Category Archives: Color Grading

Optical Art DI colorist Ronney Afortu on In the Fade

Chicago-born, Germany-raised Ronney Afortu has been enjoying a storied career at Hamburg-based studio Optical Art. This veteran senior DI colorist has an impressive resume, having worked on the Oscar-nominated film Mongol, with Oscar-winning director Bille August on Night Train to Lisbon, as well as the recent Golden Globe-winning movie In the Fade (Aus dem Nichts), a crime drama starring Diane Kruger and Denis Moschitto.

TheresaJosuttis

Ronney Afortu (Photo Credit: Theresa Josuttis)

Afortu believes that HDR and a wider color gamut is the technology to watch for the in future. He says, “It has had a big impact on DPs in how they set up a shot, how they light it.”

Let’s find out more about his path to colorist, his workflow in In the Fade, and trends he is seeing.

What led you to become a colorist?
After school, I started studying media engineering. But I also worked with a production company specializing in advertising. Having been on the shoot of a Coca-Cola commercial, I was invited to join the director for the telecine. I knew right away that was what I wanted to do.

The first experience of color grading for cinema — on a Thomson Specter with Pandora Pogle controller — was at VCC in Hamburg, the former parent company of Optical Art. I asked them if there were any opportunities to train as a colorist with them, and that was it.

What sort of projects do you work on?
At the time I joined them, Optical Art was a pioneer in digital intermediate. So from the start I have worked a lot on movies, and that is still what I do the most. But I also graded television features.

The boundaries between the two have become much more fluid in recent years. Television has become much more sophisticated. You meet the same DPs and directors on movies and television. The only difference is that in television you will have less time!

You currently work on FilmLight Baselight?
Yes. When I started out as a colorist, the Specter/Pogle combination was seen as state-of-the-art for 2K grading work, but it also represented a challenge in DI for movies. It was difficult to manage color spaces when writing back to film.

Frank Hellmann, the DI supervisor at Optical Art, learned about an outfit in London called Computer Film Company. They had developed a system that allowed you to communicate with the lab in printer lights. It transformed the way we worked — we were convinced that this was the right way to go.

That system developed by Computer Film Company was spun out into a new company, FilmLight, and the grading platform became Baselight. Optical Art decided to buy a Baselight system, and we became beta testers very early on. We still keep that serial number 0001 on one of our machines, though it has been upgraded a few times to the latest hardware.

Though I started in telecine, today we rarely see film because most of the labs in Europe have gone. Film meant many days of struggling to get a perfect print. So in that way I don’t miss it. In digital, you get a new [sensor] chip every couple of months. Kodak and Fuji would produce a new stock every few years. So we have constant improvement and new opportunities.

Can you tell us more about In the Fade?
I had worked with director Fatih Akin and DP Rainer Klausmann on a couple of movies previously, so the working relationship was very close right from the start.

In the Fade is a complex and dark movie. Each of its three acts has a distinctly different feel to it, and it was important for everyone to set these looks before the first day of shooting. This was one of those rare projects when the production company talked to us early to determine how best to do it. Rainer is a true DP — he lights really well. We ran six to eight tests to get the right kit, which allowed us to agree on how to get the looks in each section of the movie. But both Rainer and Fatih are quite “analog” thinkers. They believe that if you can do it on set, you should do so.

The tests went all the way to make-up. The director wanted lead actor Diane Kruger to look “not so good” in some of the more harrowing sequences. They wanted to ensure that every detail of the performance was captured.

What was the workflow for the movie?
In the Fade was shot using Arri Alexa cameras with wide gamut and that allowed for a high-quality DCP finish. Because of the way that Fatih and Rainer work, I was able to handle the dailies as well as the final grade. I used FilmLight’s Daylight system. This has the same grading toolkit as Baselight, and allows grades to be exported as BLG metadata so nothing is lost.

Fatih and Rainer prefer to watch dailies in the editing room — the old-fashioned way. On set they liked to concentrate on shooting, having faith in everyone else in the team. Daylight suits this workflow really well in creating graded dailies for the editing department, that was also located at Optical Art, as well as giving me the same starting point in the final Baselight grade.

Did you run into any challenges on the film?
Given that a lot of the “effects” were done in-camera, and we had seen everything in the dailies, by the time of the final grade we were pretty much on top of everything.

An interesting part of the movie is the big scenes in the rain. Most of the tension was created with lighting, but Fatih and Rainer encouraged me to enhance it. They wanted the audience to really feel getting drenched by the rain.

What about HDR, 4K and other trends in technology?
When I sit in the cinema, I don’t usually see pixels. So more resolution is not important to me. HDR and wider color gamut is what is exciting — provided we can get that all the way to the big screen.

That has the most impact I have seen over the last couple of years. You cannot compare it to film, but it has a big impact on DPs, in how they set up a shot, how they light it. Say the script says the villain moves out of a bar. Normally you could cut from interior to exterior. In HDR, you could simply follow the villain. Or the camera could stay inside and still see what is happening outside. This is a big shift for writers as well as for directors and DPs.

What do you do when you are not grading?
I love to be outside, because I spend my working time in the dark. I do a lot of sport, but most of all I spend time with my daughter.


Film Stills Photo Credit: Gordon Timpen

Review: Warren Eagles’ Blackmagic Resolve training

By Brady Betzel

With Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 15 released at this year’s NAB, a lot of editors, colorists and now audio mixers want to dive in and see what all of the fuss is about.

