Category Archives: Color Grading

SciTech Medallion Recipient: A conversation with Curtis Clark, ASC

By Barry Goch

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences has awarded Curtis Clark, ASC, the John A. Bonner Medallion “in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy.” The presentation took place in early February and just prior to the event, I spoke to Clark and asked him to reflect on the transition from film to digital cinema and his contributions to the industry.

Clark’s career as a cinematographer includes features, TV and commercials. He is also the chair of the ASC Motion Imaging Technology Council that developed the ASC- CDL.

Can you reflect on the changes you’ve seen over your career and how you see things moving ahead in the future?
Once upon a time, life was an awful lot simpler. I look back on it nostalgically when it was all film-based, and the possibilities of the cinematographer included follow-up on the look of dailies and also follow through with any photographic testing that helped to hone in on the desired look. It had its photochemical limitations; its analog image structure was not as malleable or tonally expansive as the digital canvas we have now.

Do you agree that Kodak’s Cineon helped us to this digital revolution — the hybrid film/digital imaging system where you would shoot on film, scan it and then digitally manipulate it before going back out to film via a film recorder?
That’s where the term digital intermediate came into being, and it was an eye opener. I think at the time not everyone fully understood the ramifications of the sort of impact it was making. Kodak created something very potent and led the way in terms of methodologies, or how to arrive at integration of digital into what was then called a hybrid imaging system —combining digital and film together.

The DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) was created to establish digital projection standards. Without a standard we’d potentially be creating chaos in terms of how to move forward. For the studios, distributors and exhibitors, it would be a nightmare Can you talk about that?
In 2002, I had been asked to form a technology committee at the ASC to explore these issues: how the new emerging digital technologies were impacting the creative art form of cinematography and of filmmaking, and also to help influence the development of these technologies so they best serve the creative intent of the filmmaker.

DCI proposed that for digital projection to be considered ready for primetime, its image quality needed to be at least as good as, if not better than, a print from the original negative. I thought this was a great commitment that the studios were making. For them to say digital projection was going to be judged against a film print projection from the original camera negative of the exact same content was a fantastic decision. Here was a major promise of a solution that would give digital cinema image projection an advantage since most people saw release prints from a dupe negative.

Digital cinema had just reached the threshold of being able to do 2K digital cinema projection. At that time, 4K digital projection was emerging, but it was a bit premature in terms of settling on that as a standard. So you had digital cinema projection and the emergence of a sophisticated digital intermediate process that could create the image quality you wanted from the original negative, but projected on a digital projection.

In 2004, the Michael Mann film Collateral film was shot with the Grass Valley Viper Film Stream, the Sony F900 and Sony F950 cameras, the latest generation of digital motion picture cameras — basically video cameras that were becoming increasingly sophisticated with better dynamic range and tonal contrast, using 24fps and other multiple frame rates, but 24p was the key.
These cameras were used in the most innovative and interesting manner, because Mann combined film with digital, using the digital for the low-light level night scenes and then using film for the higher-light level day exterior scenes and day interior scenes where there was no problem with exposure.

Because of the challenge of shooting the night scenes, they wanted to shoot at such low light levels that film would potentially be a bit degraded in terms of grain and fog levels. If you had to overrate the negative, you needed to underexpose and overdevelop it, which was not desirable, whereas the digital cameras thrived in lower light levels. Also, you could shoot at a stop that gave you better depth of field. At the time, it was a very bold decision. But looking back on it historically, I think it was the inflection point that brought the digital motion picture camera into the limelight as a possible alternative to shooting on film.

That’s when they decided to do Camera Assessment Series tests, which evaluates all the different digital cinema cameras available at the time?
Yeah, with the idea being that we’d never compare two digital cameras together, we’d always compare the digital camera against a film reference. We did that first Camera Assessment Series, which was the first step in the direction of validating the digital motion picture camera as viable for shooting motion pictures compared with shooting on film. And we got part way there. A couple of the cameras were very impressive: the Sony F35, the Panavision Genesis, the Arri D21 and the Grass Valley Viper were pretty reasonable, but this was all still mainly within a 2K (1920×1080) realm. We had not yet broached that 4K area.

A couple years later, we decided to do this again. It was called the Image Control Assessment Series, ICAS. That was shot at Warner Bros. It was the scenes that we shot in a café — daylight interior and then night time exterior. Both scenes had a dramatically large range of contrast and different colors in the image. It was the big milestone. The new Arri Alexa was used, along with the Sony F65 and the then latest versions of the Red cameras.

So we had 4K projection and 4K cameras and we introduced the use of ACES (Academy Color Encoding System) color management. So we were really at the point where all the key components that we needed were beginning to come together. This was the first instance where these digital workflow components were all used in a single significant project testing. Using film as our common benchmark reference — How are these cameras in relation to film? That was the key thing. In other words, could we consider them to be ready for prime time? The answer was yes. We did that project in conjunction with the PGA and a company called Revelations Entertainment, which is Morgan Freeman’s company. Lori McCreary, his partner, was one of the producers who worked with us on this.

