Tag Archives: FilmLight Baselight

FilmLight shows new versions of color tools at NAB

FilmLight was at NAB demo-ing Version 5.0 of its color tools. The upgraded toolkit maintains a consistent user experience across the Baselight color grading and finishing system, Baselight Editions, Daylight and FilmLight’s new on-set application, Prelight.

“We are delivering 5.0 everywhere, bringing a new level of color control and creative possibilities from the very start of a production right to the final deliverables,” says Wolfgang Lempp, CEO of FilmLight. “And, importantly, color and artistic intent are accompanying all deliverables precisely and with minimum effort, be it for HDR and SDR or even 360 VR grading.”

Version 5.0 introduces Base Grade, which mimics the way the eye sees color to yield a more natural feel. Version 5.0 also includes some new VFX features, such as paint, perspective tracking, warping, depth keying and relighting.

FilmLight’s new Prelight On-Set, a Mac OS app for preview and grading, brings color control and the FilmLight BLG (Baselight Linked Grade) metadata system to shoots.

With Version 5.0, Baselight Editions, the plug-ins for Avid and Nuke 5.0, now include Base Grade functionality as well as color tools, such as midtone contrast and filters for denoise and deflicker. In addition, Baselight for Nuke includes boosted functionality in the Version 5.0 BLG that enables the tool to act as a multi-input node in Nuke. In this manner, BLG files can refer to multiple input images and OpenEXR channels.

Creating the color of Hacksaw Ridge

Australian colorist Trish Cahill first got involved in the DI on Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge when cinematographer Simon Duggan enquired about her interest and availability for the film. She didn’t have to consider the idea long before saying yes.

Hacksaw Ridge, which earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Film Editing (won), Sound Editing and Sound Mixing (won), is about a real-life World War II conscientious observer, Desmond Doss, who refused to pick up a gun but instead used his bravery to save lives on the battlefield.

Trish Cahill

Let’s find out more about Cahill’s work and workflow on Hacksaw Ridge

What was the collaboration like between you and director Mel Gibson and cinematographer Simon Duggan?
I first met Mel and the editor John Gilbert when I visited them in the cutting room halfway through the edit. We looked through the various scenes and — in particular, the different battle sequences — and discussed the different tone that was needed for each.

Simon had already talked through the Kodachrome idea with a gradual and subtle desaturation as the film progressed and it was very helpful to be spinning through the actual images and listening to Mel and John talk through their thoughts. We then chose a collection of shots that were representative of the different looks and turning points in the film to use in a look development session.

Simon was overseas at the time, but we had a few phone conversations and he sent though some reference stills prior to the session. The look development session not only gave us our look template for the film but it also gave us a better idea of how smoke continuity was shaping up and what could be done in the grade to help.

During the DI, Mel, John and producer Bill Mechanic came in see my work every couple of days for a few hours to review spools down. Once the film was in good shape, Simon flew in with a nice fresh eye to help tighten it further.

What was the workflow for this project?
Being a war film, there are quite a few bullet hits, blood splatter, smoke elements and various other VFX to be completed across a large number of shots. One of the main concerns was the consistency of smoke levels, so it was important that the VFX team had a balanced set of shots put into sequence reflecting how they would appear in the film.

While the edit was still evolving, the film was conformed and assistant colorist Justin Tran started a balance grade of the war sequences on FilmLight Baselight at Definition Films. This provided VFX supervisor Chris Godfrey and the rest of the team with a better idea of how each shot should be treated in relation to the shots around them and if additional treatment was required for shots not ear-marked for VFX. The balance grading work was carried across to the DI grade in the form of BLGs and were applied to the final edit with the use of Baselight’s multi-paste, so I had full control and nothing was baked in.

Was there a particular inspiration or reference that you used for the look of this film?
Simon sent through a collection of vintage photograph references from the era to get me started. There were shots of old ox blood red barns, mechanics and machinery, train yards and soldiers in uniform — a visual board of everyday pictures of real scenes from the 1930s and 1940s, which was an excellent starting point to spring from. Key words were desaturated, Kodachrome and, the phrase “twist the primaries a touch” was used a bit!

The film starts when our hero, Desmond Doss, is a boy in the 1930s. These scenes have a slight chocolaty sepia tone, which lessens when Doss becomes a young man and enters the military training camp. Colors become more desaturated again when he arrives in Okinawa and then climbs the ridge. We wanted the ridge to be a world unto itself — the desolate battlefield. Each battle from there occurs at different times of day in different environmental conditions, so each has been given its own color variation.