Resolve 15 is now a Pro Tools competitor thanks to Fairlight and an After Effects competitor thanks to Fusion. There are dozens of new features and changes that will make many colorists want to upgrade.

Even though Resolve 15 is out in the wild, it is in Beta form — meaning there are most likely bugs and other issues still being ironed out. For those wanting to dive in and edit or color a project you still have non-Beta versions of Resolve such as 14.3, which I will be referring to in this review of Warren Eagle’s Resolve 14 training series on www.fxphd.com.

While some of the tools are new and improved in Resolve 15, about 95% of Warren’s training, especially in the Looks and Matching Masterclass, are universal and can be applied not only to any version of Resolve, but any color correction application.

If you are new to Resolve, an experienced colorist or even just a curious post enthusiast, then you will want to brush up quickly. Warren Eagles is an international colorist with almost 30 years of experience. He calls Brisbane, Australia, home.

If you troll around the www.liftgammagain.com forums you will recognize him as being the preeminent voice for color correction both online and in the classroom. Along with colorist Kevin Shaw, Eagles started the colorist education community www.icolorist.com (@icolorist), which travels the world leading classes in color correction, color science, Resolve, looks and matching, and many more subjects.

All that being said, classes with www.icolorist.com are expensive (anywhere from $900 to $1,500 per class) and are also in person, so while you will learn a lot in person you can’t necessarily learn at your convenience and pace. This is where Eagle’s classes over at www.fxphd.com come into play.

Online Training
Some background on fxphd.com. This is an online learning website much like Lynda.com, but it has a much deeper learning library that covers niche subjects and is geared heavily toward VXF artists, editors, colorists, online editors and many other jobs in the post world.

Typically, you would pay $79/month for standard membership, which includes streaming of all the classes. But $99/month gets you the premium membership, which allows for downloading of classes, any media used in the class to play with, as well as access to their VPN software.

Eagle’s Resolve 14 class is an all-upfront pricing offering and is not included in the memberships. Resolve 14 Fundamentals will cost $149, Resolve 14 Advanced will cost $149 and Looks and Matching Masterclass with Resolve will cost $199. The best deal in my opinion is $299 for all three classes, dubbed the Resolve Mega Pack.

I’m going to go through all three courses in this review one at a time, so you know exactly what you should buy if you don’t want to purchase all three. In my head I am pretty comfortable in post apps such as Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects and Resolve, but am always wondering what I might miss if I don’t go through the fundamental classes and skip to the advanced. So, if you are like me or are wondering if you should just grab the Looks and Matching Class or purchase all three courses, keep reading.

One thing I will tell you is that after running through all three of Eagle’s classes, I feel way more at ease with not only Resolve but where I stand in comparison to other colorists, including Warren. In fact, I really want to sign up for one of his in-person classes on www.icolorist.com when he comes to Los Angeles.

Resolve 14 Fundamentals
Up first is the Resolve 14 Fundamentals class, which is a foundational course meant to provide you with a broad overview of Resolve 14, but also sprinkles in a few advanced subjects.

I really like the way Eagles teaches. He asks himself a lot of rhetorical questions, which I often do in my own head when editing or coloring. He lays out the thought pattern of a colorist in a practical and not obnoxious way. Overall, he has a great teaching style, and I don’t say that easily. I watch a lot of tutorials, and there are plenty of people who are not made to teach on camera, but you can sit and watch all of Eagles’ over 24 hours worth of tutorials without feeling yelled at or preached to.

Alright, let’s dive into the classes. The first three could probably have been consolidated into one class since they essentially cover the interface, some settings and best practices, as well as how the media management works inside of Resolve.

These videos will introduce you to (or remind you) how useful Resolve is as a DIT/transcoding solution. Class 4 covers how you might receive an offline edit in Resolve for conform and finishing once it is “locked” (or final locked, locked version 2, un-locked, etc.). In this class you focus on getting a clip-based sequence from Premiere via an XML, or exporting a “flat” QuickTime with an EDL for Resolve, to chop up into edits and see where any pitfalls or technicalities lie.

I think you could fast forward to Class 12 here and watch that as well, Eagles talks about traps that you might run into, and really focuses on what an online editor would do to prep a sequence before sending it over to a colorist. While the classes are short (around 25 minutes each), they present only a few of the issues you may run into when prepping your sequence from online and color correction.

Classes 5 through 11 are really where the “creative” learning happens. These classes lay out a basic understanding of color correction and how it works inside of Resolve, including how to read basic scopes, differences between LOG color and Rec709 and much more. Class 8 covers secondary color corrections, including how and what a qualifier does, the new face refinement tool and keying objects such as a sky.

Class 9 is a great class that covers power windows and sizing, one of the key subjects to concentrate on in my opinion. Class 10 covers keyframing, which could have a course on its own. Class 11 covers node operation, which is imperative when learning how to work in a node-based color corrector, such as Resolve. Learning why certain nodes don’t work in linear order and when to use nodes like a parallel node versus a layer node is important.

Finally, Class 12 covers how to round trip your sequence to and from Premiere Pro. Class 12 is a tough one because while it is meant to give you a broad overview, there are so many problems inherent with clip-based round trips in Premiere that you would probably need a day-long class to even get close to starting to understand the pitfalls.

