HSBC has become one of the first to turn around a campaign that was colour corrected between New York and London.

The campaign in question was remotely graded in London while the creative director watched the grading process from a cinema seat at Smoke & Mirrors’ New York office, all in real-time.

Smoke & Mirrors is based in Soho, London, and recently invested in high-end grading suites, as well as opening a Shanghai office and a state-of-the art remote grading facility connecting its New York and London office.

Mark Wildig, one of the four founders of Smoke & Mirrors, started the operation in a shed in Covent Garden, London 15 years ago. He began the company as a VFX post-production house and in 2005 the company acquired Red post-productions, which allowed the business to naturally grow into a full post-production facility, branching out to colour grading with Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, using the Resolve Control Surface.

“Before we acquired Red Productions, we were a post production company focusing on special effects, so we wanted to expand our services and do everything from VFX to grading to finishing,” Marks explains.

“In order to offer this, I had to look at investing in colour grading and DaVinci had such a great reputation and performance capabilities, we had to go with it. Resolve has lived up to our expectations and it’s working beautifully.”

Part of the Smoke & Mirrors team is Mark Horrobin, head colorist, who joined Smoke & Mirrors in 2009.

Since he’s been with Smoke & Mirrors, Mark has worked on a number of global advertising campaigns – including Marks & Spencer, HSBC and Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Best Restaurant’.

Mark now heads up the remote grading suite, where he completed the grading for HSBC’s global advertising campaign.

The campaign was filmed on location in Rio de Janeiro and follows a family’s move to Brazil and their experiences of integrating into new culture and society – carrying out the campaign’s message of ‘Live Life Without Boundaries’.

Fitting to the campaign’s message, the commercial was remotely graded on Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve in real-time between the London and New York grading studios.

“When we did the HSBC grading, our colorist in New York allowed me to take over his machine and grade in real-time while the director watched in the New York studio and I had the agency next to me in London,” Mark explains.

“The remote grading was the one thing I thought would be a bit flaky but we haven’t had any complications with the real-time performance or using Resolve in this way – the workflow is very robust.”

As the New York office was being built, Mark made sure that the grading suite was a mirror image of the London suite. This allowed the director of the HSBC commercial in New York to have the same grading experience as the advertising agency in London.

“We have enough bandwidth to play seven uncompressed real-time 2K streams, which is very important for us to get the most out of the Resolve’s real-time performance capabilities,” says Mark.

“We are one of the first companies to do this and we’ve replicated it in New York and London. We are the only company that can operate at that bandwidth, which is fantastic!”

With both studios, the project footage is scanned into DPX files and sent directly to a server that sits at the centre of Smoke & Mirror’s facilities.

They use a real-time Spirit DataCine, which has the capability to scan in real-time with both DaVinci Resolves, Autodesk Flame or multiple Flames working off the system and the files can be accessed via the server immediately from any of the grading suites; anywhere in the world.

“When I was approached by Smoke & Mirrors, they wanted me to bring the grading department into the non-linear world and get the remote grading suite up and running. We chose DaVinci Resolve for these suites because it’s an very intuitive grading tool, it has more than 25 years of grading history and it’s a product that has been built by colourists, not engineers,” Mark concludes.

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