In February 2016, Marvel Studios released another blockbuster hit, shattering both box office records and our imaginations with the foul-mouthed, violence-prone, & culturally aware Deadpool. I personally thought it was one of the most fun "rides" I've had in a movie theatre in a long time. If you are curious what a "gratuitous comic book movie made for adults" might looks like, this was made for you. I would add more, but it is a ride best experienced and not read.
I was invited to attend a fantastic Q&A screening where they shared technical details from the workflow and post production process of the film. Being the second major "studio tentpole" film to be edited in Adobe Premiere Pro, both Adobe and the filmmakers were excited to share the workflow and answer our questions. Similar to my previous Gone Girl post, here is everything I could gather from Q&A and chatting with individuals.
On the technical side, the film was directed by Tim Miller. While a first time director, Tim and his wife, Jennifer, run Blur Studios, a highly-established visual effects and animation company, whose previous work including the impressive title sequence to David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". After seeing the film, you'd never guess it was helmed by someone who was new to the directorial chair. The film was shot by DP Ken Seng on a wide variety of cameras and formats, the main being the Arri Alexa capturing 3.5K "Open Gate" ARRIRAW, with additional coverage shot with RED and Phantom High-Speed cameras ranging from 2K to 6K. I believe they even squeezed a few DSLR shots in there, if I heard correctly.
The film was edited by Julian Clarke, with 1st Assistant Editor Matt Carson, Post Production Supervisor Joan Bierman, and Editorial Consultant Vashi Nedomansky answering questions about the editorial workflow at this event. The film was cut using Adobe Premiere Pro 2015, not using any pre-release version(s) with additional features requested from the production team. The variety of raw media was transcoded to 2K ProRes "proxies" for editorial and given a "dailies" style color grade that was locked until the final digital intermediate at EFILM. Adobe After Effects was used heavily for extensive repositioning, temporary visual effects, green screen keying, other tricky editorial tasks like speed ramping. The Dynamic Link and Render and Replace features were key to keeping the edit "live" yet nimble. For a great article focusing more on the editorial switch from Avid to Premiere Pro, check out this post by Editor Shane Ross.
The film had approx. 1200 visual effects, with about 500 being green screen keys \ rig removals. Blur Studios was outfitted with five high-end editing bays to work on the edit in-house, as is becoming a fast growing trned. The bays were originally powered by MacPro "tubes" which had to be cycled out 10 times due to a now well-known GPU defect, and were subsequently replaced by HP + Nvidia based machines. While the majority of shots were eventually composited in Nuke by several outside visual fx companies, the production greatly utilized After Effects for temporary VFX, rough tests, animatics and even some final FX, such as the cab ride scenes. Original plates were always kept, and ongoing revisions placed on top for easy comparison. Final VFX shots were delivered as 4K OpenEXR files. For more info on the amazing visual effects process, check out this article from FxGuide.
Similar to Gone Girl, the production relied heavily on OpenDrives for all storage needs, which ranged from a 180TB SSD RAID to even larger to handle the media. It was made very clear that without such fast and responsive storage, the entire workflow would have collapsed. Mike Kanfer described 10Gb level networking being an absolute minimum requirement, not a suggestion, to handle this workflow. As Mike stated, "a single machine at idle, simply 'breathing' can easily saturate a 1Gb network connection".
The final digital intermediate was completed at EFILM by colorist Tim Stipan, who finished the film in 4K HDR. While there was some re-framing done during editorial, the director saw additional creative opportunities for re-framing in the color suite and spent two weeks doing so before actual color began. While the film was originally set to be graded & finished in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, Bierman comments, "we ended up on finishing on a [Fimlight] Baselight system using as much camera RAW as possible and OpenEXR for VFX." The final audio mix was delivered in Stereo, 5.1, 7.1, Dolby Atmos, and IMAX, if that wasn't enough variety.
With a fairly low $58 million budget (compared to $195 million for Guardians of the Galaxy and $90mil for the last Wolverine), I would say it is incredible what Tim Miller and team pulled of with this film. The biggest question many pose jokingly is "Can I tell that it was edited on Premiere Pro?" or "Is there anything that could not have been done on an Avid?" and the answer to both is nope. What I can tell is utilizing the latest tools and technology allowed this group of talented artists, engineers and designers to make an amazing film for a fairly cheap "cost" in an age where both are becoming increasingly rare.
The result of all this hard work & dedication is a highly entertaining, adult targeted Marvel film that breaks the out of the mold set for "comic book" films. Check out Deadpool on BluRay & DVD for a fantastic commentary track with Director Tim Miller.