Category Archives: Color Grading

Behind the Title: Encore (and Ryan Murphy) Colorist Kevin Kirwan

NAME: Kevin Kirwan

COMPANY: Encore Hollywood

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Encore specializes in television post production. I’ve been at Encore forever — they have nice people and it’s a nice working environment.

JOB TITLE: Colorist

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Not a lot of surprises here. As a final colorist for television you have to balance the wishes of the producers against those of the director of photography and various post supervisors.

Feud

I think in features you have a great deal more input from directors — that really doesn’t exist in my world. The people skills that are required to keep everyone feeling like their voices are being heard and their concerns addressed, might be one of the overlooked nuances of the job.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
I’m currently working on the DaVinci Resolve. I started coloring just about 30 years ago, so I cut my teeth on the old analog Amigo and Dubner color correction systems. I’ve spent the bulk of my career on DaVinci systems since.

That has to be one of the more interesting aspects of having been at this as long as I have, the changes in technology are stunning. I used to master to 1-inch tape for god’s sake. When I came up, the old quads were just being phased out. Those things were massive. Everything that I did back in the day was mastered from film. Tape to tape came along much later and then, of course, digital.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Not really. I do get invited to the set occasionally to offer advice on situations that might become an issue later on in the process, but that’s become increasingly rare. I just do my thing in the color correction suite and schmooze with the clients.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Interacting with the creatives. I’m a people person. I have a creative personality, and that’s a nice mix when you’re dealing with like-minded producers and DPs. I have had great client relationships over the past 15 years or so; it’s always enjoyable to have that familiarity and the loyalty that comes along with having worked on multiple projects with a client.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
As much as I enjoy collaboration there is a downside to that as well. When you get too many voices in the room, and this is even more pronounced when they’re not in the room together, then occasionally you see a project suffer from having too many cooks in the kitchen, too many disparate visions fighting one another. That can end badly, and the overall look of the show can take a hit.

It’s difficult to say no to a client, but once in a while I am faced with pointing out the negative effects that a producer, or a DP, may be imposing on a show by insisting on something that might not be serving the best interests of the project.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’m also a professional helicopter pilot. I’ve been flying for as long as I’ve been coloring. I owned and operated a helicopter tour and charter business here in LA for years, and sold it this past July. I’m incredibly passionate about aviation, so for sure if I ever stop coloring, I’ll be up flying something the next day.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
I stumbled into it. I came to LA to be a rock star — this is me rolling my eyes at my youthful naiveté — but it was a lot of fun. I wasn’t much of a musician to be honest, but I was enthusiastic!

I did however land a job driving and working in the mailroom at a tiny little film lab… this was when I was in my early 20s. They had one color correction bay and two guys operating the video department. I befriended them and they took me under their collective wing. I took that opportunity and made the most of it.

YOU’RE A LONGTIME COLLABORATOR OF RYAN MURPHY. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT HISTORY?
I used to do all of Mike Robin’s stuff, Popular, Nip/Tuck, The Closer, etc. Ryan worked with Mike on a few things, and I started out with him on Popular, and then Nip/Tuck while he and Mike were still in business together. I became very close with Alexis Martin-Woodall, who was at that time just cutting her teeth as a post producer. She’s now exec producing all of the shows along with Ryan. She is by far one of the nicest people that you’ll ever meet, and easily the best client that I’ve had in my career. Alexis is a total rock star. She and I are creatively simpatico, she trusts me, and I know what she and Ryan are looking for. It’s a nice marriage.

HOW HAS THE VISUAL STYLE EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS AS YOU AND RYAN HAVE WORKED TOGETHER?
It’s a show-by-show thing. Shows like Glee, or something like the new series that we just started, 911, are pretty straightforward, nothing stylized, good contrast, nice poppy colors, don’t go too dark, feature the performance, make sure you can see into the actors’ expressions… that sort of thing.

American Horror Story is a different creature each season. These anthology series are fun because even though it’s technically the same show each time, the seasons all have their own theme. The look is much more tailored to fit the individual story. Season 2, which was called Asylum, was my favorite in terms of look. Very desaturated, dark and moody. It was a grungy, forbidding vibe that I really had fun with.

We just finished the second season of American Crime. This one was The Assassination of Gianni Versace. It’s very warm and colorful, especially when we were in Miami, but as we descended into Andrew Cunanan’s world it got a bit dirty, and we got to play a bit.

The first season of American Crime, The People Vs. OJ Simpson, was pretty gritty. It had a really tight look and a nice period feel.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT AND UPCOMING PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The Ryan Murphy camp keeps me busy. I mentioned 911 earlier. That’s a brand-new series. We get to watch the shows, of course, and it’s nice when you enjoy what you work on. I like 911.

American Horror Story

I’m looking forward to the next series of Feud, another anthology. Season 1 was the Bette Davis and Joan Crawford story with Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. I believe the next season is the Charles and Diana saga. That should be pretty opulent to look at.

At some point in the near future we’ll start a series based on Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Sarah Paulson. Looking forward to that one.

WHAT IS THE SHOW THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
It’s probably American Horror Story. As I said earlier the changes in theme for each season make it new and different each time, and I really enjoy the show and am very proud of the work that we do on it.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
Music. I’m a huge music fan; anything from John Denver to Jay-Z. Love the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Snoop and Slim Shady. I grew up listening to vinyl and got back into that recently.

My daughter Bella inspires me with her art, she’s amazing, she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with some day. Hold it, I take that back, she already is a force to be reckoned with. My house is pretty much baby girl’s own personal art studio at this point.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My phone. I’m an old man, there were no cell phones for the first half of my life pretty much, and I still remember when pagers were a big deal. It’s insane how dependent we’ve become on our phones, but I can’t live without mine.

My computer, of course.

