By Randi Altman
As I sat down to write about the post process on SyFy’s Sharknado 3, the news was full of shark sightings and attacks, including one on a surfer during a competition in South Africa.
While there is nothing funny about the latest happenings, the public’s fascination with these beasts of the ocean continues. Coming on the heels of Discovery’s Shark Week is the latest iteration of the Sharknado series from The Asylum, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
This time our hero, Fin (Ian Ziering), makes his way from Washington, DC, to Orlando, all the while fighting this killer storm with teeth. In addition to the expected camp, also keep an eye out for those fun cameos, including David Hasselhoff, Bo Derek, Mark Cuban, Frankie Muniz, and so many more.
Last year, around this time, I interviewed Sharknado 2 editor Vashi Nedomansky (Christopher Roth edited 3 using Apple Final Cut 7). This year, we touch base with colorist and post supervisor Mark Quod, who is based at The Asylum in Los Angeles. Quod, like many others, including director Anthony C. Ferrante, has worked on all three Sharknado films.
Quod, who has a post supervisor title on all three films and colored Sharknado 2, was also significantly involved in Oh Hell No!, which was shot on Red Epic. He provided the entire color grade via Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve. He spoke to us about the film’s color and post process.
How does the look of Sharknado 3 differ from the first two, if at all?
The films really don’t have a strong look stylistically; we just wanted them to look good. But what did come into play was the weather. These movies take place during a storm, but production takes place in all types of weather. A good portion of Sharknado 3 was shot in a very sunny Florida.
So that’s where you in the color suite comes in?
Yes. There’s always the challenge of reducing the contrast, and making it look stormy even when it’s not. So my process involves taking blue skies and making them grey, so it looks as if there’s a storm coming, or even darker for when the storm is happening. Sometimes they’re shooting in sunny weather and sometimes they’re not, and you have to try to balance it out so it looks as if it was taking place at the same time. While this also happens on other films, because the storm is an integral part of the story of Sharknado 3, there was more of a need.
Was some of that visual effects?
Yes. When the storm is full on, that’s where we get some visual effects shots. But we can’t have a visual effect shot for every shot in the movie. So darkening the sky and that sort of thing does fall on color correction.
So it’s more about conformity than about desaturation or saturation, etc.?
At the beginning, I said to the director, Anthony Ferrante, “Tell me what you like and what you don’t like, and give me some of your notes right off the bat.” I also sent some stills asking if they looked good. He would provide notes about certain scenes. “It’s way too sunny, we need to bring it down, but don’t make it too desaturated.”
It’s a struggle to come up with a look that looks good, but also looks appropriate at the same time. You’re sort of riding the fine line between just trying to make it look nice and have a pretty image, while also looking stormy at the same time. It’s a little bit of walking a tight rope to finding that appropriateness for the color.
The partners at The Asylum have a say in the look of the film as well.
How did you work with the DP on this one?
There were actually a few DPs on Sharknado 3, which changed things up a little bit. Ben Demaree started off as the main DP, and he and I had conversations before the shoot. I asked him “to be careful on sunny days, and to do what you can to make sure that it’s not too contrasty, and doesn’t look bright and sunny when it’s supposed to be cloudy.” He knows that, of course, but it’s a low-budget movie, so there’s only so much anybody can do.
You had a tight deadline. When did you start getting footage to work on, and what was the workflow like?
I got footage near the end of May and started working on it then and pretty much through all of June. That sounds like a long time, but it’s actually not on a crazy movie like this, because there are just so many visual effect shots.
When I started on shots, not many of the visual effects were done. Sometimes it’s hard to do scenes when you don’t have all the shots yet. Or shots will come in, and then end up changing later, so I’ll get newer versions of them. I’m constantly color correcting the newer versions as we get them. It’s a lot of work.
You have been using the Da Vinci Resolve? Is that typically your system of choice?
I’ve been a colorist for 19 years, and I started working on the classic DaVinci. It wasn’t until recently that I started using the new Resolve. In fact, Sharknado 3 is only the second feature film that I’ve done on the DaVinci Resolve. 3 Headed Shark Attack, which is also going to be airing during Sharknado week, was the first.
It didn’t take me that long to get the hang of it, but any time you’re switching to a new system, you want to make sure you’ve got all the ins and outs conquered. I was pleasantly happy with the tools that it has. I’m very glad that I used DaVinci Resolve with this.
What did you use to color Sharknado 2?
Apple Color. I had used that for many years, even when they stopped supporting it. Once you get to be an old hand at a certain system, you’re always reluctant to change. Plus, with The Asylum’s schedule being so busy, I never found that I had time to sit down and learn a new system. I was always in a rush to get the next movie out.
Anything in particular about Resolve impress you?
Recently, I’ve been getting some shots that are a little under-exposed. With Resolve, I can push them a little further than I could in Color and still get a usable image out of it. Resolve has a pretty good noise reducer built into it. Every once in a while with Color, I’d have to bring a shot into After Effects, which has got a pretty good noise reducer. It’s was a little more cumbersome, and when you don’t have a lot of time that’s an issue. With Resolve, the tools are right there, so it’s not adding any more time to my workload. I found I could push shots further than I could ever have done before.
Being able to track things very quickly and having more control over the shapes and mattes is a big help. I use those tools constantly use while color correcting — I’m always using Power Windows and isolating colors and that sort of thing.
Does that mean you can do more?
Well, it’s a double-edged sword. Thanks to the powerful tools I can be more creative, but that’s when I run into, “How much time can I really afford to make these shots look good?” My instinct, because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, is to spend more time and make everything look as good as I possibly can, but at a certain point it’s got to get out the door. There’s only so much time I can spend tweaking and perfecting things.
I’m going to ask you to put on your post supervisor hat for a bit. The Asylum produces around 30 films a year, how tight does your post workflow need to be to handle all of that?
It’s definitely streamlined! For many of our movies, the rough cut is due only days after they’re done shooting. It’s wasn’t that fast with Sharknado because of all the other facets that go into it. With some of our other movies, the editing process is very quick. Typically we have assistant editors getting all the dailies to the editors — sometimes multiple editors — depending on the nature of the film and how much time we have for it.
When you say “all the facets,” you mean the visual effects?
If there are a lot of visual effects shots in the film, it takes longer in post. A lot of times they’re working on visual effect shots long before the movie is locked, because there just isn’t time to get them all done otherwise. In the case of Sharknado 3, which had about 800 visual effects shots, they had to get started right away.
What did you use in terms of storage?
We usually have Glyph drives on set where we keep all of our raw data, and they’ll keep an on-set copy of everything that is shot. The footage comes back to The Asylum on shuttle drives and gets copied to an in-house set of drives. This way we have a duplicates of all the footage — one for in-house and one for on set. We also back that up to DLT tape as well.
Because there were so many drives on Sharknado 3, we actually bought a 24TB drive to copy everything onto. That’s what I used for the color correction. I could just move around one drive to move the footage.
What’s next for you?
Working as post supervisor and colorist on the extended “Sharktacular” version of Sharknado 3, which will be on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD. I’m actually working on it right now, color correcting additional shots, extended scenes and new VFX shots.