User stories

Shuuto Arctic: "Outlier" - Here's to the crazy ones...

Gunleik
November 26, 2020
Running a startup is a pretty bipolar experience.
On one hand you put out your strategy to win the entire market and serve the first million concurrent productions worldwide within 3 years...

On the other hand you have to find those first visionaries who share your ideas and are ready to take a leap of faith, to prove a very important point: 
Things can actually be done successfully this way.
We are pretty pretty ambitious in Quine. 

Our vision is that QuineCore enables new and better ways for:
HOW people work within a production
WHAT is possible to do
WHO can make quality productions
Mostly (and understandably), our clients want to take things a bit more one-step-at-the-time, but every now and then we meet a producer that says:
Sure. Bring it on. I'll take the entire package. This sounds like what could make my show possible.

And this story is about one such production:

Shuuto Arctic and their production Outlier - (IMDB), a Nordic Noir Crime TV-series for ReInvent, that started shooting the 8x 45 minutes series in July 2020 and had the series published by late October despite Corona and with an extremely lean crew and budget - set for international distribution.


Acclaimed and award winning Producer/Director/Show-Runner Arne Berggren,  is an odd flower in the Norwegian production fauna. Constantly in opposition to traditional ways of producing film and TV, while delivering a string of commercially successful productions and standing on the barricades for the authors as showrunner and producers. He has been preaching «change» in the production world. In a country of 6 million people, his point has been that to make commercially viable productions without state funding, you have to think out of the box and focus on our strengths, and not just "doing like everyone else”.

Arne Berggren likes his cortado with just bellow half an inch of foamed milk. With a Disaronno, if at all applicable. He is the archetypical comfort-driven urban city-dweller, with a sharp tongue and a taste for good wine and a disarming laughter behind the sharp and enthusiastically delivered punchlines. Polished shoes, distinct glasses and all around flamboyant appearance. He has been the showrunner on Norway’s longest running soap, Hotel Ceasar and multiple Oslo focused productions comfortably distanced to his home.

Arne Berggren
Arne Berggren

Despite all this:
His mantra for the last few years has been that the future of Norwegian film- and TV-production lays in rural Norway. That the Oslo-centric production environment is an unrealistic echo chamber in its desire to aspire to be «Hollywood» on 1/100th of the potential audience and budgets.

He is a popular and controversial speaker at conferences on his favorite topic: The need to industrialize and format production, find efficient ways to produce, exploit the unrealized potential in the fantastic, weird Norwegian nature and tap into the Human Resources in the districts.

His vision has been to apply modern technologies to let images flow freely and directly from cameras over 5g to editors and other stakeholders, using collaborative solutions to connect editors, Composers, authors, VFX people and other stakeholders from «where they live» and create an ability to have a dynamic and interactive communication between set and all contributors in the process. Preformatted  series with clear socio-thematic themes from nature-stunning rural Norway with local talent behind and in front of the camera and relatable subjects:

The detective. The hospital. The teacher. The bus driver. The mass murderer.
Everyday Norwegian topics.

In 2017 he decided to put his money where his mouth was and teamed up with his former co-producer and longtime co-creator, Kristine Berg, and founded the production and development company Shuuto with three creative hubs located in the North, Mid and South of Norway - taking all the thinking into practice.

Shuuto Arctic is based at FilmCamp, a retired military camp, now transforrmed into a filmp production hub in the most stunning natural environment in Målselv, Northern Norway.

Their first production was a Nordic Noir Crime shot on location in the Arctic - «The River», distributed via Nent/Viaplay/DRG and sold to more than 30 territories.

His philosophy is stubbornly to insist on focusing whatever cash he has on producing the the best content possible, and to do that on slim budgets, not too much of the budget can be spent on tracking media-assets.

Just to sum up the technical challenges offered:

• Multiple simultaneous units geographically far appart

• No Script Supervisors

• No assistant editors

• Editors 1685 km from set

• Rough edits expected over-night

• Delivery of 8x45 minutes episodes 120 days after first shooting-day

• International ambition for the roll-out (Meaning: High formal technical demands to imagery and audio)

• Extremely lean budget and very small room for failure.