The Advanced Resolve 14
The Advanced Resolve 14 class is where things start to get interesting for someone like me — experienced in Resolve and other NLEs, but who likes to find little gems of knowledge or shortcuts. Like in the Fundamentals course, Eagles usually shows an example of the topic he is covering and then offers a few reasons why you would do something like crush the black levels or blow out the highlights as opposed to just doing it because he said so. At the end of each lesson you can use the downloadable footage to practice techniques and even experiment with ideas Eagles talks about.

Class 1 is another overview of Resolve 14, and it feels like this was made just in case you didn’t buy the Fundamentals class. Class 2 begins with LOG vs. Lift Gamma Gain grading. He uses a B&W gradient to easily show how the different tools work within Resolve, such as pivot, offset, color boost, etc. This is a great class to start with. Class 3 covers primary grading, including how to apply a LUT. This is great because you are working with actual footage from a GMC commercial that is high quality. The footage is ProRes, so it isn’t RAW Red R3D files, but it still works great to understand key elements.

Classes 4 through 6 cover workflows from NLEs, such as Premiere Pro, using XMLs to conform, how to interpret speed changes, how to use the scene detector to cut single file QuickTimes into their individual scenes without an EDL and also the basic differences between a baked-in (flat) QuickTime workflow versus clip-based. Keep in mind the clip-based workflow in Premiere is not straightforward and does not always work well (in any scenario) — this class could be a three-day seminar on its own.

Class 7 dives deeper into secondary color by way of the 3D keyer and other amazing tools inside of Resolve. Class 8 covers advanced tracking and how to fix broken tracks. With Boris FX’s Mocha Pro tracking plugin now compatible with Resolve as an OFX plugin, this may be a nice update to the Advanced Resolve course in the future. Class 9 covers some higher-end coloring workflows such as ACES and RAW grading.

Class 10 covers all of the nodes in Resolve and is my favorite class. Resolve’s true power is in its nodal structure and how you can work in a linear way and also in a nonlinear way by using parallel or layer nodes when coloring. If you are coming from a layer-based color corrector, this class is where you will learn the power of Resolve’s node-based hierarchy.

Class 11 goes over some issues and how to resolve (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) them such as 8-bit banding and how to try and band-aid using a plugin appropriately called Deband, how temporal vs. spatial noise reduction works and many other issues. In Class 12, Eagles covers different hardware control surfaces from companies like Tangent, as well as Blackmagic. It is interesting if you’ve never seen control panels, but feels a little like a commercial.

The Looks and Matching Masterclass
To be honest, when I said I would review this course, the Looks class was what I was really interested in. While Eagles does a great job at going through the tools of Resolve, the hardest thing when learning color correction technique is finding someone who will just let you observe them while grading to see how they approach their work.

It can understandably be a secretive industry. Since there are few colorists in comparison to other positions, they often keep their “secret sauce” color correction secrets to themselves. I tend to think that sharing the secrets of your success helps other people and can eventually help you get hired in the future.

Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to watch a few editors work and I learned a lot. You might get answers to questions that you are afraid to ask out loud, such as, “Should you use a primary grade all on one node?” Or, “Should you color before or after a LUT?” Eagles’ classes let you behind the curtain into the world of the elusive colorist. Especially the Looks and Matching Masterclass.

The Looks and Matching Masterclass, like the Fundamentals and Advanced classes, comes with downloadable footage to follow along and practice with. In Class 1 and 2, Eagles covers one of the most critical components of color correction: shot matching.

These days there are so many cameras — from the iPhone in your pocket to Blackmagic’s own Pocket Cinema Camera (or even the forthcoming 4K version of the Pocket Cinema Camera) to the high-end Arri Alexas or Red Monstros —it can be hard to keep track of each of their looks and or techniques to color grade them.

Sometimes, as a colorist, you may even be asked to match a GoPro Hero 6 to an Arri Alexa, or maybe even a film camera! That is obviously (or maybe) an insane question. However, as a colorist you will need to understand what the client is really asking (or wanting) and how you can offer suggestions to getting your shots at least close — and if you can’t, why can’t you?

In Class 1, Eagles goes over the inspirational side to color correcting and grading by finding images and videos that might inspire you. Class 2 gets more technical by covering things like correcting using only the Lift, Gamma and Gain functions to get a simple base grade all the way up to using the Match Move effect to replace a sky in a scene with a dull sky.

Classes 3, 4 and 5 cover different color scenarios such as a car commercial, a music video or a product commercial — each presenting interesting challenges that Eagles goes over. One of my favorites is in Class 4, which covers music video color correction. Eagles walks us through his approach to fixing things like hues or lighting tints that might be caused by improper white balance or even just the camera sensor itself. He starts by pulling a key of the shadows and dialing in a proper black shadow using hue v. saturation controls, or even adding blue into the shadows to give the video an overall cooler (temperature) look.

In the Looks Masterclass, there is some duplicate content from the Advanced, but Eagles goes way further down the rabbit hole, giving inside tips you would only get being in the color bay with a professional colorist.

Also, if you are deciding between these classes and some tutorials you have found on YouTube, there is a distinct knowledge set that Eagles has that you most likely won’t find for free. While you are paying FXPHD for his information, you are also getting his years of experience, which can guide you through complex issues without having to go through the failure yourself. This is an invaluable experience that you most likely won’t find in many YouTube tutorials. Not to say YouTube tutorials are bad or not-informative, but take them for what they are.

