Tag Archives: Colorist

Colorist Dan Hermelin joins Roundabout Entertainment

Roundabout Entertainment, which is growing its services for picture finishing and restoration, has hired colorist Dan Hermelin. He comes to Roundabout with more than 20 years of post experience and a resume spanning features, television and restoration projects, the latter including remasters of Jerry Maguire, Men in Black and The Deep. At Roundabout, his current project is the animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon.

He uses a Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, running version 12.5, using Resolve panels. His room is equipped with the new Sony X550 55-inch OLED monitors.

Hermelin spent the past five years at Deluxe, where he worked on restoration projects for Sony Pictures, MGM, Disney and other studios, as well as animation projects for Netflix and Nickelodeon. Prior to that, he spent 17 years at Ascent Media where his work spanned from commercials and music videos to episodic television, long-form television and features.

Notable credits include Disney’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Raising Helen and restorations of the Little Rascals and Gene Autry Westerns. He began his career with Image Transform.

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.

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.

Jill Bogdanowicz talks color grading and ‘Ghostbusters’

By Randi Altman

Who you gonna call? Well, in my case it was Deluxe’s Jill Bogdanowicz, the colorist on director Paul Feig’s new Ghostbusters. She took time out of her busy schedule — finishing up War Dogs — to walk us through her process on the VFX-heavy film, which is an updated version on the Ivan Reitman classic from 1984.

Bogdanowicz, who works at Deluxe’s Company 3, got involved on Ghostbusters early on, working on camera tests with DP Bob Yeoman — testing cameras, lenses and resolutions. The two had worked together before on Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, even though they did it all remotely, with Bogdanowicz in London and Yeoman in New York.

“He was able to review Grand Budapest and the DCPs, and gave comments to Wes,” she says. “The first time I met him was at the ASC awards after the movie had come out, so it was a good thing that we got to work in the same city for Ghostbusters.”

The positive experience on Grand Budapest led Yeoman to ask Bogdanowicz to join him on Ghostbusters.

It was during those camera tests, which were done on the Sony lot, that Yeoman decided on the Arri Alexa. It was also during this time that both Yeoman and Feig decided they wanted Ghostbusters to feel very filmic, with rich colors and a lot of detail.

“It was also decided that the film would be lit in a way where Bob could do his thing and make it look beautiful, and then I would just enhance that wonderful photography,” explains Bogdanowicz. “You still see the characters’ eyes and faces really well, but we could shape the image in a way where there was nothing distracting the frame. We would make sure that the audience would be looking where you want them to look.”

Another early test they did was deciding on what color of slime would be used in the film.

After shooting began, Bogdanowicz began visual effects tests for Yeoman and his team. In addition, she started looking at different LEDs. “They actually used practical LEDs on a lot of the actors who were going to be playing the ghosts so they could see how that would translate into visual effects,” says Bogdanowicz. “After all those tests were done, I got an edit of the movie. I was able to have a couple days to start going through the movie, smoothing it out, and getting the look set.”

That’s when Yeoman came into her suite and they went through the movie. Shortly after that director Feig joined them. “Paul was very involved. After I started the DI, basically, I took over all the visual effect sessions, so all final visual effects went through me on the big screen. I actually colored them, and they could see what they looked like as a final. It’s part of a process for finishing the visual effects, so when they would need certain parts of visual effects brightened, or darkened, or the color tweaked, I was able to do that live and they would approve the visual effect, and move on, and I could apply that into my final list for the movie.”

Bogdanowicz calls the process on Ghostbusters fun, interactive and collaborative — including the visual effects team, Feig, his editor Brent White and Yeoman. “They were an amazingly fun, and professional team to work with,” she says.

Let’s dig a bit more into Bogdanowicz’s process on the film.

Were there any challenges when working with the VFX shots?
I guess the biggest challenge was making sure I had enough time after all the visual effects were completed and dropped in to be able to fine tune a scene. They did something very smart on this film, which helped my process: toward the end of the process they would fill the scene with all the visual effects, finished or not. They were close enough to be put into the show, and they would keep updating them with the minor changes.

In general, my color was set. They were super organized, and I always had enough time to be able to smooth it out, because usually I had something done ahead of time, before it was absolutely final. (Sony Imageworks was the main house on this one.)