• Shuuto almost stubbornly insisting on spending the money on producing content, not on managing assets, to the extent that initially, the ingest-station was a 2015 MacBookPro with a 1Gbit NAS connected to physically manage all the data coming in.

Flying in to FilmCamp gives you an amazing overview of the nature

In short:
Here's to the crazy ones!

In my previous life as a workflow supervisor, I would have wished them luck, but not touched the production with 6-feet pliers.

For QuineCore....

We could hardly have wished for a better proof-of-concept.

Let's just walk through how Shuuto deployed the QuineCore tools to get this project done on-time and on-budget.


On-Set: 
QuineBox™IoT

There wasn't a lot of 5G to be had in rural Northern Norway in July 2020, but 4G does actually do a pretty good at moving files.

The QuineBox™IoT is the closest in existence to do what Arne had envisioned: Pushing takes directly to everyone involved.

The QuineBox™IoT in use on Outlier

Kristine Berg

Outlier shot with up to three individual units. This means keeping track of and navigating a plethora of files coming from different units and cameras that pumps into the production more or less around the clock. Of course you can look through the slates and check the dates, but can you imagine how much simpler it would be if that data could be automatically glued to the correct takes and you could automatically navigate your assets based on slate-info?

Outlier did not have a dedicated Script-Supervisor, nor a DIT or assistant editor. Instead they had two editors sitting in Oslo 1685 km from set, responsible for pushing rough-edits of yesterday's scenes to the directors by next morning.

If you have a remote idea of the complexity of getting in audio and video from 3 units + drone footage in close to realtime without structural data like slate-info, or unit separation, you would know that only sorting and annotating the takes in the most basic manner would take more than a day for a role that didn't exist in this production: A dedicated assistant editor. Now add that these notes would not even be taken. It would have been a nightmare. Unless...

On-Set:
MovieSlate®

MovieSlate® is in fact an extremely capable Script-Supervisor tool, with a ton of very advanced features, which sometimes confuses the fact that it can be used in a very simplified way to quickly collect data fra set that can be automatically merged with the takes in QuineIngest. MovieSlate® can be set close to the camera TimeCode, and as long as you start the MovieSlate in the beginning of a take and end it at the end of a take, it is an extremely robust and simple way to connect the right slate-info to the right clips.

Additionally, with the QuineCore unit-separation, you can have as many MovieSLate®'s following as many units as you can eat shooting at the same time, and still get your data automatically collected in the right way when you need to edit, even if you don't have some eagle-eyed person following the file-names and roll-changes over the day.

The Movie-Slate workflow

Convincing a producer/director/show-runner/author to take an iPad or iPhone on set to punch the slate-info, and maybe occasionally hitting the "circled" button every now-and-then, was initially.... not the easiest sell. The resistance was pretty noticeable... all of day one, but as soon as they saw that this actually benefitted them when checking for continuity between scenes and had the feedback from the editors...

By day 2, the resistance wasn't all that hard...

The MovieSlate annotations match automatically with the right files in QI, and as soon as the MovieSlate .xml is ingested, they can sort through the files based on Slate and unit-info, here seen in a phone-view:

Overview of the takes from a day, the MovieSlate® take-info is seen on top of the clips

This is the unfiltered view. Even on mobile devices, you have powerful filtering and search-tools:

Searching for scenes in QC webUI

It is significantly simpler a few days or weeks layer to search a "Scene", "Unit" or even "Location", than some filename from a camera when you look for continutity, though you can of course look for dates or reels or a number of other search criteria as well.

Scene 711

After shooting: 

QuineIngest (QI)

The QuineBox is cool for getting things fast, bt you still need to ingest and distribute your originals and whatever media that doesn't come from the box, which is in most cases: Almost all of it.

Yup.... QI is "yet another" copy-verify-transcode application creating .mhl xml's.

Duh...

The reason we created it, is that it has a bit of "and then some" functionality.

Let's have a look at what it was used for in Outlier.

QI is the engine in the QuineCore distributed data-model

QI is what makes QuineCore tick...

Let's explain how it was used on Outlier.

In Quine, we are a little bit stubborn, too...

We hate seeing the same process having to be re-done multiple times. Often manually.

