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Re; Spirit in London

Ken asked re the Spirit at VTR,

  >>  would you care to comment on 
  >>such things as client acceptance and will to pay the extra money

Hi Ken,

Sorry for the delay but we had a holiday weekend here. Thanks
for inviting me to reply on such an low interest subject!

I think it is very difficult to say anything about this machine and still
remain "down to earth " and your questions, especially with regard
to Client acceptance, aim straight at the crux of the ownership
question, ie will anybody pay for it?

Our experiences so far, (and we have not had that long to
market the new room), suggest that a),  they will, and b),  they
notice why they are being asked to pay almost 100 per cent more
even at standard TV resolution.

We took delivery of the Spirit with all three output standards but
we had always intended that the delivery of fully graded Data to
a film resolution workstation would be the backbone of its work.
Therefore, although our demos to Clients are primarily to introduce
this concept and working practice, it is inevitable that the StandardDef
picture is examined and it is here that we have been most pleased by
the Client reaction. 

There is no point in hiding the fact that we do split screens with our
own Ursa Golds as this is almost the first request from Clients who
have just finished a session in one of those suites. They are also
arriving with D1's and Neg rolls from jobs that have not been finished
at VTR and asking for the same comparison. It must be remembered 
that we, ie the members of this TIG, have had well over a year to argue
the validity of this, whilst our Clients have had six weeks contact with
the machine but also have the most vested interest in the results
as they are going to have to pay the hourly rate.

They notice a range of differences which together add up to an image
that is different from our Golds. The range of colour and the purity of the
image are most commented on. The fact that they are booking the room
on the basis of what they see is encouraging as also is their willingness
to pay the full rate. They see the Spirit as giving them a quality at a
which is proportional to the size of their project. Thus I have graded with
Clients in an Ursa one day and in the Spirit the next and as the policy
here is that Clients can book any Colorist and any telecine we are pushing
a wide range of styles and projects through the room.

The fact that we have time for these tests quite rightly suggests that the
room is not yet fully booked. It would be foolish of me to brag that it
However in six weeks we have gone from nothing to at least one or
two bookings a day, the majority of which are at full rate. We all have the
ability to favour individual clients in this "honeymoon" period, as it is a
valid marketing tool and the comeback rate from Clients with
full rate jobs has been most encouraging. This process of marketing
is really one of education as there has been a lot of misinformation
about the machine and its abilities which can best be countered by
practical demonstration.

The grading system is at present a DCP/ESR which will be changed to
a full MegaDef in June. This will then allow for the full range of post
Spirit colour channel effects to be output into the Data stream. 
At the moment we all seem to be trying to do the bulk of the colour grading
with the Spirit controls alone as we explore the range and feel of the
machine, but the signal lends itself extremely well for isolation
techniques and contained corrections as there is no noise interference.
It is a new room and new ways of doing things will evolve but it is
interesting to do a session in the Ursa followed by one in the Spirit
and vice versa. There are differences in how you approach each

In many respects the Spirit at Standard Def is fulfilling a complimentary
role to the Ursa Golds and whilst we can see that expanding it is too
early to speculate on the future spread of work between the systems.
It must be remembered though that the Spirit offers more than
Standard TV. We have the full Data output available and although we
have transferred test material, the difficulties of handling data in the
world are greater than just getting it from the Spirit to a disk array and
thus, whilst this is currently possible, there are other engineering and
infrastructure problems to overcome.

We have many projects in both the short and long term which involve
full Data transfer and this is perhaps the most exciting and challenging
aspect of the Spirit. The demand is coming not just from Feature
production but also from Commercials and even from "rival"
Post Production houses who have, at present, no infrastructural
base for a machine such as Spirit. The SohoNet  ATM project will
be instrumental in providing links between a  "Data Library" and
such Clients.

There has also been some totally unexpected interest for the HiDef
output and we have discussed various single projects where
these Clients will bring their recording medium to us for the duration
of the session. Again this is a new challenge.

The installation of the machine was a painless excerise and we have
been given a great deal of support by Philips. We had at delivery only
30dgs of rotation but right after NAB we were delivered the full 360dgs.
It is faultless in operation and all of the size / position effects are
repeatable with no loss of resolution or colourimetry. They need to be
fully repeatable regardless of time because the whole idea of such
a multi format machine depends on rethinking the " grade it / transfer
it " role of the telecine suite.  

We are delighted with the reception of the Spirit by our Client base and
have been impressed with the honesty of the response to it's price, ie
if the project warrants it they will adjust the budget and future projects
will have it built in. They also are aware of the differences between
the Spirit and the Ursa Golds and I do not think that these are regarded
as "minimal". The machine has fulfilled all of our initial expectations and
it will be interesting to see it move into the next phase although I
we will not be alone for long. 

Seamus O'Kane,
VTR Ltd London.

thanks to Ken Robinson, Steve Robinson, and Lynette Duensing 
for support of the TIG in 1997
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