What were the main challenges in grading such a film?
Hacksaw Ridge is a war film. A big percentage of screen time is action-packed and fast-paced with a high-cut ratio. So there are many more shots to grade, there are varied cameras to balance between and fluctuating smoke levels to figure out. It’s more challenging to keep consistency in this type of film than the average drama.

The initial attack on top of the ridge happens just after an aerial bombing raid, and it was important to the story for the grade to help the smoke enhance a sense of vulnerability and danger. We needed to keep visibility as low as possible, but at the same time we wanted it still to be interesting and foreboding. It needed analysis at an individual shot level: what can be done on this particular image to keep it interesting and tonal but still have the audience feel a sense of “I can’t see anything.”

Then on a global level — after making each shot as tonal and interesting as possible — do we still have the murkiness we need to sell the vulnerability and danger? If not, where is the balance to still provide enough visual interest and definition to keep the audience in the moment?

What part of the grading process do you spend most of your time on?
I would say I spend more time on the balancing and initial grade. I like to keep my look in a layer at the end of the stack that stays constant for every shot in the scene. If you have done a good job matching up, you have the opportunity of being able to continue to craft the look as well as add secondaries and global improvements with confidence that you’re not upsetting the apple cart. It gives you better flexibility to change your mind or keep improving as the film evolves and as your instincts sharpen on where the color mood needs to sit. I believe tightening the match and improving each shot on the primary level is time very well spent.

What was the film shot on, and did this bring any challenges or opportunities to you during the grade?
The majority of Hacksaw Ridge was shot with an Arri Alexa. Red Dragon and Blackmagic pocket cameras were also used in the battle sequences. Whenever possible I worked with the original camera raw. I worked in LogC and used Baselight’s generalized color space to normalize the Red and Blackmagic cameras to match this.

Matching the flames between Blackmagic and Alexa footage was a little tricky. The color hues and dynamic range captured by each camera are quite different, so I used the hue shift controls often to twist the reds and yellows of each closer together. Also, on some shots I had several highlight keys in place to create as much dynamic range as possible.

Could you say more about how you dealt with delivering for multiple formats?
The main deliverables required for Hacksaw Ridge were an XYZ and a Rec709 version. Baselight’s generalized color space was used to do the conversions from P3 to XYZ and Rec709. I then made minimal tweaks for the Rec709 version.

Was there a specific scene or sequence you found particularly enjoyable or challenging?
I enjoyed working with the opening scene of the film, enhancing the golden warmth as the boys are walking through the forest in Virginia. The scenes within the Doss house were also a favorite. The art direction and lighting had a beautiful warmth to it and I really enjoyed bringing out the chocolaty, 1930’s and 1940’s tones.

On the flip side of that I also loved working with the cooler crisper dawn tones that we achieved in the second battle sequence. I find when you minimize the color palette and let the contrast and light do the tonal work it can take you to a unique and emotionally amplified place.

One of the greater challenges of grading the film was eliminating any hint of green plant life throughout the Okinawa scenes. With lush, green plants happily existing in the background, we were in danger of losing the audience’s belief that this was a bleak place. Unfortunately, the WW II US military uniforms were the same shade of green found in many parts of the surrounding landscape of the location, making it impossible to get a clean key. There is one scene in particular where a convoy of military trucks rolls through a column of soldiers adding clouds of dust to an already challenging situation.

Technicolor’s Maxine Gervais colors Sully

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

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

Maxine Gervais at work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out Gervais discussing some of her work:

Review: Tangent Ripple color correction panel

By Brady Betzel

Lately, it feels like a lot of the specializations in post production are becoming generalized and given to the “editor.” One of the hats that the editor now wears is that of color corrector — I’m not saying we are tasked with color grading an entire film, but we are asked to make things warmer or cooler or to add saturation.

With the standard Wacom tablet, keyboard and/or mouse combo, it can get a little tedious when color correcting — in Adobe Premiere, Blackmagic Resolve or Avid Media Composer/Symphony — without specialized color correction panels like the Baselight Blackboard, Resolve Advanced, Nucoda Precision, Avid Artist Color or even Tangent’s Element. In addition, those specialized panels run between $1,000 per piece to upwards of $30,000, leaving many people to fend for themselves using a mouse.

While color correcting with a mouse isn’t always horrible, once you use a proper color correction panel, you will always feel like you are missing a vital tool. But don’t worry! Tangent has released a new color correction panel that is not only affordable and compatible with many of today’s popular coloring and nonlinear editing apps, but is also extremely portable: the Tangent Ripple.

For this review I am covering how the Tangent Ripple works inside of Premiere Pro CC 2015.3, Filmlight’s Baselight Media Composer/Symphony plug-in and Resolve 12.5.

