Creating a Heroic Tribute to Firefighters in Only the Brave

by Meagan Keane

posted on 10-30-2017

In 2013, an elite crew of firefighters known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots was dispatched to battle a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona. It turned out to be one of the deadliest wildfires in recent U.S. history. Their heroic efforts to save Yarnell are the subject of a new feature film, _Only the Brave, _which premiered October 20, 2017. An emotional and raw story, the movie follows the tight-knit team as they struggle with personal issues while protecting surrounding communities from the fire.

The movie was cut entirely using Adobe Premiere Pro CC, and the post-production team also used Adobe After Effects along with Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), the VFX and animation branch of Lucasfilm Ltd., for temp and final visual effects. It was the first time editor Billy Fox, ACE, used Premiere Pro to edit a film. “My ideal editing system is one that doesn’t get in my way, and allows me to turn the vision in my head into reality,” says Fox. “Adobe Premiere Pro gives me that power. Within four days, I was completely at ease using Premiere Pro.”

Director Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy, Oblivion) shot the movie in 4K using the Sony F65 and dailies were sent to nextLAB® by FotoKem, which acted as the asset hub and pipeline for metadata, color, and deliverables for editorial and visual effects. There, daily footage was customized and ingested into Premiere Pro.

“I would group, organize, and sync everything in Premiere Pro, and then footage from each shooting day would have its own project,” explains Jamie Clarke, First Assistant Editor. “As soon as a project closed for the day, Billy would take it, open it up, and start cutting away.”

Within four weeks, visual effects editor Jon Carr created more than 200 temp visual effects using Cinema 4D and After Effects, which were sent to ILM to finalize. This gave editors a visual of what was happening in a scene before the final visual effects were ready. Carr was also responsible for creating 65 final opticals and visual effect shots that were included in the final cut of the film. “Because of the emotions surrounding this movie, we spent a lot of time focusing on all of the small details in honor of the fallen firefighters,” he explains.

Using the Lumetri Color panel in Premiere Pro, all color correction was completed in-house, reducing production costs and giving the production team opportunities to experiment with the overall look of the movie. The initial color correction was then provided to the finishing house as a template for the final color.

“With Adobe Creative Cloud, it’s like film-making in a box. You can do absolutely everything,” says Carr. “It’s challenging and rewarding at the same time, because you can do all of these cool things within the Adobe ecosystem.”

A case in point? The team used Adobe Media Encoder to create DCPs for all screenings. This is atypical, though: normally, DCPs are sent to outside vendors up to 72 hours before a preview, which means that all creative changes must be complete days ahead of time. The ability to create these in-house meant that the team could put last-minute finishing touches on the film as close to the last minute as possible, while saving the production thousands of dollars for each individual output.

FotoKem’s nextLAB also played a crucial role in enabling the production team to keep as much work as possible in-house. The team could conveniently make changes on the fly, without having to send work out to a separate facility.

From the editorial equipment and 5.1 surround sound systems to large, 4K monitors, FotoKem—in close collaboration with Adobe—gave the team the ability to realize their final vision for the big screen. “Adobe engineers and FotoKem development worked together really well, helping the production team create a movie that is true to their vision,” says Melissa Lichtle, Senior Non Linear Technician at FotoKem. “It’s very rewarding to help people find workflows that work well for them, and help them achieve their goals.”

Only the Brave promises to be emotional for audiences everywhere as the bravery and courage of the Granite Mountain Hotshots comes alive on the big screen.

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Topics: Video & Audio

Products: Premiere Pro, Creative Cloud