Digital intermediate

Digital intermediate (typically abbreviated to DI) is a motion picture finishing process which classically involves digitizing a motion picture and manipulating the color and other image characteristics.

Definition and overview

It often replaces or augments the photochemical timing process and is usually the final creative adjustment to a movie before distribution in theaters. It is distinguished from the telecine process in which film is scanned and color is manipulated early in the process to facilitate editing. However the lines between telecine and DI are continually blurred and are often executed on the same hardware by colorists of the same background. These two steps are typically part of the overall color management process in a motion picture at different points in time. A digital intermediate is also customarily done at higher resolution and with greater color fidelity than telecine transfers.

Although originally used to describe a process that started with film scanning and ended with film recording, digital intermediate is also used to describe color correction and color grading and even final mastering when a digital camera is used as the image source and/or when the final movie is not output to film. This is due to recent advances in digital cinematography and digital projection technologies that strive to match film origination and film projection.

In traditional photochemical film finishing, an intermediate is produced by exposing film to the original camera negative. The intermediate is then used to mass-produce the films that get distributed to theaters. Color grading is done by varying the amount of red, green, and blue light used to expose the intermediate. This seeks to be able to replace or augment the photochemical approach to creating this intermediate.

The digital intermediate process uses digital tools to color grade, which allows for much finer control of individual colors and areas of the image, and allows for the adjustment of image structure (grain, sharpness, etc.). The intermediate for film reproduction can then be produced by means of a film recorder. The physical intermediate film that is a result of the recording process is sometimes also called a digital intermediate, and is usually recorded to internegative (IN) stock, which is inherently finer-grain than camera negative (OCN).

One of the key technical achievements that made the transition to DI possible was the use of the 3D look-up tables (aka "3D LUTs"), which could be used to mimic how the digital image would look once it was printed onto release print stock. This removed a large amount of skilled guesswork from the film-making process, and allowed greater freedom in the colour grading process while reducing risk.

The digital master is often used as a source for a DCI-compliant distribution of the motion picture for digital projection. For archival purposes, the digital master created during the Digital Intermediate process can still be recorded to very stable high dynamic range yellow-cyan-magenta (YCM) separations on black-and-white film with an expected 100-year or longer life. This archival format, long used in the industry prior to the invention of DI, still provides an archival medium that is independent of changes in digital data recording technologies and file formats that might otherwise render digitally archived material unreadable in the long term.


Telecine tools to electronically capture film images are nearly as old as broadcast television, but the resulting images were widely considered unsuitable for exposing back onto film for theatrical distribution. Film scanners and recorders with quality sufficient to produce images that could be inter-cut with regular film began appearing in the 1970s, with significant improvements in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During this time, digitally processing an entire feature-length film was impractical because the scanners and recorders were extremely slow and the image files were too large compared to computing power available. Instead, individual shots or short sequences were processed for special visual effects.

In 1992, Visual Effects Supervisor/Producer Chris F. Woods broke through several "techno-barriers" in creating a digital studio to produce the visual effects for the 1993 release Super Mario Bros. It was the first feature film project to digitally scan a large number of VFX plates (over 700) at 2K resolution. It was also the first film scanned and recorded at Kodak's just launched Cinesite facility in Hollywood. This project based studio was the first feature film to use Discreet Logic's (now Autodesk) Flame and Inferno systems, which enjoyed early dominance as high resolution / high performance digital compositing systems.

Digital film compositing for visual effects was immediately embraced, while optical printer use for VFX declined just as quickly. Chris Watts further revolutionized the process on the 1998 feature film Pleasantville, becoming the first visual effects supervisor for New Line Cinema to scan, process, and record the majority of a feature length, live-action, Hollywood film digitally. The first Hollywood film to utilize a digital intermediate process from beginning to end was O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000 and in Europe it was Chicken Run released that same year.

The process rapidly caught on in the mid-2000s. Around 50% of Hollywood films went through a digital intermediate in 2005, increasing to around 70% by mid-2007.[1] This is due not only to the extra creative options the process affords film makers but also the need for high-quality scanning and color adjustments to produce movies for digital cinema.


