Airing “HIBANA-Spark”, the first Netflix originals from Japan

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A Netflix Originals, "HIBANA -Spark-" © 2016 YD CREATION

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is an imaging technology that retains a greater wide dynamic range captured by cameras and is gathering more attention now that 4K monitors have become more common. This technology was also applied to “HIBANA-Spark”, a Netflix, Inc. (Netflix) originals, and Netflix, who is one of the largest media streaming providers in the world, held an orientation about the HDR production of “HIBANA-Spark” but also other HDR productions in general on October 6th in their office in Aoyama.

HIBANA-Spark” is based on a novel by comedian Naoki Matayoshi has won the 153rd Akutagawa Prize, which sold a total of 2.5 million copies. The story follows the ups and downs in the lives of Japanese stand-up comedians. An aspiring comedian struggling to get by, Tokunaga (Kento Hayashi) is asked to write a biography by his mentor and a natural-born comedian, Kamiya (Kazuki Namioka). This 10-episode, 8-hour series directed by Ryuichi Hiroki began streaming in Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) on June 3rd and in HDR on September 16th in 190 countries.


Netflix’s Vison: Higher Dynamic Ranges and Its Future

Greg PetersPresident, Japan(Netflix)

Greg Peters
President, Japan(Netflix)

IMAGICA Corp. (IMAGICA) teamed up with Netflix and provided technical support for higher dynamic range imaging. Norimasa Ishida, the chief technical director of Motion Picture Sales & Produce Group in IMAGICA’s Motion Picture & TV Commercial Production Department, also attended the briefing session. Greg Peters, the president of Netflix, opened the session talking about Netflix’s philosophy and its highlighted contents, ”HIBANA-Spark-“. “There is still a huge gap between the way we see the world with our own eyes and what a TV monitor can display. The content industry has been working hard to fill the gap.”
“Netflix has occupied a unique position in the industry as the leader in innovation. Now that we produce own contents, in addition to distributing and streaming them, we have become the world’s largest content producer. This year, we’ve spent six billion dollars on content production, with 140 different contents in planning. HIBANA-Spark- is an example of this. Thanks to the collaboration with our great partners, we were able to produce a wonderful story in the most beautiful form and with the latest technologies. We will keep leading innovation in our stand-points, creating contents that can immerse the audience in its visual experience.”


Looking 10, 20 Years Ahead

Haruka MiyagawaEnginner(Netflix)

Haruka Miyagawa
Enginner(Netflix)

“I see Netflix as a tech company. We want to present our audience with the best visuals and film experience,” says Haruka Miyagawa, an Engineer, Media Engineering & Partnerships Netflix. She explained about high dynamic range imaging (HDRI), which can achieve visuals that are close to real life, and continued, “The best visual experience is something that still engages its audience even after 10 or 20 years. That is why it is important to produce films in higher qualities.” Miyagawa also mentioned that for this HDR production, the team rendered masters not only for HDR10 (standard HDR) but also for SDR and Dolby Vision, making it the first work in Japan for which a master was rendered for Dolby Vision.


HDR Production of “HIBANA-Spark-“: Filming and Behind the Cameras

Masaaki SatoProducer(Thefoor)

Masaaki Sato
Producer(Thefoor)

HIBANA-Spark-’s producers, Masaaki Sato, producer Thefool INC. (Thefool), and Norimasa Ishida, IMAGICA, spoke more in depth about the process.
“The original plan was to produce HIBANA-Spark- only in SDR, but we had the master rendered for 4K, therefore, were able to convert from SDR to HDR.” (Sato)
“Having data in higher quality is crucial in displaying a dynamic range a monitor. We first rendered in SDR and then began to talk about the HDR version later. What becomes important here is the respect for the creators. Audiences are also important, but it’s about what the directors, cameramen, and production team want the work to be. Rendering their work in higher dynamics has a risk of changing its style. That is why we had HIBANA-Spark-’s director and cameramen see a sample of their work in higher dynamics and then went on from there.” (Ishida)
“When Hiroki (director) and Nabeshima (director of photography) first had a look at their work in higher dynamics, they said it was quite interesting. The most apparent difference they noticed was the luminosity, which HDR has extremely high luminosity. They talked about how some of the parts could have been filmed differently. Filming in different dynamics changes the way directors of photography approaches their work when filming. I have realized that we need to clarify what the contents are intended for in future productions.” (Sato)


Importance of Color Management in HDRI

Norimasa Ishidachief technical director(IMAGICA)

Norimasa Ishida
chief technical director(IMAGICA)

HIBANA-Spark- is not IMAGICA’s first HDR work, but we had thorough technical discussions with Netflix on settings and preferences to render HIBANA-Spark- for Dolby Vision. It’s the same for SDR, but people see things in a very subjective manner, and to guarantee a good experience on their subjective level, we had to first get the objective factors down. What we needed was quantitative data, and IMAGICA has a specialized team on color management for that. I think our experience in color management supported a great exchange of technology. The challenge was how to make the transition from SDR to HDR, which has a completely different color dynamics at Rec. 709 and DCI-P3, while still keeping the integrity of the work. The technical teams from IMAGICA and Netflix had many discussions surrounding that issue before we could have the director and the director of photography to join us.” (Ishida)
“We have been working with IMAGICA for about five years, but the reason we chose them for this HDR production is because we trust their color management system. Some labs don’t have a color management system, and it’s difficult to find a partner who understands your technical needs. IMAGICA can do just that; their color managers always give us many ideas and suggestions, and it was no different for this production as well.” (Sato)

SDR / A Netflix Originals, "HIBANA -Spark- " © 2016 YD CREATION

SDR / A Netflix Originals, “HIBANA -Spark- ” © 2016 YD CREATION

HDR / A Netflix Originals, "HIBANA -Spark- " © 2016 YD CREATION

HDR / A Netflix Originals, “HIBANA -Spark- ” © 2016 YD CREATION

“This time, we rendered the SDR version following the Netflix regulations and were given an opportunity to also work on the HDR version. It was challenging, but there was much to be gained. We showed the color-graded trailer to Netflix U.S. and received their full approval. IMAGICA is now building a system for Dolby Vision production in Japan and is aspiring for further involvement in the production of a wide variety of contents.” (Ishida)


People were actively asking questions once the floor was opened for questions, showing the level of interest in this orientation. With the evolving imaging technology and increasing demand for HDR, IMAGICA will continue to pursue the roles in the film industry with cutting-edge imaging technologies, while fully utilizing experiences in color management that has been built from when film reels were still in use.

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