Tag Archives: color grading

Behind the Title: AlphaDogs colorist Sean Stack

NAME: Sean Stack

COMPANY: Burbank’s AlphaDogs

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are a post production facility focused on online finishing, including color correction and audio mixing. We also have graphic artists and complete duplication, format conversion and tape output capabilities.

AS A COLORIST, WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably the most surprising thing to the layman would be how much control I can have over the image and what that means for the production.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
Primarily, I work in DaVinci Resolve for color grading, and we have both Mac and PC systems capable of the same work. I also color correct in Avid Symphony. The choice of system is guided by the requirements of the project.

For example, if I am working on a documentary or feature I would most likely be using Resolve to re-link and conform the sequence to the camera source files for grading, allowing access to the full quality and resolution of the source file. In the event I am finishing an unscripted reality-style television series, the sequence in Avid would be upres’d to a high-resolution format (such as DNxHD175) and graded using the Avid Symphony color correction tools.

Sunset Strip

‘Sunset Strip’ is just one of many projects Sean Stack has worked on.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Nearly every project I work on has additional work other than color correction. It ranges — some are simple edit tasks that are required to create delivery files, such as adding the final audio mix stems and exporting them with picture in the correct layout following the delivery specifications.

For a more complicated project I may be exporting DPX image sequences from Resolve of pre-graded scenes that will go to graphic artists for visual effects work. Then, once the VFX are complete, I will be cutting the final effect shots back into the final graded sequence. I’ve never been asked to do a hula dance and I am thankful for that, however I have been asked for my critical review of the project and that can be very tricky terrain to tread on. I always try to find something in every project that I like, because filmmakers need emotional support.

ARE YOU BEING ASKED TO DO MINOR VFX WORK TOO?
I do a ton of minor VFX work. My favorite fix is when you can just push-in to remove a problem, such as a boom mic dropping into the frame. Arguably, that instance may not be VFX but if you are talking about painting it out and I fix it, then it’s fixed. Minor perhaps, but I just saved the client major time and money. Other minor VFX work may include stabilizing shots, blurring objects and compositing several images together. A compositing example for a recent project involved adding footage inside a cell phone that was making a FaceTime call and also adding computer desktop images to laptop screens that were not powered up.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
When the clients and I get on the same wavelength and we are seeing the color working the same way. It means I get it and I can go forward with confidence, and once that trust is built the project will sail.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Unlocking the cut. Do everything to avoid unlocking the cut once you are in color and sound mix.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Good question. Making ice cream or maybe a landscape designer.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION? HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I’ve always wanted to be part of filmmaking and spent some years acting in professional non-equity theatre before discovering editing was what really made me happy.

Tom Petty

‘Running Down a Dream’

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The most well-known project may be the Tom Petty documentary called Running Down a Dream, directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Other projects of note would be Sunset Strip, a documentary on the history of the famous boulevard in Los Angeles.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I would have to say a documentary called Dying to Know about Timothy Leary and Ram Das. I’m proud of the work on that film because the filmmakers set a very high bar for me to achieve, and I feel like I met the expectation, and in some cases, exceeded it. In that feature length documentary, there was nearly every possible video format used, from archival film transfers of a Congressional inquiry to standard definition video captured in the early 1980s. The director has a fantastic eye for color and the producer is a talented photographer, so the color grading was highly scrutinized by experienced people, and that pushed me into learning new solutions.

Timothy Leary

‘Dying to Know’

This was one of the few projects where every stone was turned over to get the best out of every shot — if it meant going to the Teranex to convert footage to the proper frame-rate then it was done. There was a long interview section where camera A was an analog video format, Betacam, and footage from camera B was Digi Beta, so the sources looked very different. I was able to balance the sources to look very similar and the distraction of varied formats was removed. Do average viewers notice? I have to say, subconsciously they probably do, and there’s a value added to a program when there’s no distraction from the story. Editing, color correction, VFX and even audio mix should not be something the viewer is thinking about or even aware of, so my best work probably goes completely unnoticed and that’s the best possible scenario for the audience. Enjoy the show.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
I first try to find it within the project and footage I’m working on. I get on board with the story and, if the director has ideas, listen to those as well. If that still doesn’t get me involved, I might look at some clips from movies that have a similar feel to what I’m working on. Then I choose some music to listen to and usually stick with the genre through the project to keep my head in that space.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Graphics tablet, external video scopes and fast Internet.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram and Facebook, but really only for personal stuff. I have a LinkedIn account as well but I’m not very active. I’m not suggesting this is the wisest choice. I also have listings on IMDB, of course.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I golf and work on restoring my vintage VW bus, then go camping or hit the beach and just relax.

