Digital Pictures acquires Mistika finishing system for James Cameron project

Louise Duffy | 29-07-2012

Australian film and TV post production specialist Digital Pictures has invested in an SGO Mistika and SAN system.

Digital Pictures will use Mistika technology as the centrepiece of its service offering for film, television and advertising projects, bringing with it performance and productivity advantages.

Mistika has been thrown into the deep end in more ways than one, immediately being put to work on James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge documentary film project being post produced at Digital Pictures in Melbourne. The post production team at Digital Pictures face technically challenging stereoscopic imagery, which Mistika will handle with its motion compensated pixel-based stereoscopic toolset.

Deepsea Challenge depicts how James Cameron, Academy award-winning director of Titanic and Avatar, plunged to the deepest known point in the world's oceans, a 2,400km long scar located 11km below the surface of the Pacific Ocean called the Mariana Trench. It took place in a purpose built one-man submersible named Deepsea Challenger. To document the journey, the submersible was equipped with multiple stereoscopic 3D camera systems recording to a variety of digital file formats. Cameron successfully completed the dive on 26 March this year, making history as the first person to reach full ocean depth in a solo-manned vehicle, spending up to three hours on the sea floor and documenting his experience in stereoscopic 3D.

Deepsea Challenger had to protect the pilot from the extreme water pressure at 11km below the surface. The pilot was housed in a chamber measuring only 106cm across internally, so by the time they squeezed in the pilot plus all the navigation and safety systems required, there was scarcely space left for full sized stereo 3D camera rigs. Despite the lack of space, one miniature 3D rig using custom built cameras recorded the pilot’s activities at all times. In addition to this, another set of custom 3D cameras were mounted outside the submersible on a robotic boom arm in their own pressure-proof chamber, and was used to record any strange life-forms and dramatic geology.

Digital Pictures technical director Nic Smith said: “Post producing stereoscopic content captured under such extreme environmental circumstances was always going to present a unique set of challenges to us.

“Having already completed the DI on the 3D feature Sanctum in 2010, also an underwater based project, we had a good idea of what image issues we might be faced with. But no one could have predicted the scale of the technical challenges presented to us on the Deepsea Challenge project. We have already successfully put shots through Mistika that you would never think could make it off the cutting room floor. Mistika is incredible; it has a stereoscopic toolset years ahead of the competition, and without it, the public audience wouldn’t get to experience as much of the incredible journey undertaken by James Cameron and his team.”

The film will feature the intensive technological and scientific efforts behind the dive and will be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel. To find out more about the project, visit