What’s an example of a note that you would get about a scene?
Paul never wanted anything to be too flat or too bright. He always wanted it to feel very rich. It was wonderful to have somebody with such a high taste level working on such a big comedy. So a lot of notes would be like, “Make sure it feels filmic, and rich.” It was really fun for me to be able to find those looks.

Another note would be, “Make sure you can see their eyes.” Certain times we would just brighten the actors’ eyes, so you could see their expressions a little bit more. There was a lot of that happening as well.

Do you think that enhanced the comedy?
I definitely think so, because you catch all the little details. These actresses are awesome, and they have so many tiny little expressions that you don’t want to miss.

Looking back, was there a particular scene that you are most proud of?
The Time Square fight scene toward the end of the movie, which was a combination of the VFX team and me. It’s quite intricate, and there is a lot of detail with the visual effects — all the different ghosts, and all the colors, which we really celebrated. We are not afraid of color in this movie. We go for it, keeping it rich with an almost Technicolor-type of look.

It has sort of a three-strip type of feel, because it’s got all beautiful flesh tones, and we are not afraid of letting that saturation shine through without being overly saturated, flat and garish. It’s really rich and filmic.

In Columbia Pictures' GHOSTBUSTERS.That scene is a dark night scene, but it’s got a lot of detail in it. Nothing is crushed and nothing is clipped, it’s got all this wonderful detail and color, and there’s tons of stuff going on, including visual effects integrating with non-visual effects.

You use both DaVinci Resolve and FilmLight Baselight, but for this one it was Baselight. Can you talk about how it helped in the process?
The Baselight handles multiple resolutions on the timeline, from a workflow standpoint, very elegantly. So in that respect it was very nice because the movie was shot on Alexa. We had the native Alexa resolution (3414) mixed with some of the visual effects resolutions, which most of the time were some form of 2K… not quite 3414. It was nice to be able to have those seamlessly integrated and at the highest resolution possible.

I also did the compositing for all the titles — which you can also do with the Resolve — and it just made everything easy. I used a lot of the tracking tools while I opened up the eyes on the actresses, and the power windows stuck right on their eyes beautifully.

The last time we spoke was about two years ago, and I asked you about your philosophy of color. Has that changed at all?
My philosophy has grown, and I’ve been learning a lot here at Company 3. I find it fascinating to see how other colorists work, and here I work with Stefan Sonnenfeld, Stephen Nakamura and Siggy Ferstl.

I’ve always had the philosophy of creating a really solid base for the image. What I love to do now is I’ll go through, and balance the whole movie to a place where I have something that looks really solid, and then create a look based on how the director or cinematographer, or both, see it.

Gertrude the Ghost in Columbia Pictures' GHOSTBUSTERS.For Ghostbusters I kept everything really rich, and really elegant and filmic. With other movies I like to start with that as my building blocks; it’s almost like building a house. You have to build the foundation and then you slowly pick out the details like the drapes, faucets and things. That is kind of how I think about coloring. I always like to try to build a foundation, which means the most color separation and the richest image that I can create, and then on top of that you can go anywhere.

What’s next for you?
I’m finishing up War Dogs, right now. I recently finished a smaller movie by director Mark Pellington, starring Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried, called The Last Word. It’s an amazing little film. Mark sent me the script a long time ago, and really wanted my input. That was a great little project.

I also just finished Ouija Origin of Evil with director Michael Flanagan and cinematographer Michael Fimognari. It’s a beautifully shot film with a ‘70s look.

Colorist Society adds color expert Lou Levinson as Fellow

Veteran colorist, telecine operator and color workflow specialist Lou Levinson has been named a Fellow of the Colorist Society International (CSI). Levinson’s career is impressive. He has worked with many top directors and cinematographers in Hollywood, including Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kamiński.

As a telecine colorist Levinson has worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial, The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Always, The Conformist, Tucker, The Sheltering Sky, Little Buddha, Batman, Batman Returns and Akira Kurusawa’s Dreams, as well as the laserdisc releases of the Star Wars trilogy and Apocalypse Now.