GPS is huge for me when I fly. Again, I’m dating myself but I learned to fly when you kept a paper chart on your lap and kept dialing up nearby VORs (you older pilots will know what I’m talking about), in order to navigate. GPS was an absolute game changer.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Don’t do social media. Don’t understand the need to share every detail of one’s life like that. Not my thing. (I’m a crotchety old man at this point. Hey, you kids get off my lawn!)

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Fly airplanes and helicopters and hang out with my daughter. We go to live theater and concerts quite a bit. My dogs de-stress me. I take them everywhere.

Neil Anderson upped to colorist at Lucky Post, talks inspiration

Neil Anderson has been promoted to colorist at Dallas’ Lucky Post after joining the company in 2013 right out of film school. Anderson’s projects include national brands such as Canada Dry, Costa, TGI Friday’s, The Salvation Army and YETI. His latest feature work was featured at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in Augustine Frizzell’s comedy, Never Goin’ Back. He works on Blackmagic Resolve 14.

Anderson’s interest in cameras and color science inspired his career as a colorist, but he says his inspiration changes all the time, depending on where his mind is at. “Sometimes I’ll see a commercial on TV and think, ‘Wow. There was great care put into that piece, I wonder how they did that?’ Then I’ll go back and rewatch it over and over again trying to pick it apart and see what I can glean. Or if I’m developing a specific workflow/look and I’m struggling to get exactly what I’m after, I’ll find interesting frames from films that pop into my head for guidance.”

In terms of colorists who inspire him, Anderson points to Peter Doyle (who most recently colored Darkest Hour). “He’s incredibly technical, and he exploits his thorough knowledge of color science to guide films through a color pipeline in an almost algorithmic fashion. I’m at awe by his expertise and, in a way, use him as a model of how I want to approach projects.

“I also admire Steven Scott for maybe the opposite reason. While technical like Peter, to me he approaches projects with a painter’s eye first. I’ve heard him say the best inspiration is to simply pay attention to the world around us. His work and approach remind me to branch out artistically just as much as I try technically.”

When he thinks about cinematographers, Roger Deakins comes to mind. “He’s a DP that really captures almost the entire look of the film in-camera, and the color grading is supposedly very simple and minor in the end. This is because he and his colorist work hand in hand before the shoot, developing a look they’ll see and use on set,” explains Anderson. “This workflow is a critical tool for modern colorists, and Roger is a reminder of the importance of having a good relationship with your DP.”

Tim Nagle, a Lucky Post finishing artist, describes Anderson as a “quiet and ardent observer of life’s design, from light and shadow on a city street to bold color blocks in a Wong Kar-wai film. His attention to detail and process are implacable.”

“Color is like magic to most people; the process feels like happenstance and you don’t realize how it’s supporting the narrative until it’s not,” concludes Anderson. “I love the challenge of each project and mining through color theory to achieve the best results for our clients.”

Cinna 1.2

Review: Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 14 for editing

By Brady Betzel

Resolve 14 has really stepped up Blackmagic’s NLE game with many great new updates over the past few months. While I typically refer to Resolve as a high-end color correction and finishing tools, this review will focus on the Editing tab.

Over the last two years, Resolve has grown from a high-end color correction and finishing app to include a fully-capable nonlinear editor, media organizer and audio editing tool. Fairlight is not currently at the same level as Avid Pro Tools, but it is still capable, and with a price of free or at most $299 you can’t lose. For this review, I am using the $299 version, which has a few perks — higher than UHD resolutions; higher than 60 frames per second timelines; the all-important spatial and/or temporal noise reduction; many plugins like the new face tracker; multi-user collaboration; and much more. The free version will work with resolutions up to UHD at up to 60fps and still gives you access to all of the powerful base tools like Fairlight and the mighty color correction tool set.

Disclaimer: While I really will try and focus on the Editing tab, I can’t make any promises I won’t wander.

Digging In
My favorite updates to Resolve 14’s Editing tab revolve around collaboration and conforming functions, but I even appreciate some smaller updates like responsiveness while trimming and video scopes on the edit page. And don’t forget the audio waveforms being visible on the source monitor!

With these new additions, among others, I really do think that Resolve is also becoming a workable nonlinear editor much like industry standards such as Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro X. You can work from ingest to output all within one app. When connected to a collaborative project there is now bin-locking, sharing bins and even a chat window.

Multicam works as expected with up to 16 cameras in one split view. I couldn’t figure out how to watch all of the angles in the source monitor while playing down the sequence in the record monitor, so I did a live switch (something I love to do in Media Composer). I also couldn’t figure out how to adjust the multi-cam after it had been created, because say, for instance, audio was one frame out of sync or I needed to add another angle later on. But the multicam worked and did its job by allowing me to sync by in point, out point, timecode, sound or marker. In addition, you can make the multicam a different frame rate than your timeline, which is handy.

[Editor’s Note: Blackmagic says: “There are a few ways to do that. You can right click on the multicam clip and select ‘open in timeline.’ Or you can pause over any segment of a multicam clip, click on a different angle and swap out the shots. Most importantly, you get into multicam edit mode by clicking on the drop down menu on the lower left hand corner of the source viewer and selecting Multicam mode.”]

Another addition is the Position Lock located in the middle right, above the timeline. The Position Lock keeps all of your clips locked in time in your timeline. What is really interesting about this is that it still allows you to trim and apply other effects to clips while locking the position of your clips in place. This is extremely handy when doing conforms and online passes of effects when you don’t want timing and position of clips to change. It’s a great safety net. There are some more fancy additions like re-time curves directly editable in the timeline. But what I would really love is a comprehensive overhaul of the Title Tool that would allow for direct manipulation of the text on top of the video. It would be nice to have a shortcut to use the title as a matte for other footage for some quick and fancy titling effects, but maybe that is what Fusion is for? The title tool works fine and will now give you nice crisp text even when blown up. The bezier curves really come in handy here to make animations ease in and out nicely.