One thing I always found intimidating about color correction and grading apps like Resolve was the abundance of options to correct or grade an image. The Tangent Ripple represents the very basic first steps in the color correction pipeline: color balancing using lift, gamma, gain (or shadows, midtones and highlights) and exposure/contrast correction. I am way over-simplifying these first few steps but these are what the Ripple specializes in.

You’ve probably heard of the Tangent Element Panels, which go way beyond the basics — if you start to love grading with the Tangent Ripple or the Element-VS app, the Element set should be your next step. It retails for around $3,500, or a little below as a set (you can purchase the Element panels individually for cheaper, but the set is worth it). The Tangent Ripple retails for only $350.

Basic Color Correction
If you are an offline editor who wants to add life to your footage quickly, basic color correction is where you will be concentrating, and the Ripple is a tool you need to purchase. Whether you color correct your footage for cuts that go to a network executive, or you are the editor and finisher on a project and want to give your footage the finishing touch, you should check out what a little contrast, saturation and exposure correction can do.

panelYou can find some great basic color correcting tutorials on YouTube, Lynda.com and color correction-focused sites like MixingLight.com. On YouTube, Casey Faris has some quick and succinct color correction tutorials, check him out here. Ripple Training also has some quick Resolve-focused tips posted somewhat weekly by Alexis Van Hurkman.

When you open the Tangent Ripple box you get an instruction manual, the Ripple, three track balls and some carrying pouches to keep it all protected. The Ripple has a five-foot USB cable hardwired into it, but the track balls are separate and do not lock into place. If you were to ask a Ripple user to tell you the serial number on the bottom of the Ripple, most likely they will turn it over, dropping all the trackballs. Obviously, this could wreck the trackballs and/or injure someone, so don’t do it, but you get my point.

The Ripple itself is very simple in layout: three trackballs, three dials above the trackballs, “A” and “B” buttons and revert buttons next to the dials. That is it! If you are looking for more than that, you should take a look at the Element panels.

After you plug in the Ripple to an open USB port, you probably should download the Tangent Hub software. This will also install the Tangent Mapper, which allows you to customize your buttons in apps like Premiere Pro. Unfortunately, Resolve and the Media Composer Baselight plug-in do not allow for customization, but when you install the software you get a nice HUD that signals what service each Ripple button and knob does in the software you are using.

If you are like me and your first intro into the wonderful world of color correction in an NLE was Avid Symphony, you might have also encountered the Avid Artist Color panel, which is very similar in functionality: three balls and a couple of knobs. Unfortunately, I found that the Artist Color never really worked like it should within Symphony. Here is a bit of interesting news: while you can’t use the Ripple in the native Symphony color corrector, you can use external panels in the Baselight Avid plug-in! Finally a solution! It is really, really responsive to the Tangent Ripple too! The Ripple really does work great inside of a Media Composer plug-in.

The Ripple was very responsive, much more than what I’ve experienced with the Avid Artist Color panel. As I mentioned earlier, the Ripple will accomplish the basics of color correcting — you can fix color balance issues and adjust exposure. It does a few things well, and that is it. To my surprise, when I added a shape (a mask used in color correction) in Baselight, I was able to adjust the size, points and position of the shape using the Ripple. In the curves dialogue I was able to add, move and adjust points. Not only does Baselight change the game for powerful, in-Avid color correction, but it is a tool like the Ripple that puts color correction within any editor’s grasp. I was really shocked at how well it worked.

When using the Ripple in Resolve you get what Resolve wants to give you. The Ripple is great for basic corrections inside of Resolve, but if you want to dive further into the awesomeness of color correction, you are going to want to invest in the Tangent Element panels.

With the Ripple inside of Resolve, you get the basic lift, gamma and gain controls along with the color wheels, a bypass button and reset buttons for each control. The “A” button doesn’t do anything, which is kind of funny to me. Unlike the Baselight Avid plug-in, you cannot adjust shapes, or do much else with the Ripple panel other than the basics.

Element-Vs
Another option that took me by surprise was Tangent iOS and the Android app Element-Vs. I expected this app to really underwhelm me but I was wrong. Element-Vs acts as an extension of your Ripple — based off the Tangent Element panels. But keep in mind, it’s still an app and there is nothing comparable to the tactile feeling and response you get from a panel like the Ripple or Elements. Nonetheless, I did use the Element-Vs app on an iPad Mini and it was surprisingly great.

It is a bit high priced for an app, coming in at around $100, but I was able to get a really great response when cycling through the different Element “panels,” leading me to think that the Ripple and Element-Vs app combo is a real contender for the prosumer colorist. At a total of $450 ($350 for the Ripple and $100 for the Element-Vs app), you are in the same ballpark as a colorist who has a $3,000-plus set of panels.