Levinson has held senior positions at Technicolor, MCA’s High Definition Telecine Research Facility and, currently, Apple. Levinson, an associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers, received his bachelor’s degree in design at the University of Illinois and his master’s in video at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“The colorist is a person whose primary responsibility is to help creative authors of visual storytelling in all its forms further that storytelling with the ‘look,’” says Levinson. “This means dealing with color, density, texture, composition and motion issues as prime involvement. Helping the industry recognize the value of the colorist is why I support CSI’s mission statement.”

A CSI Fellow is an honorary position within the Colorist Society International. It is given out in honor of distinguished service to the art and craft of color in motion pictures and television. Motion picture and television colorists Jim Wicks and Kevin Shaw founded colorist Society International. CSI is dedicated to advancing the craft, education, and public awareness of the art and science of color grading and color correction.

Colorist Society International names Dale Grahn as Fellow

Steven Spielberg’s color timer, Dale Grahn, has been named a Fellow of Colorist Society International (CSI). With hundreds of major film credits including, Saving Private Ryan, War of the Worlds, Minority Report, Gladiator and Predator, Grahn has shaped much of the look of modern cinema, working with, in addition to Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and cinematographers Janusz Kamiński, Michael Ballhaus and John Mathieson.

“CSI is very exciting,” said Grahn. “CSI will help to change the way the industry views the colorist. This is the single best thing that could happen to the industry and the colorist, but the best part for me is that I will be able to work with CSI leadership in this very important addition to the industry and the art of the craft.”

Colorist Society International is devoted exclusively to furthering and honoring the professional achievements of the colorist community. CSI gives voice for the professional colorist in the film and digital entertainment industry, and promotes the creative art and science of color grading, restoration and finishing.

Motion picture and television colorists Jim Wicks and Kevin Shaw founded colorist Society International, a paid membership organization, which will seek to increase the entertainment value of film and digital projects by attaining artistic pre-eminence and scientific achievement in the creative art of color and to bring into close alliance those color artists who desire to advance the prestige and dignity of the color profession.

Rushes promotes Simona Cristea to head of creative color

After three years working as a senior colorist at Deluxe’s Rushes in London, Simona Cristea has been upped to head of creative color. She started her career at Abis Studios in Bucharest, her native country, and moved to London in 2005 where she has worked at Prime Focus, Technicolor, Reliance MediaWorks and Smoke & Mirrors. During her career Cristea, has worked on hundreds of major international campaigns, with directors such as Mert & Marcus, Sam Taylor-Wood, Trevor Robinson, Nick Knight and Rankin.

“Simona is my go-to colorist,” says Rankin. “With her wonderful personality and innate ability to enhance my work, her meticulous attention to detail makes her an integral part of my post production process. Simona is incredibly talented and hard working at creating beautiful cinematic looks each time. Her outstanding eye for color is evidenced by her body of work.”

Nike

Nike

Cristea — who uses Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve with Dolby monitors — has recently worked on campaigns for Nike, Gillette, Geox, Armani and Honda.  She is part of a color team that includes Marty McMullan and Denny Cooper.

Colorist Tom Russell joins LipSync in London

London’s LipSync Post has brought on colorist Tom Russell to work feature films, TV drama and commercials. He brings with him 25 years of experience as a freelance colorist at many Soho-based post and VFX houses, including LipSync. He will be using the FilmLight Baselight.

Russell’s film credits include The Face of an Angel, A Royal Night Out, Alone in Berlin and The Journey. He has also worked on TV productions such as Cider With Rosie.

“We have often worked with Tom as a freelancer, and noticed how he always emerged from a grade with happy clients. We were delighted when the opportunity came along to appoint Tom full time as a colorist,” says James Clarke, head of DI at LipSync Post.

Russell joins LipSync colorists Scott Goulding and Jamie Welsh. Goulding has been with LipSync since 2003 and his credits include the forthcoming Mad to Be Normal. Jamie Welsh has recently graded The Infiltrator, starring Bryan Cranston, and will shortly be grading The Limehouse Golem and The Sense of an Ending from Origin Pictures.

Catching up with Foundation Edit’s Jason Uson

By Kristine Pregot

Austin’s Foundation Editorial is a four-year-old editorial facility founded by editor Jason Uson. Nice Shoes and Foundation Edit have been working together since 2014, when our companies launched a remote partnership allowing clients in Austin to work with Nice Shoes colorists in New York, Chicago and Minneapolis. So, when it came time to pick a location for our 2016 SXSW party, which we hosted with our friends at Sound Lounge, Derby Content and Audio Network, Foundation Edit was a natural choice.