Classes 6 and 7 cover the ever-popular beauty and fashion techniques. In particular, skin touch-up techniques by using Mist, keying hot spots and even the new to Resolve 14 Face Refinement tool, which is a remarkably easy tool that automatically creates a matte for eyes, nose, mouth and face to adjust individual parts of the face. Combined with a power window and you can isolate the face from the rest of the image.

Class 8 covers action footage and the inherent issues that come when filming scenes outdoors as well as the color casts that can happen underwater. Class 9 covers LUTs, Power Grades, Tools and how they relate or differ from each other. Eagles touches on if you should use a LUT or a Power Grade and the differences, as well as how to achieve the infamous orange/teal look that everyone uses.

Whether you think it is a good or a bad technique, clients will always request a version of an orange and teal look. Eagles works in his way of doing it while trying to not just simply add orange the mid-tones and highlights and teal to the shadows. What I really like about this lesson, in particular, is that Eagles doesn’t just simply do step 1 through 5 He will work on step 1, jump around to step 3, experiment with a new step and end up with a crazy look that might not be the best, but he helps you see where that look could go. At the end you can pick up where he left off and come up with something unexpected that even Eagles might not come up with.

Class 10 is a very important because it covers subjects not often taught: color grading for the web. If you’re coloring for platforms like as YouTube or Instagram, you aren’t held to the same standards that television or film are. In fact, the color space is different.

Typically, you will want to color in an sRGB output color space. However, inside of Resolve it isn’t necessarily straightforward on how you set up your input, output and timeline color spaces. Eagles runs through options for setting up Resolve to color in an sRGB color space, including how to set up your GUI monitor if you aren’t using external reference monitors that are calibrated.

He also runs through how to set up your Resolve project for special aspect ratios, like Instagram’s 4×3 ratio, for the best possible result and viewing while coloring. While it is being taught in Resolve 14, this knowledge can also translate to other versions, and even other software apps.

Eagles even gives awesome tips, like why you should be careful when crushing the black levels for the web, or even when and why artifacting can happen. In the end of Class 10, the lesson is to always test your output, so you can compensate for things such as YouTube slightly flattening your color, before you deliver your final product.

Classes 11 and 12 of the Looks and Matching Masterclass cover a drama workflow. Watching entire workflows from start to finish have been very beneficial in my work. Sometimes you will catch a shortcut or a technique that you have never seen before.

In this particular set of classes, Eagles goes through a few shots from a bunch of different cameras, including the Arri Alexa, Blackmagic Ursa, GoPro and others. Matching cameras is the focus here. There are even some very tricky shots that might have an incorrect white balance or something else to try and salvage. What I love about these last few classes is that you aren’t being given a list of ways to color correct. Instead, Eagles gives you ways he might or might not approach a session and tells you why he may or may not do it that way. And because every session is unique, practicing is the most important takeaway from the lessons.

Summing Up
Warren Eagles trains many colorists all over the world — just check out the class schedule over at www.icolorist.com. They teach everywhere from Chicago to New York to Germany and Singapore.

Eagles’ www.FXPHD.com course is a great foundation to supplement your Resolve learning.

A key concept that you may discover through Eagles’ lessons is that you may not always find success in a color grade, but you will always be able to take something away from it.

You can check out Warren Eagle’s FXPHD Resolve 14 classes here. And since Resolve 15 is set to deliver some time in 2018, we assume a new class is on the horizon.


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.

Cinna 4.13

Point 360 grows team with senior colorist Charlie Tucker

Senior colorist Charlie Tucker has joined Burbank’s Point 360. He comes to the facility from Technicolor, and brings with him over 20 years of color grading experience.

The UK-born Tucker’s credits include TV shows such as The Vampire Diaries and The Originals on CW, Wet Hot American Summer and A Futile & Stupid Gesture on Netflix, as well as Amazon’s Lore. He also just completed YouTube Red’s show Cobra Kai. Tucker, who joined the company just last week, will be working on Blackmagic Resolve.

Now at Point 360, Tucker reteams with Jason Kavner, who took the helm as senior VP of episodic sales in 2017. Tucker also joins fellow senior colorist Aidan Stanford, whose recent credits include the Academy Award-winning feature Get Out and the film Happy Death Day. Stanford’s recent episodic work includes the FX series You’re the Worst and ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat.

When prodded to sum up his feelings regarding joining Point 360, Tucker said, “I am chuffed to bits to now be part of and call Point 360 my home. It is a bloody lovely facility that has a welcoming, collaborative feel, which is refreshing to find within this pressure cooker we call Hollywood. The team I am privileged to join is a brilliant, talented and very experienced group of industry professionals who truly enjoy what they do, and I know my clients will love my new coloring bay and the creative vibe that Point 360 has created.”


Creative editorial and post boutique Hiatus opens in Detroit

Hiatus, a full-service, post production studio with in-house creative editorial, original music composition and motion graphics departments, has opened in Detroit. Their creative content offerings cover categories such as documentary, narrative, conceptual, music videos and advertising media for all video platforms.