As I said earlier, the Element panels have a great tactile feel and feedback that, at the moment, is hard to compare to an app, but this combo isn’t as shabby as I thought it would be. A welcome surprise was that the installation and connection were pretty simple too.

Premiere Pro
The last app I wanted to test was Premiere Pro CC. Recently, Adobe added external color panel support in version 2015.3 or above. In fact, Premiere has the most functionality and map-ability out of all the apps I tested — it was an eye-opening experience for me. When I first started using the Lumetri color correction tools inside of Premiere I was a little bewildered and lost as the set-up was different from what I was used to in other color correction apps.

I stuck to basic color corrections inside of Premiere, and would export an XML or flat QuickTime file to do more work inside of Resolve. Using the Ripple with Premiere changed how I felt about the Lumetri color correction features. When you open Premiere Pro CC 2015.3 along with the Tangent Mapper, the top row of tabs opens up. You can customize not only the standard functions of the Ripple within each Lumetri panel, like Basic, Creative, Curves, Color Wheels, HSL Secondaries and Vignette, but you can also create an alternate set of functions when you press the “A” button.

In my opinion, the best button press for the Ripple is the “B” button, which cycles you through the Lumetri panels. In the panel Vignette, the Ripple gives you options like Vignette Amount, Vignette Midpoint, feather and Vignette Roundness.

As a side note, one complaint I have about the Ripple is that there isn’t a dedicated “bypass” button. I know that each app has different button designations and that Tangent wants to keep the Ripple as simple as possible, but many people constantly toggle the bypass function.

Not all hope is lost, however. Inside of Premiere, if you hold the “A” button for alternate mapping and hit the “B” button, you will toggle the bypass off and on. While editing in Premiere, I used the Ripple to do color adjustments even when the Lumetri panel wasn’t on screen. I could cycle through the different Lumetri tabs, make adjustments and continue to edit using keyboard functions fast — an awesome feature both Tangent and Adobe should be promoting more, in my opinion.

It seems Tangent worked very closely with Adobe when creating the Ripple. Maybe it is just a coincidence, but it really feels like this is the Adobe Premiere Pro CC Tangent Ripple. Of course, you can also use the Element-Vs app in conjunction with the Ripple, but in Premiere I would say you don’t need it. The Ripple takes care of almost everything for you.

One drawback I noticed when using the Ripple and Element-Vs inside of Premiere Pro was a small delay when compared to using these inside of Resolve and Baselight’s Media Composer plug-in. Not a huge delay, but a slight hesitation — nothing that would make me not buy the Ripple, but something you should know.

Summing Up
Overall, I really love the Ripple color correction panel from Tangent. At $350, there is nothing better. The Ripple feels like it was created for editors looking to dive deep into Premiere’s Lumetri color controls and allows you to be more creative because of it.

Physically, the Ripple has a lighter and more plastic-type of feel than its Element Tk panel brother, but it still works great. If you need something light and compact, the Ripple is a great addition to your Starbuck’s-based color correction set-up.

I do wish there was a little more space between the trackballs and the rotary dials. When using the dials, I kept nudging the trackballs and sometimes I didn’t even realize what had happened. However, since the Ripple is made to be compact, lightweight, mobile and priced to beat every other panel on the market, I can forgive this.

It feels like Tangent worked really hard to make the Ripple feel like a natural extension of your keyboard. I know I sound like a broken record, but saving time makes me money, and the Tangent Ripple color correction panel saves me time. If you are an editor that has to color correct and grade dailies, an assistant editor looking to up their color correction game or just an all-around post production ninja who dabbles in different areas of expertise, the Tangent Ripple is the next tool you need to buy.


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

DP Vittorio Storaro on color and Woody Allen’s ‘Café Society’

Legendary Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro has had a storied career that includes three Oscar wins for his work on Apocalypse Now (1979), Reds (1981) and The Last Emperor (1987). To call his career prodigious would be an understatement.

One of his most recent projects was for writer/director Woody Allen’s Café Society, which follows a young man from Brooklyn to Hollywood and back to New York City in the 1930s. Two filmmaking legends teaming up on one film? How could we not check in with Storaro to talk about his work on Café Society, which represented Allen’s first taste of digital shooting?

You’ve done 58 movies on film. What was your first experience with DI?
A long time ago, someone at Kodak asked me what I thought about digital intermediate versus film. Because I had already started doing transfer from film to telecine, I had some experience with the process. But the quality was not there yet — digital cameras and color correctors were still in their infancy back then.

My first experience in digital finishing was on a movie called Muhammad: The Messenger of God. In 2011 and 2012, we were doing the pre-production and production of the film, which we shot in Iran. I shot on film because, in my opinion, no digital camera could handle such drastic changing weather conditions. One segment, though, was transferred digitally, mostly for VFX purposes.

