Tag Archives: DaVinci Resolve

Blending Ursa Mini and Red footage for Aston Martin spec spot

By Daniel Restuccio

When producer/director Jacob Steagall set out to make a spec commercial for Aston Martin, he chose to lens it on the Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6k and the Scarlet Red. He says the camera combo worked so seamlessly he dares anyone to tell which shots are Blackmagic and which are Red.

L-R Blackmagic’s Moritz Fortmann and Shawn Carlson with Jacob Steagall and Scott Stevens.

“I had the idea of filming a spec commercial to generate new business,” says Steagall. He convinced the high-end car maker to lend him an Aston Martin 2016 V12 Vanquish for a weekend. “The intent was to make a nice product that could be on their website and also be a good-looking piece on the demo reel for my production company.”

Steagall immediately pulled together his production team, which consisted of co-director Jonathan Swecker and cinematographers Scott Stevens and Adam Pacheco. “The team and I collaborated together about the vision for the spot which was to be quick, clean and to the point, but we would also accentuate the luxury and sexiness of the car.”

“We had access to the new Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6k and an older Red Scarlet with the MX chip,” says Stevens. “I was really interested in seeing how both cameras performed.”

He set up the Ursa Mini to shoot ProRes HQ at Ultra HD (3840×2160) and the Scarlet at 8:1 compression at 4K (4096×2160). He used both Canon still camera primes and a 24-105mm zoom, switching them from camera to camera depending on the shot. “For some wide shots we set them up side by side,” explains Stevens. “We also would have one camera shooting the back of the car and the other camera shooting a close-up on the side.”

In addition to his shooting duties, Stevens also edited the spot, using Adobe Premiere, and exported the XML into Blackmagic Resolve Studio 12. Stevens notes that, in addition to loving cinematography, he’s also “really into” color correction. “Jacob (Steagall) and I liked the way the Red footage looked straight out of the camera in the RedGamma4 color space. I matched the Blackmagic footage to the Red footage to get a basic look.”

Blackmagic colorist Moritz Fortmann took Stevens’ basis color correction and finessed the grade even more. “The first step was to talk to Jacob and Scott and find out what they were envisioning, what feel and look they were going for. They had already established a look so we saved a few stills as reference images to work off. The spot was shot on two different types of cameras, and in different formats. Step two was to analyze the characteristics of each camera and establish a color correction to match the two.  Step three was to tweak and refine the look. We did what I would describe as a simple color grade, only relying on primaries, without using any Power Windows or keys.”

If you’re planning to shoot mixed footage, Fortmann suggests you use cameras with similar characteristics, matching resolution, dynamic range and format. “Shooting RAW and/or Log provides for the highest dynamic range,” he says. “The more ‘room’ a colorist has to make adjustments, the easier it will be to match mixed footage. When color correcting, the key is to make mixed footage look consistent. One camera may perform well in low light while another one does not. You’ll need to find that sweet spot that works for all of your footage, not just one camera.”

Daniel Restuccio is a writer and chair of the multimedia department at California Lutheran University.

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.

Behind the Title: Harbor Picture’s senior editor Chris Mackenzie

NAME: Chris Mackenzie

COMPANY: Harbor Picture Company (@HarborPIcture)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Harbor Picture Company is a New York-based post house known for our flexibility with workflows and our relationships with clients. We offer a complete range of post services — from offline editorial to Dolby Atmos audio mixing.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Senior Editor

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Digital conform, visual effects, titles and some problem solving. My work usually comes under the umbrella of final picture finishing. I’m responsible for getting the picture components to the final state for presentation, be that theatrical, broadcast television or Internet streaming.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
It would surprise most people that I do a lot of VFX work. Often, this happens to be last-minute fixes to address production issues that were overlooked. I am also often asked to address problems flagged during the quality control review of the final deliverables — a little unexpected visual effects work is usually necessary to get the project accepted for its final distribution.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I like being able to fix a problem quickly and easily, or at least offer a creative solution to an issue. There are times — especially on lower budget productions — where a little digital paint or simple VFX compositing can resolve a big issue that may have resulted in a shot or scene being scrapped from the edit.

Chris Mackenzie at work.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
The dreaded recut is my least favorite. This often means that work that was complete and approved now needs to be dismantled and redone. Unlocking an edit (changing the content of a project) used to be a rare event in post production. In recent years, however, having some continued editorial right up to the last minute before delivery has become more and more common.