Review: NewBlueFX’s ColorFast 2 for editors

By Brady Betzel

Basic color correction is rapidly becoming a skill that is expected of an editor, or even an assistant editor. If you have had the luxury of using a colorist and/or an online editor, you have probably seen them use apps such as Blackmagic Resolve, Avid Symphony, FilmLight’s Baselight or other color grading tools. These systems have so many levels of intricacy that without years of experience in color correction, most editors’ knowledge starts at the beginning stage.

If you are an editor looking to do basic color correction, slight secondary correction and, maybe, even a creative grade, you probably want to stay inside of your NLE, whether it’s Adobe Premiere, Apple FCPX, Avid Media Composer, Magix Vegas, or even After Effects. This is where NewBlueFX’s latest color correction and grading plug-in comes into play.

Featuring over 60 different looks (sometimes referred to as creative LUTs or preset color grades), skin tone isolation and the ability to isolate regions of an image for the video scopes to analyze, New Blue ColorFast 2 is a modest color correction app without the overwhelming toolset of a full-fledged color correction application.

The Details
ColorFast 2 costs $99 and works in apps like Vegas Pro 10+, Resolve 11+, Premiere CS6/6.5/CC, After Effects 5+, FCPX, Media Composer/Symphony 6+ and Grass Valley Edius 7 and 8. If you are using apps like Resolve you probably would only use ColorFast 2 for its preset looks since you already have access to all of the color correction tools included in the plug-in — unless you like the region isolating feature for the video scopes, something I find really intriguing.

ColorFast2 RGB Scope and the Lumetri RGB scope.

Most people reading this review will probably want to know why they should buy ColorFast 2 when Premiere Pro has a lot of these features built into their Lumetri color correction tools. To be honest, there are only a few things that ColorFast 2 has that Premiere, or other apps for that matter, don’t have: region-controlled video scopes, skin color isolating and NewBlueFX’s color presets. You should really check out NewBlueFX’s product page for ColorFast 2 to see some more examples of the color presets and download a trial for yourself.

Right off the bat, I felt that stacking ColorFast 2 after the Lumetri color correction tools in the effects panel in Premiere is the proper order of operations. If you are familiar with LUTs and how the chain of command works, you probably have experimented with color correcting before and after the LUT is applied.

Typically, a LUT gives the colorist a good starting point to grade from, but these days you may see creative LUTs. If the creative LUT doesn’t quite look right you will want add color correction first in the chain of command and then the LUT. This is how I would work with ColorFast 2 and Lumetri color correction tools. You will be correcting the footage to work with your creative LUT instead of correcting the LUT, which most of the time will give you inadequate results. Long story short: stack your ColorFast 2 effect after Lumetri tools in the effects window and then fine-tune the Basic Correction settings with your ColorFast 2 preset to get a great color grade.

The ColorFast2 waveform with isolated scope region.

Video Scopes
I was excited to check out the video scopes inside of ColorFast 2, so I jumped to the bottom where the Region Scopes twirl-down menu is. Under that is the Video Scopes menu, which contains Vectorscope (Classic), Vectorscope (Color), Vectorscope (Sat, RGB Parade), Waveform and Histogram. The real beauty is that NewBlueFX gives you the ability to isolate a square region of your footage to be output through the video scope. This allows you to pinpoint your correction a little easier, and I really love this feature… but I also noticed that when you have both the Lumetri video scopes, as well as the ColorFast 2 scopes there is a discrepancy in values. I tended to like the Lumetri video scopes a little better. In fact, they go all the way up to 100, where the ColorFast 2 scopes only go up to 80 — this could very well be a bug in the compatibility between ColorFast 2 and the new Adobe Premiere CC 2015.4.

One issue I found with the ColorFast 2 scopes was that I couldn’t move the actual scope around or have more than one on at a time. While the region selection is an awesome feature, being able to see your full image is sometimes more important, so that is why I would probably stick to the NLEs built-in scopes.

Primary, Secondary, Output Correction Menus
Going back to the top of the ColorFast 2 Effect Editor menus, up first is the Primary Correction twirl-down menu. Here you can quickly white-balance your footage with an eyedropper, even keyframe it. In addition, you can adjust the White Strength, White Tweak (fine-tune control of the white color), Hue, Saturation, Exposure, Brightness and Film Gamma. A problem I encountered was that if you do a primary color correct on your image and then choose a color preset, all of your primary work gets reset, which is a real bummer if you want to correct and then grade your footage. So, if you want to work in ColorFast 2 in a more traditional way, where you color correct then color grade, you may want to do it in two separate effects. Moreover, you may want to primary color correct inside of the Lumetri tools then stack the ColorFast 2 on top.

Secondaries menu.

