Star Trek into Darkness: Meeting the Challenges of Cutting-Edge Visual Effects

"Having a Dolby monitor from beginning to end is a great way to go, because you now have an accurate assessment of picture from once you are capturing on set until you are looking at it as a final."

Ron Ames
Visual Effects Producer, Bad Robot Productions

Bad Robot Productions: Profile

Bad Robot Productions is a film and television production company owned by renowned director J.J. Abrams. Both the director and the company are known for psychological action movies that often have a science-fiction twist and are driven by spectacular visual effects (VFX). Bad Robot's television series include Alias, Lost, What About Brian, Six Degrees, Fringe, Undercovers, Person of Interest, Alcatraz, and Revolution. Its movies include Cloverfield, Star Trek, Super 8, andMission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol.

The company's latest movie, directed by J.J. Abrams, is Star Trek into Darkness (for Paramount Pictures). It premiered May 17, 2013, at the Dolby® Theatre® in Hollywood.

Bad Robot has begun production on the movie Star Wars: Episode VII, with Abrams at the helm as director (for Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm).

Business and Technical Challenges

Star Trek into Darkness presented unique demands for Kelvin Optical, Bad Robot's in-house VFX team, and its VFX vendor, Pixomondo. Ben Grossmann, Visual Effects Supervisor, Pixomondo, neatly summed it up: "I think the challenge of making a movie like Star Trek is that you're trying to create a 23rd-century visual in a 20th-century business model with 21st-century technology."

To realize their vision, Bad Robot Productions and the VFX vendors working on Star Trek into Darkness required an accurate reference-monitor solution for reviewing rendered VFX shots.

Especially given the tight time frame and the scope of the film, they also needed added flexibility in their review and approval process. This would allow the VFX artists to view the rendered images more accurately, without the expense of adding digital projection to more screening rooms.

Dolby Solution

Products and Services: Dolby Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4200 and Dolby Display Calibration Services

Implementation: Multiple Dolby Professional Reference Monitor units were installed at Bad Robot and Pixomondo. The monitors were calibrated to perfectly match the digital cinema projector in J.J. Abrams's screening room.

The true blacks, exceptional dark detail, and color accuracy of the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor allowed the VFX artists and supervisors more freedom to explore creative options such as color choices, lighting, surfaces, and atmospherics.

"There's a mission-critical aspect to having a monitor like this," said Ben Grossmann, "when you're trying to design an environment that's very atmospheric." In previous workflows, the lack of a precision monitor meant additional revisions would be needed before the shot could be finalized.

The ability to calibrate the monitor to perfectly match a digital projector also improved efficiency. The VFX team did not lose time waiting for screening rooms—which are not only expensive but always in demand. The Dolby PRM-4200 "had a pretty huge impact on how much we could possibly fit into such a short delivery schedule for such a big project," stated Grossmann.

The Dolby monitor contributed to a more streamlined and cost-effective workflow, while maximizing the artists' ability to explore their creative vision. In the words of Ron Ames, Visual Effects Producer, Bad Robot Productions, "Having a Dolby monitor is a very helpful tool because now all of our color, wherever we look at it, is the same." He continued, "A, it's easy to look at; and B, we always know it's correct."

Benefits of the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor

Delivers stability and accuracy—a consistent standard for evaluating images

Provides precise color in the DCI P3 gamut, true blacks, and exceptional dark detail

Renders consistent images on every Dolby monitor, with the confidence they will match the digital projector

Offers the assurance of a true reference display

About the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4220

The Emmy® Award winning Dolby Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4220 offers a new standard for critical viewing applications. It renders true black levels, highly accurate dark detail, and the most precise colors at all luminance levels and in all formats. It is the first monitor to accurately display the full latitude of today's high-end digital cameras.

No other display provides the high level of image detail, extreme accuracy, and creative confidence of the Dolby PRM-4220, making it the choice of leading content creators. Ask for the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor on your next project.


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