The tools are a lot faster now. And, generally, operators are a lot faster and more flexible, but projects continue to push the envelope with major editorial revisions sometimes being made very close to the deadline for completion.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Probably mid-morning — I feel best after I’ve had my first cup of coffee, and I know I’ve got most of the day ahead of me. There’s rarely a 10am deadline, so at this point in the day I can concentrate on completing the work without the sense of being rushed to deliver a file.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
At the same time I got interested in television and picture post, I was interested in art and photography. I considered going back to school to pursue an MFA related to digital image making.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
I was working as a bicycle messenger in Vancouver when I first graduated college. During this time, I made a few deliveries to some burgeoning post facilities and caught a glimpse at what I thought were interesting jobs. I imagined that those editors and colorists were creating the fanciest Super Bowl commercials and high-end music videos on a regular basis. Working indoors on an online editing system seemed like a much better (at least drier) career path for me.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
Close to 20 years ago — which seems hard to believe — I saw early versions of Photoshop and Avid editing systems and was amazed by the capability of these technologies. I knew there was a great future for developments in this area and it was something that immediately interested me — for a brief period I was interested in other aspects of filmmaking, but it was post that really captivated me.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Our team at Harbor just completed a few television series: The Knick, The Girlfriend Experience and Billions. We also recently completed Spike Lee’s feature Chi-Raq. Recently, we’ve adopted a divide and conquer strategy at Harbor — there are three of us working in Digital Conform and we usually share the duties of putting these projects together.

Gone With the Bullets

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
There are two. The first would be Gone With the Bullets, an epic 3D feature that was released to great fanfare in China. It was my first time conforming in 3D, and it was a massive project — thousands of cuts and hundreds of visual effects.

It was a huge challenge and steep learning curve, but during its run in China it received great reviews for its 3D quality. The second is Pan’s Labyrinth. This was one of the first films I had the opportunity to work on. I was inexperienced and really had to stretch my abilities to accomplish what was needed to finish the project, but the fact the film turned out so well really gave me a lot of confidence.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Autodesk Smoke, Blackmagic Resolve and the Apple PowerMac.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Facebook and a little Instagram

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
Yes and no.

CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
I listen to a lot of NPR — occasionally it will be their music stream, but more often than not I listen to the current affairs or news programming. I like to feel like I’m learning something while I’m working away.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
To de-stress I’ve gotten back into cycling in a serious way.  Unfortunately, I recently had a cycling accident and am currently recovering from a broken hip, so it might be time to find a new hobby for a while.

I find being physically active and part of a demanding sport helps me to focus and increase my energy levels at work. It took some time management to find a schedule that works, but it’s definitely been beneficial and a nice way to balance the work I do in the office.

 

 

Blackmagic makes Fusion 8 Studio public beta available, releases Resolve 12.2

Fusion 8 Studio, the full version of Blackmagic’s visual effects and motion graphics software, is available for download for both Mac OS X and Windows. A public beta of the free version of Fusion 8 was released earlier this year at SIGGRAPH. The new Fusion 8 Studio public beta builds upon all of the tools in the free version and adds advanced optical flow tools for retiming, image repair, color smoothing and morphing between different images, along with the ability to render at resolutions larger than Ultra HD.

The Fusion 8 Studio public beta also adds advanced stereoscopic tools for converting 2D shows to 3D, support for third-party plug-ins, remote scripting and Avid Connect, a plug-in that allows customers to use Fusion directly from Media Composer timelines.

Projects created with the free version of Fusion can be opened and finished in Fusion 8 Studio, regardless of which platform they were created on. Fusion 8 Studio also includes Generation — multi-user studio software for managing assets, tracking versions and doing shot-based review and approval.

In addition, Fusion 8 Studio public beta also includes render node software that lets customers install an unlimited number of Fusion render nodes on additional computers for free, saving them thousands of dollars in licensing fees. That means customers working on high-end film and television projects in large multi user studios can now accelerate their workflow by distributing render jobs across an unlimited number of systems on their network.

Fusion 8 is available in two versions. Fusion 8 Studio, which is now in public beta, will be available for Mac and Windows for $995, with Linux to be released in Q1 2016. Fusion 8 Studio has all of the same features as the free version and adds advanced optical flow image analysis tools for stereoscopic 3D work, retiming and stabilization. Fusion Studio also includes support for third party OpenFX plug-ins, unlimited distributed network rendering and Generation for studio-wide, multi-user collaboration to track, manage, review and approve shots when working with large creative teams on complex projects.

In other news, there is a free DaVinci Resolve 12.2 update that adds support for the latest color science technologies, along with decoding of HEVC/H.265 QuickTime files on OS X, additional high dynamic range features and more. The DaVinci Resolve 12.2 update is available now for both DaVinci Resolve 12 and DaVinci Resolve 12 Studio customers, and can be downloaded from the Blackmagic Design website.

Resolve

Since November’s release of version 12.1, Blackmagic has been adding features pro editors and colorists need, as well as support for the latest formats with expanded color spaces and wide dynamic range. With this DaVinci Resolve 12.2 update, Blackmagic Design continues to improve the software and extend its lead in color, dynamic range and image processing, putting DaVinci Resolve far ahead of other color correction software.

