LUNA (directed by Kazuma Ikeda) is an original short film co-produced by IMAGICA and ROBOT in 8K (16 times the image resolution of HD) and HDR (High dynamic range) with the approach of “fusing beautiful imagery within the story” and “expression of lights.” It is a “brand new entertainment in ultra-high definition” that provides an emotional story told through the stunning image of 8K/HDR in a world created through CG, compositing and color grading. The film is planned for a wide variety of use; submission to film festivals domestic and internationally, as well as providing domestic imaging manufacturers as demo content. We interviewed the staff at IMAGICA and ROBOT the stories behind creating LUNA.
Experimenting a new imaging expression as a content creator
Haruyuki Moroishi from ROBOT was the producer throughout this project and he has previously been involved with super-high definition (4K/8K) production. He explained the early stages of the project; “8K is a standard proposed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and planned to be used in broadcast in 2018. NHK has been experimenting with 8K broadcast on satellite channels since August 1st with the purpose of testing and reaching the masses. LUNA was intended to follow that movement; as technology is expected to dramatically advance by the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 and with the range of image expression expanding, we should undertake in creating an 8K content as “creators.” This project really started moving forward toward a joint production when IMAGICA, our group company, opened the Shibuya Parkway Studio providing solutions to editing in 8K. ”What makes this joint project between ROBOT and IMAGICA unique is that an attempt was made to break the barrier by creating a fictional short film; current NHK’s 8K broadcast mainly consists documentaries and nonfiction contents like nature, history, art, travel, sports and traditional arts. Producer Moroishi tells, “When we thought what makes this joint project meaningful and what it would be centered around, it became clear that we should create our original story seeing both company’s field is in entertainment.” and continued that “We decided to center the story around ‘people’ and since we’re creating an ultra-high definition, 8K content, we need to have an attractive girl in the story. We also tasked ourselves to have night scenes to enhance the ‘use of lights’ in order to utilize the characteristics of HDR. Naturally, a story that involves ‘the moon’ and ‘a girl’ led to a story somewhat based on The Tale of Princess Kaguya and the filmmaking process began.”
“You’ll never know unless you try.”Kenya Hirata, from ROBOT, who wrote the script tells us “The theme was a ‘modern day version of Princess Kaguya.’ I usually don’t consider the technical aspect when I write a script, however, there was a clear reason why this story had to be ‘Princess Kaguya’ and key visuals like the moon, the night sky and stars were ‘essential’ to this 8K short film. I wrote a script that tells the story through these key visuals making appearances in key moments.” Producer Moroishi added, “We wanted to deliver a story in 8K/HDR, not to turn 8K/HDR footage into a story. ‘Story’ is the key. We made this clear during production often. We had a huge canvas, that was 8K/HDR, and the creators added their ‘painting’ to create a unique film. We really focused on achieving that.” The filming took a total of four days. Total production from pitching the idea to its completion was forced to fit in the time of about five months. Takeshi Wakui [from ROBOT], filed producer of the project recalls; “Most of our staff have never worked in 8K, including me. We told ourselves ‘you’ll never know unless you try.’ There are a quite a bit of night scenes in this production since the moon plays a key part, just as the title ‘LUNA’ implies. Things were not easy as were filming in the middle of the rainy season. There was a constant fear of if we were going to be able to film everything in time to make it happen. There were times where we made decisions on gut feeling without any certainty it will work. I was afraid I might not have a stomach left at the end of the production [laughing].”
Wakui also told us they brought F65RS and Phantom Flex 4K to location scoutings and prepared for production by “taking an approach by doing things we knew and how to do them. Took some test shots on location and brought them back to IMAGICA’s 8K monitors to review and prepare. We consulted with IMAGICA’s technical team on how 8K/HDR looks, particularly the noise on the footage, checked our focus and readied ourselves for the actual production. We never attempted to ‘deliver a story in 8K/HDR,’ but the director and the crew were very professional and gave more than 150% effort.”
Each step of the workflow is a “multiplication” in productionKoichi Tonozuka [IMAGICA], the project producer from the technical side, said “Honestly, I was shocked,” remembering when he first saw the test footage on the 8K monitor. “The noise in dark areas and the flickering of city lights were more than I expected and they all had to be removed. It is part of our routine to remove these, but this was 8K. That was one of the hardest things for us.” Saying that noise removal took approximately 120 times and flicker removal took 260 times the actual time of footage. Mitsuhiro Takano of IMAGICA, technical director of the project, said “the solution was ‘brute force.’ We had a job to do as a post production facility even if it was in 8K. I believe each step in a production workflow is a ‘multiplication.’ We tell ourselves not to in ‘negative’ at the end because the post could not handle what has been properly brought from pre-production.” IMAGICA’s colorist, Yuto Kitayama added; “HDR is a technology that enables the screen viewers to see what they would see in real life. But that doesn’t mean we should apply the full capabilities of HDR into the image. There has to be a controlled intention for the film. LUNA was a case where we attempted to save the rawness of the footage but applied a dramatic grade. We struggled til the very end to determine if that ‘touch’ of adjustment was just right and not leaving it unbalanced.”
Becoming the étude [case study] for all creators / Showing the possibilitiesTakano says “This short doesn’t fully utilize the characteristics of 8K or HDR. We were first and foremost concentrated on the ‘image’ the creators have put together. We might notice there were other ways of doing things, but that is finally realized by achieving something first. In that sense, I believe LUNA was a good case study. I hope our result as a pioneer becomes a étude [case study] for all the creators out there. I’m confident that we were able to think and adjust as we ran, finished the race, and had a pretty good time.” Tonozuka added that “LUNA was ‘a solution’ but not the absolute answer. I think we were able to show the potential 8K/HDR possesses. This was a valuable lesson for us, but I do hope it will motivate and affect the creativity of others.”
The 8K viewing environment is currently still under development. ROBOT and IMAGICA hope to find useful applications for LUNA. Moroishi (Producer) says “We want this film to be seen by as many people as possible. We want to actively find and create ‘venues’ where ultra-high definition contents can flourish; working together with film festivals or forums in order to have 8K contents a reality.”
*Interviews are cited from CM Tsushin [Published by Uni Press Service Co.,Ltd.]
Filmed on SONY F65RS with Phantom Flex4K [high-speed camera], utilizing Quantel Rio 8K [Snell Advanced Media] and Autodesk Flame for editing at IMAGICA’s new Shibuya Parkway Studio, opened July 1st, 2016.