‘No Reservations’ posts globally with Cinenet
“ Towards the end we were delivering entire 20-minute reels of the film, which were encrypted quick-time movies that carried sound and picture, and these were going to people like Philip Glass to compose the music; to the sound editors in Melbourne when we were in Adelaide; or to the sound editors in Melbourne and Sydney when we were in L.A.”
Uninvited guests dropping in on the production process would give any studio a nasty case of indigestion.
So tight security was the order for No Reservations, the story of a highly-strung New York chef, played by Catherine Zeta Jones, who unexpectedly finds herself guardian of her young niece.
The film was shot in Manhattan, but director Scott Hicks chose to edit in Adelaide with a second cutting room in Sydney, while the music supervisor was in Los Angeles, and composer Philip Glass also worked from New York.
First assistant editor Dave Birrell had the task of pulling all the technical elements together from around the globe, and was well aware of Warner Bros.’ stringent requirements.
“We went to Cinenet because we had to overcome the biggest problem at the moment, particularly working on American studio pictures: their absolute need for security when sending any cut footage of the film around.”
“We were working on a film that was shooting on one major location overseas; New York, but we were editing in Adelaide, we were editing in Sydney, we knew we’d be editing in LA where we were previewing.
“With all those locations, putting someone on a plane with a piece of hardware was time consuming and really expensive, but it was still the rule. And it first started when we had to send something to LA – I think we had to hand-carry it to Sydney then put it on another digital file serving system and send that on, and it would have actually been cheaper to fly someone to L.A. with it, and quicker….”
“We needed to create one central point where we could pass everything through, every kind of file, whether it was music, quick time movies, either sections or all of the film, and sometimes it would be DVD images.”
That one central point was Cinenet – a high speed broadband network created specifically to service the unique needs of screen media industries. Cinenet utilises optical fibre and licensed microwave systems, with core infrastructure housed in 24-hour secured and monitored data centres, complete with battery and generator-backed power and climate control.
“The specifications of the thing physically sounded like Fort Knox – and electronically like 6 layers of your best banking encryption”, says Dave Birrell.
“We created a Cinenet site where we would put things up in folders that were only accessible by the people they were meant for. First of all the site can only be accessed by computers that are known to the system, so you have to submit the I.P. address of your network to Cinenet before you can access it at all. Then you have to have a password, and we were also encrypting everything that we put up on it.”
Even with multiple layers of security, Cinenet proved adaptable: adding an extra user in a new location was as simple as establishing their credentials and I.P. address, and assigning a password.
“We started out thinking we’d use this between three sites, and I think we ended up sending it between up to 20, as people moved around to different places, and the odd one-off person would urgently need a copy – it was easy to set up anybody, any time.”
“One of the first times that we used it was to send little sections of the film off to Philip Glass in New York and our music supervisor in L.A.: little sections of the film for them to be able to supply temp score, or tell us what kind of music they’d like.”
What started out as modest transfers soon grew, ultimately encompassing the whole film. Transfer speeds were high – the only limitation being the maximum throughput of the connection at the remote end.
“We were able to send pretty big files; some of them up to a gigabyte and a half. Towards the end we were delivering entire 20-minute reels of the film, which were encrypted quick-time movies that carried sound and picture, and these were going to people like Philip Glass to compose the music; to the sound editors in Melbourne when we were in Adelaide; or to the sound editors in Melbourne and Sydney when we were in L.A.”
When the time came for the digital intermediate, film scans and reference movies were transferred from Warner MPI in Burbank to the Cinenet server at up to 50 megabits per second; speeds unheard of using traditional internet services over long distances.
“As the cuts changed we’d have to turn over each time a 20 minute chunk of the movie – and there were 6 reels of the film, and that probably happened 50 times. To have burned that onto a disk and flown it across with somebody just would have been ridiculous.”
Using Cinenet meant the time zones between Australia and the U.S., normally an impediment to communication, actually worked in the production’s favour.
“We were also able to take advantage of the time differences: because we could put something up at the end of the day – it would probably take us half an hour to upload it – it might take them 2 hours to pull it down, but that was happening during our night, so they’d pull it down, work on it, and then put things back up for us to work on the next day, so the turnaround was fine, and because of the time difference most of it happened out of hours.”
The end result? The film’s components served up fast and fresh – that’s got to satisfy an appetite for streamlined production.