The DaVinci Resolve 12.2 update adds support for the latest Blackmagic and third-party cameras while also delivering significant improvements to DaVinci Resolve color management. Customers get new support for HDR Hybrid Log Gamma, conversion LUTs for Hybrid Log Gamma, ACES IDTs for Canon C300 Mk II clips, and updated ST 2084 HDR color science. That means colorists have even better tools for finishing high dynamic range projects that are going to be distributed to the latest theaters with the latest projection systems like IMAX Laser and Dolby Vision. This also lets customers prepare content that is ready for next generation HDR 4K televisions.

In addition, the DaVinci Resolve 12.2 update adds support for NewBlue Titler Pro titles using Media Composer AAF sequences, improves ProRes 4444 alpha channel support by defaulting to straight blend mode, retains Power Window opacity and invert settings when converting to Power Curve windows and more.

FotoKem’s Alastor Arnold helps set look for ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’

The colorist worked hand in hand with director Sam Raimi and editor Bob Murawski

By Randi Altman

Halloween is known for its ghosts, goblins and gruesome zombies, but this year we got an extra serving of the non-alive, dished up by Sam Raimi and Starz Network. Fans of Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) and its sequels (Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness) were treated to the pilot episode of Ash vs Evil Dead. Many consider The Evil Dead films cult classics, but they are so much more than that. Yes, they are campy and gory and more bloody than necessary, but it’s all done in an effort to make people laugh.

Back for this comedy/action/horror series on Starz is Bruce Campbell as Ash, the man who lost his hand in battle and then cleverly replaced it with a chainsaw. His quick wit and sarcasm have amazingly not diminished over the years. You know, it’s not easy to keep your sense of humor when evil dead people are after you!

Alistor Arnold

Alastor Arnold

Raimi, who directed the first episode, worked very closely with long-time editor and collaborator Bob Murawski and FotoKem colorist Alastor Arnold to create the look of the pilot.

While the show was shot digitally on Arri Alexa (with a couple of pickups shot via a Sony F55), Raimi wanted a filmic look, and that is a big part of what Murawski and Arnold worked to accomplish.

Arnold has some history with Raimi and Murawski — he remastered The Evil Dead for theatrical and Blu-ray release. While Murawski and Arnold work together often, Ash vs Evil Dead is only the second project for the colorist and Raimi.

“I do a lot of work with Bob. In addition to being an Oscar-award winning editor (The Hurt Locker), he has a company called Grindhouse Releasing,” explains Arnold. “They specialize in the restoration and distribution of exploitation and horror films, and I’ve had the pleasure of remastering numerous titles with Bob over the years. When he can bring me in to work with him, he does. And that’s how we got to do the pilot of Ash vs Evil Dead.”

Let’s find out more about the color grade and creating the look for the pilot and series.

How early were you brought on?
Just after shooting — when they started cutting. They had some questions about what work could be accomplished in the color suite when they were doing their rough cuts for the executive screeners. There was one scene in particular… they wanted to see if we could accomplish a specific look without having to go to visual effects.

What was that look?
There was a scene in a room with no lights, and it needed to be lit by a spinning flashlight. So the actors would be coming in and out of darkness, illuminated by only a flashlight. Originally when they shot it, they intended it to be a visual effect, so it was shot brighter than intended. Through color correction, we were able to create the effect they were going for.

How did they describe the look that they wanted for the pilot and the series?
Bob and Sam are both fans of a “filmic” look. They like the image to stay warm and high contrast. Based on their relationship, Sam entrusted Bob with the first pass of color. When Sam walked in for his first day of grading, the show was already in a good place for dialing in looks and trims, with a focus on shaping the frame with Power Windows and integrating visual effects more thoroughly. The look of the pilot is very warm, saturated and punchy, very chromatic — not what I would call a typical kind of horror movie look. A lot of times horror movies are drab or pretty desaturated and a lot of the times they are very cool. This is against that grain.

The pilot was shot almost entirely with an Arri Alexa. How did that play a role in getting the filmic look?
Arri has done a fantastic job with their color science. It responds in a natural way. All the base grades started with a film emulation, internally built at FotoKem with our color scientist, and based on our film lab experience.

The series has a campy feel. Would you say that’s reflected in the look?
The first Evil Dead was much more of a horror movie when compared to Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. The tone of the series has evolved. Sam always injects humor into his movies, even in the first Evil Dead. In the TV show, there’s lots of horror and definitely gore, but it’s actually really funny. There’s an ingrained sense of humor in what Sam does, and that really comes through. Maybe that is reflected in the chromatic, warm look. It may complement that.

What kind of terms or language do you like to use when talking to someone about a look? And do you get examples, such as stills?
I like to approach color from an instinctual artistic level. When I start a project it’s important for me to engage with clients and discuss not only the literal of what they might like to achieve but also what it is emotionally they’re going for, and how color might enhance that. In addition, visual references are always great. I’m always happy when they reference other movies or projects or bring in stills. It’s common these days for looks to be set somewhat in dailies. Any visual reference is always good, but for me, I find it more important to engage artistically and emotionally with people to derive a look for a project.

