GPUs Help 'Act Of Valor' Filmmakers Capture Navy SEAL Combat

Posted By Dominick Spina on March 02, 2012 12:36 pm | Permalink
Act of Valor - the first movie to use active-duty US Navy SEALs - is one of the most anticipated films of 2012. Its innovative shooting and production approach puts you "in the boots of the SEALs." And GPUs made it all possible.

The Los Angeles Times says the movie, which opens February 24 in nearly 3,000 theaters nationwide, portrays "a level of production that would make blockbuster filmmakers such as Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer drool."

But unlike most Hollywood action films, the goal wasn't to show massive explosions and CG effects. Instead, Bandito Brothers, a video and film production company based in Los Angeles, wanted the film to be as realistic as possible. They wanted viewers to experience SEAL missions as if they were on one.

A Navy SEAL and his head-mounted Canon 5D

To do that, Bandito Brothers rigged small digital cameras onto the helmets of the SEALs, offering a perspective that is instantly recognizable to first-person shooter players in the world of 3D gaming. The cameras, Canon 5D Mark II digital SLRs, are not often used for filmmaking because they use highly compressed video formats, which aren't easy to work with.

That's where the GPU comes in.

With Adobe CS5.5 Premiere Pro and Nvidia Quadro GPUs, Bandito Brothers can import RAW footage directly into Adobe Premiere Pro and instantly see what they have. Knowing whether they "got the shot" can dramatically speed up production. Premiere Pro also enables the editing of RAW footage taken from the Canon 5D, giving them additional options.

Using GPUs to accelerate Premiere Pro gave Bandito Brothers the flexibility to pursue their creative vision. Bandito's CTO Jacob Rosenberg says, "Quadro GPUs allowed us to have an immediate immersive experience, doing things in real time at the highest possible quality." Check out the following video, which includes comments from Rosenberg as well as tantalizing scenes from the movie.
By taking advantage of the GPU acceleration in Adobe Premiere Pro, Bandito artists and editors enjoy a fluid, real-time video editing experience at full resolution, without expensive, custom hardware or additional third-party products.

GPUs were also essential when it came to giving the digitally captured footage the grainy look that Bandito Brothers were after. Dark Energy, an image optimization and conversion/correction software platform by Cinnafilm, provided a solution that utilized both Nvidia Quadro GPUs and Tesla C2075 companion processors to accelerate the scaling to 2K DPXs, and then scene-by-scene, de-noise and regrain the original 5D material.

"With Quadro, we see our work in real time, at the right resolution, without having to go through proxies or temporary files," says Rosenberg. "Nvidia enables us to reduce the number of steps in the editing process and shortens the remaining steps-so the whole postproduction process is more efficient."

Rosenberg adds, "One of the most important components of any system we build is the graphics card. And it's more than a graphics card now, because it has acceleration for all of the tool sets we're using. It's just a simple fact that the graphics processor you're using in your tower-that is your workhorse-is one of the most important decisions you can make about your system. And for us, we very easily turn to Nvidia because it has all the hooks for all the applications we use."

Be sure to see the fruits of Bandito Brothers' and the Navy SEALs labor-check out Act of Valor at a theater near you.

Dominick Spina is Nvidia's senior product manager.