In-between the epic program of parties, panels and screenings, I was able to chat with Jason about his edit shop, SXSW, remote color, and the tattoo artist giving out real tattoos at our party…

What was the genesis of Foundation Editorial?
I started my career at Rock Paper Scissors, and spent four years there learning from the best. I then freelanced all over Los Angeles at the top shops and worked with some of the most talented editors in the industry, both in broadcast and film. I always dreamed of having my own shop and after years of building amazing relationships, it was time.

What platforms do you edit on?
I am an Media Composer editor. I always have been, but I haven’t touched it in over two years. Apple FCP 7 has been our go-to, as well as Adobe Premiere. They are both amazing tools, but there is something special about Avid Media Composer that I miss.

How many editors do you have at Foundation Edit?
We have two editors: myself and Blake Skaggs. Our styles are different, but our workflow is very similar. It’s nice to have someone with his caliber of talent working alongside me.

How do you usually spend SXSW?
I usually spend SXSW in my edit bay, typically booked on some fun projects. I was lucky enough this year to get Sunday off for the party. I hit up a few movies and shows.

How did the 2016 SXSW party come together?
It was a no-brainer. We are lucky to be in the heart of it all and surrounded by so much creativity. We have a great location that lends itself to hosting our clients, friends and colleagues, but with so many people involved and with SXSW being as big as it is, it was no small fete. It had its challenges, but in the end it was a great success.

The tattoo artist at the party was amazing. 
My partner, Transistor Studios, came up with the idea, and I thought it was a perfect fit for us. We all have tattoos and love the process, and we thought it would be a great addition to the party. Damon Meena, Aaron Baumle and Jamie Rockaway flew our tattoo artist, Mike Lucena, in from Brooklyn.

What’s your favorite thing about Austin?
That’s a loaded question. There is so much to love about Austin. I think it starts with the spirit of the city. Austin is a genuine community of people that celebrate and encourage talent, creativity and artistry. It’s in the DNA of who Austin is. Although the city is growing at a massive pace, and we all see and feel the changes, there is still that heart — that core Austin feeling. Let’s be honest though, the food is a major favorite! I’ll just leave you with some key words: barbeque and tacos.

Before I let you go, can you talk about the last collaboration between Nice Shoes and Foundation Edit?
Nice Shoes colorist Gene Curley outdid himself this time working on See What They See for Walgreens. We created six long-form pieces, three 30-second spots, and somewhere in the area of 50 social videos.

GSD&M’s Group creative director, Bryan Edwards, and his team — Joel Guidry, Gregg Wyatt and Barrett Michaels — worked with associate producer Dylan Heimbrock. They went to Uganda and put cameras in kids’ hands to, “See What They See.” So their campaign needed two “looks.” The beauty of Uganda for the first look, and then our second look needed to not only be beautiful and thoughtful, but different enough to tell the story through these kids’ eyes.

Gene really found that common thread that it needed to be successful. It’s really an amazing service to be able to collaborate with the entire team of Nice Shoes colorists in realtime between New York City and Austin.

Kristine Pregot is a senior producer at New York City-based Nice Shoes.

Colorist John Dowdell talks about the look of ‘Carol’

By Randi Altman

Todd Haynes’ Carol, about two women who fall in love in New York City in the 1950s, received six Oscar noms this year, including one for Best Cinematography. Despite its setting, this beautifully captured film was actually shot in Cincinnati because of its architectural resemblance to 1950’s Manhattan.

But the post was done in New York. One of the movie’s producers, Goldcrest Films, has a post house there, so Carol’s edit team called that location home for about seven months. It was there that editor Affonso Gonçalves and his assistant Perri Pivovar enjoyed a close relationship with Goldcrest’s in-house, veteran colorist John Dowdell, who was also working on the film.

The editors would often call Dowdell into the edit suite to find out what he could accomplish in his color suite. For example, one challenge the edit team had was the film — which takes place during Christmas — went over a little. So some of it was shot at the end of the winter and into the spring. There were some pesky green leaves and grass that needed browning and Dowdell obliged.