  • 1990: The Rescuers Down Under – First feature-length film to be entirely recorded to film from digital files; in this case animation assembled on computers using Walt Disney Feature Animation and Pixar's CAPS system.
  • 1992: VFX Supervisor/Producer Chris F. Woods creates a VFX studio to produce the visual effects for the 1993 release Super Mario Bros. It was the first 35mm feature film project to digitally scan a large number of VFX plates (over 700) at 2K resolution, as well as to output the finished VFX to 35mm Negative at 2K - an early example of digital intermediate work (see above for more credits & details).
  • 1993: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – First film to be entirely scanned to digital files, manipulated, and recorded back to film at 4K resolution. The restoration project was done entirely at 4K resolution and 10-bit color depth using the new Cineon system to digitally remove dirt and scratches and restore faded colors.[2]
  • 1998: Pleasantville – The first time the majority of a new feature film was scanned, processed, and recorded digitally. The black-and-white meets color world portrayed in the movie was filmed entirely in color and selectively desaturated and contrast adjusted digitally. The work was done in Los Angeles by Cinesite utilizing a Spirit DataCine for scanning at 2K resolution[3] and a MegaDef color correction system from UK Company Pandora International
  • 1999: Pacific Ocean Post Film, A Team led by John McCunn and Greg Kimble used Kodak film scanners & laser film printer, Cineon software as well as proprietary tools to rebuild and repair the first two reels of the 1968 Beatles' film Yellow Submarine for re-release.
  • 2000: Sorted - The first feature length, color 35mm motion picture to fully utilize the digital intermediate process in its entirety from inception to completion. The Alex Jovy film was produced at Wave Pictures' digital intermediate film facility in London, England. It was scanned at 2K resolution with 8 bits color depth per color / per pixel using a pin registered, liquid gate Oxberry 6400 Motion Picture Film Scanner and recorded onto Kodak 5242 color intermediate stock using MGI Celco Cine V Film Recorders. Digital visual effects and color correction were done using a Discreet Logic Inferno. Sorted premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2000.
  • 2000: O Brother, Where Art Thou? – The first time a digital intermediate was used on the entirety of a first-run Hollywood film which otherwise had very few visual effects. The work was done in Los Angeles by Cinesite utilizing a Spirit DataCine for scanning at 2K resolution, a Pandora International MegaDef system to adjust the color and a Kodak Lightning II recorder to output to film.[4]
  • 2000: Chicken Run was the first feature film in Europe to use the Digital Intermediate process, digitally storing and manipulating every frame of the film before recording back to film
  • 2001: "Honolulu Baby" by Maurizio Nichetti, the first live action feature film post produced in Europe (Italy-2000) to use the digital 2K Digital Intermediate process from a production filmed in Super35mm, made by Rumblefish and Massimo Germoglio as a DI supervisor and film editor, edited on Avid, filmscanner with Spirit, CGI with Maya, graphics in AE, finishing and VFX in Inferno, filmrecording of the entire film on the internegative. printed on film.
  • 2004: Spider-Man 2 – The first digital intermediate on a new Hollywood film to be done entirely at 4K resolution. Although scanning, recording, and color-correction was done at 4K by EFILM, most of the visual effects were created at 2K and were upscaled to 4K.
  • 2005: Serenity - The first film to fully conform to Digital Cinema Initiatives specifications, marking "a major milestone in the move toward all-digital projection".[5]
  • 2008: Baraka – The first 8K resolution digital intermediate by FotoKem of a 65 mm negative source for the October 2008 remastered DVD and Blu-ray Disc release. The scan produced 30 terabytes of data and took 12–13 seconds to scan each frame, for a total scan time of over 3 weeks.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Belton, John (Spring 2008). "Painting by the Numbers: The Digital Intermediate". Film Quarterly. 61 (3): 58–65. doi:10.1525/fq.2008.61.3.58.
  2. ^ Holusha, John (June 30, 1993). "'Snow White' is made over frame by frame and byte by byte". New York Times. p. 5.
  3. ^ Bob Fisher (November 1998). "Black & white in color". American Cinematographer. Archived from the original on 2006-11-13.
  4. ^ Bob Fisher (October 2000). "Escaping from chains". American Cinematographer. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28.
  5. ^ "FotoKem, Doremi Labs, Christie Digital Produce DCDM of "Serenity"". Creative Planet Network.
  6. ^ Andrew Oran (2008). Baraka: "Restoration" feature documentary (DVD/Blu-ray). Magidson Films, Inc.

External links

3D lookup table

In the film industry, 3D lookup tables (3D LUTs) are used to map one color space to another. They are commonly used to calculate preview colors for a monitor or digital projector of how an image will be reproduced on another display device, typically the final digitally projected image or release print of a movie. A 3D LUT is a 3D lattice of output RGB color values that can be indexed by sets of input RGB colour values. Each axis of the lattice represents one of the three input color components and the input color thus defines a point inside the lattice. Since the point may not be on a lattice point, the lattice values must be interpolated; most products use trilinear interpolation.3D LUTs are used extensively in the movie production chain, as part of the Digital Intermediate process.Cubes may be of various sizes and bit depths. Often 33×33×33 cubes are used as 3D LUTs. The most common practice is to use RGB 10-bit/component log images as the input to the 3D LUT. Output is usually RGB values that are to be placed unchanged into a display device's buffer.

