Creating HDR Imagery for CinemaCon 2024



What is “HDR” technology, exactly? High Dynamic Range may sound technical, but when you see the difference with your own eyes, it becomes simple. Basically, this is the way that movies were meant to be seen.

There’s a reason that the theatrical experience is so special, even in our modern world of high quality home entertainment systems. Just like our TV sets, digital projection has been evolving too, and giving us better clarity, detail, contrast, and color than ever before. 

When we began working with the team at Barco, our goal was to create stunning imagery that would show off the capabilities of their HDR Lightsteering technology, while also telling a story that captures the audience’s attention. Because ultimately, cinema is about storytelling. And the amazing quality of images that Barco produces are always serving a story, and bringing the viewer deeper into the emotion.  

Coming from our background at RED Digital Cinema, we were already big fans of HDR. We’ve been spreading the word about the benefits of High Dynamic range for over a decade. Tasked with distilling the benefits of HDR into a story, we had no further to look for inspiration than ourselves – creators who would love to see their work displayed on the big screen in full HDR. 

We set to work crafting a story about what drives our own inspiration. Tackling the question – why do we create? What is the root, the catalyst that sparks our ideas? Because that’s where every cinematic experience begins – with a small idea that grows and evolves. And when the idea reaches an audience, it can then inspire someone else.

Running with this concept, we developed a story about an Artist and his Muse, using imagination and dreams as the landscape to showcase how transportative HDR imagery can be.  

To help us bring the idea to life, we called upon our fellow RED alumnus and brilliantly talented friend, Beth Napoli, to join the team as our Director of Photography. Using the RED V-Raptor, Arri Signature Primes, and a Small HD 4K HDR Monitor, we captured some fantastic footage at a ranch on the northern outskirts of Los Angeles. 

Funny story – The shoot quickly turned into an adventure when we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a flash hailstorm! Our nimble crew was able to cover all the gear and make it to basecamp only slightly soaked, and we all had a laugh as we rode it out for the next 30 minutes or so. Once it cleared up, we were relieved to find there was no damage, and we all had a nice story to tell at the wrap party 🙂 

Moving into post production, we had our work cut out for us creating several complex visual effects sequences in a short amount of time. There is a real power to seeing HDR side by side with SDR to see the contrast between these two formats, but the side to side swipe has been done many times, and we wanted to develop a visual motif that was more original, and more aligned with the story we were telling. 

After several rounds of concepting, we landed on an effect that we felt captured the magic appropriately. 

Next, we created a representation of the inner workings of the projector itself, allowing us to take the audience from “the mind’s eye” to “the big screen” in one sweeping, high energy transition. We used a combination of After Effects and Blender to create the final effect, which feels like a fun roller coaster ride to illustrate the concept of Lightsteering. 

After we had assembled all the pieces and seen our small idea grow into a complete story, it was time to color grade in HDR! 

We had the chance to work with the one and only expert HDR colorist “JZ” – Jaochim Zell – at Deluxe studios in Hollywood. Their state of the art system was the only option for us to craft the final images to be shown at CinemaCon 2024. We stayed late into the night to make sure every frame was flawless, and the result was well worth it. 

We couldn’t be more proud to have been a part of Barco’s demonstrations at CinemaCon 2024, and look forward to more HDR stories to come.

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