Led by founder/senior editor Shane Patrick Ford, the new company includes executive producer/partner Catherine Pink, and executive producer Joshua Magee, who joins Hiatus from the animation studio Lunar North. Additional talents feature editor Josh Beebe, composer/editor David Chapdelaine and animator James Naugle.

The roots of Hiatus began with The Factory, a music venue founded by Ford while he was still in college. It provided a venue for local Detroit musicians to play, as well as touring bands. Ford, along with a small group of creatives, then formed The Work – a production company focused on commercial and advertising projects. For Ford, the launch of Hiatus is an opportunity to focus solely on his editorial projects and to expand his creative reach and that of his team nationally.

Leading up to the launch of Hiatus, the team has worked on projects for brands such as Sony, Ford Motor Company, Acura and Bush’s, as well as recent music videos for Lord Huron, Parquet Courts and the Wombats.

The Hiatus team is also putting the finishing touches on the company’s first original feature film Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win. The film uncovers a Detroit Police decoy unit named STRESS and the efforts made to restore civil order in 1970s post-rebellion Detroit. Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win makes its debut at the Indy Film Festival on Sunday April 29th and Tuesday May 1st in Indianapolis, before it hits the film festival circuit.

“Launching Hiatus was a natural evolution for me,” says Ford. “It was time to give my creative team even more opportunities, to expand our network and to collaborate with people across the country that I’ve made great connections with. As the post team evolved within The Work, we outgrew the original role it played within a production company. We began to develop our own team, culture, offerings and our own processes. With the launch of Hiatus, we are poised to better serve the visual arts community, to continue to grow and to be recognized for the talented creative team we are.”

“Instead of having a post house stacked with people, we’d prefer to stay small and choose the right personal fit for each project when it comes to color, VFX and heavy finishing,” explains Hiatus EP Catherine Pink. “We have a network of like-minded artists that we can call on, so each project gets the right creative attention and touch it deserves. Also, the lower overhead allows us to remain nimble and work with a variety of budget needs and all kinds of clients.”


Creating the look for Netflix’s The End of the F***ing World

By Adrian Pennington

Content in 8K UHD won’t be transmitting or streaming its way to a screen anytime soon, but the ultra-high-resolution format is already making its mark in production and post. Remarkably, it is high-end TV drama, rather than feature films, that is leading the way. The End of The F***ing World is the latest series to pioneer a workflow that gives its filmmakers a creative edge.

Adapted from the award-winning graphic novels of Charles Forsman, the dark comedy is an eight-part co-production between Netflix and UK broadcaster Channel 4. The series invites viewers into the confused lives of teen outsiders James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden), as they decide to escape from their families and embark on a road trip to find Alyssa’s estranged father.

Executive producer and director Jonathan Entwistle and cinematographer Justin Brown were looking for something special stylistically to bring the chilling yet humorous tale to life. With Netflix specifying a 4K deliverable, the first critical choice was to use 8K as the dominant format. Brown selected the Red Weapon 8K S35 with the Helium sensor.

In parallel, the filmmakers turned to colorist Toby Tomkins, co-founder of East London grading and finishing boutique studio Cheat, to devise a look and a workflow that would maximize the rich, detailed color, as well as the light information from the Red rushes.

“I’ve worked with Justin for about 10 years, since film school,” explains Tomkins. “Four years ago he shot the pilot for The End of The F***ing World with Jon, which is how I first became involved with the show. Because we’d worked together for so long, I kind of already knew what type of thing they were looking for. Justin shot tests on the Red Weapon, and our first job was to create a 3D LUT for the on-set team to refer to throughout shooting.”

Expert at grading commercials, and with feature-length narrative Sixteen (also shot by Justin Brown) under his belt, this was Tomkins’ first responsibility for an episodic TV drama, and he relished the challenge. “From the beginning, we knew we wanted to work completely RAW at 7K/8K the whole way through and final output at 4K,” he explains. “We conformed to the R3D rushes, which were stored on our SSD NAS. This delivered 10Gbps bandwidth to the suite.”

With just 10 days to grade all the episodes, Tomkins needed to develop a rich “Americana” look that would not only complement the dark narrative but would also work across a range of locations and timescales.

“We wanted the show to have richness and a denseness to it, with skin tones almost a leathery red, adding some warmth to the characters,” he says. “Despite being shot at British locations — with British weather — we wanted to emulate something filmic and American in style. To do this we wanted quite a dense film print look, using skin tones you would find on celluloid film and a shadow and highlight roll-off that you would find in films, as opposed to British TV.”

Cheat used its proprietary film emulation to create the look. With virtually the whole series shot in 8K, the Cheat team invested in a Quad GPU Linux Resolve workstation, with dual Xeon processors, to handle the additional processing requirements once in the DaVinci Resolve finishing suite.

“The creative benefits of working in 8K from the Red RAW images are huge,” says Tomkins. “The workstation gave us the ability to use post-shoot exposure and color temperature settings to photorealistically adjust and match shots and, consequently, more freedom to focus on the finer details of the grade.

“At 8K the noise was so fine in size that we could push the image further. It also let us get cleaner keys due to the over-sample, better tracking, and access to high-frequency detail that we could choose to change or adapt as necessary for texture.”

Cheat had to conform more than 50 days of rushes and 100TBs of 7K and 8K RAW material spread across 40 drives, a process that was completed by Cheat junior colorist Caroline Morin in Resolve.