Next up is the Secondary Correction twirl-down menu, which gets you into the real meat and potatoes of the plug-in. There is a helpful “Show Mask” drop down that will allow you to isolate and view Highlights, Midtones, Shadows, Skin Color Mask and a Shape Mask. Inside each of these you can adjust Tint, Saturation, overall Level, and even enable and disable this secondary if you want. Further down in the secondary menu you can adjust the High, Mid and Shadow thresholds (basically transitions from high to mid or mid to shadow), and even the blending and spread.

While still in the secondary twirl-down menu you can jump into the Skin Mask, which will quickly help you identify skin color, soften imperfections and even help keep skin color fidelity while adjusting the rest of your image.

The last menu is the Output Correction twirl-down. Here you can do a widespread correction that lands after the fine-tuning. You can adjust overall Saturation, Exposure and Brightness.

Summing Up
In the end, I think ColorFast 2 is best suited for people who want a quick color grade by applying a preset look but who also want a little ability to fine-tune that look. ColorFast 2 has some pretty good-looking presets like Vintage, Fallout, Gotham and even some black and white presets like B&W Ink. It’s even more fun to go and purposely change your white balance to something crazy, like a deep purple, for interesting grades. You should definitely try NewBlueFX’s ColorFast 2 if you are looking for some additional creative grade looks while still being able to individually tweak the output.

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.

Nice Shoes opens Toronto studio

A New York City post production mainstay for the past 20 years, Nice Shoes has gone international with the opening of Nice Shoes Toronto. The new studio is made up of creative directors Gary Thomas and Matt Greenwood, design director Stefan Woronko, senior colorist Roslyn Di Sisto and executive producer Kristen Van Fleet.

Prior to joining Nice Shoes, the team (who come from the now defunct post house Smith) delivered a series of vibrant animations and short films for the Cannes Lions Festival, working closely with Leo Burnett Chicago executive producer Juan Woodbury. Van Fleet and Di Sisto also graded Drake’s hit “Hotline Bling,” working with Director X on the color-driven music video.

Thomas, Greenwood and Woronko will also be added to the now-international Nice Shoes Creative Studio roster, which recently showed off the studio’s animation and virtual reality capabilities by designing and editing the opening titles of the 2016 ANA Masters of Marketing Conference.

Di Sisto joins the color and finishing team, who have delivered work for brands such as Volvo, Samsung, Jeep, McDonald’s and MasterCard as well as performers BeyoncéKanye WestLady Gaga and Pink. As executive producer, Van Fleet unites the divisions, working closely with creative studio EP Angela Bowen and color and finishing EP Tara Holmes.

“Toronto is one of the top hubs for advertising in the world, and we’ve assembled a team that reflects the high quality of creative content being produced in this market,” says managing director Justin Pandolfino.

The newly launched location will offer directors and clients in the US planning shoots in Canada a convenient and competitive production partner. Nice Shoes Toronto will be integrated with the studio’s Remote Color Grading network, creating opportunities for Di Sisto to work with clients throughout North America and for clients in Toronto to connect with the company’s full roster of colorists. Di Sisto will be working with FilmLight’s Baselight and with monitors calibrated by Nice Shoes’ team of engineers.

“Our Toronto studio not only extends our physical reach, but it expands the combined resources and talents of all locations, allowing us to be a more versatile and nimble partner to our clients,” adds Nice Shoes Creative Studio EP Bowen.

Main Photo Caption: (Back Row, L-R) Gary Thomas and Matt Greenwood. (Front, L-R) Kristen Van Fleet, Stefan Woronko, Adrian Gluvakovich and Roslyn Di Sisto.

Technicolor’s Maxine Gervais colors Sully

Warner Bros.’s Sully, which had its US premiere last month and opens in the UK next, tells the story of pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who famously landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009, saving everyone on board.

Director Clint Eastwood once again called on long-time collaborator and cinematographer Tom Stern to shoot the film. He used Arri Alexa 65 large-format cameras at 6K resolution. Sully was then finished in 4K and readied for distribution, including to IMAX HDR theaters.

Maxine Gervais at work.

Technicolor colorist Maxine Gervais, who supervised dailies and provided the grade, helped develop the overall aesthetic of the film and helped established a look of photorealism with a “very current feel,” working closely with Stern and director Eastwood. Because the emergency landing took place on a cold January morning, it was important that the visual tones reflected how cold the river temperatures were along with the tension and urgency of the situation.

“Because it was freezing that day, we wanted to make sure that it looked and felt that way — and that’s what you experience when you see the movie,” says Gervais, who used FilmLight’s Baselight on the project.

Sully also features several flashback scenes, for which Gervais used Baselight’s compositing tools. “I love the composite grading capability where you can blend layers in additive, subtractive and other modes — each layer becomes an element. It can serve a creative yet intricate look as well as some basic VFX, and it just keeps getting better.”

