When faced with the task of grading and finishing 13 episodes of David Fincher’s original Netflix series “House of Cards”, a52’s Colorist and Lead Smoke Artist Paul Yacono worked with producers, engineers and artists to develop a pipeline that served both the technical challenges and the creative aspirations that the show presented us with. Paul started with the first episode, working within the parameters that Fincher and his DP, Eigil Bryld, established which set the look for the series. “David and his crew set out with rules in place to keep the production value on all 13 episodes extremely high”, Yacono noted. “He is an idiosyncratic director with an incredible eye. He knows what he likes and doesn’t like. There’s rarely a grey area.” Once the initial look was established, Paul and a52’s second colorist, Tommy Hooper, tag-teamed the remaining 12 episodes over a 5 month period. Not only did Paul and Tommy set the color for the show, but Paul and the rest of the HOC team at a52, including lead online editor Matt Sousa, conformed every episode and completed a large amount of VFX for the show.
Having never tackled a show of this size, we needed to make significant infrastructure changes to accommodate the amount of data we processed on a weekly basis for each one hour episode. a52’s Chief Engineer, Kevin Bass, led the pipeline development for the crew creating a hugely flexible, yet structured workflow that allowed for rolling editorial changes on all episodes. “Unlike traditional series deliveries, Netflix releases an entire season in one go. So as the show took shape, the editorial department needed flexibility to change episodes at will. We had to create a pipeline that allowed for that flexibility but also didn’t slow down the finishing for the rest of the series,” explained Bass. Netflix, being an all digital delivery network, allowed us to push the technical boundaries of our tapeless pipeline as well. Thorough encoding development had to be tested and retested to meet the needs of both viewing for WIP comments as well as delivery formats for streaming.
“a52 has always been known as a boutique VFX company,” notes Executive Producer Megan Meloth. “This starts a new chapter in our history. We’re committed to doing more DI whether it be for commercials or long form. Paul is an incredibly talented colorist and with a sophisticated engineering department behind him, we’re ready to take on our next challenge.”