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Dark Energy: Lightning in a Bottle for the HDSLR Revolution

  • August 6, 2011
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Dark Energy: Lightning in a Bottle for the HDSLR Revolution

For about six months, I was under a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with a company out of Albuquerque, New Mexico that has a device that is lightning in a bottle for the HDSLR revolution. Lance Maurer, CEO and the team at Cinnafilm have developed an interesting box that I feel will change the way you look at compression problems in any digital format.

When you freeze on a frame of this highly compressed h.264 Codec on the big screen, you can quickly tear the image apart. The compression noise artifacts are huge at any ISO over 320. However, I have embraced this compression as an artist because it softens the inherent sharpness that all the high end HD cameras deliver. Don’t tell me to put a Soft FX filter on the lens or a Black Pro Mist. This works well in a studio, but wait till you get into the field: your hat will be handed to you fairly quickly with mother nature, and the extremes of sun and shade, flaring, and the wonderful milky quality that is inherent in all of this filtration. I say let the camera and the right lens do it for you.

A very intricate part of the puzzle has come together with this platform. Imagine: a device that can vaporize all compression, noise, and artifacts and then use that same technology to go back and texture your media with film grain exactly how you like it! Come on, this is not possible! Well yes, it is, and it is called Dark Energy. Lance and Ernie are the co-creators of this tower of power at Cinnafilm. They did not start out in the world of HD video – they were military scientists stationed at Los Alamos, a small town in the mountains of New Mexico where the nuclear bomb and some other incredible technology has been developed. Los Alamos has the highest IQ per capita of any city in the world and this speaks very highly of the designers of this product.

Lance, Ernie, and their team of military scientists have invented an algorithm that finds compression noise and then makes it disappear. We have been working on tests with “The Last 3 Minutes” and I wanted to share them with you. Not only does Cinnafilm scrub the compression noise and artifacts, but they then use that same algorithm to deliver any type and level of grain texture that you would like back to the media.

Click the images below for high-res.

Lance and I sat down together at the HP Dream Color monitor and he asked me what film stock I use to shoot with at night. I said, “I like shooting 5219.” He punched a few buttons and moved his mouse. “How would you expose your night interiors with 5219?” I told him that I normally under-expose my night interiors 1.5 stops to 2 stops depending on the subject matter. He said, “no problem,” and pushed three more buttons. Instantly my 1.5 stops under-exposed grain was up on the screen looking incredible. I was completely and utterly blown away!

At the moment, we are employing this new technology on “Act of Valor” at Bandito Brothers in Culver City. Jacob Rosenberg, head of Bandito Post and his Team are spearheading this technology into our workflow. We are sending the files to Company 3 to ready them for color correction with Stefan Sonnenfeld, who I have to say is likely the top colorist in the world. Stefan is so excited to take this platform and stretch it, mold it and see what this baby can do. He and I sat in the bay the other day and came up with a cocktail that basically goes against everything that was taught to us originally. We are trailblazing here and realize that what works for one HD platform doesn’t necessarily work for another. We were told to de-noise and add grain to the DPX files before going into the color suite. Through all of our tests, we found that doing everything after color correction was the only way.

Stay tuned. Here is Lance’s contact information where you can get more information regarding renting the Dark Energy Tower. Another part of the puzzle is in place, now let’s go out and continue to fuel the revolution.

Contact Lance Maurer
Email Lance@cinnafilm.com or Ernie@cinnafilm.com to get more detailed information.


  • "The Last 3 Minutes"
  • cinnafilm
  • dark energy
  • Post / Color
  • strategy
  • Workflow