Composite grading also enables precise control when grading VFX shots. “The 4K VFX shots were sometimes delivered with up to eight element mattes. It gave me the ability to stack and treat every element from the plane, the water, the background and foreground to create a unique set of creative grades to work with and manipulate in realtime, without processing or rendering,” she explains.

Technicolor’s MPC provided key visual effects. As the VFX shots were brought into the Baselight timeline, the evolving grade was applied so the film could be continually reviewed with Eastwood and Stern in an IMAX environment. “This is my third collaboration with the Malpaso team [Eastwood’s production company],” says Gervais, who also worked on Jersey Boys and American Sniper. “Sully is definitely high-tech in every sense of the word from a DI point of view. We had to ensure that the look would hold up, that the VFX and non-VFX shots would balance out, the blacks and the highlights would be pristine, and that the resolution was perfectly preserved to meet the exacting standards of IMAX.”

Gervais worked closely with the IMAX team, “especially with Lee Wimer, who had been a lab-timer at Technicolor for many years. Bob Peichel produced the Sully color finishing and Erik Kauffman delivered editorial conform, along with Jeff Pantaleo who was Gervais’ color assist. Technicolor also delivered theatrical marketing color for the film’s theatrical and broadcast trailers. In addition to color grading and color finishing at Technicolor Hollywood, Technicolor Toronto’s sound team created IMAX Audio DRM for the film’s theatrical release.

Check out Gervais discussing some of her work:

The color and sound of Netflix’s The Get Down

The Get Down, Baz Luhrmann’s new series for Netflix, tells the story of the birth of hip-hop in the late 1970s in New York’s South Bronx. The show depicts a world filled with colorful characters pulsating to the rhythms of an emerging musical form.

Shot on the Red Dragon and Weapon in 6K, sound and picture finishing for the full series was completed over several months at Technicolor PostWorks New York. Re-recording mixers Martin Czembor and Eric Hirsch, working under Luhrmann’s direction and alongside supervising sound designer Ruy Garcia, put the show’s dense soundtrack into its final form.

The Get Down

Colorist John Crowley, meanwhile, collaborated with Luhrmann, cinematographer William Rexer and executive producer Catherine Martin in polishing its look. “Every episode is like a movie,” says Czembor. “And the expectations, on all levels, were set accordingly. It was complex, challenging, unique… and super fascinating.”

The Get Down’s soundtrack features original music from composer Elliott Wheeler, along with classic hip-hop tracks and flashes of disco, new wave, salsa and even opera. And the music isn’t just ambiance; it is intricately woven into the story. To illustrate the creative process, a character’s attempt to work out a song lyric might seamlessly transform into a full-blown finished song.

According to Garcia, the show’s music team began working on the project from the writing stage. “Baz uses songs as plot devices — they become part of the story. The music works together with the sound effects, which are also very musical. We tuned the trains, the phones and other sounds and synced them to the music. When a door closes, it closes on the beat.”

Ruy Garcia

The blending of story, music, dialogue and sound came together in the mix. Hirsch, who mixed Foley and effects, recalls an intensive trial-and-error process to arrive at a layering that felt right. “There was more music in this show than anything I’ve previously worked on,” he says. “It was a challenge to find enough sound effects to fill out the world without stepping on the music. We looked for places where they could breathe.”

In terms of tools, they used Avid Pro Tools 12 HD for sound and music, ADR manager for ADR cueing and Sound Miner for Sound FX library management. For sound design they called on Altiverb, Speakerphone and SoundToys EchoBoy to create spaces, and iZotope Iris for sampling. “We mixed using two Avid Pro Tools HDX2 systems and a double operator Avid S6 control surface,” explains Garcia. “The mix sessions were identical to the editorial sessions, including plug-ins, to allow seamless exchange of material and elaborate conformations.”

Music plays a crucial role in the series’ numerous montage sequences, acting as a bridge as the action shifts between various interconnecting storylines. “In Episode 2, Cadillac interrogates two gang members about a nightclub shooting, as Shaolin and Zeke are trying to work out the ‘get down’ — finding the break for a hip-hop beat,” recalls Czembor. “The way those two scenes are cut together with the music is great! It has an amazing intensity.”

Czembor, who mixed dialogue and music, describes the mix as a collaborative process. During the early phases, he and Hirsch worked closely with Wheeler, Garcia and other members of the sound and picture editing teams. “We spent several days pre-mixing the dialogue, effects and music to get it into a basic shape that we all liked,” he explains. “Then Baz would come in and offer ideas on what to push and where to take it next. It was a fun process. With Baz, bigger and bolder is always better.”

The team mostly called on Garcia’s personal sound library, “plus a lot of vintage New York E train and subway recordings from some very generous fellow sound editors,” he says. “Shaolin Fantastic’s kung-fu effects come from an old British DJ’s effects record. We also recorded and edited extensive Foley, which was edited against the music reference guide.”