If you can use your editorials as dailies, there is no need for two transcodes or separate tools to upload "preview" files and "editorial" assets.

If you have everything you need to do an edit in the cloud, there is no need for specialized software to share files.

If your assets gets properly and mostly automatically tagged at ingest, there isn't really a huge need to do that over-and-over again later in the production. Then you can request "on-set audio", "edit-proxies", "music" or "originals for Online or VFX" whenever you need it.

But the key to all that is ingest.

QI mostly automatically recognizes original recordings from audio-recorders and cameras, so that you can pre-define how they are treated downstreams, what assets are shared and what are stored locally by default.

Additionally the entire production file-structure is part of your production-preset. Each folder is set up with its unique purpose to uniquely identify the data in each folder. data can either enter to a folder through a QI ingest- or synchronization process, or just by the editor dropping a bunch of sound-effects into the SFX folder.

An example of a folder setup in QuineCore. This folder-structure is replicated locally for the users, and files thrown into a specific folder can be replicated at the exact same location for each user

When an asset is ingested into QI, we analyze the assets metadata, and if QI recognizes the asset, QI makes a suggestion for how it should be treated:

QI recognizes a broad collection of recorder assets and you can set up production rules for how you want to treat them. If an asset is not automatically recognized, you can search for manually defined asset-types.

On Outlier all editorial assets were uploaded to the QuineCore cloud service, and synchronized down to the two editors, as the media was ingested in Northern Norway. Additionally we used watchfolders for review files, audio, SFX, GFX and other assets either created by or collected by the editors for use in the project, so that these assets got synchronized between them on the fly.

QI also reads out metadata from the originals and make this info available in the webUI for online and VFX:

File-metadata immediately available in the web-UI

For ARRI cameras, QI also supports dynamic-LUTs, meaning that if the DOP uses multiple in-camera LUTs, QI automatically matches the right LUT with the right take.

In addition to the file-metadata and metadata from MovieSlate, users can add comments and markers before editing either on a clip-basis or as timecode-based markers.

When the metadata is corrected, we have an automated way of assembling the project in Premiere with the QuineCore Premiere plugin.
This essentially lets you open the QuineCore webUI inside Adobe Premiere, selct what assets you want to work with - typically in this case: A day or a unit from a day - and collect the files from the disk and the metadata from the cloud to assemble this inside Premiere.

In the QuineCore Premiere plugin, you select what assets and what version of those assets you want to import into Premiere. When you import, these assets get the relevant metadata written to them, like script-notes, tags and Circled annotations.

After import the audio and video are synchronized on timecode as multicamera clip, and then you can re-sync metadata and get your assembled clips sorted into folders based on "Scene".

Your assembled sequences are sorted into Scene folders

Adobe does not allow us to write or create the multiclips directly from QuineCore, thus a final step of verification that audio-sync is correct and that the metadata is correctly written was necessary before the editor doing the assembly could sort the Scene bins into the corresponding episode-projects. But up until this point, the QuineCore tools had assisted with everything from ingesting to distributing to matching files and metadata..

Editing
Adobe Team Project

The editors collaborated through Adobe Team Projects. Through the automated exchange of files between the editors, including the files created on-the fly, and the project-management of Adobe Team Project, the editors could collaboratively edit the series despite not sitting together.

QI and QuineCore keeps track of and synchronized all assets for the editors. Adobe team Project managed the collaborative edit projects.

Review

As the editors were done with their rough-edits, they exported their initial rough-edits and later episode-edits to designated watchfolders so that the directors in Northern Norway could close to instantly follow the progress of the edit, and make decissions around pick-ups and additional takes needed in the shooting-period, without adding unplanned shooting-days to the project.

And this was the workflow of Outlier. The show finished on time and seems to get a bit of traction internationally.

We are extremely proud that Quine's workflow-tools have contributed to make Shuuto's vision of focused spending a reality, and as the show is getting distributio these days, we are happy to see that it seems to get a fair bit of traction internationally and hopefully will be on a scree close to you in the near future.

In the meantime Shuuto is already producing new series, and Quine is extremely happy to be joining them in their continued crazy-wonderful pursuit of creating high-quality international entertainment from a small country in the far far north.

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