If you start and finish within Resolve 14, your experience will most likely be pretty smooth. For anyone coming from another NLE — like Media Composer or Premiere — there are a few things you will have to get used to, but overall it feels like the interface designers of Resolve 14 kept the interface familiar for those “older” editors, yet also packed it with interesting features to keep the “YouTube” editors’ interest piqued. As someone who’s partial to Media Composer, I really like that you can choose between frame view in the timeline and clips-only view, leaving out thumbnails and waveform views in the timeline.

I noticed a little bit of a lag when editing with the thumbnail frames turned on. I also saw recently that Dave Dugdale on YouTube found an interesting solution to the possible bug. Essentially, one of the thumbnail views of the timeline was a little slower at re-drawing when zooming into a close view in a sequence Regardless, I like to work without thumbnails, and that view seemed to work fluidly for me.

After working for about 12 minutes I realized I hadn’t saved my work and Resolve didn’t auto-saved. This is when I remembered hearing about the new feature “Live Save.” It’s a little tricky to find, but the Live Save feature lives under the DaVinci Resolve Menu > User > Auto Save and is off by default — I really think this should be changed. Turn this fuction on and your Resolve project will continually save, which in turn saves you from unnecessary conniptions when your project crashes and you try to find the spot that was last saved.

Coming from another NLE, the hardest thing for me to get used to in a new app was the keyboard layouts and shortcuts. Typically, trimming works similar to other apps and overwriting; ripple edits, dissolves and other edit functions don’t change, but the placement of their shortcuts does. In Resolve 14, you can access the keyboard shortcut commands in the same spot as the Live Save, but under the Keyboard Mapping menu under User. From here you can get grounded quickly by choosing a preset that is similar to your NLE of choice — Premiere, FCP X, Media Composer — or Resolve’s default keyboard layout, which isn’t terrible. If this could be updated to how apps like Premiere and/or Avid have their keyboard layouts designed, it would be a lot easier to navigate. Meaning there is usually a physical representation of a keyboard that allows you to drag your shortcuts to and from it realtime.

Right now, Resolve’s keyboard mapper is text-based and a little cumbersome. Overall, Resolve’s keyboard shortcuts (when in the editing tab) are pretty standard, but it would do you well to read and go through basic moves like trimming, trimming the heads and tails of clips or even just trimming by plus or minus and the total frames you want to trim.

Something else I discovered when trimming was when you go into actual “trim mode,” it isn’t like other NLEs where you can immediately start trimming. I had to click on the trim point with my mouse or pen, then I could use keyboard shortcuts to trim. This is possibly a bug, but what I would really love to happen is when you enter “trim mode,” you would see trimming icons at the A and B sides of the nearest clips on the selected tracks. This would allow you to immediately trim using keyboard shortcuts without any mouse clicks. In my mind, the more mouse clicks I have to use to accomplish a task means time wasted. This leads to having less time to spend on “important” stuff like story, audio, color, etc. When time equals money, every mouse click means money out of my pocket. [Note from Blackmagic: “In our trim tools you can also enter trim mode by hitting T on the keyboard. We did not put in specific trim tool icons on purpose because we have an all-in-one content sensitive trim tool that changes based on where you place the cursor. And if you prefer trimming with realtime playback, hit W for dynamic trim mode, and then click on the cut you want to trim with before hitting JKL to play the trim.”]

I have always treated Resolve as another app in my post workflow — I wasn’t able to use it all the way from start to finish. So in homage to the old way of working, a.k.a. “a round trip workflow,” I wanted to send a Media Composer sequence to Resolve by way of a linked AAF, then conform the media clips and work from there. I had a few objectives, but the main one was to make sure my clips and titles came over. Next was to see if any third-party effects would translate into Resolve from Media Composer and, finally, I wanted to conform an “updated” AAF to the original sequence using Resolve’s new “Compare with Current Timeline” command.

This was a standard 1080p, 23.98 sequence (transcoded to one mezzanine DNx175x codec with 12 frame handles) with plenty of slates, titles, clips, speed ramps, Boris Continuum Complete and Sapphire Effect. Right off the bat all of the clip-based media came over fine and in its correct time and place in the timeline. Unfortunately, the titles did not come over and were offline — none of them were recognized as titles so they couldn’t be edited. Dissolves came over correctly, however none of the third-party BCC or Sapphire effects came across. I didn’t really expect the third-party effects to come over, but at some point, in order to be a proper conforming application, Resolve will need to figure out a way to translate those when sending sequences from an NLE to Resolve. This is more of a grand wish, but in order to be a force in the all-in-one app for the post finishing circle, this is a puzzle that will need to be solved.

Otherwise, for those who want to use alternative nonlinear editing systems, they will have to continue using their NLE as the editor, Resolve as a color-only solution, and the NLE as their finisher. And from what I can tell Blackmagic wants Resolve to be your last stop in the post pipeline. Obviously, if you start your edit in Resolve and use third-party OpenFX (OFX) like BCC or Sapphire, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Last on my list was to test the new Compare with Current Timeline command. In order for this option to pop up when you right click, you must be in the Media tab with the sequence you want to compare to the one loaded. You then need to find the sequence you want to compare from, right click on it and click Compare with Current Timeline. Once you click the sequences you want to compare, a new window will pop up with the option to view the Diff Index. The Diff Index is a text-based list of each new edit next to the timeline that visually compares your edits between the two sequences. This visual representation of the edits between the sequences is where you will apply those changes. There are marks identifying what has changed, and if you want to apply those changes you must right click and hit Apply Changes. My suggestion is to duplicate your sequence before you apply changes (actually you should be constantly duplicating your sequence as a backup as a general rule). The Compare with Current Timeline function is pretty incredible. I tested it using an AAF I had created in Media Composer and compared it against an AAF made from the same sequence but with some “creative” changes and trimmed clips — essentially a locked sequence that suddenly became unlocked while in Online/Color and needed to reflect the latest changes from the offline edit.

I wasn’t able to test Resolve 14 in a shared-project environment, so I couldn’t test a simultaneous update coming from another editor. But this can come in really handy for anyone who has to describe any changes made to a particular sequence or for that pesky online editor that needs to conform a new edit while not losing all their work.

