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November 2011

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cover story David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo H By DANIEL RESTUCCIO Tackling post in 4K. OLLYWOOD — The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is director David Fincher's take on the international best-selling novel by the late Stieg Larsson, who wrote two other books about the trou- bled heroine Lisbeth Salander and the jour- nalist Mikael Blomkvist. Dragon Tattoo reunites Fincher's post team from The Social Network: Academy Award- winning editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, assistant editor Tyler Nelson and Light Iron colorist Ian Vertovec. For Dragon Tattoo the group significantly refined their techniques, upgrading from a 2K post workflow for The Social Network to a fully viable 4K pipeline and 4K digital master. Dragon Tattoo was shot on location in Swe- den with Red One MX and Epic cameras in 4.5K and 5K resolutions, respectively. Nelson was in charge of managing the post process- ing of the principal photography as soon as the files came off the camera. "We shot CF cards, Red drives, Red RAMs, SSDs — the entire gamut of possible media to record on," says Nelson. Datalab, a company owned by Wall, pro- vided the media processing device aptly called "The Wrangler." The custom system made primary and secondary copies of the R3D files, then transcoded them into ProRes 422 LT, low-res H.264 copies, finally archiving everything to LTO-4. "It was basically, pop in whatever media you needed and push 'Go,'" describes Nelson. THE EDITING The "lightweight" 720p H.264s were auto- Angus Wall: "One of the challenges with this film is making sure all the storylines are clear, that they're all intersecting effectively..." matically uploaded to the Dragon Tattoo pro- duction's PIX Systems account and then downloaded to the Dragon Tattoo LA-based editorial Final Cut Pro 7 systems. "We used the H.264," continues Nelson, "as the inter- mediate format instead of having to upload very heavy ProRes 422 (LT) QuickTimes or ship them. Because both types of QuickTimes contained the same metadata, we were able to re-bake the H.264s in LA until we received the original edit media on a hard drive." With this set-up Baxter and Wall were able to cut dailies within a couple of hours. PIX Systems was also used as the main editorial review system during production. When the editors wanted to post a cut sequence, or VFX artists show composited 18 Post • November 2011 The post team called on PIX Systems as their editorial review system during production. start working on it in reels. If I'm cutting reel one, Angus will jump onto reel two. He may have assembled most of the scenes in that reel or he may not have. So you may be working on scenes that someone else has already worked on. I find that satisfying, know- ing that someone else is there to double check, like proofreading, the work that you've done. Essentially you have to trust the other person that you are working with." The Social Network shot 85 days, produced 324 hours of material and printed 281 hours of footage to edit. By comparison, Dragon Tat- too shot 167 days, produced 483 hours of Red One and Epic footage and printed 443 hours of footage. "In 3-perf," notes Wall, "that is over 1.9 million feet of film. We broke records." Every movie has its own intrinsic challeng- es, says Wall. "But, I think your general tactics are the same: how you approach, break down "We had a test screening recently," says Baxter, "and there were certain scenes where I was thrilled to notice that the audience was hanging on the actions and movements of Salander (Rooney Mara). That was a reaffir- mation of a great character. Everyone was just pinned to her reactions even in spots where I didn't anticipate getting laughs or releases. It was very rewarding to see that the audience is tracking her every move." "We did the same thing on The Social Net- work," adds Wall. "We had a preview and people laugh at certain places that were all the right places, so it was a clue to us that the movie was working. The same thing happened with Dragon Tattoo." Dragon Tattoo, says Wall, is not a series of one-take Steadicam walking shots, where people have a conversation. "David's movies are about the accumulation of granular detail, shots, they just exported an H.264 Quick- Time, uploaded it to the PIX Systems and sent it to Fincher. Over 5,400 miles away he watched the clips, made notes and sent them back for revisions. Baxter and Wall, by their own description, have a very "organic" way of working on mov- ies they edit. "The first part," says Baxter, "is keeping up with camera, and whoever is avail- able to take the next set of dailies jumps on it. Once we've assembled the whole film we the footage, block your scenes, worry about performances. Anybody who has read the book knows there are eight or nine storylines that are constantly interweaving, and in the book you have the luxury of time and the ability to really explain things. One of the chal- lenges with this film is making sure all the storylines are clear, that they're all intersecting effectively, and that you are ahead of the audi- ence in a good way and not so ahead of them that you've left them behind."

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