What about the technical aspects of the grade and the system, in your case Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve?
There’s an expectation when people walk into a room with a professional colorist that the technical side of things won’t be an issue; that the colorist is going to be able to help you reach your creative goals. Solidifying and understanding what those creative goals are in the beginning is very important. So, I’m generally less concerned with how to technically arrive somewhere than creatively. Often the technical side of things can be driven by the creative goals.

It’s very important to experiment and have fun; that’s what this process is all about. Engage creatively and artistically; that is the most important part. The technical will happen.

Were Sam and Bob open to suggestions and experimenting?
Bob has been involved in just about everything Sam has done since Darkman (1990), which was their first project together; they have a short hand. Sam was very involved in this episode, and we spent probably two or three days together going through the show, but Sam is less technically driven. When he walked into the room, Bob had already gone through it and gotten it to a good starting place, based on his knowledge of Sam’s sensibilities.

Sam is generally more concerned with what is going to enhance the performances or the emotion of a scene. There’s lots of Windowing in different parts of the frame to either bring things up or down, or tinting things slightly to enhance an emotional feel. That’s where Sam comes from.

So the initial sessions with Bob are where you did the heavy lifting and decided on the overall look?
Yes, the technical grading — matching shots, fixes, general levels and looks. That’s what Bob focuses on during the pre-grading.

Ash vs Evil Dead

Can you talk about the lighting and working with the Resolve?
Lighting wise, it’s actually pretty up, even though the intent may be to have it slightly darker in final color. The nice thing about Resolve is its tracking tools are very good, so you can bring up parts of the frame individually while still keeping other areas very dark.

We did have to do some noise reduction in certain parts as well. The built-in noise reduction tool is very good. I find it very easy to use — I don’t find myself struggling to reach a look or correction, it generally happens quick and easy. That’s important when you have a client in the room. You don’t want to take too long to come up with something.

FotoKem used Resolve for the online as well?
Yes. With the exception of the visual effects, the entire online edit was completed in Resolve, in addition to the color and deliverables.

How does being able to do so much in that one system help you?
I came up working on a system that was more of a hero suite, so it did the color, it did the graphics, it did the minor visual effects work. So it’s nice to see Resolve now competing at that level.

Although I didn’t do the bulk of the editorial work, it was nice to be in the room with Bob and be able to slip a shot a couple of frames, or drop in the visual effects as they came in last minute along with their associated mattes… it all happens very quickly and easily in Resolve.

Where do you find your inspiration?
I love movies and find my inspiration in them. I always try to stay artistically engaged; I like to work on my own projects, in addition to enjoying and contributing to other people’s work. I make an effort to get to the theater two or three times a week. I’m a member of the Visual Effects Society, so I go to lots of their member screenings too. To me, it’s important to stay current in my craft and to be inspired by other people’s work. I enjoy seeing what people are doing with different cameras and how things hold up in different theaters. I like seeing films in a theater as they’re intended and viewing them with an audience. To see how other people are practicing the craft is important. If you’re a painter, you’re going to go to the museum. If you’re a colorist, you should go to the movies, and lots of them.

What have you seen recently that you respected?
I really liked the movie The Diary of a Teenage Girl. It was beautiful. Also Cartel Land, which was lovely, especially considering it was a documentary. Those are small movies, but I saw Sicario recently and that was a very impressive and pretty movie… beautifully shot.

Another movie I enjoyed this year was Tangerine, which was shot entirely on an iPhone. The artist in me wanted to see it for the story and craft. But it was also really important for me to view it in the theater on a large screen and see how well it held up technically. For a colorist it’s an artistic and technical exercise to watch movies.

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Ash vs. Evil Dead can be seen weekly on Starz at 9pm EST.

Quick Chat: CO3’s Stephen Nakamura on grading ‘The Martian’

Ridley Scott’s The Martian tells the story of an astronaut left behind on Mars. The director, who created that world, called on Company 3’s Stephen Nakamura for the color grade, which he completed in London to be closer to Scott and the production.

We checked in with Nakamura to find out more about his process on The Martian.

You and Ridley have collaborated in the past. We assume you have developed a short hand of sorts?
There are definitely things I know he likes and doesn’t like, but each project is also a little bit different. Obviously, he is very interested in the visuals of every shot. The Martian was relatively straightforward. Something like Exodus: Gods and Kings was much more complex because of the kinds of things we were looking at, like the sea parting. On Prometheus, it was about helping to bring shape and definition to scenes that were really dark. Of course, he’s worked with [Dariusz Wolski, ASC], so a lot of the shaping has already happened between the two of them.

How early does he bring you on a film?

We speak very early on. I know before I see any images what kind of look he’s interested in.