I can’t wait to see the potential of this update, especially if we can get Resolve to recognize third-party effects from other NLEs. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not oblivious to the fact that asking Resolve engineers to figure out how to recognize third-party effects in an AAF workflow is a pie-in-the-sky scenario. If it was easy it probably would have already been done. But it is a vital feature if Blackmagic wants Resolve to be looked at like a Flame or Media Composer but with a high-end coloring solution and audio finishing solution. While I’m at it, I can’t help but think that Resolve may eventually include Fusion as another tab maybe as a paid add-on, which would help to close that circle to being an all-in-one post production solution.

Summing Up
In the end, Resolve 14 has all the makings of becoming someone’s choice as a sole post workflow solution. Blackmagic has really stepped up to the plate and made a workable and fully functional NLE. And, oh yeah not to mention it is one of the top color correction tools being used in the world.

I did this review of the editing tab using Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 14.2. Find the latest version here. And check out our other Resolve review — this one from a color and finishing perspective.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.


Jogger moves CD Andy Brown from London to LA

Creative director Andy Brown has moved from Jogger’s London office to its Los Angeles studio. Brown led the development of boutique VFX house Jogger London, including credits for the ADOT PSA Homeless Lights via Ogilvy & Mather, as well as projects for Adidas, Cadbury, Valentino, Glenmorangie, Northwestern Mutual, La-Z-Boy and more. He’s also been involved in post and VFX for short films such as Foot in Mouth, Containment and Daisy as well as movie title sequences (via The Morrison Studio), including Jupiter Ascending, Collide, The Ones Below and Ronaldo.

Brown got his start in the industry at MPC, where he worked for six years, eventually assuming the role of digital online editor. He then went on to work in senior VFX roles at some of London’s post houses, before assuming head of VFX at One Post. Following One Post’s merger with Rushes, Brown founded his own company Four Walls, establishing the company’s reputation for creative visual effects and finishing.

Brown oversaw Four Walls’ merger with LA’s Jogger Studios in 2016. Andy has since helped form interconnections with Jogger’s teams in London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, with high-end VFX, motion graphics and color grading carried out on projects globally.

VFX house Jogger is a sister company of editing house Cut + Run.


Peter Doyle on coloring Churchill’s England for Darkest Hour

By Daniel Restuccio

Technicolor supervising digital colorist Peter Doyle is pretty close to being a legend in the movie industry. He’s color graded 12 of the 100 top box office movies, including Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, six Harry Potter films, Aleksander Sokurov’s Venice Golden Lion-winning Faust, Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and most recently the Golden Globe-nominated Darkest Hour.

Grading Focus Features’ Darkest Hour — which focuses on Winston Churchill’s early days as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during WWII — represents a reunion for Doyle. He previously worked with director Joe Wright (Pan) and director of photography Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis). (Darkest Hour picked up a variety of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Cinematography for Delbonnel.)

Peter Doyle

The vibe on Darkest Hour, according to Doyle, was very collaborative and inspiring. “Joe is an intensely visual director and has an extraordinary aesthetic… visually, he’s very considerate and very aware. It was just great to throw out ideas, share them and work to find what would be visually appropriate with Bruno in terms of his design of light, and what this world should look like.”

All the time, says Doyle, they worked to creatively honor Joe’s overall vision of where the film should be from both the narrative and the visual viewpoint.

The creative team, he continues, was focused on what they hoped to achieve in terms of “the emotional experience with the visuals,” what did they want this movie to look like and, technically, how could they get the feeling of that imagery onto the screen?

Research and Style Guide
They set about to build a philosophy of what the on-screen vision of the film would be. That turned into a “style guide” manifesto of actually how to get that on screen. They knew it was the 1940s during World War II, so logically they examined newsreels and the cameras and lenses that were used at the time. One of the things that came out of the discussions with Joe and Bruno was the choice of the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. “It’s quite an ensemble cast and the 2.35:1 would let you spread the cast across the screen, but wide 1.85:1 felt most appropriate for that.”

Doyle also did some research at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s very large photographic collection and dug into his own collection of photographic prints made with alternate color processes. Sepia and black and white got ruled out. They investigated the color films of the time and settled in on the color work of Edward Steichen.

Delbonnel chose Arri Alexa SXT cameras and Cooke S4s and Angenieux zoom lenses. They mastered in ArriRaw 3.2K. Technicolor has technology that allowed Doyle to build a “broad stroke” color-model-based emulation of what the color processes were like in the ’40s and apply that to the Alexa. “The idea,” explains Doyle, “was to take the image from the Alexa camera and mold it into an approximation of what the color film stocks would have looked like at the time. Then, having got into that world, tweak it slightly, because that’s quite a strong look,” and they still needed it to be “sensitive to the skin tones of the actors.”

Color Palette and Fabrics
There was an “overall arc” to this moment in history, says Doyle. The film’s setting was London during WWII, and outside it was hot and sunny. Inside, all lights were dimmed filaments, and that created a scenario where visually they would have extremely high-contrast images. All the colors were natural-based dyes, he explains, and the fabrics were various kind of wools and silks. “The walls and the actual environment that everyone would have been in would be a little run down. There would have been quite a patina and texture on the walls, so a lot of dirt and dust. These were kind of the key points that they gave me in order to work something out.”

Doyle’s A-ha Moment
“I took some hero shots of Kristin Scott Thomas (Clementine Churchill) and Gary Oldman (Winston Churchill), along with a few of the other actors, from Bruno’s rushes,” explains Doyle, adding that those shots became his reference.

From those images he devised different LUTs (Look Up Tables) that reflected different kinds of color manipulation processes of the time. It also meant that during principal photography they could keep referencing how the skin tones were working. There are a lot of close-ups and medium close-ups in Darkest Hour that gave easy access to the performance, but it also required them to be very aware of the impact of lighting on prosthetics and makeup.