For the post of the film in 2013, we sent all the negative material to Arri as both Kodak and Technicolor Italy had closed. Arri scanned the negatives in 4K 16-bit. After that we decided to do the entire DI at ScreenCraft where I could review the film in a 4K 16-bit color screening, which is very important. It was an almost 100 percent switch from film to digital. They also had a FilmLight Baselight system in their screening room that we moved into their beautiful 4K theatre so we could work in the optimal environment.

The colorist at ScreenCraft was not used to doing films, as he had mainly worked on video and TV, so I had to influence him step-by-step, feeling the story. My advice to him was to work on color in realtime, listen to the dialogue, understand the dynamic and not just concentrate on the technical aspect of the fixed images.

In cinematography, the first image doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be the starting point, and it is moving in time until you reach the end. So when you see an image through Baselight, you have to think about what you really want to achieve. This is somehow a visual journey, which follows the path of the world where the characters interact, or the music plays.

It is fantastic to have color correction in realtime. Baselight through the 4K 16-bit video projector gave me my first taste of this great opportunity.

How did you come to shoot and finish Café Society digitally?
When Woody Allen asked me to do Café Society, he had never done a digital capture before. At that time, I knew it was a chance to step up to this new digital world. I chose the Sony F65 camera so that the image we had on set was as close to the final image as possible. I had experienced the first CineAlta digital video cameras from Sony in the past and valued the quality of the Sony equipment. I know that what I see on set is 90 percent of exactly what I will see in finishing. Plus, I wanted to work with a camera that gave me a ratio close to the 2:1 aspect ratio that was suggested to me by Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting, along with 4K resolutions.

We also had a 4K 16-bit video projector because that was my previous experience and my preference. And for the post production of the movie at Technicolor PostWorks NY, I asked specifically for the color grading to be done on Baselight. It was good news, as they already had the system!

This is when colorist Anthony Raffaele joined your color journey?
Anthony Raffaele was originally only supposed to be the colorist for the DI, but with Technicolor we decided to have him on board from start to finish. In Italy, we are used to having a technician next to us from the beginning to the end of a project. To me, if the color process moves from one person to another from dailies to post to DI, you risk wasting all the history, the knowledge and the experience that has been built, and in my opinion it’s the best experience that I’ve had.

What is the look of the Café Society and its journey?
In my mind, the movie is in four different parts: it starts in the Bronx in 1935, then moves to Hollywood, then the main character comes back to New York and then to LA. In essence, it is four different looks, while keeping an overall style. I wanted to see the subtle differences in the dailies. I’d get the dailies on Blu-ray copies for me to watch on a calibrated Sony monitor, so it was very, very close to what I had on set. That was the process with Woody Allen too.

Anthony often came to Los Angeles during shooting, and when I was in New York we’d watch the dailies together. Looks were saved to SD cards as LUTs with notes. Every day Anthony was going through all the shots and applying the LUT that he already had, then he would make adjustments according to my notes. We practically grew up together through the entire film. And when we arrived to do the DI we had the right experience to continue.

For finishing, we graded using ACES with Baselight converting to XYZ. We got the EDL from editorial, pulled all the RAW media files from the LTO and conformed in Baselight. I told Anthony to always compare source material with the edited version. Check meticulously for any difference and get the feeling of our original intent. It is very easy to get lost in DI.

It is also very important to me to watch the film with sound, even if it’s temporary sound. The dialogue between two characters can give you some kind of feeling, which impacts the light, for instance. Or the time they have spent talking, everything is always moving. Or the music. If you don’t take notice of the words and sound you cannot adjust the color accordingly. Having said that, Woody also asked to watch the corrected copy without sound.

How much time did you spend on the DI overall?
It depends on the movie, of course, but I usually personally get involved in the DI of the movie over a week. Some movies require more time. It also depends on the relationship you have with the colorist. I don’t know how much time Anthony spent in the dark room polishing the movie without me. He is a perfectionist and because I was always pushing our creative intent, he probably spent time seeing what features within Baselight could do more. I’ve always encouraged him to perfect his art and technical knowledge. I’d say, “Can we try this? Can I look at that? What if we try it? Tell me, show me.”

You talked about the evolution from film to digital to DI. How would you say the role of a cinematographer has changed in this time?
The main change is that before digital, nobody was able to tell how the film would ultimately look. Only the cinematographer — through perception, knowledge, culture, intelligence, technology and experience — would eventually predict how the image would end up looking. Today, with digital capture and high-end technology, the standards are higher and reachable, and pretty much everyone can tell if it’s good or ugly, too contrasted, too bright and so on. Digital video cameras have mostly made everything automatic, you don’t even have to think anymore. But knowing the technology is not enough.