So filmmakers started using digital motion picture cameras instead of film. And with digital cinema having replaced film print as a distribution medium, these new generation digital cameras started to replace film as an image capture medium. Then the question was would we have an end-to-end digital system that would become potentially viable as an alternative to shooting on film.

L to R: Josh Pines, Steve MacMillan, Curtis Clark and Dhanendra Patel.

Part of the reason you are getting this acknowledgement from the Academy is your dedication on the highest quality of image and the respect for the artistry, from capture through delivery. Can you talk about your role in look management from on-set through delivery?
I think we all need to be on the same page; it’s one production team whose objective is maintaining the original creative intent of the filmmakers. That includes director and cinematographer and working with an editor and a production designer. Making a film is a collective team effort, but the overall vision is typically established by the director in collaboration with the cinematographer and a production designer. The cinematographer is tasked with capturing that with lighting, with camera composition, movement, lens choices — all those elements that are part of the process of creative filmmaking. Once you start shooting with these extremely sophisticated cameras, like the Sony F65 or Venice, Panavision Millennium DXL, an Arri or the latest versions of the Red camera, all of which have the ability to reproduce high dynamic range, wide color gamut and high resolution. All that raw image data is inherently there and the creative canvas has certainly been expanded.

So if you’re using these creative tools to tell your story, to advance your narrative, then you’re doing it with imagery defined by the potential of what these technologies are able to do. In the modern era, people aren’t seeing dailies at the same time, not seeing them together under controlled circumstances. The viewing process has become fragmented. When everyone had to come together to view projected dailies, there was a certain camaraderie constructive contributions that made the filmmaking process more effective. So if something wasn’t what it should be, then everyone could see exactly what it was and make a correction if you needed to do that.

But now, we have a more dispersed production team at every stage of the production process, from the initial image capture through to dailies, editorial, visual effects and final color grading. We have so many different people in disparate locations working on the production who don’t seem to be as unified, sometimes, as we were when it was all film-based analog shooting. But now, it’s far easier and simpler to integrate visual effects into your workflow. Like Cineon indicated when it first emerged, you could do digital effects as opposed to optical effects and that was a big deal.

So coming back to the current situation, and particularly now with the most advanced forms of imaging, which include high dynamic range, wider color gamut, wider than even P3, REC 2020, having a color management system like ACES that actually has enough color gamut to be able to contain any color space that you capture and want to be able to manipulate.

Can you talk about the challenges you overcame, and how that fits into the history of cinema as it relates to the Academy recognition you received?
As a cinematographer, working on feature films or commercials, I kept thinking, if I’m fortunate enough to be able to manage the dailies and certainly the final color grading, there are these tools called lift gain gamma, which are common to all the different color correctors. But they’re all implemented differently. They’re not cross-platform-compatible, so the numbers from a lift gain gamma — which is the primary RGB grading — from one color corrector will not translate automatically to another color corrector. So I thought, we should have a cross platform version of that, because that is usually seen as the first step for grading.

That’s about as basic as you can get, and it was designed so that it would be a cross-platform implementation, so that everybody who installs and applies the ASC-CDL in a color grading system compatible with that app, whether you did it on a DaVinci, Baselight, Lustre or whatever you were using, the results would be the same and transferable.

You could transport those numbers from one set-up on set using a dailies creation tool, like ColorFront for example. You could then use the ASC CDL to establish your dailies look during the shoot, not while you’re actually shooting, but with the DIT to establish a chosen look that could then be applied to dailies and used for VFX.

Then when you make your way into the final color grading session with the final cut — or whenever you start doing master color grading going back to the original camera source — you would have these initial grading corrections as a starting point as references. This now gives you the possibility of continuing on that color grading process using all the sophistication of a full color corrector, whether it’s power windows or secondary color correction. Whatever you felt you needed to finalize the look.

I was advocating this in the ASC Technology Committee, as it was called, now subsequently renamed the Motion Imaging Technology Council (MITC). We needed a solution like this and there were a group of us who got together and decided that we would do this. There were plenty of people who were skeptical, “Why would you do something like that when we already have lift gain gamma? Why would any of the manufacturers of the different color grading systems integrate this into their system? Would it not impinge upon their competitive advantage if they had a system that people were used to using, and if their own lift gain gamma would work perfectly well for them, why would they want to use the ASC CDL?

We live in a much more fragmented post world, and I saw that becoming even more so with the advances of digital. The ASC CDL would be a “look unifier” that would establish initial look parameters. You would be able to have control over the look at every stage of the way.

I’m assuming that the cinematographer would work with the director and editor, and they would assess certain changes that probably should be made because we’re now looking at cut sequences and what we had thought would be most appropriate when we were shooting is now in the context of an edit and there may need to be some changes and adjustments.