“After the first episode, the series becomes a road movie, so almost each new scene is a new location and lighting setup,” Tomkins explains. “I tried to approach each episode as though it was its own short film and to establish a range of material and emotion for each scene and character, while also trying to maintain a consistent look that flowed throughout the series.”

Tomkins primarily adjusted the RAW settings of the material in Resolve and used lift, gamma and gain to adjust the look depending on the lighting ratios and mood of the scenes. “It’s very easy to talk about workflow, tools and approach, but the real magic comes from creative discussions and experimentation with the director and cinematographer. This process was especially wonderful on this show because we had all worked together several times before and had developed a short hand for our creative discussion.

“The boundaries are changing,” he adds. “The creative looks that you get to work and play with are so much stronger on television now than they ever used to be.”


NAB 2018: A closer look at Firefly Cinema’s suite of products

By Molly Hill

Firefly Cinema, a French company that produces a full set of post production tools, premiered Version 7 of its products at NAB 2018. I visited with co-founder Philippe Reinaudo and head of business development Morgan Angove at the Flanders Scientific booth. They were knowledgeable and friendly, and they helped me to better understand their software.

Firefly’s suite includes FirePlay, FireDay, FirePost and the brand-new FireVision. All the products share the same database and Éclair color management, making for a smooth and complete workflow. However, Reinaudo says their programs were designed with specific UI/UXs to better support each product’s purpose.

Here is how they break down:
FirePlay: This is an on-set media player that supports most any format or file. The player is free to use, but there’s a paid option to include live color grading.

FireDay: Firefly Cinema’s dailies software includes a render tree for multiple versions and supports parallel processing.

FirePost: This is Firefly Cinema’s proprietary color grading software. One of its features was a set of “digital filters,” which were effects with adjustable parameters (not just pre-set LUTs). I was also excited to see the inclusion of curve controls similar to Adobe Lightroom’s Vibrance setting, which increases the saturation of just the more muted colors.

FireVision: This new product is a cloud-based review platform, with smooth integration into FirePost. Not only do tags and comments automatically move between FirePost and FireVision, but if you make a grading change in the former and hit render, the version in FireVision automatically updates. While other products such as Frame.io have this feature, Firefly Cinema offers all of these in the same package. The process was simple and impressive.

One of the downsides of their software package is its lack of support for HDR, but Raynaud says that’s a work in progress. I believe this will likely begin with ÉclairColor HDR, as Reinaudo and his co-founder Luc Geunard are both former Éclair employees. It’s also interesting that they have products for every step after shooting except audio and editing, but perhaps given the popularity of Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere and Avid Pro Tools, those are less of a priority for a young company.

Overall, their set of products was professional, comprehensive and smooth to operate, and I look forward to seeing what comes next for Firefly Cinema.


Molly Hill is a motion picture scientist and color nerd, soon-to-be based out of San Francisco. You can follow her on Twitter @mollymh4.


Efilm adds veteran colorist Skip Kimball

Skip Kimball has joined Efilm as senior colorist. Kimball brings more than 30 years of experience to this post house, spanning features, television, music videos and commercials.

He recently finished work on seasons 1 and 2 of the Netflix’s Stranger Things for executive producer Shawn Levy, and is currently working on Deadpool 2 for Fox and director David Leitch. Other feature credits for Kimball include Downsizing and Nebraska for Alexander Payne; Logan for Fox and James Mangold and the Terminator 2 remaster for James Cameron and Lightstorm.

Kimball joins Deluxe’s Efilm from Technicolor, where he spent nearly six years as senior colorist. His previous experience also includes over 15 years at Modern VideoFilm where he worked on dozens of projects, including Gone Baby Gone, Tropic Thunder and James Cameron’s 3D epic Avatar. He began his career at Anderson Video, where he first learned his craft on 35mm film.

Kimball joins current Efilm colorists Natasha Leonnet, Mitch Paulson, Tom Reiser, Jason Hanel, Kevin O’Connor, Steve Delman, Adrian DeLude, Ben Estrada and Matt Wallach.


NAB: Adobe’s spring updates for Creative Cloud

By Brady Betzel

Adobe has had a tradition of releasing Creative Cloud updates prior to NAB, and this year is no different. The company has been focused on improving existing workflows and adding new features, some based on Adobe’s Sensei technology, as well as improved VR enhancements.

In this release, Adobe has announced a handful of Premiere Pro CC updates. While I personally don’t think that they are game changing, many users will appreciate the direction Adobe is going. If you are color correcting, Adobe has added the Shot Match function that allows you to match color between two shots. Powered by Adobe’s Sensei technology, Shot Match analyzes one image and tries to apply the same look to another image. Included in this update is the long-requested split screen to compare before and after color corrections.

Motion graphic templates have been improved with new adjustments like 2D position, rotation and scale. Automatic audio ducking has been included in this release as well. You can find this feature in the Essential Sound panel, and once applied it will essentially dip the music in your scene based on dialogue waveforms that you identify.

Still inside of Adobe Premiere Pro CC, but also applicable in After Effects, is Adobe’s enhanced Immersive Environment. This update is for people who use VR headsets to edit and or process VFX. Team Project workflows have been updated with better version tracking and indicators of who is using bins and sequences in realtime.

