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Dark Energy Success Story: Dawnrunner

Published: July 11th 2013

Here is a terrific success story that came to our attention right before NAB. Dawnrunner, a boutique post-house in San Francisco, had tried every denoise technology out there with no success. Then they tried Dark Energy for After Effects, and they saved many shots previously thought totally unusable. But don’t just take our word for it…

The term “disruptive technology” gets bandied about with an increasingly casual ease. Yet, when something truly mind-blowing is presented you really learn the depth of that very definition. That’s what happened at Dawnrunner headquarters recently, when CEO of the San Francisco based Production Company, James Fox, and Vice President of Technology, Geoff Peck, fired up one of the most revolutionary plugins for After Effects they have come across in their combined 20 years in the industry. The plugin? Cinnafilm’s Dark Energy. Fox described the plugin as, “The de-facto texture management solution.” Dark Energy consists of two texture management tools: the noise removing Anti-Matter, and the film and grain simulator, Matter.

“I will be honest; we were all amazed with not only the quality of the noise removal, but the speed!” Fox and Peck have had their time in the ring against the ever present digital noise demons. Dawnrunner just finished an extensive film festival circuit with their effects heavy sci-fi feature film, THE DARKEST MATTER, which is a unique take on a classic “Lord of the Flies” type story – but instead of a deserted island, the group of children find themselves stranded on a mysterious abandoned space station. The film was shot entirely in studio, utilizing green screens instead of practical sets. “It was risky, but we weighed the pros and cons and did everything in our power to mitigate any glaring post issues.” Peck said. Being the Cinematographer on the feature film and Key FX Artist in the post pipeline, Peck got to see first-hand what noise could do to a post workflow. “It was a nightmare! Nothing is worse than having a very disappointed Director tell you to scrap an entire sequence because the noise from the camera has compromised the footage.” Peck stressed the point, “It’s important to understand, noise in any shot is distracting, but noise in a composite shot is devastating and can be the difference between doing the shot, and not.” The team toiled with many, “off-the-shelf” solutions for noise removal and texture simulation for their condensed post production timeline. Ultimately, it was a custom solution that got them to their World Premiere at Seattle International Film Festival a mere six months after wrapping principal photography. Fox was not happy with the results. “We made our deadline, but felt there were too many sacrifices made to the story along the way, all because of compromised footage.”

When Dark Energy was introduced to the team, the improvement was immediate. “The first shot we loaded up to play with was by far the worst in the film when it came to noisy footage. Anti-Matter just obliterated any trace of that noise. We were able to scale back our extreme keying efforts and make the shot beautiful again.” Peck was so impressed with the quality and speed of the plugin that he worked over a weekend to make sure it was not a fluke. By the end of that weekend, he had completely redone a sequence that had been previously cut from the film. The robust power of Anti-Matter’s noise removal, combined with the texturing of Matter, gave the shots the integrated, photorealistic polish that had been the goal all along. The team responded with an overwhelming amount of excitement to reopen the film and give the texture the treatment it had needed all along.

Not only has Dawnrunner adopted Dark Energy into the workflow for the feature film, they now use it as their first step in managing any footage. Fox said, “Dark Energy is the difference between creating footage that looks good, and footage that is stunningly beautiful. It’s like magic!”

– James Fox
Owner & CEO
Dawnrunner