Modern graphics cards have direct support for 3D LUTs, allowing entire HD images to be processed at 60 fps or faster.Many 3D lookup tables start with a magic number to note the type of 3D LUT.

Annapurna Studios

Annapurna Studios (Telugu: అన్నపూర్ణ స్టూడియోస్) is a production house established in 1975 by the late Telugu actor Nageswara Rao Akkineni. This studio was named after his wife 'Annapurna Akkineni'. Located in the heart of Hyderabad city, the 22-acre studios mainly produce Telugu films and also provides various production and post-production facilities, including sound stages for set construction, outdoor sets, editing, dubbing and Digital Intermediate suites. In 2011, the Akkineni Family launched a non-profitable educational institute (Annapurna International School of Film and Media). ANR's son, actor Nagarjuna Akkineni serves as a chairman after his father’s demise.

The non-profit Annapurna International School of Film and Media is also situated in the premises of Annapurna Studios.

Channa Sachi Muchi

Channa Sachi Muchi (2010) is a Pakistani film in Punjabi language, and it was directed and produced by Ijaz Bajwa. According to Bajwal, it is one of the most expensive films ever made in the history of Pakistan, and proclaimed the film as "a revival of Pakistani cinema." It is the first Pakistani film to incorporate digital intermediate treatment and post-production from Adlab, Mumbai. This was a period movie based on the love story of 1947. It was a big hit of 2010 Punjabi Cinema, and was released in the Indian province Punjab and Australia.


The Cineon System was one of the first computer based digital film system created by Kodak in the early 1990s. It was an integrated suite of components consisting a Motion picture film scanner, a film recorder and workstation hardware with software (the Cineon Digital Film Workstation) for compositing, visual effects, image restoration and color management.The system was first released in September 1992 to Cinesite Hollywood. The workstations were initially built on Sun-Transputer based hardware. In July 1993 version 2.1.3 of the software was released for Silicon Graphics Inc, SGI Onyx hardware. The software was withdrawn from sale by 1997, although a number of customers continued to use it beyond that date.

As an end-to-end solution for 4K resolution, 10 bit digital film production and Digital intermediate the system was one of the first. The three major components of the system (scanner, workstation software, and recorder) have all received separate AMPAS Scientific and Technical Awards.The Cineon project was also responsible for the creation of the Cineon ( .cin) 10 bit log file format, designed to handle digital film frames. Although the product is no longer for sale, Cineon file format that Kodak defined was for a long time commonly used in the film visual effects world, and formed the basis for the newer SMPTE-standardised Digital Picture Exchange (DPX) format.

Color grading

Color grading is the process of improving the appearance of an image for presentation in different environments on different devices. Various attributes of an image such as contrast, color, saturation, detail, black level, and white point may be enhanced whether for motion pictures, videos, or still images. Color grading and color correction are often used synonymously as terms for this process and can include the generation of artistic color effects through creative blending and composting of different images. Color grading is generally now performed in a digital process either in a controlled environment such as a color suite, or in any location where a computer can be used in dim lighting.

The earlier photo-chemical film process, now referred to as color timing, was performed at a photographic laboratory by the use of filters and exposure changes while copying from one film to another.

David Diliberto

David Diliberto (born April 29, 1970) is an American filmmaker.

As a longtime collaborator of Joel and Ethan Coen, Diliberto was a part of several innovations in post-production technologies. He supervised the first Digital Intermediate on a full feature with the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?. The Coens' stylized film noir, The Man Who Wasn't There, provided analog hurdles rather than digital ones when several prints of that black & white film burned in projectors. The special film stock used for the movie had a high silver content and had never used for printing or projection. Trailing the industry abandonment of old-school film editing techniques, David configured Final Cut Pro systems that could emulate the Coens idiosyncratic method of editing in a digital realm. Intolerable Cruelty was the first major studio feature edited on Apple Computer's Final Cut Pro software.

