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At HPA Tech Retreat 2021, Supersession Goes Global

By Debra Kaufman

At last year’s HPA Tech Retreat, the Supersession was all about “The Lost Lederhosen,” a daylong filmmaking experiment focusing on cloud-based technologies, ultimately resulting in an 11-minute short film. Joachim “JZ” Zell, who developed the concept, wrote the script, gathered the team and produced it, is back for another Supersession at this year’s HPA Tech Retreat. In concert with co-producer Mark Chiolis, Zell is producing “The Found Lederhosen” (working title), which builds on the premise of last year’s endeavor of using cloud-based technologies for as many tasks as possible.

But that’s where the similarities end. “It’s a different starting point,” says Zell. “Last year, the locations were all in Palm Springs and Hollywood. This year, we have filmmakers on different continents, each telling different stories with different actors and different cultural aspects.” For this production, the cutting-edge cloud technologies will enable productions on four continents: North America (Hollywood and Mexico City); Europe (London and Vilnius, Lithuania); Australia (Brisbane) and Asia (Dubai and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia). “Each filmmaker in each location will create a script of how artists survive the global COVID-19 lockdown,” explains Zell. “Each location will have different cultural aspects, but global trade, amazingly, helps everyone get their hands on the latest, greatest technology.”

Zell and Chiolis first found supervisors for core studio functions, bringing on board Sky Walker Sound’s Steve Morris as audio supervisor and Arjun Ramamurthy as VFX supervisor. Zell took on the role of post production supervisor. After contacting filmmakers around the world, teams from the various locations firmed up. “The only guideline was to implement local COVID restrictions and create a story where global COVID lockdown is somehow part of it.” Although all the regional films are still in production, Zell drops hints of how different they will all be. In Dubai, the story will be set among the Bedouin; in London, the story focuses on a painter, a singer and a dancer and how they stay motivated. In Mexico City, we see skateboarders navigating the city’s empty streets. In addition to these stories, Origin Point, which grew out of RED’s in-house production company, will be making a behind-the-scenes documentary with footage from around the globe.

For the Supersession, Zell and Chiolis will highlight different aspects of each production “We’ll pick the most impressive technology for each site and focus on that, to keep it exciting,” says Zell. “If a specific product was used on all the productions, it will only be showcased in one of the productions.” For each short production, attendees will see a two-minute clip, paired with the documentary footage. But for audience members that want to take a deeper dive, says Zell, each production will have links to see, for example, how every production was edited or handled with VFX. “There is an unlimited stream of information we’ll make available,” he notes.

Each region will create its own cloud-based workflows within the overall framework, but they’ll have lots of participating technology vendors to choose from. The winners and honorable mentions of this year’s HPA Engineering Awards were invited to participate, which brought EIZO, Eluvio, Moxion, Frame.io, Teradek and Sohonet on board. Other technologies that will be involved in the making of the productions include Blackmagic Design Ursa, RED Komodo, ARRI Alexa, Sony Venice, Evercast, Panavision, Samara, Resolve, Nuke, Colorfront, and Baselight. “HPA is about technology,” says Zell. “All these companies are strong partners and the cloud makes it available to everyone.”

For streaming, the productions rely on Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Editing solutions are both Avid and Adobe. Teradici and BeBop help interface two machines in the cloud, and Frame.io and Teradek are showing management of remote streaming data, with 5th Kind configuring the streaming workflow in Mexico City. Brisbane used Moxion and QTake to monitor content and process instant dailies.

Working behind the scenes will be local editors, colorists and sound and VFX professionals, with some of them available for remote work for other productions. In Australia, Mandy Walker, ASC, ACS will be the consulting cinematographer as will Steve Yedlin, ASC for Hollywood. Colorist Greg Fisher at Company 3 in London is also involved, as well as Skywalker Sound.

The Supersession itself will be interactive, with attendees able to attend virtual breakfast roundtables and convene in breakout rooms. In referring to the HPA Awards ceremony as a model for how the Supersession will run, Zell notes, “the HPA core team does an amazing job to bring us the correct platform to create the most interactive solution possible.” He adds that this year’s Supersession isn’t simply about showing off cloud and remote technologies. “In 10 years, hopefully, this period we’re going through will be history,” he says. “But let’s document what the situation is that we’re in now – how artists survived and how technology made it possible.”

The HPA Tech Retreat Supersession will be presented on March 23 and March 24 from 10 am to 1 pm.


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