Can you talk about the look of Mars? He referenced the terra cotta/orange look in our recent interview with him.
It was something that we all had a sense of conceptually but it took a lot of work with Ridley, the visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers and me in the DI theater to get it to all look the way it does in the final film. Quite a few shots involved a lot of sky replacements and the addition of mountains in the background. Richard’s team created these additional elements with a combination of CGI practical plates shot in Jordan and combined them with the first unit photography of Matt Damon.

So then when I added the heavy color correction Ridley wanted for that kind of orange look he talks about, it would have an effect on every element in the shot. It’s impossible to know in advance exactly how that correction for the planet’s surface is going to look in context and in a theater until you actually see it. I could get some elements of some shots where we needed them using Power Windows [in the DaVinci Resolve] but sometimes that heavy correction was too much and the effects elements would have to be altered. Maybe the sky needed to be darkened or we needed more separation in the mountains. We might make a change to the foreground, and the background would “break,” or vice versa.

So we had quite a few sessions where Richard would sit with Ridley and me and we would figure that out shot by shot.

You work with Resolve. What is it about that system helps your creative process?
I’ve worked in it as long as it’s been around. I like the way it’s laid out. I like the way I can work… the node-based corrections. I can get to the tools that most colorists use on a normal basis very quickly, and with very few keystrokes or buttons to push. That kind of time saving adds up to a really big deal when you’re coloring complicated movies.

I know there are other great color correctors out there too, but so far Resolve is just the most comfortable for me.

(from left) Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, and Aksel Hennie portray the crewmembers of the fateful mission to Mars.

Was there one particular scene that was more challenging than others, or a scene that you are most proud of?
There are a number of shots set outside the ship Jessica Chastain’s character commands where we see the ship and some characters in the foreground and the surface of Mars further away and then blackness and stars in the far background.

Here again, we all have a strong conceptual sense of the look, but ultimately it’s something you can’t get to without seeing it in a theater and in context. How saturated should the color of Mars be? How sharp should the focus be on the planet’s surface, on the distant stars? It’s not simply a question of having it look “real.” Ridley’s the kind of filmmaker who wants it feel right for the story. And so I might use Resolve’s aperture correction function to make the stars appear more vibrant, the way Ridley wants it, and that could “break” another part of the shot. And then it’s a question of whether I can use power windows to address that issue or if the VFX team needs to re-render and composite the element.

That kind of massaging of every shot takes a lot of time, but when it’s done you really see the results on the screen.

Can you talk about grading for the brighter Dolby Vision 3D?
It definitely gets rid of one of the major issues in 3D when you can effectively put a stereoscopic image onscreen at the traditional 2D spec of 14-foot lamberts. Previously, doing a stereoscopic pass always involved putting a darker image on screen, and when you have that much less light to work with it affects the whole image. That’s particularly true with highlights that might have plenty of detail at 14 but will blow out when you’re working at 3.5.

Of course, we still did a pass for traditional 3D, since there are very few theaters currently able to show Dolby Vision 3D.

Does that involve a whole different pass or a trim pass, or is it just a LUT that translates everything from the 14-foot lambert world to 3.5?
Company 3’s technology team is always building and updating LUTs that get us a lot of the way there. But when there’s never 100 percent “translation” from the one set of display parameters to the other, image characteristics change. The relative brightness of that practical in the background to the character in the shadows may not feel the same at 14 as it does at 3.5.

So which pass would you do first?
The way I work when we’re doing multiple theatrical deliverables like this is to start with the most “constricted” version [the 3.5 fl 3D] and get that where we want it. Then we go and “open it up” for the wider space. It’s important to be consistent. Very often, it’s a question of building Power Windows around bright parts of the frame and bringing them down for the regular 3D version and then either taking them off or lessening the corrections for the brighter projection spec.


For more on The Martian, read our interview with director Ridley Scott.

Review: Rampant Design Tools’ latest updates

By Brady Betzel

If it seems like I’m reviewing Rampant Design Tools’ latest releases every few months, it’s because I am. Sean and Stefanie Mullen, the creators of Rampant Design Tools, are creating brand new sets of overlays, transitions, paint strokes, flares and tons of other tools every month.

Typically when I do reviews there isn’t much personal interaction with the business owners, but Sean and Stefanie made themselves available for questions every step of the way. Even when I’m not doing a Rampant review, I am emailing them and they are always ready to help and even give advice. For them it’s about their customers, and they are continually releasing top shelf tools that I believe every editor and motion graphics artist should have in their toolbox.

Digging In
Before I get into what is new, you should download their free samples at www.4kfree.com. Almost every editor I show these too says, “I had no idea that’s what those were. I thought they were just stock footage elements.” Rampant Design Tools are not stock footage elements; they are color overlays, animated motion graphic elements, transitions, glitches and more. They are elements that are used in any program that can apply an Add, Multiply, Screen or any other composite mode to footage — really to any NLE or VFX app made. If you are a Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve user you can jump into the edit mode, place the Rampant clip on top of your original clip, select the Rampant clip to composite, open the inspector and under the composite mode pop up menu select your desired mode.