Digital Picture Exchange

Digital Picture Exchange (DPX) is a common file format for digital intermediate and visual effects work and is a SMPTE standard (ST 268-1:2014). The file format is most commonly used to represent the density of each colour channel of a scanned negative film in an uncompressed "logarithmic" image where the gamma of the original camera negative is preserved as taken by a film scanner. For this reason, DPX is the worldwide-chosen format for still frames storage in most digital intermediate post-production facilities and film labs. Other common video formats are supported as well (see below), from video to purely digital ones, making DPX a file format suitable for almost any raster digital imaging applications. DPX provides, in fact, a great deal of flexibility in storing colour information, colour spaces and colour planes for exchange between production facilities. Multiple forms of packing and alignment are possible. The DPX specification allows for a wide variety of metadata to further clarify information stored (and storable) within each file.

The DPX file format was originally derived from the Kodak Cineon open file format (.cin file extension) used for digital images generated by Kodak's original film scanner. The original DPX (version 1.0) specifications are part of SMPTE 268M-1994. The specification was later improved and published by SMPTE as ANSI/SMPTE 268M-2003. Academy Density Exchange (ADX) support for the Academy Color Encoding System are added in the current version of the standard SMPTE ST 268-1:2014. Extensions for high-dynamic-range video and wide color gamut are standardized in SMPTE ST 268-2:2018.

Digital cinematography

Digital cinematography is the process of capturing (recording) a motion picture using digital image sensors rather than through film stock. As digital technology has improved in recent years, this practice has become dominant. Since the mid-2010s, most of the movies across the world are captured as well as distributed digitally.Many vendors have brought products to market, including traditional film camera vendors like Arri and Panavision, as well as new vendors like RED, Blackmagic, Silicon Imaging, Vision Research and companies which have traditionally focused on consumer and broadcast video equipment, like Sony, GoPro, and Panasonic.

As of 2017, professional 4K digital film cameras are approximately equal to 35mm film in their resolution and dynamic range capacity, however, digital film still has a slightly different look to analog film. Some filmmakers still prefer to use analogue picture formats to achieve the desired results.

File sequence

In computing, as well as in non-computing contexts, a file sequence is a well-ordered, (finite) collection of files, usually related to each other in some way.

In computing, file sequences should ideally obey some kind of locality of reference principle, so that not only all the files belonging to the same sequence ought to be locally referenced to each other, but they also obey that as much as is their proximity with respect to the ordering relation. Explicit file sequences are, in fact, sequences whose filenames all end with a numeric or alphanumeric tag in the end (excluding file extension).

The aforementioned locality of reference usually pertains either to the data, the metadata (e.g. their filenames or last-access dates), or the physical proximity within the storage media they reside in. In the latter acception it is better to speak about file contiguity (see below).


Film-out is the process in the computer graphics, video production and filmmaking disciplines of transferring images or animation from videotape or digital files to a traditional film print. "Film-out" is a broad term that encompasses the conversion of frame rates, color correction, as well as the actual printing, also called scanning or recording.

The film-out process is different depending on the regional standard of the master videotape in question – NTSC, PAL, or SECAM – or likewise on the several emerging region-independent formats of high definition video (HD video); thus each type is covered separately, taking into account regional film-out industries, methods and technical considerations.


Jalsa (English: Fun) is a 2008 Telugu action comedy film directed by Trivikram Srinivas and produced by Allu Aravind, under the Geetha Arts banner. The film stars Ileana D'Cruz, Pawan Kalyan and Parvati Melton in pivotal roles and Mahesh Babu as narrator. The soundtrack of the film composed by Devi Sri Prasad, was launched on 29 February 2008. The film was originally scheduled to be released on 27 March 2008, but because of delays in the digital intermediate (DI) process, the film was released on 2 April 2008. The movie was dubbed in Hindi as Yeh Hai Jalsa. Jalsa was released with 400 prints in 800 theaters across 1000 screens worldwide on 2 April 2008. Jalsa collected ₹32 crore (US$4.5 million) (Share) in 100 days. It turned out to be a Hit at box-office.

Motion picture film scanner

A motion picture film scanner is a device used in digital filmmaking to scan original film for storage as high-resolution digital intermediate files.A film scanner scans original film stock: negative or positive print or reversal/IP. Units may scan gauges from 8 mm to 70 mm (8 mm, Super 8, 9.5 mm, 16 mm, Super 16, 35 mm, Super 35, 65 mm and 70 mm) with very high resolution scanning of 2K, 4K, 8K Video Format, or 16K resolutions. (2K is approximately 2048×1080 pixels and 4K is approximately 4096×2160 pixels).Some models of film scanner are intermittent pull-down film scanners which scan each frame individually, locked down in a pin-registered film gate, taking roughly a second per frame. Continuous-scan film scanners, where the film frames are scanned as the film is continuously moved past the imaging pick up device, are typically evolved from earlier telecine mechanisms, and can act as such at lower resolutions.The scanner scans the film frames into a file sequence (using high-end data storage devices), whose single file contains a digital scan of each still frame; the preferred image file format used as output are usually Cineon, DPX or TIFF, because they can store color information as raw data, preserving the optical characteristics of the film stock. These systems take a lot of storage area network (SAN) disk space. The files can be played back one after each other on high-end workstation non-linear editing system (NLE) or a virtual telecine systems. The playback is at the normal rate of 24 frames per second (or original projection frame rate of: 25, 30 or other speeds). Each year hard disks get larger and are able to hold more hours of movies on SAN systems. The challenge is to archive this massive amount of data on to data storage devices.