You need to know the meaning of the visual elements as well. Know ALL the arts that are part of cinematography. Cinema is a common art, not a single one. A good cinematographer will bring feeling and composition from the storyline, adding the emotion, the feeling and his own perception to the film — to know how one color connects to another color and the kind of emotional reaction you can have in relation to them.

What about the colorist’s role nowadays?
Firstly, I would say that a colorist has to know everything about production on set so that he or she can cover the journey of the project. Anthony told me, “I learned so much working with you, Vittorio, because I’m not used to being asked the things you ask me, and no one explained the why to me.” I was always referencing paintings, always showing him pictures and explaining why the artist had chosen this particular content or softness for instance.

Secondly, to reach that level where you can transfer a completely abstract idea into images and materialize concepts, the colorist has to know and control the grading system he is using as well as the tools sitting in his color suite.

Finally, the more you go to museums, read books and look at photography, the more you know about art and its evolution. I had such an experience when I was at Technicolor in Rome. A color supervisor I was working with, Ernesto Novelli, had an incredible sensitivity to images. If I asked him to do something, he might suggest adding four red, which I thought was crazy, but he would do so and the image was there, it was superb. He was able to use the technology to achieve the look of the image I wanted. Without such talent the technology doesn’t mean much.

On Café Society we worked effectively because Anthony knew Baselight very well. If I could give any advice to colorists, I would say they have to really know their console to reach the true potential capabilities of the machine. Learn, keep learning and never stop.

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Vittorio Storaro is currently in pre-production on the following films: 33 díasStory of Jesus, The Hunchback and Bach.

Setting the visual tone for ABC’s ‘Madoff’

Bernie Madoff, one of the most hated men on earth thanks to his massive Ponzi scheme, was recently the focus of a four-part ABC miniseries called, simply, Madoff.

Technicolor PostWorks New York colorist Anthony Raffaele worked directly with Madoff cinematographer Frankie DeMarco in finalizing a look of the series, which captures the big money atmosphere of Wall Street in the 1990s and 2000s.

 Directed by Raymond De Felitta, Madoff is told from the perspective of its title character (Richard Dreyfuss) and portrays his schemes to defraud investors and meticulous efforts to keep the truth about his activities hidden from the public and his family.

DeMarco shot the show with an Arri Alexa camera and used vintage Cooke Speed Panchro lenses to give the imagery a filmic look indicative of its time period. He also shot Super 16 and Super 8 film for Madoff’s childhood sequence.

“It’s a character-driven story told from one person’s point of view,” DeMarco recalls. “So, I didn’t want it looking too sharp or crisp. I used the vintage Cooke Speed Panchro lenses to give the movie a more round, human feel.”

Much of the action shifts between the 19th floor of the Lipstick Building in Midtown Manhattan, which housed the offices of Madoff’s investment firm, and a small boiler room operation on the 17th floor — this was hidden from all but a few insiders and is where the dirty work of the fraud scheme was carried out.

 The different atmospheres of these two settings are subtly reinforced through cinematography, lighting and color correction. “Everything that occurs on the 19th floor has a polished, crisp, business feel that’s accented by cooler tones,” says Raffaele, who uses a FilmLight Baselight. “Downstairs, where the fraud occurs, the look is contrasted by a softer, diffused look accented with uncomfortable colors like yellow and green.”

During final grading sessions, DeMarco and Raffaele collaborated remotely. DeMarco was in London working on another project, so Raffaele sent him materials each day that he could review on an iPad. “We had good control over the lighting on the set, so the color was very close when Anthony got it,” DeMarco says. “He did a lovely job of punching up things and fine tuning. He has a great eye and got what I wanted from the get-go.”

As the story progresses and Madoff’s scheme unravels, the look becomes progressively darker. Especially bleak are scenes set in Madoff’s jail cell, where the greenish overtones aAnthony Raffaele re pronounced. A different color treatment was applied to the dreamlike sequences representing Madoff’s thoughts, as he imagines what lies ahead when the truth about his activities comes out.

“Bernie’s visions have a high contrast look, which set them off as something that’s going on inside his head and give them an uncomfortable feel,” Raffaele explains.

Overall, DeMarco says Madoff does a great job of pulling viewers into its antagonist’s inner world. That, he notes, was the product of many factors, beginning with director De Felitta’s strong vision and Dreyfuss’ inspired performance. “There was a very collegial rapport on the set where everyone contributed ideas,” he explains. “It was a real treat to work with Richard Dreyfuss.”

