By Randi Altman
When Apache Digital opened its doors in late July in Santa Monica, they knew exactly what they wanted to do — provide color grading services, and only color grading services, in a boutique environment. They felt that was the best way to serve their clients.
Their philosophy has paid off. Apache, founded by colorists Shane Reed and Steve Rodriguez, along with executive producer/managing director LaRue Anderson, have been busy out of the gate with commercial, music video (Steve Aoki’s Flux Pavilion, The Cold and Lovely’s Doll), television (Side Effects on Awesomeness TV) and film (an independent feature that debuted at Telluride called Three Short Films About Peace) work. Seventy percent of the studio’s business is spots, and they’ve already delivered work for Chevrolet, Coke Zero, Kay Jewelers and Lexus.
Color vets Rodriguez and Reed, who have a ton of experience in commercial and long-form productions, work on full DaVinci Resolve systems controlled by Blackmagic panels.
Just some background on the founders: Rodriguez has worked at Company 3 and Cutters Japan, while Reed was been with The Mill and Riot. Anderson was most recently at The Mill; she opened their West Coast color department over three years ago.
Busy or not, they took the time to answer some of our questions!
How did you know that a color grading boutique in Santa Monica was the right call?
Steve Rodriguez: Apache represents a new craft movement in the post production film industry, one that is moving away from “big-box” upstream sales operations to specialist shops dedicated exclusively to the fine art of perfecting the look and feel of commercials and other content.
When we put together the Apache business plan, we really wanted to make this a color-only shop. We specialize in one thing. We don’t dabble in 3D, visual effects or finishing. We can do it if it’s totally necessary, or if we are asked to do it, but our mission statement is this: “We do color. We deliver color, and we deliver it right.”
You are clearly a boutique facility. What are some of the benefits of staying small?
LaRue Anderson: We’re nimble. We can rotate on a dime. If we need to put something into play we can do it next day. You don’t have to go through all these levels of approval, through the micro-manager, the assistant manager, district manager to the CEO, and then back down through the paper trail. The culture we’re trying to achieve is keep it small, keep it tight. And we work with people we like.
When you opened, did you guys consider other grading systems? How did you decide on Resolve?
Anderson: We tested a few other grading systems in-house before our final purchase. In the end, the Resolve was faster and better at prep, grading and delivery. There was no other option for us.
How do you work with clients to make sure the language of what they are trying to achieve match your language at Apache?
Rodriguez: I’ll watch a spot a couple of times, get the flavor of what they are trying to do and sell, and then I’ll start applying looks, and going with my gut, and how I feel emotionally from watching the spot and listening to the track.
The music very is important; it can help steer the direction of the look of the spot. Same with voiceovers, which sometimes can be the star of the show. My approach then is to dig in, start setting looks, start throwing stuff out there. I’d rather know what I don’t like, wipe those ideas off the plate and go with the two or three that I really do like. Then I start peeling the layers off those and allow the clients to digest them. And maybe they’ll push me in a different direction, one I didn’t think of. It’s all about the feel.
Shane Reed: I also tend to go right into it, try a bunch of stuff and narrow it down. I usually get that done 15 minutes before the clients show up. I massage the footage, see what it’s doing — from a photographic perspective too — checking to see what it can handle. I try to get into the DP’s mind by digging into the footage, and then I try to understand what the director was thinking and the overall vibe, the style, the feeling that they are going for.
Then it’s about trying to get into the mindset of the agency as well. Largely our job is to try to take all of those perspectives into account. There are talented people at every stage of a project, contributing to it, and our job is to help them navigate through all the options they bring to the table.
People talk about things that they imagine, and we try to make it a reality. Of course we’re selling product, not just art, so we have to consider the details, like popping the badge on the car and making sure the hubcaps are sterling.
Main Photo (L-R): Shane Reed, LaRue Anderson and Steve Rodriguez.