The Color of Hip-Hop
Bigger and bolder also applied to the picture finishing. Crowley notes that cinematographer William Rexer employed a palette of rich reddish brown, avocado and other colors popular during the ‘70s, all elevated to levels slightly above simple realism. During grading sessions with Rexer, Martin and Luhrmann, Crowley spent time enhancing the look within the FilmLight Baselight, sharpening details and using color to complement the tone of the narrative. “Baz uses color to tell the story,” he observes. “Each scene has its own look and emotion. Sometimes, individual characters have their own presence.”

ohn-crowley

John Crowley

Crowley points to a scene where Mylene gives an electrifying performance in a church (photo above). “We made her look like a superstar,” he recalls. “We darkened the edges and did some vignetting to make her the focus of attention. We softened her image and added diffusion so that she’s poppy and glows.”

The series uses archival news clips, documentary material and stock footage as a means of framing the story in the context of contemporary events. Crowley helped blend this old material with the new through the use of digital effects. “In transitioning from stock to digital, we emulated the gritty 16mm look,” he explains. “We used grain, camera shake, diffusion and a color palette of warm tones. Then, once we got into a scene that was shot digitally, we would gradually ride the grain out, leaving just a hint.”

Crowley says it’s unusual for a television series to employ such complex, nuanced color treatments. “This was a unique project created by a passionate group of artists who had a strong vision and knew how to achieve it,” he says.

Hands of Stone DP and colorist weigh in on film’s look and feel

By Randi Altman

“No mas! No mas!” Those famous words were uttered in desperation by legendary fighter Roberto Durán, putting an end to his rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard. But before that, Durán had impressively defeated the charismatic Sugar Ray, capturing the WBC welterweight title. Durán’s story — along with that of his trainer Ray Arcel — was recently told in The Weinstein Company’s feature Hands of Stone.

Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, the film’s DP was Miguel Ioan Littin Menz. He worked very closely with director Jakubowicz and FotoKem colorist Kostas Theodosiou to develop several different looks for the film, including for the different decades in which the story takes place, boxing versus training scenes in different locations (New York, Panama, Las Vegas) and flashback scenes.

Robert De Niro and Edgar Ramírez star in HANDS OF STONEThe film stars Édgar Ramírez as Duran, Usher Raymond as Sugar Ray and Robert DeNiro as Ray Arcel.

We were lucky enough to get some time from both Littin Menz and Theodosiou, albeit separately, for questions. First we caught up with Theodosiou.
Enjoy.

How early did you get involved with the film?
Theodosiou: Prior to my involvement in the project, FotoKem’s nextLAB was on location and involved in dailies acquisition and management. However, I started working with the filmmakers at the editorial stage, after the shoot was finished.

What kind of overall look/looks did the director and DP have in mind for the film, and how did they share that vision with you?
Theodosiou: Both the director Jonathan Jakubowicz and the director of photography Miguel Ioan Litten Menz were very hands-on. They supervised each session to make sure we created looks that best suited all the different time periods, as well as the variety of locations used in the production. The story involved multiple locations, including Panama, New York and Las Vegas.

Nearly every scene was shot on location to maintain authenticity, and it was important that we were true to the look and feel of each location. Jonathan and Miguel explained in detail what they wanted to achieve visually, so we created a unique look for each location.

kostas

Kostas Theodosiou

In addition, the story took us through many different time periods that spanned Roberto Duran’s life — from childhood through his entire career. Each time period also required a different treatment to establish its place in time. Every look we created had a purpose and is in the film for a reason. As a result, there are many different looks in this movie, but they all worked together to help tell the story.

You called on Resolve for this film. Can you talk about the tool and how it helps you in your work?
Theodosiou: Resolve is a great platform and allowed me to mix footage that was shot using a variety of different cameras, lenses and aspect ratios. The tools in Resolve helped me blend the footage seamlessly to enhance the filmmakers’ vision, and the results surpassed their expectations.

You mentioned that both the director and DP were in the room with you?
Theodosiou: Yes, Miguel and Jonathan were supervising the color correction from beginning to end. We all had great chemistry and worked together as a team. This was Jonathan’s passion project and he was very invested in the film, so he was deeply involved in the finishing process. And Miguel flew in from Chile to make sure he was here with us.

In the final stages of making the film, additional scenes were added and both filmmakers returned to FotoKem to work with me to make sure the new extended scenes fit in with the mood they were trying to portray. It was a very hands-on experience.