The scanned footage is edited and composited on work stations then mastered back on film, see film out and digital intermediate. Scanned film frames may also be used in digital film restoration. The film may also be projected directly on a digital projector in the theater. The data film files may be converted to SDTV (NTSC or PAL) video TV systems.

Negative cutting

Negative cutting (also known as negative matching and negative conforming) is the process of cutting motion picture negative to match precisely the final edit as specified by the film editor. Original camera negative (OCN) is cut with scissors and joined using a film splicer and film cement. Negative cutting is part of the post-production process and occurs after editing and prior to striking internegatives and release prints. The process of negative cutting has changed little since the beginning of cinema in the early 20th century. In the early 1980s computer software was first used to aid the cutting process. Kodak introduced barcode on motion picture negative in the mid-1990s. This enabled negative cutters to more easily track shots and identify film sections based on keykode.

Toward the late 1990s and early 2000s negative cutting changed due to the advent of digital cinema technologies such as digital intermediate (DI), digital projection and high-definition television. In some countries, due to the high cost of online suites, negative cutting is still used for commercials by reducing footage. Increasingly feature films are bypassing the negative cutting process altogether and are being scanned directly from the uncut rushes.

The existence of digital intermediates (DI) has created a new demand for negative cutters to extract selected takes which are cut from the rushes and re-spliced into new rolls (in edit order) to reduce the volume of footage for scanning.

Negative pulldown

Negative pulldown is the manner in which an image is exposed on a film stock, described in the number of film perforations spanned by an individual frame. It can also describe the orientation of the image on the negative, whether it is captured horizontally or vertically. Changing the number of exposed perforations allows a cinematographer to change both the aspect ratio of the image and the size of the area on the film stock that the image occupies (which affects image clarity).

The most common negative pulldowns for 35 mm film are 4-perf and 3-perf, the latter of which is usually used in conjunction with Super 35. 2-perf, used in Techniscope in the 1960s, is enjoying a slight resurgence due to the birth of digital intermediate techniques eliminating the need for optical lab work. Vertical pulldown is overwhelmingly the dominant axis of motion in cinematography, although horizontal pulldown is used in IMAX, VistaVision (still in use for some visual effects work), and in 35 mm consumer and professional still cameras.

Prasad Studios

Prasad Studios and Prasad Film Labs are motion picture post production studios in Hyderabad, India, founded by Prasad Group in 1956. The production house has produced over 150 movies in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi.This group is the largest chain of post production facilities in India with a total of 12 delivery units located in all the major film production centers of India such as Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhuvaneswar, Kolkata and has an overseas presence in Singapore, Dubai and United States. It has also won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Processing Lab 9 times over the last 3 decades.

Release print

A release print is a copy of a film that is provided to a movie theater for exhibition.

Stefan Sonnenfeld

Stefan Sonnenfeld is a Digital Intermediate (DI) colorist, co-founder and president of post production house Company 3, and president of Deluxe Content Creation Group, which is a division of Deluxe Entertainment Services Group Inc. He has performed color grading/color correction on many commercials and feature films including the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers franchises.

Super 35

Super 35 (originally known as Superscope 235) is a motion picture film format that uses exactly the same film stock as standard 35 mm film, but puts a larger image frame on that stock by using the negative space normally reserved for the optical analog sound track.


Telecine ( or ) is the process of transferring motion picture film into video and is performed in a color suite. The term is also used to refer to the equipment used in the post-production process.

Telecine enables a motion picture, captured originally on film stock, to be viewed with standard video equipment, such as television sets, video cassette recorders (VCR), DVD, Blu-ray Disc or computers. Initially, this allowed television broadcasters to produce programmes using film, usually 16mm stock, but transmit them in the same format, and quality, as other forms of television production. Furthermore, telecine allows film producers, television producers and film distributors working in the film industry to release their products on video and allows producers to use video production equipment to complete their filmmaking projects. Within the film industry, it is also referred to as a TK, because TC is already used to designate timecode.

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