[press release from Well Above]

The work recently completed on Scorched, the Nine Network’s new telemovie set five years from now in a Sydney that has run out of water, is some of the best ever to come out of The Lab Sydney.

Click here to view a behind the scenes video of The Lab’s VFX work on the telemovie.

According to Senior Producer at The Lab Sydney, Prue Fletcher, the challenges set by the project and the results achieved were nothing short of spectacular,

“Sydney runs out of water after 600 hundred days without rain. Then the unthinkable happens – the city is engulfed by fire. All of which makes for compelling viewing. However, from a production and post production standpoint we had to create all of these Scorched effects when in reality, Sydney had just experienced the most consistent two months of rain on record and was looking particularly lush and green.”

Scorched brings together an exciting team on a tense drama that provides an entertaining and innovative approach to the pressing issues of water scarcity and climate change.

Scorched is a Goalpost Pictures Australia/Essential Media and Entertainment production, in association with Firelight Productions. Executive Producers are Rosemary Blight and Chris Hilton, Producers are Kylie du Fresne and Ellenor Cox, Writer is Tim Pye and Director is Tony Tilse.

Fletcher continued, ““With such a dramatic set of effects needed we approached things in a different fashion than we normally would. Our Senior Compositor, Bertrand Polivka, did a pre-comp of some high quality fire shots that we presented to Tony and the production team. Our aim was to show that we could capture and produce photo realism in this project.”

With the tests a success the Lab set about producing over 110 VFX shots that would transform Sydney’s green grass to desolate and burnt landscapes.

We worked closely with DOP, Mark Wareham, to get the exact look he wanted.” Said Fletcher. “There were camera acquisition and moving tests done to get the right hand-held feel and we played out all the worst case scenarios to get the best reference points.”

Scorched was shot with Sony’s HDW-F900R camera, the flagship model within its HDCAM line-up that has been designed for productions such as drama, commercials and feature films where a prestige 24P look is required. As Fletcher explained there were other considerations too. “In addition to the HDW-F900R, some footage was even shot using mobile phones to give a real organic look. So we set up with the cameraman very early in the piece for all the tests and keying work. There was a lot of input from us at the front end and this included applying a look to the digital rushes, a technique usually reserved for film but very necessary on this project.”

The rushes were treated by The Lab’s Head of DI, Al Hansen, who explained, “We created the Scorched look on the HD footage so that all the editors and crew could see exactly the way it was going to look – fully saturated and with all the flare outs. It was quite extreme to say the least.”

The grade for Scorched was completed by Hansen and Senior Colourist/Head of Telecine, Dwaine Hyde, in one of The Lab’s new Baselight suites. According to Hyde this non-linear approach was necessary because of the complexities involved. “The amount of keying needed to pull the green back meant the best place for Scorched was in Baselight so we could grade through Alpha Mattes.” He said. “As the first longform project in the suite it was a real success in terms of Baselight workflows integrating with VFX and the online internally. This was a massive project to put through the Baselight desk. A feature length telemovie with VFX and an extreme look is just as complex as a movie.”

The VFX shots for Scorched were completed under the direction of VFX Supervisor, Soren Jensen, who added, “I worked on the pre-production with Mark and Tony to agree on the style of shots and effects that they wanted. This included being on set and advising how far to ‘push’ a shot. It was a great process.”

Jensen would then view the shots with the production team in Fire before passing them to Senior Compositor, Bertrand Polivka and VFX Assistant, Maddi Milasas, who would complete them before dropping them back into the offline.

Polivka added, “This was an 8-week process for Maddi and I mainly using Nuke for comping, tracking and its impressive 3D capabilities for camera mapping. We also created 3D tracks for volumetric smoke in Maya and replaced a lot of healthy looking ground with fire using Roto.”

Scorched was edited at The Lab by Geoff Lam on Avid Media Composer and the final titles created by The Lab’s design team.

Producers Kylie du Fresne said: "I was very impressed, as was director Tony Tilse, with all the post and VFX work The Lab did on Scorched. The VFX in particular have added enormous production value to the look of this telemovie.”

Prue concluded, “All-in-all Scorched was an amazing effort that really paid off. Everyone at the production companies, the producers, director, DOP and all at the Lab had to pull together and work as a team. The results are really hot!”

Scorched aired on the Nine Network on 31 August 2008.

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