Now let’s hear from DP Miguel Ioan Litten Menz:

What were your first meetings like with Kostas?
Littin Menz: I was very pleased to hear that the color correction was to be done at FotoKem in Los Angeles. We chose Kostas because of his background — he’s worked for Paul Thomas Anderson; Robert Elswit, ASC; Christopher Nolan; and Hoyte van Hoytema, ASC. Since the first meeting, the connection and conversation about aesthetic was immediately understood. Our ideas and feelings about how to adjust the palette of colors for the final look of the film were in sync. He did marvelous work.

director-and-dp

Jonathan Jakubowicz and Miguel Ioan Littin Menz.

What was the general overall look the director had in mind for the film and how did he communicate that to you?
Littin Menz: In general, Jonathan talked about creating different looks between Panama and New York, and at the same time creating a look where you can feel an epic and intimate story at the same time. We want the audience to feel the wild, powerful and sensual colors around Roberto Durán’s life in Panama, and more plain, elegant and sober colors around Ray Arcel’s life in New York. In our research, we looked at thousands of photographs from sports magazines from that period, and also many documentaries.

And for my personal research, I again read Norman Mailer’s book “The Fight” and Jack London’s “The Mexican.”

How would you describe the different looks and feel of the film — decade by decade, location by location?
Littin Menz: I worked very closely with Tomás Voth, the production designer, who did amazing work. We described two very different worlds — Duran’s life in Panama and Ray Arcel’s in New York — so as a general concept we tried to create eclectic and powerful palates of colors for Duran’s life, to mimic his real personality.

For Ray Arcel, we used colors that were more serene and elegant, like he was throughout his entire life. Sometimes I used warm colors to evoke nostalgic times for Ray Arcel, and sometimes cool colors appeared in the sad times for both Duran and Arcel. Decade by decade, from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, we created different looks for timeline reasons but also as part of the intimate space for each character.

What cameras did you use, and why did you opt for three different ones? How did that affect the look and the grade?
Littin Menz: We relied on two Alexa XTs, one Alexa M and three Blackmagic cameras for VFX purposes. One of the Alexas, the B camera, was always prepared for the Steadicam. The C camera and the Alexa M were used for the fights. Also, we used Anamorphic Hawk V Lite Lenses. Kostas was thorough in making sure everything from the different shoots matched.

Can you talk about the shoot? Was there a DIT? If so, what role did they play? And what kind of on-set monitors were you using?
Littin Menz: The DIT was there mostly for making the back-ups and dailies. It was a lot of material every day. We also created LUTs for some scenes. The monitors were Asus VS197D-P 18.5-inch for video assist and a Flanders Scientific for the DIT station.

Was there anything unique or challenging about it that you are particularly proud of?
Littin Menz: On the technical side, it was very challenging to reproduce the big spaces and fights, in places like the Madison Square Garden in New York through three decades, the Olympic Stadium in Montreal and the Superdome in New Orleans, but I think we did it successfully.

Some of my favorite scenes were those of Durán when he was a kid in “El Chorrillo,” the poor neighborhood where he lived. We never forgot that the principal idea for the film was to tell the story through the clear and transparent eyes of that child — the story of a child who came from one of poorest neighborhoods of Latin America and became a world champion. I’m very proud to have been a part of this project.

Review: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 running Resolve 12.5

By Brady Betzel

Not long ago, I was asked if I wanted to check out Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 12.5 on a Microsoft Surface Pro 4. I was dubious, and wondered, “Do they really think I can edit, color correct, and deliver footage on a tablet?”

I was incredulous. I really thought this seemed like a pipe dream for Microsoft and Blackmagic. Everyone who works in post knows that you need a pretty monstrous workstation to play, let alone edit, media. Especially media with resolutions over 1920×1080 and 10-bit color! Well, let’s see how all of that played out.

Thankfully, I received the higher-end version of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet. Under the hood it was packing a dual-core 2.2 GHz Intel i7, 6650U CPU, 8GB RAM, NVMe Samsung MZFLV256 (256GB SSD) and an Intel Iris graphics 540 GPU. The display sports a beautiful 3:2 aspect ratio at 2736×1824 resolution; not quite the UHD 16:9/1.78:1 or true 4
K 1.9:1 aspect ratio that would be comfortable when working in video, but it’s not bad. Keep in mind that when working with high-resolution displays like an Apple Retina 5K or this Surface Pro 4, some apps will be hard to read even with the scaling bumped up.

Resolve looks great, but the words and icons might be a bit smaller than what you are used to seeing. The Surface Pro 4 weighs an incredibly light 1.73 pounds, measures 11.5×7.93x.33 inches and has the best stand I’ve ever used on a tablet. This is a big pet peeve of mine – terrible tablet stands — but the Surface sports a great one. I am on the go a lot, so I need a sturdy stand that, preferably, is attached. The Surface has the stand every other tablet manufacturer should copy.