Doyle photographed test charts on both 120mm reversal film of Ektachrome he had sitting in his freezer from the late ’70s and the Alexa. “The ‘a-ha moment’ was when we ran a test image through both. It was just staggering how different the imagery really looked. It gave us a good visual reference of the differences between film and digital, but more accurately the difference between reversal film and digital. It allowed us to zero in on the reactions of the two imaging methods and build the show LUTs and emulation of the Steichen look.”

One Word
When Doyle worked on Llewelyn Davis, Delbonnel and the Coen brothers defined the look of the film with one word: “sad.” For Darkest Hour, the one word used was “contrast,” but as a multi-level definition not just in the context of lights and darks in the image. “It just seemed to be echoed across all the various facets of this film,” says Doyle. “Certainly, Darkest Hour is a story of contrasting opinions. In terms of story and moments, there are soldiers at war in trenches, whilst there are politicians drinking champagne — certainly contrast there. Contrast in terms of the environment with the extreme intense hot summer outside and the darkness and general dullness on the inside.”

A good example, he says, is “the Parliament House speech that’s being delivered with amazing shafts of light that lit up the environment.”

The DP’s Signature
Doyle feels that digital cinematography tends to “remove the signature” of the director of photography, and that it’s his job to put it back. “In those halcyon days of film negative, there were quite a lot of processes that a DP would use in the lab that would become part of the image. A classic example, he says, is Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, which was shot mostly during sunrise and sunset by Nestor Almendros, and “the extraordinary lightness of the image. Or Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, which was shot by John Alcott with scenes lit entirely by candles “that have a real softness.” The looks of those movies are a combination of the cinematographer’s lighting and work with the lab.

“A digital camera is an amazing recording device. It will faithfully reproduce what it records on set,” says Doyle. “What I’ve done with Bruno in the testing stage is bring back the various processes that you would possibly do in the lab, or at least the concept of what you would do in the laboratory. We’re really bending and twisting the image. Everyone sees the film the way that the DP intends, and then everyone’s relationship with that film is via this grade.”

This is why it’s so important to Doyle to have input from day one rushes through to the end. He’s making sure the DP’s “signature” is consistent to final grade. On Darkest Hour they tested, built and agreed on a look for the film for rushes. Colorist Mel Kangleon worked with Delbonnel on a daily basis to make sure all the exposures were correct from a technical viewpoint. Also, aesthetically to make sure the grade and look were not being lost.

“The grades that we were doing were what was intended by Bruno, and we made sure the actual imagery on the screen was how he wanted it to be,” explains Doyle. “We were making sure that the signature was being carried through.”

Darkest Hour and HDR
On Darkest Hour, Doyle built the DCI grade for the Xenon projector, 14 foot-lambert, as the master color corrected deliverable. “Then we took what was pretty much the LAD gray-card value of that DCI grade. So a very classic 18% gray that was translated across to the 48-, the 108-, the 1,000- and the 4,000-nit grade. We essentially parked the LAD gray (18% gray) at what we just felt was an appropriate brightness. There is not necessarily a lot of color science to that, other than saying, ‘this feels about right.’ That’s (also) very dependent on the ambient light levels.”

The DCI projector, notes Doyle, doesn’t really have “completely solid blacks; they’re just a little gray.” Doyle wished that the Xenon could’ve been brighter, but that is what the theatrical distribution chain is at the moment, he says.

When they did the HDR (High Dynamic Range) version, which Doyle has calls as a “new language” of color correction, they took the opportunity to add extra contrast and dial down the blacks to true black. “I was able to get some more detail in the lower shadows, but then have absolutely solid blacks —  likewise on the top end. We opened up the highlights to be even more visceral in their brightness. Joe Wright says he fell in love with the Dolby Vision.”

If you’re sitting in a Dolby Vision Cinema, says Doyle, you’re sitting in a black box. “Therefore, you don’t necessarily need to have the image as bright as a Rec 709 grade or LAD gray, which is typically for a lounge room where there are some lights on. There is a definite ratio between the presumed ambient light level of a room and where they park that LAD,” explains Doyle.

Knowing where they want the overall brightness of the film to be, they translate the tone curve to maintain exactly what they did in the DCI grade. Then perceptually it appears the same in the various mediums. Next they custom enhance each grade for the different display formats. “I don’t really necessarily call it a trim pass; it’s really adding a flare pass,” elaborates Doyle. “A DCI projector has quite a lot of flare, which means it’s quite organic and reactive to the image. If you project something on a laser, it doesn’t necessarily have anywhere near that amount of flair, and that can be a bit of a shock. Suddenly, your highlights are looking incredibly harsh. We went through and really just made sure that the smoothness of the image was maintained and emulated on the other various mediums.”

Doyle also notes that Darkest Hour benefited from the results of his efforts working with Technicolor color scientists Josh Pines and Chris Kutchka, working on new color modeling tools and being able “to build 3D LUTs that you can edit and that are cleaner. That can work in a little more containable way.”

Advice and Awards
In the bright new world of color correction, what questions would Doyle suggest asking directors? “What is their intent emotionally with the film? How do they want to reinforce that with color? Is it to be approached in a very literal way, or should we think about coming up with some kind of color arc that might be maybe counter intuitive? This will give you a feel for the world that the director has been thinking of, and then see if there’s a space to come at it from a slightly unexpected way.”

I asked Doyle if we have reached the point where awards committees should start thinking about an Academy Award category for color grading.

Knowing what an intensely collaborative process color grading is, Doyle responded that it would be quite challenging. “The pragmatist in me says it could be tricky to break it down in terms of the responsibilities. It depends on the relationship between the colorist, the DP and the director. It really does change with the personalities and the crew. That relationship could make the breakdown a little tricky just to work out whose idea was it to actually make it, for example, blue.”