Paint Stroke Sample copy

Paint Stroke

Typically, Add mode will do the job, but each mode has some cool differences that you will want to try out for yourself — for a stark contrast check out Hard Light. If you are an Avid Media Composer or Symphony user, check out my previous write-up on discovering the elusive composite or blending modes within Media Composer: http://postperspective.com/tutorial-blending-modes-rampant-inside-media-composer.

What’s New
I think of Rampant offerings as quick and efficient tools that can add texture and interest to footage. In their latest rollout of releases, Rampant has sets of Designer Overlays, Film Burns, Matte Transitions, Flare Transitions, Glitch Transitions, Paint Stroke Transitions, and even animated motion graphics for editors. I’ll go into a few of the ones I find particularly interesting, but to find out more check out http://rampantdesigntools.com/rampant-all-products.

Matte Transitions are really useful. Not only can they be used traditionally as transitions between scenes or footage, but they can also be used to reveal a color treatment. I really like to use Rampant Design Tools in non-traditional ways, such as using mattes to reveal color treatments or effects. In Adobe Premiere I will duplicate my footage in the timeline, apply a unique color treatment to the duplicate footage, add the “Set Matte” effect and tell it to use the alpha channel of the Matte Transition. While this is a unique way to transition a color effect, it can be used in all sorts of circumstances.

Designer Overlays Sample copy

Designer Overlays Sample

My favorite is when a producer or even another editor comes in and just wants something different; they don’t know what they want but they know it needs to be totally different. You can easily throw on a few different Rampant Design Tool overlays and get very different treatments quickly. You can even use the mattes to reveal text in a lower third or main title. It really adds depth to your work.

Paint Strokes are a really cool way to reveal or transition out of text or footage. I really like to use these to reveal color in a scene. Recently, I used it on a very desaturated piece I was working on. In the last 10 seconds of the piece I used a Paint Stroke to add a vibrant splash of paint to the project. The client really liked how it left a lasting impression of vibrancy and color.

If you have seen what is going on in the land of YouTube, you might have noticed how flashy and eye catching the videos are (and if you haven’t you better get over there and get inspired before you are asked to work on something and end up under-delivering in the “wow” department). One thing that gets tricky is designing new or altered transitions. Rampant Design has tons of transitions that are great to have in your editor’s toolbox. From the ever-popular Glitch transition to Flares, Paint Strokes and even Color Overlays. I like to add a white flash under a light leak to turn it into a transition sometimes.

Motion Graphics for Editors Sample copy

Motion Graphics for Editors

Finally, my interest was captured with the “Motion Graphics for Editors” bundle. It contains lots of motion graphics elements such as Grids, Signs, Rays, Loaders, Lines, pre-made aspect ratios or even Triangles. Typically these little elements can take a ton of time to create. Usually if you are looking for these elements you are an editor who knows enough about motion graphics to be dangerous but who doesn’t have time to create these elements individually. Some uses for these are lower thirds that would typically be a boring gradient with text over the top or infographics, and while infographics seem easy they are most definitely not. They take tons and tons of time if you want them to look great. They are really easy to use with Rampant alpha channels.

Summing Up
In the end if you are looking for elements that are not stock footage, but instead handcrafted elements like organic paint strokes or unique Designer Overlays, you need to get over to www.rampantdesigntools.com. I have experienced firsthand the power these elements have. I’ve been at the end of my rope on some projects that weren’t paying enough to validate the drain on my brain power, then, remembering I had Rampant Design Tools, spent about an hour applying about 20 different treatments, transitions and effects to footage, color and text.

Film Burns Sample copyMatte Transition Sample copy
Film Burns and Matte Transition

In the end the client was happy and I was happy that I didn’t have to spend my time creating the elements from scratch. Rampant Design Tools takes projects to the next level quickly and easily by dragging and dropping, allowing you to work faster and more efficiently, making you more money in the process. I leave you with these highlights: unique non-serialized graphic overlays; easily combine color corrections to make unique color grades; and the newly-added “Motion Graphics for Editors.”

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

AlphaDogs employs roundtripping workflow for surfing film ‘Gone’

The AlphaDogs post house in Burbank color graded the film Gone, from producer/director Mark Kronemeyer of Pargo Media. Gone takes audiences on a journey through Mexican deserts and jungles, from Baja to Oaxaca, on the search for the soul of surfing in Mexico.

Edited in Final Cut Pro X by Kronemeyer, Gone required a roundtrip workflow through DaVinci Resolve before the color grading process could begin in order to match mixed frame rates between FCP X and Resolve. Roundtripping often causes playback judder if not done properly. To avoid this problem, AlphaDogs colorist Sean Stack, who was in charge of creating the look for the film, rendered the footage outside of Resolve using the original source frame rate, then allowed for adjustment in playback quality once the footage was back in the editing application.