John Dowdell

John Dowdell

“With the Quantel Revolver tool I selected a range of green pixels and changed the hue and the saturation towards a winter brownish color,” he explains. “The Revolver output is a LUT offset, which adds no noise and creates a very natural appearance, which is far superior then an HSL key.”

The film features over 100 visual effects shots — VFX supervisor Chris Haney brought on his own company and other New York-based effects houses — including totally convincing CG snow and CG buildings.

Dowdell was able to achieve other simple effects, such as removing signage and things that were distracting. “Quantel Rio 4K has a Paintbox in it, and I removed a lot of that stuff by painting it out,” he says.

Let’s dig in a bit further with Dowdell.

Carol was shot on film. Can you talk about that?
Carol was shot by cinematographer Edward Lachman. It was shot on Kodak Super 16 with an Arriflex 416 camera that is pin-registered, which was needed for all this effects work. I’m so glad they shot it on 16mm film because they were trying to duplicate the way 35mm film looked 60 years ago — and even as good as digital cameras are, it would’ve been very hard to reproduce that classic film look. The randomness of the grain is very beautiful.

That was their choice, and I think it was a brilliant one. Also, film gave us beautiful radiant flesh tones, deep textured blacks, and plenty of detail in even the brightest highlights.

What was the workflow like?
Every day the film would be shipped from Cincinnati to Technicolor in New York for processing — at that time, Technicolor and Deluxe shared the lab at the Deluxe building. The film would get processed to a negative and then picked up by Goldcrest.

The film was scanned at Goldcrest by Boon Shin Ng and Michelle Ambruz on an Arri Scanner. The Arri has a dailies mode where it will scan pin-registered quite fast at 15fps with a single flash. The Arri flashes red, green and blue LEDs onto the monochrome 3K CMOS chip, which is the same chip that’s in the Alexa camera, but without a Bayer filter, so it’s a B&W chip.

CAROL

When the edit is complete, the Arri scans the selects with handles also at 3K. This time the RGB is flashed twice. The second flash is 10 times brighter and merges the two together in an HDR algorithm capturing everything in the negative with great signal-to-noise ratio. In addition, the film gets an infrared flash. The infrared spectrum is not absorbed by the cyan, magenta and yellow dyes of the film. Dirt particulates, however, will block the Infrared creating a dirt map for the Kodak Digital Ice to do its magic. Scanning is about 3fps in this mode.

Who did the dailies?
Boon Shin prepped with Colorfront Express Dailies. MXF files were synced and metadata of scene take numbers were entered during the day, then the Colorfront was handed over to colorist Scott Olive for scene-to-scene color grading in the evening. DP Ed Lachman would call Scott each night and discuss the footage he would be working on and would go over Scott’s work from the day before.

Scott would then send the color corrected H.264 files over the Goldcrest FTP server to Ed. The Avid MXF Files were ready for Affonso and Perri in the morning in their edit room here at Goldcrest. When the film edit was locked, Boon Shin conformed the film in the Quantel Rio 4K with the 2K DPX scans.

What direction were you given from Todd and Ed? Were you given any sort of examples of what they wanted the look to be?
Todd had a thing called a Look Book. It’s a thick scrapbook filled with images he liked. He worked with production designer Judy Becker and with Ed Lachman on it, so this book set the looks. He found images he liked from the ’50s, mostly from print. There were ads and work from photographers like Ruth Hawkin.

I had a color reference light for Todd so he could view the tear sheets. We would look at the shots and Todd would explain the look, the saturation and the muted values — images that referenced the 1950’s era.

Both Todd and Ed liked when colors were muted, a little more green with maybe some warmth — the combination of cold and warm in the same frame — so mixed color temperatures.

It was a great start, but even during the DI color timing Todd would look through his book, turn the reference light on, look at his picture then look at the screen. He would say, “Give that a little tweak, add two points of red, or let’s go a little dark by four points.” Film lab timers have always worked in RGB Film Printer Lights. There are six points to an F-Stop change.

Both Todd and Ed had timed films in the past. In the DI world the points work identically to photochemical printing. It really is a great way of communicating color. Ed could ask me to add two points of green, then Todd might ask to see three points. Technically, it’s the proper way to time in DI.

You worked with Todd and Ed at the same time?
They were always together. We did a lot of experimenting with color, and Todd and Ed sometimes had different opinions of where they wanted to go with it. You have to show the one look, save the metadata of that, do another look and go back and forth. That’s how color correction works. It’s very interactive.

