Netflix’s Samurai Gourmet shot in 4K HDR with F55

An off-beat premise

Netflix is not only a hugely successful global content network serving over 190 countries, it’s also driving forward with diversely sourced original programming. One of the most unusual and charming examples of this is Samurai Gourmet, a premium 4K/HDR production from Japan.

The show’s unusual premise originated with a cullinary essay by Japanese author Masayuki Kusumi and soon evolved into a popular manga series. In the TV series, each twenty minute episode typically features retiree Takeshi Kasumi visiting a restaurant and enjoying a different meal, prompting a samurai-themed daydream about how to resolve a low-key dilemma he faces in real life.

The subtlety of the acting and the beauty of each meal is ideal for 4K HDR presentation so we were keen to discover the inside story of this production. Our interview with the production team included Senior Partnership Engineer Haruka Miyagawa from Netflix, Producer Takehiro Kikuchi and Field Engineer Hiroshi Akamatsu from Kyodo Television, Ltd., plus Chief Technical Director Norimasa Ishida from IMAGICA Corp.

Setting the standard with Netflix

“Demand for 4K and HDR content is rising alongside delivery to a panoply of internet connected devices, from 4K TVs and computers to game consoles and mobile devices. Netflix is at the forefront of this change and to ensure it delivers highest quality content it’s developed detailed production guidelines with recommended equipment and workflows.

By early 2017, Netflix had produced no less than 18 HDR dramas worldwide and Samurai Gourmet is the second HDR drama produced in Japan.”

Senior Partnership Engineer Haruka Miyagawa

F55’s excellent mobility and quality

“Kyodo Television were in charge of producing the content and have two camera types recommended by Netflix’s guidelines, one of which is the PMW-F55. The guidelines also require recordings made in 16-bit RAW and the ease with which the F55 is partnered with a RAW recorder made it a natural first choice.

A test shoot confirmed that this was the right decision with the F55 not only delivering highest quality footage but also providing excellent on location mobility.

Despite the fact that none of camera crew or the directors had previous experience with HDR, and the inability of the crew to bring a HDR monitor to filming locations, the production succeeded in delivering the desired quality. Careful research into shooting locations and HDR post-production really paid off.”

Producer Takehiro Kikuchi, Kyodo Television

Capturing a scene with its truest visual expression was only possible with 16-bit RAW... it was so important to convey the finer details, the ‘sizzle’ effect of the various foods, that 16-bit was essential.

Chief Technical Director Norimasa Ishida

F55RAW Workflow

“To briefly explain our workflow, we used F55RAW (16-bit scene linear) as our principal recording format with the PMW-F55 camera and AXS-R5 RAW recorder. We selected F55RAW with future remastering opportunities very much in mind. What is impossible technically right now could be possible five years down the road due to advances in workflows and tools. We think it’s important to keep data in its highest achievable quality to accommodate such possibilities. In addition, for Netflix original content, we are required to archive master data as well as the completed production.

Off-line editing was done in Adobe Premiere Pro with XML used to output an EDL which was conformed using DaVinci Resolve. Final colour grading relied upon Sony’s 30-inch BVM-X300 4K OLED master monitor. As for the actual grading environment, we set the colour space at DCI P3 and EOTF at SMPTE ST.2084 as specified in Netflix’s guidelines. We used the same monitor in the same room with the same luminance throughout the process.

The completed content was uploaded and delivered via Netflix’s portal site in an HDR IMF package combined with Dolby Vision-compatible metadata. In 2017, there were just two companies capable of handling Dolby Vision in Japan and IMAGICA was one of them.”

Field Engineer Hiroshi Akamatsu, Kyodo Television

Higher bit depth is visible even in SDR

“For delivery in HDR, we expected 16-bit RAW to offer significant benefits. When shooting a lot of scenes, there were some that 10-bit could cover, however capturing a scene with its truest visual expression was only possible with 16-bit RAW. In our show it was so important to convey the finer details, the ‘sizzle’ effect of the various foods, that 16-bit was essential. The number of colours and tones that can only be achieved with 16-bit data made it possible to express the subtle differences in black and colours in the grading process, allowing graders a broader range of expression. More surprisingly, perhaps, we found that the excellent colour expression could also be felt when video was down converted into SDR. Just like when you down-convert a 4K video into HD, the beauty of higher bit depth videos were recognizable even in SDR.

Although 4K/16bit data can pose some issues due to its size, we found it easier to work with than DPX file format. Starting with acquisition in the F55 through to subsequent post-production worked well for us on this show. That said, we also plan to test the 16-bit capable X-OCN recording format.”

Chief Technical Director Norimasa Ishida from IMAGICA Corp