Because this interview was conducted in December, I asked Doyle, what he would ask Santa to bring him for Christmas. His response? “I really think the new frontier is gamut mapping and gamut editing — that world of fitting one color space into another. I think being able to edit those color spaces with various color models that are visually more appropriate is pretty much the new frontier.”


Daniel Restuccio is a producer and teacher based in Southern California.


Fotokem posts Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Burbank-based post house FotoKem provided creative and technical services for the Disney/Lucasfilm movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The facility built advanced solutions that supported the creative team from production to dailies to color grade. Services included a customized workflow for dailies, editorial and VFX support, conform and a color pipeline that incorporated all camera formats (film and file-based).

The long-established post house worked directly with director Rian Johnson; DP Steve Yedlin, ASC; producer Ram Bergman; Lucasfilm head of post Pippa Anderson; and Lucasfilm director of post Mike Blanchard.

FotoKem was brought on prior to the beginning of principal photography and designed an intricate workflow tailored to accommodate the goals of production. A remote post facility was assembled near-set in London where film technician Simone Appleby operated two real-time Scanity film scanners, digitizing up to 15,000 feet a day of 35mm footage at full-aperture 4K resolution. Supported by a highly secure network, FotoKem NextLab systems ingested the digitized film and file-based camera footage, providing “scan once instant-access” to everything, and creating a singular workflow for every unit’s footage. By the end of production over one petabyte of data was managed by NextLab. This allowed the filmmakers, visual effects teams, editors and studio access to securely and easily share large volumes of assets for any part of the workflow.

“I worked with FotoKem previously and knew their capabilities. This project clearly required a high level of support to handle global locations with multiple units and production partners,” says Bergman. “We had a lot of requirements at this scale to create a consistent workflow for all the teams using the footage, from production viewing dailies to the specific editorial deliverables, visual effects plates, marketing and finishing, with no delays or security concerns.”

Before shooting began, Yedlin worked with FotoKem’s film and digital lab to create specialized scanner profiles and custom Look Up Tables (LUTs). FotoKem implemented the algorithms devised by Yedlin into their NextLab software to obtain a seamless match between digital footage and film scans. Yedlin also received full-resolution stills, which served as a communication funnel for color and quality control checks. This color workflow was devised in collaboration with FotoKem color scientist Joseph Slomka, and executed by NextLab software developer Eric Cameron and dailies colorist Jon Rocke, who were on site throughout the entire production.

“As cinematographers, we work hard to create looks, and FotoKem made it possible for me to take control of each step in the process and know exactly what was happening,” says Yedlin. The color science support I received made true image control a realized concept.”

Calibrated 4K monitoring via the Sony X300 and the high availability SAN on site, managed by NextLAB, enabled a real time workflow for dailies. Visual effects and editorial teams, via high density NAS, were allowed instant access to full fidelity footage during and after production for all VFX pulls and conform pulls. The NAS acted as a back-up for all source content, and was live throughout production. Through the system’s interface, they could procure footage, pull shots as needed, and maintain exact color and metadata integration between any step.

For the color grade, FotoKem colorist Walter Volpatto used Blackmagic Resolve to fine-tune raw images, as well as those from ILM, with Johnson and Yedlin using the color and imaging pipeline established from day one. FotoKem also set up remote grading suites at Skywalker Sound and Disney so the teams could work during the sound mix, and later while grading for HDR and other specialty theatrical deliverables. They used a Barco 4K projector for final finishing.

“The film emulation LUT that Steve (Yedlin) created carried nuances he wanted in the final image and he was mindful of this while shooting, lighting both the film and digital scenes so that minimal manipulation was required in the color grade,” Volpatto explains. “Steve’s mastery of lighting for both formats, as well as his extensive understanding of color science, helped to make the blended footage look more cohesive.”

Volpatto also oversaw the HDR pass and IMAX versions. Ultimately, multiple deliverables were created by FotoKem including standard DCP, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, 3D (in standard, stereo Dolby and 2D Dolby HDR) and home video formats. FotoKem worked with IMAX to align the color science pipeline with their Xenon and laser DCPs and 15-perf 70mm prints as well.

“It’s not every day that we would ship scanners to remote locations and integrate a real-time post environment that would rival many permanent installations,” concludes Mike Brodersen, FotoKem’s chief strategy officer.


Behind the Title: Frame of Reference CEO/Chief Creative Twain Richardson

NAME: Twain Richardson

COMPANY: Kingston, Jamaica-based Frame of Reference (@forpostprod)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Frame of Reference is a boutique post production company specializing in TV commercials, digital content, music videos and films.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
CEO and chief creative, but also head cook and bottle washer. At the moment we are a small team, so my roles overlap.

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Working on some projects. I’ll jump in and help the team edit or do some color. I’m also making sure clients and employees are happy.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
That it’s fun, or I find it fun. It makes life interesting.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED OVER THE YEARS ABOUT RUNNING A BUSINESS?
It’s hard, very hard. There are always new and improved challenges that keep you up at night. Also, you have to be reliable, and being reliable means that you meet deadlines or answer the phone when a client calls.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE?
We use Adobe Premiere for editing and Blackmagic Resolve for color work.

A LOT OF IT MUST BE ABOUT TRYING TO KEEP EMPLOYEES AND CLIENTS HAPPY. HOW DO YOU BALANCE THAT?
I find that one of the most impactful rules is to remember what it felt like to be an employee, and to always listen to your staff concerns. I think I am blessed with the perfect team so keeping employees happy is not too hard at Frame of Reference. Once employees are happy, then we can make and maintain the happiness of our clients.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
A happy client.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I don’t have a least favorite. There are days that I don’t like, of course, but I know that’s a part of running a business so I push on through.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I’m on Twitter and Instagram, I like Twitter for the conversations that you can engage in. The #postchat is a great hashtag to follow and a way to meet other post professionals.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
The moment I wake up. There is no greater feeling than opening your eyes, taking your first deep breath of the day and realizing that you’re alive.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I relax. This could mean reading a book, and fortunately we are located in Jamaica where the beach is a stone’s throw away.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Growing up I wanted to be a pilot or a civil engineer, but I can’t picture myself doing something else. I love post production and running a business.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We recently did a TV commercial for the beer company Red Stripe, and a music video for international artist Tres, titled Looking for Love.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My MacBook Pro, my phone and my mechanical watch.