New Timecode Panel
Overall, while these updates are helpful, none are barn burners, the thing that does have me excited is the new Timecode Panel — it’s the biggest new update to the Premiere Pro CC app. For years now, editors have been clamoring for more than just one timecode view. You can view sequence timecodes, source media timecodes from the clips on the different video layers in your timeline, and you can even view the same sequence timecode in a different frame rate (great for editing those 23.98 shows to a 29.97/59.94 clock!). And one of my unexpected favorites is the clip name in the timecode window.

I was testing this feature in a pre-release version of Premiere Pro, and it was a little wonky. First, I couldn’t dock the timecode window. While I could add lines and access the different menus, my changes wouldn’t apply to the row I had selected. In addition, I could only right click and try to change the first row of contents, but it would choose a random row to change. I am assuming the final release has this all fixed. If it the wonkiness gets flushed out, this is a phenomenal (and necessary) addition to Premiere Pro.

Codecs, Master Property, Puppet Tool, more
There have been some compatible codec updates, specifically Raw Sony X-OCN (Venice), Canon Cinema Raw Light (C200) and Red IPP2.

After Effects CC has also been updated with Master Property controls. Adobe said it best during their announcement: “Add layer properties, such as position, color or text, in the Essential Graphics panel and control them in the parent composition’s timeline. Use Master Property to push individual values to all versions of the composition or pull selected changes back to the master.”

The Puppet Tool has been given some love with a new Advanced Puppet Engine, giving access to improving mesh and starch workflows to animate static objects. Beyond updates to Add Grain, Remove Grain and Match Grain effects, making them multi-threaded, enhanced disk caching and project management improvements have been added.

My favorite update for After Effects CC is the addition of data-driven graphics. You can drop a CSV or JSON data file and pick-whip data to layer properties to control them. In addition, you can drag and drop data right onto your comp to use the actual numerical value. Data-driven graphics is a definite game changer for After Effects.

Audition
While Adobe Audition is an audio mixing application, it has some updates that will directly help anyone looking to mix their edit in Audition. In the past, to get audio to a mixing program like Audition, Pro Tools or Fairlight you would have to export an AAF (or if you are old like me possibly an OMF). In the latest Audition update you can simply open your Premiere Pro projects directly into Audition, re-link video and audio and begin mixing.

I asked Adobe whether you could go back and forth between Audition and Premiere, but it seems like it is a one-way trip. They must be expecting you to export individual audio stems once done in Audition for final output. In the future, I would love to see back and forth capabilities between apps like Premiere Pro and Audition, much like the Fairlight tab in Blackmagic’s Resolve. There are some other updates like larger tracks and under-the-hood updates which you can find more info about on: https://theblog.adobe.com/creative-cloud/.

Adobe Character Animator has some cool updates like overall character building updates, but I am not too involved with Character Animator so you should definitely read about things like the Trigger Improvements on their blog.

Summing Up
In the end, it is great to see Adobe moving forward on updates to its Creative Cloud video offerings. Data-driven animation inside of After Effects is a game-changer. Shot color matching in Premiere Pro is a nice step toward a professional color correction application. Importing Premiere Pro projects directly into Audition is definitely a workflow improvement.

I do have a wishlist though: I would love for Premiere Pro to concentrate on tried-and-true solutions before adding fancy updates like audio ducking. For example, I often hear people complain about how hard it is to export a QuickTime out of Premiere with either stereo or mono/discrete tracks. You need to set up the sequence correctly from the jump, adjust the pan on the tracks, as well as adjust the audio settings and export settings. Doesn’t sound streamlined to me.

In addition, while shot color matching is great, let’s get an Adobe SpeedGrade-style view tab into Premiere Pro so it works like a professional color correction app… maybe Lumetri Pro? I know if the color correction setup was improved I would be way more apt to stay inside of Premiere Pro to finish something instead of going to an app like Resolve.

Finally, consolidating and transcoding used clips with handles is hit or miss inside of Premiere Pro. Can we get a rock-solid consolidate and transcode feature inside of Premiere Pro? Regardless of some of the few negatives, Premiere Pro is an industry staple and it works very well.

Check out Adobe’s NAB 2018 update video playlist for details on each and every update.


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.


B&H expands its NAB footprint to target multiple workflows

By Randi Altman

In a short time, many in our industry will be making the pilgrimage to Las Vegas for NAB. They will come (if they are smart) with their comfy shoes, Chapstick and the NAB Show app and plot a course for the most efficient way to see all they need to see.

NAB is a big show that spans a large footprint, and typically companies showing their wares need to pick a hall — Central, South Lower, South Upper or North. This year, however, The Studio-B&H made some pros’ lives a bit easier by adding a booth in South Lower in addition to their usual presence in Central Hall.

B&H’s business and services have grown, so it made perfect sense to Michel Suissa, managing director at The Studio-B&H, to grow their NAB presence to include many of the digital workflows the company has been servicing.

We reached out to Suissa to find out more.

This year B&H and its Studio division are in the South Lower. Why was it important for you guys to have a presence in both the Central and South Halls this year?
The Central Hall has been our home for a long time and it remains our home with our largest footprint, but we felt we needed to have a presence in South Hall as well.

Production and post workflows merge and converge constantly and we need to be knowledgeable in both. The simple fact is that we serve all segments of our industry, not just image acquisition and camera equipment. Our presence in image and data centric workflows has grown leaps and bounds.