I use Wacom products, so I am used to working with a great stylus, therefore, I didn’t have high expectations for the pen included with the Surface Pro. Boy, I was wrong! I was I happily surprised at how nice it was. While it doesn’t have the 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity present in the Wacom products that you might be used to, it does have 1,024, with great palm rejection. The weight of the pen was great — like really great — and it mounts on the side of the Surface by a strong magnet.

Aside from the mouse and stylus, the Surface Pro 4 has a 10-point touchscreen, but I didn’t use it very much. I found myself defaulting to the stylus when I wanted to interact directly on the screen, like in Photoshop or adjusting curves inside Resolve. Last, but not least, is the tremendous battery life. I was constantly running Resolve as well as playing music from Spotify and Pandora and the battery would last me most of the day. Once I got into heavy grading where I pumped up the brightness, the battery life went to lasting under two to four hours, which I think is still great.

Resolve
Ok, enough gloating about the Surface hardware and onto the real test: Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 12.5 running on a tablet!

Right off the bat — and as you’ve probably already surmised — I’m going to tell you that the Surface 4 Pro is not going to stand up to a powerhouse like the HP z840 with 64GB of RAM and an Nvidia Quadro M6000. But, what I found the Surface Pro 4 excelling at was proxy-based workflows and simple color matching.

You won’t be able to play 4K clips that cleanly, but the Surface 4 Pro and Resolve will allow you to color correct, grade, add a few nodes for things, such as a vignette or qualifier, and even export your grade. But if I were you and wanted to use the Surface Pro appropriately, a nice simple color balance will run great.

Essentially. the Surface Pro is a great way to travel and grade your footage thanks to Intel’s pretty amazing Iris graphics technology. You should really check out Intel’s backstory on how one of their engineers went to NAB 2015 and talked with the Blackmagic crew and figured out what he needed to do to get Intel-based GPUs to work with Resolve. Check this out. Regardless of whether or not there is hyperbole in that video, it is very true that almost anybody can run Resolve, whether you are on a Surface or an Intel-powered desktop.

Oh, don’t forget that for many people, the free version of Resolve will be all they need. Resolve is an amazing nonlinear editor and professional-level color correction software available at anyone’s fingertips for free. This is a fact that cannot be understated.

Testing
To test the Surface 4 Pro, I found some Red 5K footage that I scaled down to 1920×1080 in a 1920×1080 23.976 project, did a simple edit, colored and exported a final QuickTime. When I had the debayer set all the way to full resolution, my Surface started to crawl (crawl would be the polite term — in fact, it was more like melt. This is why I suggest the proxy workflow. However, when I played back at ¼, more so at ⅛, I was actually able to work. I was running around 10 to 12 frames per second. While I know 12fps isn’t the best playback for a 23.976 5K clip at 1920×1080 resolution, it let me do my job while on the go. I like to call it the “Starbuck’s Test.” If I need more than that I definitely should be at home using a HP z840, or DIY custom-built 4K workhorse, which I am looking to build.

If you really want to get the Surface to sing in Resolve 12.5, you should stick to 1920×1080 resolution footage or smaller. With a couple of serial nodes I was able to consistently get 15fps playback. Yeah, I know this isn’t ideal, but if I’m on the run and can’t use a workstation with dual Nvidia Titans or GTX1080 GPUs, 64GB DDR5 RAM, running footage off a Thunderbolt 3 external SSD RAID (a set-up that would cost north of $5K), the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a great alternate solution.

Something that is tough to deal with on the Surface is the small text and icon size in Windows 10. While there might be a way to fix it using registry key hacks, I don’t want to do that. I want to set it and forget it. For all I know, there is a way to make the text the right size, but I couldn’t find it easily.

There has to be a way this can be fixed, right? If you know of a true fix let me know on Twitter @allbetzroff. I would really love to know. I tried bumping up the icon/text zoom within Resolve and messing around with the zoom in the Window’s Control Panel, with no luck.

Another issue with using a tablet to color correct and grade is the lack of elegance and fluidity that professional color correction panels allow. If you do color at any sort of professional level you should probably have at the very least something like the Tangent Ripple or Element panels. Using a touch screen, mouse and/or stylus to edit and color correct gets old fast on a tablet.

Using the Tangent Ripple, which is surprisingly portable, I felt the elegance I know and love when using Resolve with a panel. (I will be doing a Tangent Ripple review later for some more in-depth analysis). I did love the ability to use the stylus to get in and fine-tune Power Windows and curves in Resolve, but you will definitely need some extra equipment if you find yourself doing more than a couple adjustments — much like any computer, and not just the Surface.

Summing Up
In the end, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (my version goes for around $1,600) is an exceptional tablet. I love isurface-pro-4-portst. In addition to running Resolve 12.5. I also installed the Adobe Suite of tools and did some editing in Premiere, effects in After Effects, transcoding in Media Encoder and even round-tripped my sequence between Resolve and Premiere.