DeMarco adds that the collaborative spirit carried through to post production. “I talked with Anthony before the shoot so we were already on the same page when we reached post — he took that ball and ran with it. It’s a sprawling movie — covering more than 15 years —but it had limited locations, so once we set a look, we were able to carry it through all four episodes.”

 

Encore colorist Laura Jans Fazio goes dark with ‘Mr. Robot’

By Randi Altman

After watching Mr. Robot when it premiered on USA Network last year, I changed all of my computer passwords and added a degree of difficulty that I’m proud of. I’m also not 100 percent convinced that my laptop’s camera isn’t on even when there’s no green light. That’s right, I completely and gleefully bought into the paranoia, and I wasn’t alone. Mr. Robot won Best Television Series Drama at this year’s Golden Globes, and one of the show’s supporting actors, Christian Slater, took home a statue.

The show, about a genius New York-based computer hacker (Rami Maleck) who believes corporations control, well, everything, has been getting its color grade by Laura Jans Fazio, lead colorist at Deluxe’s Encore, since its second episode.

Laura Jans Fazio

If you watch any TV at all, you’ve very likely seen some of Jans Fazio’s work. Her resume lists House of Cards, Hawaii 5-0, Proof, Empire and The Lottery, and she’s currently gearing up to work on the updated Gilmore Girls and Lady Dynamite.

Jans Fazio was kind enough to take some time out from grading this upcoming season of House of Cards to chat about her work on Mr. Robot.

Were you on Mr. Robot from the very start?
Sam Esmail, the show’s creator, asked me to help out with one of the first scenes in the pilot — the one that took place in Ron’s Coffee Shop. We made some changes, Sam loved it and wanted me to hit the whole show, so I did!

What kind of direction were you given about the look of that scene?
For Ron’s Coffee Shop, the direction was, “just do your thing.” So I was fortunate enough to do my own thing on it, and make it what I felt it should be.

What about when you started the season?
That’s part of what coloring has been — at least in my career — trying to interpret what the client, or the creator, is saying to me, because everybody has a different way of describing things, whether they’re technically savvy or not. I have to take that description and interpret it, and apply that to the image through my tool set on the computer.

That’s the process for this show, like many others I’ve worked on… I’ve been lucky enough to be entrusted to just do what I think feels right, and then I wait for notes. And more often than not, my notes are pretty minimal.

So minimal notes on Mr. Robot?
It was either “go darker” or ” let’s change this room in its entirety — I want it to be colder, and I’m not feeling the emotion of the scene.” In other instances, I’ll take a scene that’s lit completely warm and I’ll go cool with it because I think it looks better. Then I’ll send it out and be happily pleased that it’s liked.

(Photo: David Giesbrecht/USA Network)

Can you describe a scene and give me an example?
The All Safe office, where Elliot worked, actually stayed similar to the pilot. The only difference was I took a lot of magenta out of it. So it had the feeling of a cold, sterile, distant corporate environment with a “working for the man” kind of feel. It’s not dark. It’s airy and lofty, but not airy in a good way. It basically allows the talent to come through — to see the emotion of what the characters are going through, and what they’re talking about. The rest just seems to melt behind them.

How do you build on what the DP Tod Campbell captures on set?
This is the way I approach all images — I take what I’ve got to work with, play with different styles of contrast, densities and color tones and let the image take me where it wants to be. How it feels in the story and what’s it’s cut against, and where are it’s going.

Usually I’ll tap into it straight away, but it’s always that way on the first episode or two of a new show, because you don’t really know where it needs to be. It’s kind of like the first color of paint that you put on a canvas that has been prepped — that’s not always the color that’s going to come through. It’s going to start out one way, and evolve as you go.

Sometimes colorists talk about being given stills or told to emulate the look of a certain film. It’s pretty amazing that they’re just saying, “Go.”
But that’s not always the case. There are many times where people come in with a photography coffee table book, and say, “I want this, this or that.” Or they will reference a movie from 1972 or say, “Let’s make it look like this Japanese film shot in 1942,” and I reference those clips.

That’s a common practice. In this situation I was approached based on my work on House of Cards and entrusted with Mr. Robot.

Mr. Robot - Season 1     

How do you prefer to work? Or do you enjoy both?
I enjoy both. It’s always good to get feedback, and I need an idea of what it is. When I saw the pilot for MrRobot, I of knew automatically what I would do with it.

Is there anything that stuck out from the season that you are most proud of?
The fact that the show is super dark. Dark is good. People are hesitant to do dark because they need to see what’s going on, but I look at it this way: if you’re in a dark forest and see an opening of light, that’s when you want to see more. And going dark was well received, both by the audience and my peers. That was cool.