Were you involved in ACES? Was it a similar impetus for ACES coming about? Or was it just spawned because visual effects movies became so big and important with the advent of digital filmmaking?
It was bit of both, including productions without VFX. So I would say that initially it was driven by the fact that there really should be a standardized color management system. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. When we were all photochemical and basically shooting with Kodak stock, we were working with film-based Kodak color science.

It’s a color science that everybody knew and understood, even if they didn’t understand it from an engineering photochemical point of view, they understood the effects of it. It’s what helps enable the look and the images that we wanted to create.

That was a color management system that was built into film. That color science system could have been adapted into the digital world, but Kodak resisted that because of the threat to negatives. If you apply that film color science to digital cameras, then you’re making digital cameras look more like film and that could pose a threat to the sale of color film negative.

So that’s really where the birth of ACES came about — to create a universal, unified color management system that would be appropriate anywhere you shot and with the widest possible color gamut. And it supports any camera or display technology because it would always have a more expanded (future proofing) capability within which the digital camera and display technologies would work effectively and efficiently but accurately, reliably and predictably.

Very early on, my ASC Technology Committee (now called Motion Imaging Technology Council) got involved with ACES development and became very excited about it. It was the missing ingredient needed to be able to make the end-to-end digital workflow the success that we thought that it could become. Because we no longer could rely on film-based color science, we had to either replicate that or emulate it with a color management system that could accommodate everything we wanted to do creatively. So ACES became that color management system.

So, in addition to becoming the first cross-platform primary color grading tool, the ASC CDL became the first official ACES look modification transform. Because ACES is not a color grading tool, it’s a color management system, you have to have color grading tools with color management. So you have the color management with ACES, you have the color grading with ASC CDL and the combination of those together is the look management system because it takes them all to make that work. And it’s not that the ASC CDL is the only tool you use for color grading, but it has the portable cross-platform ability to be able to control the color grading from dailies through visual effects up to the final color grade when you’re then working with a sophisticated color corrector.

What do you see for the future of cinematography and the merging of the worlds of post and on-set work and, what do you see as future challenges for future integrations between maintaining the creative intent and the metadata.
We’re very involved in metadata at the moment. Metadata is a crucial part of making all this work, as you well know. In fact, we worked on the common 3D LUT format, which we worked on with the Academy. So there is a common 3D LUT format that is something that would again have cross-platform consistency and predictability. And it’s functionality and its scope of use would be better understood if everyone were using it. It’s a work in progress. Metadata is critical.

I think as we expand the canvas and the palette of the possibility of image making, you have to understand what these technologies are capable of doing, so that you can incorporate them into your vision. So if you’re saying my creative vision includes doing certain things, then you would have to understand the potential of what they can do to support that vision. A very good example in the current climate is HDR.

That’s very controversial in a lot of ways, because the set manufacturers really would love to have everything just jump off the screen to make it vibrant and exciting. However, from a storytelling point of view, it may not be appropriate to push HDR imagery where it distracts from the story.
Well, it depends on how it’s done and how you are able to use that extended dynamic range when you have your bright highlights. And you can use foreground background relationships with bigger depth of field for tremendous effect. They have a visceral presence, because they have a dimensionality when, for example, you see the bright images outside of a window.

When you have an extended dynamic range of scene tones that could add dimensional depth to the image, you can choreograph and stage the blocking for your narrative storytelling with the kind of images that take advantage of those possibilities.

So HDR needs to be thought of as something that’s integral to your storytelling, not just something that’s there because you can do it. That’s when it can become a distraction. When you’re on set, you need a reference monitor that is able to show and convey, all the different tonal and color elements that you’re working with to create your look, from HDR to wider color gamut, whatever that may be, so that you feel comfortable that you’ve made the correct creative decision.

With virtual production techniques, you can incorporate some of that into your live-action shooting on set with that kind of compositing, just like James Cameron started with Avatar. If you want to do that with HDR, you can. The sky is the limit in terms of what you can do with today’s technology.

So these things are there, but you need to be able to pull them all together into your production workflow to make sure that you can comfortably integrate in the appropriate way at the appropriate time. And that it conforms to what the creative vision for the final result needs to be and then, remarkable things can happen. The aesthetic poetry of the image can visually drive the narrative and you can say things with these images without having to be expositional in your dialogue. You can make it more of an experientially immersive involvement with the story. I think that’s something that we’re headed toward, that’s going to make the narrative storytelling very interesting and much more dynamic.

Certainly, and certainly with the advancements of consumer technology and better panels and the high dynamic range developments, and Dolby Vision coming into the home and Atmos audio coming into the home. It’s really an amazing time to be involved in the industry; it’s so fun and challenging.

It’s a very interesting time, and a learning curve needs to happen. That’s what’s driven me from the very beginning and why I think our ASC Motion Imaging Technology Council has been so successful in its 16 years of continuous operation influencing the development of some of these technologies in very meaningful ways. But always with the intent that these new imaging technologies are there to better serve the creative intent of the filmmaker. The technology serves the art. It’s not about the technology per se, it’s about the technology as the enabling component of the art. It enables the art to happen. And expands it’s scope and possibility to broader canvases with wider color gamuts in ways that have never been experienced or possible before.