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Non-native frame rates can sometimes appear jittery, which is especially problematic with action footage. The post house used Cinema Tools on short clips to simply convert the playback rate to match the timeline. Although there is a slight speed ramp applied when using this technique, it is typically not noticeable on shorter clips.

Gone was shot in various locations throughout Mexico, so it encompasses a wide variety of beach terrain. To give each location its own personality and character, Stack made specific creative color decisions, such as making southern beaches more teal and green in color while adding more blue and purple/red into the shadows of the surf on northern beaches. Kronemeyer specifically wanted the sections of larger waves to appear even more dangerous and menacing. Stack achieved this look by punching up the blue in the surf, making the water appear darker and in turn giving the waves a deeper and more hazardous look.

While FCP X and Resolve workflows are mostly reliable when it comes to roundtrip accuracy, Stack remains diligent in making sure he always has a QuickTime reference movie with time code delivered to the color session before any conforming begins.

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“Without that roadmap, commonly known as a ‘chase reference,’ I cannot guarantee sync with the original offline locked cut,” explains Stack. “The audio mixer should use the same chase reference as the colorist, as this will further guarantee that the mix stems will sync up perfectly with the color graded final sequence.”

Round-trip workflows also present unique challenges when it comes to audio. Because FCP X cannot export proper materials for a pro mix, specific steps are required so as to not slow down the audio process in post. AlphaDogs audio engineer Curtis Fritsch used workaround methods, such as applying Assisted Editing’s Xto7 app and streamlining the audio tracks to ease the transition from FCP X to Pro Tools. Fritsch then added extra EQ to the low and high ends of each song to help elevate the drive of the music to better match the fast pace and lush visuals of the beaches in Mexico.

Behind the Title: Efilm senior colorist Tim Stipan

NAME: Tim Stipan (@timstipan)

COMPANYEfilm (@EFILMDigitalLab)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE EFILM?
Efilm, a Deluxe company, is a feature film finishing house. We are a sister facility to Company 3, and that allows me access to a great wealth of knowledge. When I recently did something in UHD for the first time, I was able to call up CO3 senior colorist Stephen Nakamura, who is one of the few in the world who has experience in UHD, and ask him how he set everything up.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Senior Colorist

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
The technical component involves working at a color correction console in a theater with the filmmakers. I make adjustments to the overall color palette. We do it to refine the look and give the movie a certain feeling with color. I take shots that were captured at different times, under different conditions — sometimes with different cameras — and match them with color and contrast.

That’s the coloring aspect of the job, but that’s really only half of it. The other part is being able to read minds, in a sense. If a cinematographer or director says, “I’m not sure what I don’t like about this,” then I need to think about their taste and personality and what they’ve liked and disliked previously, try to come up with a solution and then perform it quickly as possible.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I think some people might be surprised by how many hours we spend in the room. Color correction takes time. We will color the movie once, usually in about five days, and then spend another five days refining “the look.” On big VFX shows it can take twice that time.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?

I had worked on [Autodesk] Lustre for over 10 years. Now I working with the FilmLight Baselight and I’m also getting my feet wet with the Blackmagic Resolve. They all essentially do the same thing — they let you adjust the color, contrast and saturation and all of the things that affect the look of the image. Some are more flexible in terms of how they work with different file formats and resolutions than others, but knowing them all is a good way to stay on top of the technology.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
The role of the final colorist means you are usually involved in the project before principal photography begins. This includes working with the cinematographer on picking lenses, exposures, lighting units, filters, wardrobes, wall colors, makeup, look up tables and much more. It’s good to test as much as possible before principal photography so if you have to push the image in exposure or color you know how the elements will react.




WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?

I feel I’m helping to create something that might be around in 50 or 100 years, which is cool. My favorite part of the job though is working with such talented and creative people.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

My 100 percent least favorite thing is not working. It can be grueling putting in 18-hour days, but I would take that over not working any day of the week!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Lunch! That’s when I have the opportunity to get to know the people I am working with better. You get to digress, talk and just be human. The more I know my client the better I am at reading their mind, which makes the color correction process smoother and faster.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
If I wasn’t a colorist I would like to be a director. When I went to film school at Columbia College in Chicago, I thought I was going to be an actor, but I wanted to learn every role in the filmmaking process. Eventually I gravitated to the camera department and received a degree in cinematography.

However, the most exhilarating thing I ever did in film school was when I directed my thesis film. You’re dealing with script, locations, actors, cinematographer, grips everybody. If I wasn’t a colorist, that’s what I’d want to be doing today.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE COLOR GRADING?
During college I was working as a camera assistant and crane operator on a Stage. This led to getting hired a lot as a grip for commercials and short films. Working on set was fun, but I was thinking about having a family and freelancing scared the hell out of me. My adviser suggested I visit Filmworkers Club in Chicago. I went in, started learning about color grading and fell in love with it.



CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?