Can you talk about a particular scene from the film?
In the opening scenes of the department store the palette is a muted green. It’s an uncomfortable time for Rooney’s character. Ed works with filters and mixed light sources to produce the desired looks in-camera, but leaves plenty of range for DI visualization.

When things are getting better in their relationship, the colors become gentler and more beautiful with more warmth. Ed would reference the Kodak Film Ektachrome for its bluish greenish values compared to the rich warm saturated colors of Kodachome.

My RIT education in Photographic Arts and Sciences has served me well my entire career. My favorite Ansel Adams quote is, “The negative is the score and the print is the performance.” Ed made a beautiful score and we collectively produced a great performance in my DI suite.

ROONEY MARA stars in CAROL. Did anything surprise you about the color?
A lot of shots are much darker than most directors and DPs ask for. Often they say, “I want to see more, open it up. I want to see brighter, what else can I see in this shot?” It was kind of the reverse on this. They both liked it rather dark. I used the S-curve function for almost every shot in Carol. With it, I can place my black and white points and then pivot all the mid-tone transitions. I can make very dark images without crushing any of the blacks. A great number of the shots have a subtle vignette applied — light fell off at the edges with camera lenses of that era.

Can you give an example?
The scene where Cate Blanchet’s character is in the child custody hearing and makes her heart wrenching speech — I added more S-curve , brought the lift down and increased gamma. Todd said no, no, even darker. Once we got down there, it was like, “Wow, this works.” It’s very effective. It’s more realistic, and adds more drama into a powerful scene.

They used a lot of natural Window light. Kate’s flesh tone and brightness changed a bit. My job was to make sure it was all totally even.

Were there any scenes in particular that stood out as more challenging or something that you’re most proud of?
I love the DI process because it’s so interactive, and I like problem solving. There’s one shot where Cate is touching the telephone hang-up button with her Index finger. She’s listening to Rooney but not responding.

Todd was concerned because the hand was too sharp from one finger to the other, and he wanted less depth of field — Super 16 has a large depth of field. So I put a diagonal window through her Index finger, the one that’s touching the hang-up button. Then I feathered off a Gaussian transfer curve into the background, used a  Gaussian de-focus on the Quantel and put a little defocus on, blending it as the fingers rolled off further back and forward, so that the emphasis was on the index finger. He loved it. That solved the problem.

Anything else stick out in your mind?
The last scene, the beautiful encounter at the Oak Room, I’m really proud of that. That has a great look. It started with gorgeous photography, but I had an idea that Todd and Ed really liked. In the scene, Cate is having dinner with friends surrounded by diners and waiters.

What I did was track a little bit of a window on Kate and feathered it off, and then outside that window desaturated everyone a little bit. I also brought a little bit more highlight detail onto Kate, so the image popped. Just think about how eye contact works — you’re not interested at all in your surroundings or who’s sitting at the back table. It’s just them.

CAROLNow Kate pops out a bit and everything just kind of feathers off a little, and she’s just radiant. I did the same thing to Rooney. It’s very subtle, but it helps tell that story. No dialogue was needed; it was all said in their eyes.

Why is the Pablo Rio the right tool for you?
Ten years ago, we built the DI suite at Goldcrest around the Pablo, which at the time was a brand-new product from Quantel. Quantel’s iQ was a conforming machine, an editing machine, an effects machine, titler and Paintbox — all in one. The only thing it really didn’t do was color… until they came out with the Pablo iQ. They invented an interface box to deal with color!

It was also the only machine at that time that could do different canvas sizes, different speeds and different resolutions, all on the same timeline. With every other system you would have to commit to one resolution. It was important to have everything in its native resolution.

Most recently we replaced those Pablos with the Quantel Rio 4K, which has a much faster processor. I can now play 4K with multi-levels of color correction in realtime without rendering.

What’s next for you?
I recently completed something I’m really proud of. It’s called The New Yorker Presents, and it’s 10 half-hour films from Amazon Studios and Jigsaw Productions. It’s basically a film version of The New Yorker magazine. Each episode is a collection of short docs, interstitials and there celebrated cartoons being crated by the artist at hyper speed.

There are two features coming into Goldcrest now, but I can’t talk about those yet.