Barry Goch is a Finishing Artist at The Foundation and a Post Production Instructor at UCLA Extension. You can follow him on Twitter at @gochya.

Sundance Videos: Watch our editor interviews

postPerspective traveled to Sundance for the first time this year, and it was great. In addition to attending some parties, brunches and panels, we had the opportunity to interview a number of editors who were in Park City to help promote their various projects. (Watch here.)

Billy McMillin

We caught up with the editors on the comedy docu-series Documentary Now!, Michah Gardner and Jordan Kim. We spoke to Courtney Ware about cutting the film Light From Light, as well as Billy McMillin, editor on the documentary Mike Wallace is Here. We also chatted with Phyllis Housen, the editor on director Chinonye Chukwu’s Clemency and Kent Kincannon who cut Hannah Pearl Utt’s comedy, Before you Know It. Finally, we sat down with Bryan Mason, who had the dual roles of cinematographer and editor on Animals.

We hope you enjoy watching these interviews as much as we enjoyed shooting them.

Don’t forget, click here to view!

Oh, and a big shout out to Twain Richardson from Jamaica’s Frame of Reference, who edited and color graded the videos. Thanks Twain!

DigitalGlue 2.5

More Than Just Words: Lucky Post helps bring Jeep’s viral piece to life


Jeep’s More Than Words commercial, out of agency The Richards Group, premiered online just prior to this year’s Super Bowl as part of its Big Game Blitz, which saw numerous projects launched leading up to the Super Bowl.

Quickly earning millions of views, the piece features a version of our national anthem by One Republic, as well as images of the band. The two-minute spot is made up of images of small, everyday moments that add up to something big and evoke a feeling of America.

There is a father and his infant son, people gathered in front of a barn, a football thrown through a hanging tire swing. We see bits of cities and suburbs, football, stock images of Marilyn Monroe and soldiers training for battle — and every once in a while, an image of a Jeep is in view.

The spot ends as it began, with images of One Republic in the studio before the screen goes black and text appears reading: More Than Just Words. Then the Jeep logo appears.

The production Company was Zoom USA with partner Mark Toia directing. Lucky Post in Dallas contributed editorial, color, sounds design and finish to the piece.

Editor Sai Selvarajan used Adobe’s Premiere. Neil Anderson provided the color grade in Blackmagic Resolve, while Scottie Richardson performed the sound design and mix using Avid Pro Tools. Online finishing and effects were via Tim Nagle, who worked in Autodesk Flame.

“The concept is genius in its simplicity; a tribute to faith in our country’s patchwork with our anthem’s words reinforced and represented in image,” says Lucky Post’s Selvarajan. “Behind the scenes, everyone provided collective energy and creativity to bring it to life. It was the product of many, just like the message of the film, and I was so excited to see the groundswell of positive reaction.”

 

 

 


Industry vets open editorial, post studio Made-SF

Made-SF, a creative studio offering editorial and other services, has been launched by executive producer Jon Ettinger, editor/director Doug Walker and editors Brian Lagerhausen and Connor McDonald, all formerly of Beast Editorial. Along with creative editorial (Adobe Premiere), the company will provide motion graphic design (After Effects, Mocha), color correction and editorial finishing (likely Flame and Resolve). Eventually, it plans to add concept development, directing and production to its mix.

“Clients today are looking for creative partners who can help them across the entire production chain,” says Ettinger. “They need to tell stories and they have limited budgets available to tell them. We know how to do both, and we are gathering the resources to do so under one roof.”

Made is currently set up in interim quarters while completing construction of permanent studio space. The latter will be housed in a century-old structure in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood and will feature five editorial suites, two motion graphics suites, and two post production finishing suites with room for further expansion.

The four Made partners bring deep experience in traditional advertising and branded content, working both with agencies and directly with clients. Ettinger and Walker have worked together for more than 20 years and originally teamed up to launch FilmCore, San Francisco. Both joined Beast Editorial in 2012. Similarly, Lagerhausen and McDonald have been editing in the Bay Area for more than two decades. Collectively, their credits include work for agencies in San Francisco and nationwide. They’ve also helped to create content directly for Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Salesforce and other corporate clients.

Made is indicative of a trend where companies engaged in content development are adopting fluid business models to address a diversifying media landscapes and where individual talent is no longer confined to a single job title. Walker, for example, has recently served as director on several projects, including a series of short films for Kelly Services, conceived by agency Erich & Kallman and produced by Caruso Co.

“People used to go to great pains to make a distinction about what they do,” Ettinger observes. “You were a director or an editor or a colorist. Today, those lines have blurred. We are taking advantage of that flattening out to offer clients a better way to create content.”

Main Image Caption: (L-R) Doug Walker, Brian Lagerhausen, Jon Ettinger and Connor McDonald.