Therapy posts Comedy Central’s The Fake News With Ted Nelms

LA-based Therapy Studios provided post production on Comedy Central’s new one-hour special, The Fake News With Ted Nelms, starring Ed Helms of The Daily Show, The Office and The Hangover fame.

Edited by Therapy’s Kristin McCasey and directed by The Director Brothers (a.k.a. Ryan McNeely and Josh Martin) of Humble, this special takes a satirical view of cable news, poking fun at the ridiculous state of current news “reporting.”

“Obviously, there are a lot of news organizations out there just making up a bunch of crap and calling it news. But unlike those others, we’re doing it better, faker and stupider. And we’re joking,” says Helms about the special.

McCasey worked on the edit closely with Helms and executive producers Mike Falbo and Nelson Walters to craft the comedic tone of the show.

The job was overseen by executive producer Joe DiSanto and producer Margaret Ward. In addition to editing by McCasey and Jake Shaver, Therapy provided color grading via Omar Inguanzo, VFX work by Flame artist Geoff Stephenson and his team, graphics by Tony Banik, audio mixing by Larry Winer and Brandon Kim and sound design by Eddie Kim. Motion graphics were completed by Visual Creatures.

We reached out to Therapy to find out more…

How early did Therapy get involved in the project? How did you work with the client?
Allegra Bartlett, Therapy’s Head of Production: Therapy was attached during the writing stages of the project. Kristin McCasey was brought on at the recommendation of the Director Brothers (with whom we had worked closely with on Comedy Central series, specials and many other projects). The Fake News team thought she, and Therapy, were a perfect fit for all of the post.

Therapy had also just finished a collaboration for Represent.us with the Director Brothers, which starred Ed Helms and Jack Black. It felt like it all just came together full circle for The Fake News, which was for both Ed Helms and Comedy Central. Ed and his producing partner, Mike Falbo, frequently came in to sit and collaborate with Kristin to craft the comedy of the show, and Ed was very hands on in the audio mix, color and final VFX for the show.

What gear did you use?
Editor McCasey: We used Avid Media Composer for editing, Avid Pro Tools for audio post, Blackmagic Resolve for color and Autodesk Flame for finishing and VFX.

Did Comedy Central come to you because you were able to offer them soup to nuts services? 
Bartlett: Comedy Central didn’t come to us directly per se, but I think when the Director Brothers mentioned our name, Comedy Central was like “Ah, Therapy! We know those guys!” — this is because we had recently wrapped all of the post on a Comedy Central series. It was definitely an advantage to have all of the post happening out of Therapy. Margaret Ward, post producer, and Shannon Albrink, assistant editor, went above and beyond to keep everything moving forward towards delivery. Our previous relationships and experience with Comedy Central definitely helped us achieve a tight turnaround and efficient delivery, and a really funny, culturally-relevant show!

What was a challenge you had to overcome?
McCasey: The challenge of the show was to create a realistic-looking parody of a current day news channel, which included commercials, promos for other shows and news packages, in addition to the actual multicam TFN show. Throughout the process, we collaborated with head writer Elliot Kalan as well as Ed and Mike to dial in the comedy as we translated it from script to film. Their guidance was invaluable, and we all enjoyed nuancing the jokes together in the edit bay. In the last couple weeks before delivery, Visual Creatures fine-tuned the graphic look of the show, and Therapy’s team of sound, color and VFX gave us the final polish that we needed to bring the show across the finish line.


First Impressions: Apple’s new iMac Pro

This London-based video editor gives it a ride

By Thomas Carter

Over the last few days I’ve had the chance to play with the new iMac Pro from Apple. I’m a professional editor at Trim Editing in London, where I cut high-end commercials, music videos and films. I was really excited to see how this new machine, and the upcoming version of Final Cut Pro X (10.4) NLE, could benefit us here and what sorts of things it might be able to achieve.

The Design
This thing looks like an iMac, no doubt about it. It’s the same all-in-one form factor we’ve become accustomed to, but in space grey. I love this design, and I’m a sucker for anything that nears a matte black finish. It’s pretty incredible to have a machine this powerful essentially living inside a display, and it looks great in the edit suite, especially as it comes paired with a space grey keyboard, mouse and trackpad.

Space grey aside, the only external tweaks are around the back — there are four USB 3 ports, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 10GB Ethernet port and large “Vader-like” vents to help cool the eager internals. While those Thunderbolt ports can support two additional 5K displays, what I’m most excited about here is the 10GB Ethernet port. We can now directly attach our LumaForge Jellyfish shared storage without the need for Thunderbolt conversion.

One last point, because I know I’d be asking this question. Can you buy the keyboard, mouse and trackpad separately? Sadly, apparently you cannot. But if you can somehow justify spending $4,999 on a space grey keyboard, mouse and trackpad, at least you’ll get a free iMac Pro!

The Performance
As I said, I’ve only had my hands on the machine for a couple of days, so I haven’t had the chance to run a full-blown editing job through it yet. But it’s abundantly clear to me that this thing is a beast. It’s by far the fastest Mac I’ve ever used, and according to Apple the most powerful they’ve ever built.

Thermal cooling

The machine I had access to featured a 10-core 3GHz processor, 128GB memory, 2TB SSD and Radeon Pro Vega 64 graphics with 16GB memory. The internal SSD is ridiculously fast. When I tested the speed I got 3021MB/s write and 2465MB/s read. And for anyone who knows what it means (not me) the GeekBench 4 score on the processors was 37003.

