21 Jan Blackmagic Design View behind the making of Snow Guardians
Carson Garner / Robbie Carman
Producer & Director / Colorist
On Patrol with “Snow Guardians:” Life on Ski Patrol Caught on Film
In the autumn of 2010, documentarian Carson Garner had an idea for a ten minute short about the ski patrol in Bozeman, Montana. The Northern Rocky Mountains would provide a picturesque backdrop to a compelling story about the search and rescue teams and their work to prevent catastrophic avalanches and respond to emergencies, with seemingly unmatched bravery and passion.
Carson, better known across the Internet as “F9photo” for his documentary work, shared the concept with his thousands of followers on Twitter. The response was surprisingly enthusiastic. Carson quickly began receiving messages from cinematographers and cameramen who wanted to help out. Filmmakers such as Tyler Ginter, Jonathan Bregal and Khalid Mohtaseb from Variable, along with Vincent Laforet, all contributed time to the project. Before long, he and co producer Karl Swingle had recruited a small army of volunteers and the ten minute short evolved into a feature length film!
Even with the overwhelming generosity of friends, strangers, and corporate sponsors, it was a challenging project. In freezing temperatures, at high altitudes, a tight deadline and a small budget, the team needed equipment that could perform efficiently and inexpensively. DaVinci Resolve and HyperDeck Shuttle were two essential products used to complete the project.
DaVinci Resolve Efficiently Grades on a Tight Budget
Robbie Carman, co owner of postproduction finishing company Amigo Media, excitedly joined the project in 2012 as its colorist. As with every other aspect of the film, the deadlines were short and finances were tight. Robbie turned to DaVinci Resolve to get the job done.
First, Robbie received the cut film from the editors. The film was edited in Adobe Premier Pro using footage from various source media at different frame rates and frame sizes. In Resolve 9, selecting the “Handle mixed frame rate material” checkbox in the Master Project Settings panel allowed Robbie to painlessly conform the project.
“There was a lot of snow in this movie. It’s a difficult element to grade and get the tonal ranges to match, so each scene flows seamlessly into the next,” Robbie described. By viewing the clips in Gallery mode or using a Split Screen of two shots, he could easily compare the tone of each shot. The power of multi GPU processing and the Resolve Control Surface also sped up the entire workflow, providing tactile control over every single parameter.
For the interview scenes, Robbie relied on the flexibility of Resolve’s Power Windows and tracking. By placing Power Windows in a scene, he could sharpen the features of an interviewee’s face or darken and blur a window, making the interview even more compelling.
“One of the ENG cameras was set on Auto Iris and Auto Exposure during the shoot,” said Robbie. “As the camera moves and subtle light changes happen, the exposure fluctuates. Covering the more gratuitous exposure changes with key frames in Resolve is very easy and it makes the film flow much better.”
Once he had finished the grade, Robbie used Resolve to quickly and simultaneously render out H.264 and ProRes versions of the film. “Having all the deliverables for review in one place at the same time is a huge productivity booster,” Robbie explained. “I don’t have to go back to Final Cut Pro or Premier to render out new files. By doing it all it Resolve, it’s a huge time saver.”
Getting a Secure and Inexpensive Distribution Method
“Snow Guardians” premiered to a sold out audience of 750 people at the Emerson Theater in Bozeman, Montana on December 28, 2012, and earned a standing ovation. The film is currently making its way through the festival circuit.
Carson chose to use HyperDeck Shuttles to distribute “Snow Guardians” to film festivals and other shows. During a recent showing of the film, the ease and quality of projection using the HyperDeck Shuttle received rave reviews from the technical and projection staff.
“When people want to host their own ‘Snow Guardians’ show, we simply mail them a HyperDeck Shuttle,” said Carson. “It’s so easy. We just glue an SSD with a ProRes copy of the film into the HyperDeck so no one can steal it, and then ship it in a FedEx pouch. On the day of the screening, they can connect it to any projector via SDI or HDMI and show the film in HD. For the inexpensive price point and the size, the HyperDeck was the perfect solution.”