Your tool of choice is FilmLight Baselight. Why do you like this particular system?
It’s just makes sense, from the way it allows you to layer colors and grade inside/outside, therefore eliminating keystrokes. It allows me to be really fast, and it deals with different color spaces and gammas. Also, the development always seems to be on the cutting edge of the latest technology coming from the camera manufacturers. They are also great about keeping up with where our business is going, including paying attention to different color spaces and HDR and VR.

Mr. Robot - Pilot Where do you find your inspiration?
It’s everywhere. I notice everything. I notice what somebody is wearing, what the colors are, where the contrasts lie and how the light is hitting them. I notice the paint sheens in a room and where the light that is falling onto objects and creating depth. I get lost online viewing design and color palettes and architecture and photography and gardens. The list goes on.

Growing up in New York, I was walking all the time and was just immersed in visual stimulation — from people, buildings, objects, architecture, art and design. I look to all of the man-made things, but I also look to nature, landscapes and skies… the color contrasts of it all.

What’s next for you, and how many shows do you work on at the same time?
Sometimes I’m on multiple shows within a week, and that overlaps. Right now, I’m doing Hawaii 5-0, House of Cards and Lady Dynamite. House of Cards will end soon, but Hawaii 5-0 will still be going on. Gilmore Girls will start up. Lady Dynamite will still be going, and then Robot will start. Then who knows what else is going to come in between those times.

That’s a lot.
The more the merrier!

Sony gives Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly a 4K make-over in ‘Cover Girl’

Sony Pictures Entertainment has completed an all-new 4K restoration of Cover Girl, director Charles Vidor’s 1944 Technicolor musical that starred Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly. The restoration, completed under the supervision of Sony’s Grover Crisp, premiered at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in New York during Preserve and Project, its 13th international festival of film preservation.

Cover Girl was Columbia Pictures’ first big film shot in the Technicolor three-strip process. For the new 4K restoration, the team went back to the original 3-strip nitrate camera negatives.

“There was a preservation initiative with this film in the 1990s that involved making some positive intermediate elements for video transfer, but our current process dictates that we source the most original materials possible to come up with the best visual result for our 4K workflow,” recalls Crisp, who is EVP of asset management, film restoration and digital mastering at Sony Pictures. “The technical capabilities that we have now allow us to digitally recombine the three separate black and white negatives to create a color image that is virtually free of the fuzzy registration issues inherent in the traditional analog work, in addition to the usual removal of scratches and other physical flaws in the film.”

Crisp says they tried to stay as true to the Technicolor look as possible. “That specific kind of look is impossible to match exactly as it was in the original work from the 1940s and 1950s for a variety of reasons. With original sources for reference, however, it gives us a good target to aim for.”

The greater color range facilitated the recreation of a Technicolor look that is as authentic as possible, especially where original dye transfer prints were available as reference points.

In terms of challenges, Crisp says that aside from the usual number of torn frames, scratches and dirt imbedded in the emulsion of the film, there is always the issue of color breathing when working with the 3-strip Technicolor films.  “It is an inconsistent problem and can be very difficult to address,” he explains. “Kevin Manbeck at MTI Film has developed algorithms to compensate and correct for this problem and that is a big advancement.”

The film was scanned at Cineric in New York City on their proprietary 4K wetgate scanner.

“Working with our colorist, Sheri Eisenberg, we strived to get the colors, with deep blacks and vibrant reds, right.”

She called on the FilmLight Baselight 8 for the color at Deluxe (formerly ColorWorks) in Culver City. “It is a very robust color correction system, and one that we have used for years on our work,” says Crisp. “The lion’s share of the image restoration was done at L’Immagine Ritrovata, a film restoration and conservation facility in Bologna, Italy.  They use a variety of software for image cleanup, though much of this kind of work is manual. This means a lot of individuals sitting at digital workstations working on one frame at a time.  At MTI Film, here in Los Angeles, some of the final image restoration was completed, mostly for the removal of gate hairs in numerous shots, something that is very difficult to achieve without leaving digital artifacts.”

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!

Technicolor PostWorks John Crowley on color grading ‘The Americans’

By Randi Altman

Just a couple of weeks ago, FX’s The Americans aired its third season finale, and it was a good one. Who would expect anything less? This drama follows a Russian husband and wife who are undercover in the DC area during the Cold War. They look American, sound American and have two kids, who truly are American.

The show is shot in New York and gets its color grading from New York-based Technicolor PostWorks (@postworksNY) via colorist John Crowley, who works directly with the show’s DP Richard Rutkowski. He and Rutkowski started talking back in October 2013, right before the show started shooting Season Two. You may remember we covered the audio post for The Americans back in earlyMarch. Another New York post house, Sync Sound, and specifically Ken Hah, provided these services.  Continue reading