Quick Chat: Crew Cuts’ Nancy Jacobsen and Stephanie Norris

By Randi Altman

Crew Cuts, a full-service production and post house, has been a New York fixture since 1986. Originally established as an editorial house, over the years as the industry evolved they added services that target all aspects of the workflow.

This independently-owned facility is run by executive producer/partner Nancy Jacobsen, senior editor/partner Sherri Margulies Keenan and senior editor/partner Jake Jacobsen. While commercial spots might be in their wheelhouse, their projects vary and include social media, music videos and indie films.

We decided to reach out to Nancy Jacobsen, as well as EP of finishing Stephanie Norris, to find out about trends, recent work and succeeding in an industry and city that isn’t always so welcoming.

Can you talk about what Crew Cuts provides and how you guys have evolved over the years?
Jacobsen: We pretty much do it all. We have 10 offline editors as well as artists working in VFX, 2D/3D animation, motion graphics/design, audio mix and sound design, VO record, color grading, title treatment, advanced compositing and conform. Two of our editors double as directors.

In the beginning, Crew Cuts primarily offered only editorial. As the years went by and the industry climate changed we began to cater to the needs of clients and slowly built out our entire finishing department. We started with some minimal graphics work and one staff artist in 2008.

In 2009, we expanded the team to include graphics, conform and audio mix. From there we just continued to grow and expand our department to the full finishing team we have today.

As a woman owner of a post house, what challenges have you had to overcome?
Jacobsen: When I started in this business, the industry was very different. I made less money than my male counterparts and it took me twice as long to be promoted because I am a woman. I have since seen great change where women are leading post houses and production houses and are finally getting the recognition for the hard work they deserve. Unfortunately, I had to “wait it out” and silently work harder than the men around me. This has paid off for me, and now I can help women get the credit they rightly deserve

Do you see the industry changing and becoming less male-dominated?
Jacobsen: Yes, the industry is definitely becoming less male-dominated. In the current climate, with the birth of the #metoo movement and specifically in our industry with the birth of Diet Madison Avenue (@dietmadisonave), we are seeing a lot more women step up and take on leading roles.

Are you mostly a commercial house? What other segments of the industry do you work in?
Jacobsen: We are primarily a commercial house. However, we are not limited to just broadcast and digital commercial advertising. We have delivered specs for everything from the Godzilla screen in Times Square to :06 spots on Instagram. We have done a handful of music videos and also handle a ton of B2B videos for in-house client meetings, etc., as well as banner ads for conferences and trade shows. We’ve even worked on display ads for airports. Most recently, one of our editors finished a feature film called Public Figure that is being submitted around the film festival circuit.

What types of projects are you working on most often these days?
Jacobsen: The industry is all over the place. The current climate is very messy right now. Our projects are extremely varied. It’s hard to say what we work on most because it seems like there is no more norm. We are working on everything from sizzle pitch videos to spots for the Super Bowl.

What trends have you seen over the last year, and where do you expect to be in a year?
Jacobsen: Over the last year, we have noticed that the work comes from every angle. Our typical client is no longer just the marketing agency. It is also the production company, network, brand, etc. In a year we expect to be doing more production work. Seeing as how budgets are much smaller than they used to be and everyone wants a one-stop shop, we are hoping to stick with our gut and continue expanding our production arm.

Crew Cuts has beefed up its finishing services. Can you talk about that?
Stephanie Norris: We offer a variety of finishing services — from sound design to VO record and mix, compositing to VFX, 2D and 3D motion graphics and color grading. Our fully staffed in-house team loves the visual effects puzzle and enjoys working with clients to help interpret their vision.

Can you name some recent projects and the services you provided?
Norris: We just worked on a new campaign for New Jersey Lottery in collaboration with Yonder Content and PureRed. Brian Neaman directed and edited the spots. In addition to editorial, Crew Cuts also handled all of the finishing, including color, conform, visual effects, graphics, sound design and mix. This was one of those all-hands-on-deck projects. Keeping everything under one roof really helped us to streamline the process.

New Jersey Lottery

Working with Brian to carefully plan the shooting strategy, we filmed a series of plate shots as elements that could later be combined in post to build each scene. We added falling stacks of cash to the reindeer as he walks through the loading dock and incorporated CG inflatable decorations into a warehouse holiday lawn scene. We also dramatically altered the opening and closing exterior warehouse scenes, allowing one shot to work for multiple seasons. Keeping lighting and camera positions consistent was mission-critical, and having our VFX supervisor, Dulany Foster, on set saved us hours of work down the line.

For the New Jersey Lottery Holiday spots, the Crew Cuts CG team, led by our creative director Ben McNamara created a 3D Inflatable display of lottery tickets. This was something that proved too costly and time consuming to manufacture and shoot practically. After the initial R&D, our team created a few different CG inflatable simulations prior to the shoot, and Dulany was able to mock them up live while on set. Creating the simulations was crucial for giving the art department reference while building the set, and also helped when shooting the plates needed to composite the scene together.