But let’s forget the paper specs for a moment. Here are a few real-world editing tests I ran:

A feature film has been cutting here at Trim over the past few months, so I took the opportunity to hijack the project to see what the export speeds were like. A ProRes HD file took 2 minutes 34 seconds, which is pretty great for a 90-minute timeline. But compressed H.264s are far more common for me as an editor when dealing with upload and review of my cuts. My biggest frustration with all previous Mac Pro machines was that their H.264 export speeds always seemed terrible. This is due to the fact that “workstation-class chips” don’t have the hardware-acceleration necessary for these tasks. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Apple seem to be bypassing these limitations somehow, and the iMac Pro is also delivering fast H.264 exports. I have no idea what they are doing behind the scenes to achieve this, but it works and will save me hours in encoding time.

Next I decided to push the resolution right up and see how it might handle a ludicrous 8K timeline with footage shot on the Panavision Millennium DXL. With 8K ProRes 4:4:4:4 files, the iMac Pro played the sequence back perfectly. Even after adding a couple of color corrections and a blur to the clips it still didn’t drop a frame. I should add that this was playing back at better quality and without rendering. I’ll repeat that once more. 8K. Color correction. Blur. No Rendering. No “1/4 quality” BS. No frames dropped.

Yes, 8K is an impressive number, but I was also interested to see how it might handle a less friendly codec like R3D, a notoriously heavy codec for computers to decode/debayer and playback at full quality. The maximum I managed to test here was 5K Red RAW footage in a 5K timeline. Again, best quality and unrendered. Adding color correction, resizes and titles didn’t cause the machine to drop frames. The sequence played through smoothly, which is nuts.

Trim Editing

While this last test is really impressive, there aren’t many real-world jobs where I’ll be storing an entire film shoot of Red RAW rushes on my internal SSD. So I also checked how this played out on external storage. I’m happy to report that loading the same media onto our Jellyfish shared storage and accessing it over direct-attached 10Gb Ethernet gave me the same results.

These tests really blew me away. They aren’t necessarily going to be everyday scenarios for most people, or even me, but they make it possible to imagine editing workflows in which you’re working at close to the highest quality possible throughout the entire process… on a desktop computer. A space grey one. It’s going to be really interesting to see how the rest of the company reacts to this computer moving forward. While we mainly deal in offline workflows, we have begun to look at possibly taking on more conforming, online, grading work in-house. It’s not hard to conceive that the iMac Pro could be the tool to bring all these elements together for us in a streamlined way.

The Bottom Line
While I really haven’t had enough time to do a deep dive, it’s clearly the best Mac I’ve ever used — it’s stupidly powerful and great to work on.

Thomas Grove Carter

But who is it actually for? Clearly not everyone. It’s quite obviously a pro machine and it comes with a price tag to fit — $4,999. If you’re a pro user who needs a Pro Mac, it’s probably for you (and you can get your hands on one starting December 14). If you’re already an iMac user but you need more power, it’s probably for you too. If I had to make a wildly uninformed guess, I’d say this will be more than enough computer for 90% of pros.

There will still understandably be a number of places where this machine will not be enough, and I don’t mean it’s lacking in power — if you’re someone who needs rack-mountable, user-expandable hardware, this may not be for you.

For me, if an equally powerful Mac Pro existed, I’d still chose this iMac Pro over it, because I love the all-in-one compact design and the way it sits in my edit suite. I can’t wait to use the iMac Pro for genuine work and really put it through its paces. I’m excited and slightly dizzied by its power, and the potential that power has for delivering amazing work.

Also, did I mention that it’s space grey…


Thomas Grove Carter is an editor at Trim Editing in London, where they cut commercials, music videos and films. Follow him on Twitter @thomasgcarter.

Apache colorists: Cullen Kelly added, Quinn Alvarez promoted

Santa Monica color and post studio Apache has added colorist Cullen Kelly. In addition to Kelly’s hire, the studio also promoted colorist Quinn Alvarez from an assistant’s role.

Kelly joins from Labrador Post, a color grading studio he founded in Austin, Texas. He has relocated to Southern California. Alvarez has been with Apache since 2015, joining from the production company Prettybird, where he handled all post duties and worked closely with its directors and producers.

“We’re currently working on several scripted and documentary shows for Hulu, Netflix and Amazon, in addition to our commercial work for agencies,” says Apache managing partner LaRue Anderson. “We needed additional artists that come with a unique perspective to color grading to handle these assignments, not just helping hands.”

Kelly worked with Apache earlier this year as a freelancer, doing finishing for the debut season of Netflix’s American Vandal series. Kelly, who studied film at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena before launching his career, worked in several post jobs before focusing on color grading. In addition to his work on the Netflix series, his reel includes short films and promos for The History Channel, FX Networks and SXSW.

When asked what drew him to color grading, Kelly said, “I’m a very visual person, and I love the amount of detail and energy that goes into color work. And it’s so collaborative; you’re working with people and helping bring their vision to life.”

A graduate of UC Berkeley, Alvarez says that while working at Prettybird he learned the craft of color grading from a director’s point of view, stressing the importance of story and substance. “I like the pace of color work, too,” he adds. “There’s always a new challenge, and new clients to work with. It keeps me fresh. And color is typically one of the final stages in a project — you’re putting the polish on things, so to speak, so people always leave happy.”

His reel includes work for such brands as Nike, Absolut, Jack Daniels, Tumi, Toyota, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, as well as music videos shot by such directors as Paul Hunter, Eric Wareheim and Andy Hines.

Both Kelly and Alvarez use Blackmagic Resolve.

Apache’s branching out from just color to handling finishing is also driving its need to add more creative talent, reports Anderson: “Keeping the color and finish under the same roof, particularly for long-form projects, allows us to swiftly complete a show. That adds valuable time to our clients’ often-constrained post schedules, without compromising the look and feel of the film. And we’re finding that cinematographers and directors are moving to original series work, because it can offer more creative freedom. With the addition of Cullen and the promotion of Quinn, we now have five colorists to help transform their digital visions into reality.”