I just finished Me Earl and the Dying Girl, which won best film at Sundance. I also completed a film called The Family Fang, directed by the actor Jason Bateman and shot by my friend Ken Seng, who I went to film school with. It was. It’s a great film and shot with multiple capture formats. Next is Creed, which will get everyone’s blood pumping!




WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I like to look at old photographic books. Not any photographer in particular. A lot of people you’ve never heard of. I’m also fascinated by old printing processes, like autochrome, or by the look of a Polaroid when someone ripped it apart too quickly. I love to watch movies, commercials and TV shows, too. A lot of TV today is as cinematic as movies are.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.

GPS. How did we get anywhere before? My color corrector and projector. I’m not married to any particular brand as long as they do what I need them to do. But the color corrector and projector have to be running perfectly or I can’t do my work. I’m very fortunate that Deluxe has an incredible technical and support staff, and state of the art equipment.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?

Facebook and Instagram, and occasionally Twitter. But I like Facebook the best. There are so many videos on there. I am friends with a lot of cinematographers, and they post great images and interesting articles. If you follow Chivo [Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC] on Instagram (@chivexp) — it’s jaw-dropping the things he’s producing. It’s also a great way to keep in touch with DPs who are working on location.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL? 
I ride a motorcycle daily, and it prepares me mentally and physically for my job. I am an avid runner, which helps combat sitting in a chair for long periods of time. Reading is a great way to zone off into another world and forget about any stress, but the best thing in life is spending time with my family!

First Impressions: Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 12

By Brady Betzel

While I wasn’t able to get to Las Vegas for NAB this year, I was definitely there in spirit thanks to constant Twitter updates and blog posts around the web. The company that stood out to me the most was Blackmagic Design. They introduced tons of awesome equipment and products, including the latest update to DaVinci Resolve. I was really interested in what I was seeing: multicam workflow, AAF exporting, 3D tracking… it was overwhelming.

You might have noticed that in addition to my day job as an editor at Margarita Mix, I do a lot of product reviews. I love the process. Why wouldn’t I? I get to play with the latest and greatest offerings in production and post.

While I don’t have the DaVinci Resolve 12 update yet, the senior director of marketing and all around guru for Blackmagic, Paul Saccone, gave me an in-depth tour of what is going to be released in the latest version. Before I review the software I wanted to share a couple of key updates that are seemingly turning DaVinci Resolve into what many had hoped Avid Symphony would maybe turn into.

Multicamera Workflow
Working with multiple cameras can often be tricky. Syncing and grouping them together isn’t always as straightforward as one would hope. When I was an assistant editor I remember spending hours and days grouping footage. Sometimes I would be able to sync by timecode and sometimes not. I would be lucky to get a clap or some sort of sync reference from the people recording in the field. When none of that was available and my clips seemingly had very little in common I would resort to using PluralEyes by Red Giant, which is still a great and useful tool. The only problem is that it’s an external app and if I can avoid it I would much rather work inside my NLE or online suite.

Blackmagic has added what seems to be an awesome integration of multicam workflow into Resolve 12. You can even sync by audio, just like PluralEyes does! That should be a great feature.

The best part about Resolve 12’s multicam workflow is the ability to modify and add to existing groups by simply editing the group like a sequence. If your group is out of sync, open up the group sequence, put it in sync and your group will be immediately updated. For us Avid users out there this means no more re-grouping yuck. You can even add cameras or audio tracks to your group later!

Nested Timelines
You can now nest a sequence inside of your current sequence. If you are assembling a final edit you may want to lay out your acts in linear order for timing reasons and then once all the acts are “final” (we know nothing is ever final), you can now “decompose in place,” meaning break out all of your clip-based edits in the same timeline you are working in without having to overcut. Really a great feature.

3D Keyer and Tracker
If you’ve seen how Imagineer System’s/BorisFx Mocha Pro planar tracker works or Adobe After Effects’ 3D tracker works, you know there are some amazing options to track. Unfortunately these are usually not the tools you work in to conform and online your work. In Resolve 12, there is a new 3D tracker and 3D keyer that from first glance will be all you need for basic to semi-advanced work. It doesn’t seem like these will be full replacements of Keylight in After Effects or planar tracking in Mocha Pro, but if Blackmagic can keep me in one NLE/coloring platform/compositor without having to farm out tasks to After Effects or another program, I am definitely listening.

The features I listed here are only a couple that I think are amazing. In addition, there are features like shot color matching, AAF to Pro Tools export, improved media management features, improved trimming functions, overall layout improvement, smart bins and many more.

I hope to review DaVinci Resolve 12 in a few months, and am really excited to run it through its paces. I’ve been venturing deeper into different compositing apps, coloring correcting packages and NLEs and am really impressed by the way Blackmagic is digging in and starting to outpace other software and hardware makers. Maybe they really can make the ultimate NLE/compositor/color corrector — we’ll have to wait and see.

If you want to get a quick video run through of the new features being released, check out Blackmagic Design’s website and click on “What’s New.” You can also follow them on Twitter @Blackmagic_News.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.