Ben and his team focused on the physics of the inflation, while also making sure the fabric simulations, textures and lighting blended seamlessly into the scene — it was important that everything felt realistic. In addition to the inflatables, our VFX team turned the opening and closing sunny, summer shots of the warehouse into a December winter wonderland thanks to heavy compositing, 3D set extension and snow simulations.

New Jersey Lottery

Any other projects you’d like to talk about?
Jacobsen: We are currently working on a project here that we are handling soup to nuts from production through finishing. It was a fun challenge to take on. The spot contains a hand model on a greenscreen showing the audience how to use a new product. The shoot itself took place here at Crew Cuts. We turned our common area into a stage for the day and were able to do so without interrupting any of the other employees and projects going on.

We are now working on editorial and finishing. The edit is coming along nicely. What really drives the piece here is the graphic icons. Our team is having a lot of fun designing these elements and implementing them into the spot. We are so proud because we budgeted wisely to make sure to accommodate all of the needs of the project so that we could handle everything and still turn a profit. It was so much fun to work in a different setting for the day and has been a very successful project so far. Clients are happy and so are we.

Main Image: (L-R) Stephanie Norris and Nancy Jacobsen


Company 3 to open Hollywood studio, adds Roma colorist Steve Scott

Company 3 has added Steve Scott as EVP/senior finishing artist. His long list of credits includes Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-nominated Roma and Gravity; 19 Marvel features, including The Avengers, Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy franchises; and many Academy-Award-winning films, including The Jungle Book, Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance and The Revenant (both took Oscars for director Alejandro Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki).

Roma

The addition of Scott comes at a time when Company 3 is completing work on a new location at 950 Lillian Way in Hollywood. This new space represents the first phase of a planned much larger footprint in that area of Los Angeles. This new space will enable the company to significantly expand its capacity while providing the level of artistry and personalized service the industry expects from Company 3. It will also enable them to service more East Side and Valley-based clients.

“Steve is someone I’ve always wanted to work with and I am beyond thrilled that he has agreed to work with us at Company 3,” says CEO Stefan Sonnenfeld. “As we continue the process of re-imagining the entire concept of what ‘post production’ means creatively and technically, it makes perfect sense to welcome a leading innovator and brilliant artist to our team.”

Sonnenfeld and Scott will oversee every facet of this new boutique-style space to ensure it offers the same flexible experience clients have come to expect when working at Company 3. Scott, a devoted student of art and architecture, with extensive professional experience as a painter and architectural illustrator, says, “The opportunity to help design a new cutting-edge facility in my Hollywood hometown was too great to pass up.”

Scott oversees a team of additional artists to offer filmmakers the significantly increased ability to augment and refine imagery as part of the finishing process.

“The industry is experiencing a renaissance of content,” says Sonnenfeld. “The old models of feature film vs. television, long- vs. short-form are changing rapidly. Workflows and delivery methods are undergoing revolutionary changes with more content, and innovative content, coming from a whole array of new sources. It’s a very exciting and challenging time and I think these major additions to our roster and infrastructure will go a long way towards our goal of continuing Company 3’s role as a major force in the industry.”

Main Image Credit: 2018 HPA Awards Ceremony/Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging


Efilm’s Natasha Leonnet: Grading Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

By Randi Altman

Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not your typical Spider-Man film… in so many ways. The most obvious is the movie’s look, which was designed to make the viewer feel they are walking inside a comic book. This tale, which blends CGI with 2D hand-drawn animation and comic book textures, focuses on a Brooklyn teen who is bitten by a radioactive spider on the subway and soon develops special powers.

Natasha Leonnet

When he meets Peter Parker, he realizes he’s not alone in the Spider-Verse. It was co-directed by Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr. and Rodney Rothman and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the pair behind 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie.

Efilm senior colorist Natasha Leonnet provided the color finish for the film, which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category. We reached out to find out more.

How early were you brought on the film?
I had worked on Angry Birds with visual effects supervisor Danny Dimian, which is how I was brought onto the film. It was a few months before we started color correction. Also, there was no LUT for the film. They used the ACES workflow, developed by The Academy and Efilm’s VP of technology, Joachim “JZ” Zell.

Can you talk about the kind of look they were after and what it took to achieve that look?
They wanted to achieve a comic book look. You look at the edges of characters or objects in comic books and you actually see aspects of the color printing from the beginning of comic book printing — the CMYK dyes wouldn’t all be the same line — it creates a layered look along with the comic book dots and expression lines on faces, as if you’re drawing a comic book.

For example, if someone gets hurt you put actual slashes on their face. For me it was a huge education about the comic book art form. Justin Thompson, the art director, in particular is so knowledgeable about the history of comic books. I was so inspired I just bought my first comic book. Also, with the overall look, the light is painting color everywhere the way it does in life.

You worked closely Justin, VFX supervisor Danny Dimian and art director Dean Gordon What was that process like?
They were incredible. It was usually a group of us working together during the color sessions — a real exercise in collaboration. They were all so open to each other’s opinions and constantly discussing every change in order to make certain that the change best served the film. There was no idea that was more important than another idea. Everyone listened to each other’s ideas.

