCI)compliant distribution of the motion picture for digital projection.
History
 Telecinetools to electronically capture film images are nearly as old asbroadcast television, but the resulting images were widely consideredunsuitable for exposing back onto film for theatrical distribution. Filmscanners and recorders with quality sufficient to produce images thatcould be inter-cut with regular film began appearing in the 1970s, withsignificant improvements in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During thistime, digitally processing an entire feature-length film was impracticalbecause the scanners and recorders were extremely slow and the imagefiles were too large compared to computing power available. Instead,individual shots or short sequences were processed for specialvisualeffects. In 1992, Visual Effects Supervisor/Producer Chris F. Woods brokethrough several "techno-barriers" in creating a digital studio to producethevisual effectsfor the 1993 release
It was the firstfeature film project to digitally scan a large number of VFX plates (over700) at 2K resolution. It was also the first film scanned and recorded atKodak's just launched Cinesite facility in Hollywood. This project basedstudio was the first feature film to use Discreet Logic's (nowAutodesk)Flame and Inferno systems, which enjoyed early dominance as highresolution / high performance digital compositing systems. Digital Filmcompositing forVisual Effectswas immediately embraced, while opticalprinter use for VFX declined just as quickly, and never came back.ChrisWattsfurther revolutionized the process on the 1998 feature film
, becoming the firstvisual effects supervisorforNew Line Cinemato scan, process, and record the majority of a feature length, live-action,Hollywoodfilm digitally. The first Hollywood film to utilize a digitalintermediate process from beginning to end was
in 2000 and in Europe it was
released that same year. The process rapidly caught on in the mid-2000s. Around 50% of Hollywoodfilms went through a digital intermediate in 2005, increasing to around70% by mid-2007. This is due not only to the extra creative options theprocess affords film makers but also the need for high-quality scanningand color adjustments to produce movies fordigital cinema.
Milestones
1990 –
– First feature-length film to beentirely recorded to film from digital files; in this caseanimation 

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