This world is a familiar one for you personally.
That’s true. The post and VFX worlds are very dear to me. I was an editor, Flame artist and colorist for 25 years. This background certainly plays a role in expanding our reach and services to these communities. The Studio-B&H team is part of a company-wide effort to grow our presence in these markets. From a business standpoint, the South Hall attendees are also our customers, and we needed to show we are here to assist and support them.

What kind of workflows should people expect to see at both your NAB locations?
At the South Hall, we will show a whole range of solutions to show the breadth and diversity of what we have to offer. That includes VR post workflow, color grading, animation and VFX, editing and high-performance Flash storage.

In addition to the new booth in South Hall, we have two in Central. One is for B&H’s main product offerings, including our camera shootout, which is a pillar of our NAB presence.

This Studio-B&H booth features a digital cinema and broadcast acquisition technology showcase, including hybrid SDI/IP switching, 4K studio cameras, a gyro-stabilized camera car, the most recent full-frame cinema cameras, and our lightweight cable cam, the DynamiCam.

Our other Central Hall location is where our corporate team can discuss all business opportunities with new and existing B2B customers

How has The Studio-B&H changed along with the industry over the past year or two?
We have changed quite a bit. With our services and tools, we have re-invented our image from equipment providers to solution providers.

Our services now range from system design to installation and deployment. One of the more notable recent examples is our recent collaboration with HBO Sports on World Championship Boxing. The Studio-B&H team was instrumental in deploying our DynamiCam system to cover several live fights in different venues and integrating with NEP’s mobile production team. This is part of an entirely new type of service —  something the company had never offered its customers before. It is a true game-changer for our presence in the media and entertainment industry.

What do you expect the “big thing” to be at NAB this year?
That’s hard to say. Markets are in transition with a number of new technology advancements: machine learning and AI, cloud-based environments, momentum for the IP transition, AR/VR, etc.

On the acquisition side, full frame/large sensor cameras have captured a lot of attention. And, of course, HDR will be everywhere. It’s almost not a novelty anymore. If you’re not taking advantage of HDR, you are living in the past.

Color plays key role in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time

Color itself plays a significant role in the fantasy feature A Wrinkle in Time. To help get the look she wanted, director Ava DuVernay chose Mitch Paulson of Hollywood’s Efilm to handle final color grading — the two worked together on the Oscar-nominated film Selma. Wrinkle, which was shot by Tobias Schliessler, captures the magical feel of lead character Meg’s (Storm Reid) journey through time and space.

The film has several different looks. The rather gloomy appearance of the Meg’s difficult life on earth is contrasted by the incredibly vibrant appearance of the far-off planets she’s taken to by a trio of magical women — played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling.

Paulson recalls DuVernay’s thinking. “Ava talked a bit about The Wizard of Oz, where the early scenes are in black and white and then it goes into color. She didn’t want to take things that far but that informed the overall approach. The parts on Earth at the beginning are somewhat desaturated and depressed looking. Meg lives with her mom because her dad has mysteriously disappeared. She has issues at school and is constantly bullied.”

To fine-tune this idea, Paulson built curves inside of Autodesk Lustre 2017. These were designed to desaturate many colors, particularly blues and greens, without significantly altering skin tones. Then he went through shot-by-shot to refine this even further using Lustre’s Diamond Keyer function to isolate certain colors (such as the blue in a row of school lockers) and further pull out some saturation. “I keyed almost everything,” he says, “grass, skies, water. I’d have at least three to four keys per shot.”

Then, as Meg and friends travel to the other planets, Paulson says, “We did the opposite and used curves and keying to make things brighter and more saturated. As soon as they jump to the first planet, you feel the difference.” He also points out that the time travelers find themselves in a large grassy field — a scene for which he isolated the real green of the New Zealand location and brought the saturation beyond anything we’d be used to seeing in real life.

“By manipulating the chrominance softness and tolerance diamonds of the keyer, you can quickly and easily isolate the color for a key. I find it more effective than an HSL tracker,” he explains. The colorist also finds system’s shapes tool to be very effective. “I use it all the time to isolate a portion of an actor’s face or hair to create a subtle idea of light there that sometimes really help as a final step to making a VFX shot blend perfectly with the background.”

Not all the planets the characters travel to are happy places, and Paulson worked with the filmmakers to create some variations on the color themes. The planet, Camazotz is an evil place, he says. “That’s not obvious at first but we sort of queue it right away by making it look just a bit off. For example, we took almost all the green out of the plants.”

Besides the standard d-cinema version, Paulson also did trim passes for Dolby Cinema 2D, Dolby Cinema 3D (14 foot-lamberts) and standard 3D (3.5 foot-lamberts), each of which requires additional refinement. “Tobias likes the really deep blacks you can get in the Dolby Cinema version, but we didn’t want to push things too far. It’s already so colorful and saturated that when we’d open the files in PQ (Dolby’s Perceptual Quantizer) we pulled a lot of it back so that it has an extra pop, but it still is very similar to the way the P3 version looks.”

Dailies were colored at Efilm by Adrian DeLude on Colorfront OSD. Files were conformed in Autodesk Flame. Deluxe’s Portal service was the tool used by VFX vendors to locate and download camera-original material and upload iterations of shots, which were then integrated onto Paulson’s Lustre timeline as the final grade proceeded.