The Surface Pro 4 is a great “away-from-home” computer to run very high-end apps like Resolve 12.5, Premiere Pro CC, and even apps like After Effects with hard core plug-ins like Imagineer System’s Mocha Pro 5.

While the touchscreen and stylus are great for occasional use, you should plan on investing in something like the Tangent Ripple color panel if you will be coloring a ton in Resolve or any other app — it’s even priced well at $350.

From the amazing battery life to the surprisingly snappy response of the Intel Iris 540 GPU inside of pro video editing and color correcting apps like Resolve, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is the Windows tablet you need in your mobile multimedia creator life.


Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Earlier this year, Brady was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.

MPC LA moves to Culver City location, expands MPC Film

After eight years in Santa Monica, MPC LA has moved to a 25,000-square-foot digital studio in Culver City at 8921 Lindblade Street.

MPC Advertising now has more space dedicated to VFX, color and finishing. The new space also plays host to a purpose-built VR/AR infrastructure and its content production arm, MPC Creative.

MPC Film LA has a greatly expanded footprint in the new facility, offering filmmakers the opportunity to collaborate with MPC’s artists to support the pre-production phase of development. Creative services include concept and production design, previs and visual development, and preliminary bidding and budgeting.

Julian Levi, the newly promoted GM at MPC Film LA, says, “We are excited to be able to continue collaborating with filmmakers in the very early stages of production. Having all of our front-end resources consolidated in the new studio means our clients can take advantage of MPC LA’s creative services all in one space.”

The space features an MPAA approved previs artist workspace and a screening room with 3D stereo, HD and 2K/4K projection, offering 2K synced reviews, TV-IPS video feed and video conferencing.

VFX industry veteran Joanna Capitano (right) has also joined the team at MPC Film LA, overseeing and representing the studio’s VFX supervisor talent, including Richard Stammers, Erik Nash and Guillaume Rocheron. Capitano was most recently VP of features at Digital Domain.

In discussing the move, MPC’s global CEO, Mark Benson, explains, “Culver City presented a unique opportunity to build out our custom-designed, integrated studio in a 25,000-square-foot space. It is a great fit because Culver City is fast becoming Los Angeles’ hotbed of emerging technology, and it’s located off the 10 freeway and Metro Expo line, making it convenient for our clients.”

MPC Film previs/postvis teams are currently working on Ghost in the Shell, Fantastic Beasts, Alien Covenant and The Dark Tower.

 

Liam Ford joins Post FactoryNY as CTO

Post FactoryNY has named Liam Ford as chief technology officer. Ford, who has more than a decade of post engineering and IT experience, was most recently VP of technology at Company 3, New York. At Post FactoryNY, Ford will oversee planned expansion of color grading and finishing services for theatrical and television projects.

Ford originally joined Company 3 as a DI systems manager in 2004. He was promoted to director of technology in 2010 and to VP of technology in 2013. In the latter role, he had oversight for technology operations at facilities in New York and Atlanta. He began his career with Title House in Hollywood.

“We want to provide film and television producers with a premium finishing experience, so that they can focus on content and story knowing that we’ve got the rest of the post process handled,” says Ford. “My role is to craft a technology environment that is tailored to the very unique needs of filmmakers and their projects.”

Dave Cole joins FotoKem as senior colorist

FotoKem has hired Dave Cole as senior colorist, strengthening its DI talent offerings. One of Cole’s first projects for Burbank-based FotoKem, will be Legendary’s upcoming Kong: Skull Island.

Cole’s career began in his native Australia, where he was a telecine operator and technical director, quickly segueing to colorist. His early work includes collaborating with director Peter Jackson and cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, ASC, on color for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 at The PostHouse AG and King Kong in 2004 at Weta Digital.

In 2006, he moved to Los Angeles and joined LaserPacific Media where he was colorist on the Oscar-nominated Ides of March, The Savages, Tron: Legacy, the Alvin and the Chipmunks series, and the Best Cinematography Academy Award-winning Life of Pi.

Most recently, at Modern VideoFilm, Cole was supervising colorist on titles such as The Book of Life, Eye in the Sky, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, An Ordinary Man and created looks for TV series such as Sleepy Hollow, Reign and Scorpion.

In addition to his colorist duties, Cole has been helping in the development of emerging HDR technologies for manufacturers and studios, as well as providing HDR grading for several major home theater releases.

Cole joins a colorist FotoKem team that includes Alastor Arnold, John Daro, Mark Griffith, George Koran, Kostas Theodosiou and Walter Volpatto. These colorists have worked on such titles as San Andreas, The Boxtrolls, Palo Alto, The D Train, Interstellar, The Conjuring 2, Independence Day: Resurgence and Central Intelligence. The team calls on Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and SGO’s Mistika.