Had you worked on an animated film previously? What are the challenges and benefits of working with animation?
I’ve been lucky enough to do all of Blue Sky Studios’ color finishes so far, except for the first Ice Age. One of the special aspects of working on animated films is that you’re often working with people who are fine-art painters. As a result, they bring in a different background and way of analyzing the images. That’s really special. They often focus on the interplay of different hues.

In the case of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, they also wanted to bring a certain naturalism to the color experience. With this particular film, they made very bold choices with their use of color finishing. They used an aspect of color correctors that are used to shift all of the hues and colors; that’s usually reserved for music videos. They completely embraced it. They were basically using color finishing to augment the story and refine their hues, especially time of day and progression of the day or night. They used it as their extra lighting step.

Can you talk about your typical process? Did that differ because of the animated content?
My process actually does not differ when I’m color finishing animated content. Continuity is always at the forefront, even in animation. I use the color corrector as a creative tool on every project.

How would you describe the look of the film?
The film embodies the vivid and magical colors that I always observed in childhood but never saw reflected on the screen. The film is very color intense. It’s as if you’re stepping inside a comic book illustrator’s mind. It’s a mind-meld with how they’re imagining things.

What system did you use for color and why?
I used Resolve on this project, as it was the system that the clients were most familiar with.

Any favorite parts of the process?
My favorite part is from start to finish. It was all magical on this film.

What was your path to being a colorist?
My parents loved going to the cinema. They didn’t believe in babysitters, so they took me to everything. They were big fans of the French new wave movement and films that offered unconventional ways of depicting the human experience. As a result, I got to see some pretty unusual films. I got to see how passionate my parents were about these films and their stories and unusual way of telling them, and it sparked something in me. I think I can give my parents full credit for my career.

I studied non-narrative experimental filmmaking in college even though ultimately my real passion was narrative film. I started as a runner in the Czech Republic, which is where I’d made my thesis film for my BA degree. From there I worked my way up and met a colorist (Biggi Klier) who really inspired me. I was hooked and lucky enough to study with her and another mentor of mine in Munich, Germany.

How do you prefer a director and DP describe a look?
Every single person I’ve worked with works differently, and that’s what makes it so fun and exciting, but also challenging. Every person communicates about color differently and our vocabulary for color is so limited, therein lies the challenge.

Where do you find inspiration?
From both the natural world and the world of films. I live in a place that faces east, and I get up every morning to watch the sunrise and the color palette is always different. It’s beautiful and inspiring. The winter palettes in particular are gorgeous, with reds and oranges that don’t exist in summer sunrises.


VFX studio Electric Theatre Collective adds three to London team

London visual effects studio Electric Theatre Collective has added three to its production team: Elle Lockhart, Polly Durrance and Antonia Vlasto.

Lockhart brings with her extensive CG experience, joining from Touch Surgery where she ran the Johnson & Johnson account. Prior to that she worked at Analog as a VFX producer where she delivered three global campaigns for Nike. At Electric, she will serve as producer on Martini and Toyota.

Vlasto joins Electric working on clients such Mercedes, Tourism Ireland and Tui. She joins from 750MPH where, over a four-year period, she served as producer on Nike, Great Western Railway, VW and Amazon to name but a few.

At Electric, Polly Durrance will serve as producer on H&M, TK Maxx and Carphone Warehouse. She joins from Unit where she helped launched their in-house Design Collective, worked with clients such as Lush, Pepsi and Thatchers Cider. Prior to Unit Polly was at Big Buoy where she produced work for Jaguar Land Rover, giffgaff and Redbull.

Recent projects at the studio, which also has an office in Santa Monica, California, include Tourism Ireland Capture Your Heart and Honda Palindrome.

Main Image: (L-R) Elle Lockhart, Antonia Vlasto and Polly Durrance.


Color grading The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos’ historical comedy, The Favourite, has become an awards show darling. In addition to winning 10 British Independent Film Awards, it also dominated the BAFTA nominations with 12 nods, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography for Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC, who scored an ASC Award nom as well.

Final picture post on the black comedy was completed by Goldcrest Post in London using DaVinci Resolve Studio. The Century Fox film’s DI was overseen by Goldcrest producer Jonathan Collard, with senior colorist Rob Pizzey providing the grade. He was assisted by Maria Chamberlain, while Russell White completed the online edit.

The film stars Olivia Colman (who one a Golden Globe for her role), Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

Lensed by Ryan, The Favourite was shot on a mixture of Kodak 500T 5219 and 200T 5207 film stocks with Timothy Jones of Digital Film Bureau scanning the 35mm film negative for the grade at Goldcrest. To capture the full dynamic range of modern film stock, the 2K ARRI scanner was set to 2.5 density range with drama scanning beginning once the edit was locked.

According to colorist Pizzey, once scanned almost everything seen on-screen exposure-wise is what came straight out of the camera. “Robbie did such an amazing job; there were only a handful of shots where I had to tweak the film grain back a little bit.

