Remote color grading with Streambox Media Player
Color Collective provides remote color grading using Streambox Mobile Media Player
Color Collective is a colorist boutique for features, series, and commercials based in New York City with review sites in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Color Collective has been using Streambox remote streaming solutions for a number of years. More recently, they occasionally used the Sessions remote service on iPads with some clients in Europe or on the West Coast that could not get to their studio in Los Angeles. They had also been using this workflow for assisting LUT development with DPs during pre-production and having good success.
When the global health crisis emerged, Color Corrective had a comfort level of managing remote workflows and this enabled them to move very quickly and get their customers up and running comfortably on their iPads and iPhones. The clients appreciated this, and it helped Color Collective meet the extraordinary demand for remote work to overcome all the various healthcare restrictions.
The Streambox Mobile Media Player app has been satisfying the needs of Color Collective’s commercial clients with Rec. 709 color extremely well, as it substantially cuts down review times by not wasting hours waiting for feedback. With just posting and no live reviews, there is a reliance on email or desktop products for reviews which is cumbersome and slow. Therefore, having instant feedback is really, really useful.
Color Collective beta tested the latest Streambox Mobile Media Player release and used it on a feature film project they are finishing up. All reviews were live and entirely remote. The production master was delivered in Dolby Vision® HDR. Prior to having a full HDR Streambox Mobile Media Player workflow, they would have had to do any live sessions in the SDR color, and post a H.265 file for HDR review. For this latest project, they needed to do real-time client reviews in HDR using P3 D65 PQ gamma. The director was in Los Angeles, the producers in the Pacific Northwest, and the DP in Portland, and participated in many live review sessions all in HDR on iPad Pro tablets.
The Streambox advanced codec has been enhanced in the latest version of the Streambox Mobile Media player to support 10-bit HDR, providing much higher color fidelity with minimal visual artifacts or banding. The app offers the user the ability to choose a variety of color profiles making it a highly reliable and usable tool to do remote reviews from anywhere.
Alex Bickel, the founder and senior colorist, considers the iPad Pro a decent real-world display. It is not a replacement for a full reference monitor, as it caps out at around 600 nits, and lacks some shadow detail when the display is set to the necessary HDR brightness but says that most of his HDR grades do not often exceed 600nits. Even so, he states, “The combination is an excellent substitute and an invaluable tool when you cannot get your project artists into a studio."
Aside from the viewing experience, not having to render an HDR posting in order to share it remotely is once again, a big timesaver. Being able to do active reviews without having to spend a lot of energy engineering, or shipping media around saves everyone time and money.
Another key advantage for Streambox solutions, including the Mobile Media Player, is that the codec and transport protocol provides very high image fidelity even while operating across low bandwidth networks at low bit rates. Color Collective works with clients all around the world that have varying degrees of connectivity. Some clients have limited public Internet service, or their Wi-Fi is cluttered because they are in a city with many competing Wi-Fi signals. In addition to working on these networks, the Mobile Media Player app supports cellular networks as well. Clients are able to connect with 4G LTE and sometimes benefit from better bit rates. Alex points out, “the fact that we’re able to do this kind of review over a 4G LTE network is just remarkable”. For clients with more robust Internet service providers, Color Collective is able to increase the bandwidth to the device for review sessions. Alex also comments that the support team at Streambox is very helpful when it comes to fine-tuning the stream to accommodate clients with varying degrees of bandwidth access.
Looking ahead, Color Collective thinks there are going to be many clients that have complicated schedules and they were already struggling with dropping everything to come to a grading review, who will be receptive to doing more remote reviews. Rather than attending or waiting at the end of the day for a posting, clients can connect on their iPhone or iPad in real-time, even over LTE networks.
As an advocate for remote production workflows, Color Collective has built a remote facility in upstate New York around Resolve, a Mac Pro with NVMe RAID storage, and a Streambox encoder-decoder. The footprint of the equipment including the reference monitor is not large, so it was relatively easy to build out a suite to do all reviews remotely.