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Katarsis Films - Juan Carlos Elias Katarsis Films is in the business of selling smiles. Based in Mexico City, the young, independent production company has been working for the past two years with one of the most well known Mexican theme parks, La Feria Chapultepec Mágico, to produce heart pounding advertisements that thrill its viewers. Katarsis founder, the charismatic Juan Carlos Elias, is as dynamic as the rides themselves, producing, directing, shooting and finishing the ads that Katarsis churns out on a regular basis. To assist him with achieving the right look for these ads, Juan Carlos uses the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Pocket Cinema Camera and DaVinci Resolve.
The Right Tools for the Job
A jack of all trades in filmmaking, Juan Carlos established Katarsis Films shortly after film school, an exciting endeavor he started all on his own. The venture rapidly grew into a formidable production business.
"Like most young companies, we started with small projects, mainly focusing on corporate," said Juan Carlos. "While our budgets were smaller in the beginning, we were able to use top of the line production and finishing tools, and produced very high quality work that got noticed. Thanks to word of mouth, we quickly landed national commercial projects and major advertising campaigns. It has been a wild ride!"
Luckily, Juan Carlos was introduced to the right tools at the university to assist him in the rapid growth of Katarsis Films. It was there that he got his hands on Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve.
"With finishing a major component of the Katarsis business, having a DaVinci Resolve system was essential from the start. Its versatility allows us to scale the complexities of our projects without the need to invest in additional infrastructure," Juan Carlos elaborated. "Then I went to the NAB show last year (2013) and saw the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. I knew immediately that this would become another key addition to the tools we can use."
Now, with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5K, Pocket Cinema Camera, DaVinci Resolve and a slew of other tools, the Katarsis crew has a seamless workflow. The crew shoots with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in RAW, then converts the footage to ProRes and sends it to Final Cut before finally going back in for color correction with DaVinci Resolve. This integrated setup laid the groundwork to facilitate the smooth production of advertisements for such long time clients as the Mexico City based amusement park, La Feria Chapultepec Mágico, giving Katarsis the flexibility they needed to take on the surprise obstacles that arise with any given project.
A Day at La Feria
Katarsis may be considered a small production outfit, but the projects they work on sure aren't. Case in point: shooting a national commercial spot for La Feria Chapultepec Mágico. A former record holder with "Montaña Infinitum," the first roller coaster in the world to take visitors through three vertical loops, La Feria is currently in its 50th year of bringing belly dropping joy to thrill seekers near and far.
In keeping with the adrenaline pumping theme, Katarsis had just three days to finalize the project, and only one day to capture the excitement experienced when free falling 50 meters through the air. Not to mention the cloudy sky that plagued Juan Carlos and his crew throughout their eight hour shoot.
"It was a bit of a crisis that day," Juan Carlos reported. "We had to have four or five cameras filming everything at the same time." As part of their workflow that included several different kinds of cameras, Katarsis employed the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and Pocket Cinema Camera to help capture all of the footage they needed.
Thrown for a Loop
When watching Katarsis' commercial spots for La Feria, it's hard to avoid feeling a sensation of butterflies as park visitors drop from extreme heights and are jolted from one position to another on rides like the Ratón Loco. To help achieve just the right amount of excitement, a handful of lucky young actors were hired to ride the many attractions at the park. But while the kids had it easy, Juan Carlos and his crew did not.
Because they could not film inside the rollercoasters, they used an Octocopter, which is a helicopter for cameras with eight propellers, and a Dactylcam, a dolly like contraption that motors a camera across a wire suspended in the air. These high tech tools allowed Katarsis to record footage from just about any angle or distance.
"We were about 200 meters away from the car. The Pocket Cinema Camera, in particular, can be very fast, and we can move it very fast because it's not heavy. With the Octocopter, we could get the footage of the kids in the rollercoaster car from a long distance. The helicopter can only fly for five minutes with one of our heavier cameras. With the Pocket Cinema Camera, it flies for seven minutes because it's lighter. For our tight timeline, those two minutes are crucial. Plus it gives us RAW material, another critical element."
The Dactylcam took the Pocket Cinema Camera for a ride of its own, aligning it with the tracks of the rollercoaster to capture the exhilaration as the cars plummeted to the ground.
"The Dactylcam worked very well with the Pocket Cinema Camera," Juan Carlos commented. "It's very small and weighs almost nothing, so we can put it on the rig and it just works."
Between that and the camera's 13 stops of dynamic range, Juan Carlos is more than pleased. Specifically, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera's ability to capture so many of the scene's details helped him and his crew tremendously when it came to shooting on a less than ideal day for visiting an amusement park.
"The camera's wide dynamic range was really important for us because we could get more information from the footage and make the cloudy shots appear sunny. I love it. And my photographer loves it even more than I do!"
No Turning Back
After wrapping up the one day production, the crew's only chance to get the shots they needed, Katarsis had just three days to turn it into a packaged spot ready for national television. Working from a variety of formats including RAW, DMX and MP4, Juan Carlos and company had to transform their cloudy day shots into a cohesive, sunny and enticing advertisement.
He said, "We had to do it all in post. Each camera's footage was very different from the next. It was very complicated because it was a cloudy day, so sometimes it was light, sometimes cloudy."
Despite the challenges created by filming on an overcast day, one of the best parts of shooting with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and Pocket Cinema Camera was that Juan Carlos knew the cloudy sky could be doctored into the perfect setting for a day at La Feria.
"Since the Blackmagic cameras shoot in RAW, if you screwed up the image, most of the time you could revise the material. And I think it gives you a lot of chance for play. So in the end, that helped me with the postproduction process, knowing that I can move a lot of the RAW material from the Blackmagic cameras so I can make all the shots look the same.
For Juan Carlos, the color correction could only be done with the help of DaVinci Resolve. He explained, "First, we ingested all the material from the different cameras we used into DaVinci Resolve. Then I exported the material to an Apple ProRes HQ format for editing. After we had the lock off, we sent a copy to the sound studio and exported an XML from Final Cut Pro X. Finally, we imported the camera's original media back into the DaVinci Resolve timeline so we could color grade using high quality material and wouldn't lose any information. We love that DaVinci can manage all of the formats we shot on."
Juan Carlos finds DaVinci Resolve's automatic Color Match function particularly useful because it allows him to see just how "wrong" the material is, providing him with a reference and setting the tone for the project ahead. Once he knows where his footage is in terms of color accuracy, he can jump right into editing. He also loves using DaVinci Resolve's tracking features.
"All the tracking is great. Our main goal in color correction was to create a uniform look, so that we could not notice a difference in the look produced by each camera we used. We also needed to make sure the cloudy sky looked sunny. I was able to change the color of the sky with DaVinci Resolve. I just added a little blue in the whiteness of the clouds, some saturation and contrast using the 'select color tool' to change the color of the clouds from gray to blue. The end results look perfectly like summertime."
Considering his use of DaVinci Resolve in the postproduction workflow, Juan Carlos added, "I also love the vectorscope capability. It's very easy to use and very nice, even the vectorscope from the Blackmagic camera. The setting allows us to use the XML from DaVinci Resolve to Final Cut Pro X and then go back. I love it."
A Sigh of Relief
The four days it took Katarsis to turn the project around sound more like a rollercoaster ride than a typical production, but the team had the right tools to make it possible. Though the team experienced some ups and downs, everything came together and by Friday, the commercial spots were running on national channels 2, 4 and 5, with an additional three or four paid channels running them.
"We're very happy. When we saw the material at the end finished within our postproduction process, it was very nice."
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