Fox’s Gotham gives viewers a look at the early days of some of your favorite, and not-so-favorite, Batman characters, mostly focusing on a young detective named Jim Gordon… way before he became the Commissioner Gordon most of us are familiar with.
Gotham tells some dark stories, and the look of the show matches that dark narrative. To talk more about the color of the show, which will shortly come back from hiatus, Encore colorist Paul Westerbeck was kind enough to take time out and answer some or our questions.
What unique challenges does Gotham present?
Starting with the pilot, we were required to do rolling conforms. We colored each version as if it was final — the director’s cut, producer’s cut, studio cut and network locked cut. Every version had new media provided, as well as an EDL. We performed a color trace and matched any new shots each time.
The show looks amazing. What color grading tools are you using?
I’m working on the latest version of Nucoda. It has many great tools, several of which I use daily. I have been using the new 2014.2 float processing, which caches in OpenEXR. This allows for recovering clipped highlights and shadows in subsequent layers when wanted. I use DVO Clarity when a shot gets noisy for various reasons. In my opinion, Clarity is the best noise removal tool available in the business, and I don’t know what I would ever do without it.
I use DVO Fix to fix the periodic Alexa pixel hits, and I sometimes use DVO Steady to stabilize shots. I also use DVO Flicker to eliminate the lighting flicker effect, although this rarely happens on Gotham. Additionally, I use various Sapphire plug-ins. The bulk of my work is done as RGB primary color correction in balance.
Who comes in to supervise your sessions on Gotham?
Danny Cannon, the executive producer on Gotham, comes in on day one of color and we go through each scene and set masters. This usually takes two to three hours, after which I finish the show unsupervised. When completed, the show is recorded to HDCAM SR 4:4:4 for promo use and DP review. The DPs provide written notes, which I address. Periodically, VFX shots come through, which are matched in.
Speaking of visual effects shots, how are you integrating them?
When a VFX shot comes in, it is usually brought into the Avid. Then they export an AAF, which is imported into the Nucoda. Once it is imported, I use the Nucoda to trace the color from the previous version. Most of the time the color just works because the visual effects vendor, CoSA VFX, did not alter the color of the original dailies.
How long have you been working on Digital Vision’s system?
When it was time to switch from 2K to a nonlinear system years ago, I was given the option to choose whatever system I wanted. I tested all of them and found the Nucoda to be the quickest to use. In TV, you don’t have time to wait for rendering. I find with the Nucoda’s background rendering, it is ready to record when I finish my last color correction. It is like how it was with 2K in the early days; it is a very intuitive system. I only had the system for a few hours before my first supervised session — it was an episode of Nikita setting looks. It was actually with Danny Cannon, and the session went flawlessly.