“In some respects, grading on film can be harder,” he continues. “It does take a lot more balancing because of variations in the scanning process and film stocks. Conversely, with digital capture you have a pretty good balance to begin with, if you start with the CDL values from the digital rushes process.”

Rob Pizzey

He says the way the director worked was very interesting. “Basically, we kept the images very natural and didn’t rely on too many secondaries. Instead, we focused on manipulating the palette using primary color correction to achieve an organic, naturalistic look. It sounds easy, but in truth, it is quite difficult. We started early testing on some of the dailies, a mix of interior and exterior shots, both day and night, to get an idea of where the director and DP wanted to go. We then pushed on with that into the DI.”

DP Ryan wasn’t able to attend the grade, so it was just Pizzey and the director.

“There was a lot of colorization going on in the bottom end of the picture, whether it’s in the shadows and deep blacks or playing with the highlights to create something that looked interesting,” says Pizzey. “We were ultimately still creating a look, it is just a lot more subtle, which is where the challenge lies.”

Most of the film was shot relying on available light only. “There was hardly any artificial lighting used at all during principal photography,” he reports. “The candlelit scenes at night relied solely on the candles themselves and, as you can imagine, there were a lot of candles. The blacks in those scenes are really inky.”

The night scenes were especially tough to complete, with Pizzey relying on Resolve’s primary grading toolset. “Those scenes are very rich and very warm, so we automatically backed off the warmth and tried to dial it down by adding some desaturation. However, it just didn’t look right,” he explains. “We then stripped the grade back and tried to stay as close to what had come out of the camera as we could, with only a few subtle tweaks here and there.”

Looking to embrace the contrast of the film stock, everything about the grade was all very natural and subtle. “For the first couple of weeks everything was about the primaries, and it was only toward the end of the DI that we began to use window shapes and keys on shots that we couldn’t otherwise get to work using primaries alone.

“There was one scene in particular where Yorgos and Robbie had to go back and shoot it five weeks later. Coming into the grade, there were a number of notable differences between the trees, moving from winter into spring, which meant the trees were beginning to bud.”

The Favourite is in theaters now.

Roy H. Wagner, ASC, to speak at first Blackmagic Collective event

By Randi Altman

The newly formed Blackmagic Collective, a group founded by filmmakers for filmmakers, is holding the first of its free monthly meetings on Saturday, January 12 at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood.

The group, headed up by executive director Brett Harrison, says they are dedicated to sharing info on the art of filmmaking as well as education. “With Blackmagic Design’s support, the group will feature ‘TED Talk’-like presentations from media experts, panels covering post and production topics and film festivals, as well as networking opportunities.”

In addition, Blackmagic Design is offering free Resolve training attached to the meetings. While Blackmagic is a sponsor, this is not a Blackmagic-run group. According to Harrison, “The Blackmagic Collective is an independent group created to support the art of filmmaking as a whole. We are also a 501(c)(3) charity, with plans to find ways to give back to the community.” Membership is free, with no application process. Members can simply sign-up on the site. Despite the name, Harrison insists that the group, while inspired by Blackmagic’s filmmaking tools, is focused on filmmaking as a whole. “You do not need to use BMD tools to be a member,” adds Harrison.

On creating the Collective, Harrison says, “After producing the Blackmagic Design Conference + Expo in LA early in 2018, I realized that a monthly group in Hollywood for filmmakers to learn from other professionals and share with and inspire each other would be well-received and vital, particularly for Blackmagic users in the industry. BMD allows for an end-to-end workflow that encompasses the spectrum of production and post, with endless topics for our group to focus on, though we will be speaking on a range of topics and not strictly BMD gear and software.”

At their first meeting, esteemed film and television cinematographer Roy H. Wagner, ASC, will be interviewed by Christian Sebaldt, ASC, with a focus on Roy’s new feature film Stand!. There will be a panel discussing the art and experiences of young colorists from Efilm, Apache and Company 3. Also, the Blackmagic Collective will be announcing a film festival that will start in April and end in November with a final competition. Filmmakers can submit films each month. Selected films will be streamed on the group website, with a select few shown at the monthly meetings starting in April. Members will have the opportunity to vote for the best each month, with a final competition for the top five films at the November event.

In case you were wondering, and we know you are, the current plan for the film festival is this:
“Our film festival submissions must use BMD technology to be eligible to enter the contest. That may include cameras, software or both, depending on the category,” explains Harrison.

The Collective will also be hosting job fairs at every other meeting.

“We are thrilled to be supporting the Blackmagic Collective,” says Blackmagic president Dan May. “Our company shares a passion with filmmakers by creating hardware and software that make their craft easier and more cost effective. We feel the Collective will provide the added resource of bringing a focus to the art form of filmmaking, as well as helping share new ideas and technology among creatives at all skill levels, from student to professional.”

You can sign up for the Resolve editing class or the event (or both) at the website.