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The New Dark Room for the Digital Age

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

One thing that we learned quickly on Act of Valor was the importance of a tight team, one that can multi-task, ebb and flow with different responsibilities on a daily basis. The one member of that crew who was not being repurposed was the media manager. This person was really not camera or post, and we have been looking for a solution.

What we did on AOV was to try and keep the old rules of making movies and that etiquette that goes along with it. In my opinion, the digital age has brought about a lot of gack, and with the extra gack, there are more variables to go wrong and potentially slow you down.


Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Smash cut to the Codex Vault system, which brings the power back to the camera department with efficiency and a film based etiquette that is rivaled by none.


Codex Vault system

 Codex Vault system

Codex Vault system

The Vault is modular and can be configured to the needs of the production.


“Let’s Break It Down”

Imagine a world where the loader returns to the darkroom to process footage – a digital darkroom that systematically takes all of what post requires, all that the studio requires, and all that production requires and formulates it into a small powerful black box. The Vault is just that. The digital loader runs a Codex Datapack to set and passes it to the 1st AC. The 1st AC hands the exposed negative, labeled A1, to the digital loader. A1 is also associated with a camera report.

The digital loader takes A1 to the darkroom where the Vault sits. She takes the mag and slides it in. The pop up screen illuminates, asking a series of questions to select which tasks the vault should complete. The loader exits the camera truck and assumes an assistant’s status back on the set. Yes, the loader is now left to help build cameras on cranes, assist in companies’ moves … you dream it up, they are able to do it. Is this sounding familiar? It is how we have been making movies for decades. The idea is to embrace all the wonderful new tools and workflows while keeping the etiquette of the filmmaking process intact.


Codex Onboard S recorder with datapack. Capable of capturing 3k Arri Raw at 1-60FPS and 1-120 FPS 4K Canon Cinema Raw

Codex Onboard S recorder with datapack. Capable of capturing 3k Arri Raw at 1-60FPS and 1-120 FPS 4K Canon Cinema Raw

The Vault can ingest CF Cards, SxS, Redmags, SR media, and Codex datapacks

The Vault can ingest CF Cards, SxS, Redmags, SR media, and Codex datapacks


“The Power of the Vault”

Once the loader has hit his OK’s, we have to go back in time on what was done prior to this point. Post talked with Codex, who programmed the Vault to be able to take clone and transcode Arri RAW or Canon 4K RAW. It will also soon support MJPEG 1DC CF cards, RED Epic cards, Alexa SxS Cards, etc. Set it to transcode for editorial, create time code burn ins, back up the media on an internal raid array, as well as backing it up on dual LTO-5 (linear tape open) tape drives using LTFS (linear tape file system) with a full verification and redundancy check. All of this was set up ahead of time.

Now fast forward to the present where the loader hits the system’s three OK’s and leaves. This device takes the RAW footage, which holds 20-30 minutes of footage, and does all of the work above in half of the time. It is a super charged engine from the heavens. We had it out on the Ford commercial with Bandito Brothers for a test run last week, and what a difference it makes. Having those extra hands on set was such a huge help. This was the first time since jumping into digital capture that I felt like I was shooting film again, digital film.

For more information you can go to http://www.codexdigital.com/products/the-vault

For rental inquiries go to www.revolutioncinemarentals.com


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david shepherd October 19, 2012 at 2:18 PM

Hello Shane,

Thank you for the information. Right now I do not see myself personally using a solution like this as I am not film making just yet. I do enjoy the info-torial on this and what is hot in the industry from working professionals. This actually allows me to think about creating workflows for myself that fit my needs.

This product looks to be really bad-ass! It seems to be a solution that is moving the industry forward in ways that integrates the old and new. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and please continue to give your insight as I personal look forward to learning what you think and ingesting your advise into my everyday creative process. Your the Man!

David Shepherd

Shane October 23, 2012 at 10:00 PM

david shepherd, thank you so much for your kind words and all of your support

Bob Demers October 19, 2012 at 5:55 PM

Mmmm…Codex Vault…automate the data wrangling…

I’m thinking Compressor droplets combined with Apple Automation to set up a mac based version of this.

Another inspirational blog…thanks so much Shane!


Shane October 23, 2012 at 9:59 PM

Bob Demers, thanks so much Bob, I really see this as another tool in our box and that the responsibility of the camera negative goes back to the camera dept., not getting rid of the DIT.

Brandon October 20, 2012 at 8:29 AM

Wow. Sounds like a dream come true with ease of use and automation of critical processes. is there a MSRP on this?

I wonder what the reception will be from DIT’s that have just spent alot building their kits —

Shane October 23, 2012 at 9:56 PM

Brandon, it is an expensive tool and rents for an expensive price. Trying to continue to work it into my workflow has been a budgetary hurdle. This is just another tool to help, I see it as giving the responsibility of the camera negative back to the camera dept. not taking away a job.

Lei October 22, 2012 at 6:36 PM

Hi Shane,

I was wondering how do you deal with the aspect ratio issue (The ratio is different ) with 5D MarkII when you recording with a external Monitor??

Shane November 2, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Lei, I use Tape if the monitor won’t scale 2:35 for me.

Josh Jinchereau October 22, 2012 at 7:17 PM

I read this blog often. I love that you spend lots of time sharing your knowledge. I was a camera assistant but I made the transition to DIT a few years ago. I’d like to offer my perspective.

The codex vault can certainly do many things. Most of those thing include parts of the DIT’s job which are mostly automated or very simple. That includes verifying copies and creating LTO’s (which with LTFS is as simple as dragging and dropping). You’ve listed many of the pro’s but there are also some cons to make note of.

The codex vault can’t tell you if you have flicker, ghosting, over and under exposure, focus problems, booms in shot, vertical banding, colour skews that develop over the course of the show etc. These things all need to be verified by a pair of eyes.

In the codex workflow they happen at the lab long after everyone has left and long after the set has been struck. I catch problems, sometimes on a daily basis. And I often catch them quick enough to be reshot that day. You could argue that these problems should be avoidable however mistakes happen everyday on film sets. Even on the big productions. A pair of eyes on set reviewing the footage is your best chance to fix problems on set relatively close to the time they occur.

That having been said, the workflow your describing has in fact worked for a hundred years. But I often hear cinematographers discuss how they sleep better with digital. I think that has to do with the instant gratification of knowing your footage turned out as you intended when you shot it. When working without a DIT, I really feel that productions miss out an all the benefits that a digital workflow has to offer. The biggest one be immediacy.

Your main argument seems to stem from the DIT not coming to set and helping when they are not busy, personally I always help on set when i’m not doing something. Just saying…were not all so one dimensional. I don’t think people should write us off.

This is not meant to be aggressive. Just offering those reading this article the perspective of someone who makes their living verifying footage.

david shepherd October 23, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Hey Josh,

Thank for the quick note. I am not in the industry, so I do not know. I do not think that Shane H. was excluding the crew members, just referring to the tools that make his life a little easier.

Bob Demers October 23, 2012 at 8:43 PM

Right on Josh:

I sleep better knowing a DIT is on the set. They are my second pair of eyes, from data integrity to focus…they also have the roll of ac with camera setup, monitoring and just about anything that connects to the camera. I like to think of a product such as the Vault as a tool in their arsenal.



Shane October 23, 2012 at 9:43 PM

Bob Demers, this unfortunately is not a DIT’s job. Managing the digital negative is a loaders job, these line have been crossed and the Vault is a powerful tool to set it straight in my opinion. The DIT is there to set LUTs, manage the color and keep it consistent thru to post along with being the last line of defense in viewing footage.

Shane October 23, 2012 at 9:44 PM

david shepherd, Exactly. The digital loader is back Baby!!! The DIT can now manage the look and feel and not have to worry about all the other gack and concentrate on being the last line of defense in viewing the negative.

Shane October 23, 2012 at 9:50 PM

Josh Jinchereau, Love it, thanks for your perspective. I like the eyes on the footage part. Saved me on Act of Valor with focus. I get it, I’m just not a big fan of the circus that this creates. I light by eye, not by LUT’s or waveforms, don’t believe in them, never have. I like being with the actors, on set not in black tents or worrying about calibrated monitors. We are in very interesting times

Josh Jinchereau October 24, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Copy that.

P.S. own a bunch of you MCS stuff for my c300 and 7d and I think its amazing!! Some of the best accessories i’ve ever bought.

Oli Kember October 29, 2012 at 9:52 AM

It’s the little things that keep the ship running smoothly. Thanks for the info.

Shane November 2, 2012 at 12:37 PM

Oli Kember, that is exactly right. Thanks for the support.


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