Tag Archives: digital intermediates

Quick Chat: Efilm’s new managing director Al Cleland

Al Cleland has been promoted to managing director of Deluxe’s Efilm, which is a digital color, finishing and location services company working on feature films, episodics and trailers. For the past eight years, Cleland has been VP of trailers at Efilm.

A 30-year veteran of the post business, Cleland started his career at Editel and joined CIS, which later became Efilm, as one of the company’s original employees. He served as senior V/GM at Technicolor Creative Services for 10 years, and at Postworks, Los Angeles, returning to Efilm as VP of trailers. We threw three questions at Cleland, let’s see what he had to say…

After working on trailers for the last eight years, you must be excited to be working in all aspects of what Efilm does.
Our trailer department started out dedicated to finishing one studio’s trailers and we’ve expanded into a dedicated hub for the marketing departments of all the studios. Our trailers department has had the advantage of connectivity and common practices with all of Deluxe’s facilities throughout the world. I’ve loved being part of that growth process and, in my new position, I’ll continue to oversee that vital part of the company.

What’s challenging about trailers that people even in the business might not think about?
The great team in that division have to pull together shots and visual effects while the film itself is being finished, which is a unique logistical challenge. And they’re doing all kinds of small changes and creating effects specific to the trailer and to the MPAA requirements for trailers. It’s a unique skill set.

What do you hope to accomplish for Efilm going forward?
Efilm is expanding in terms of the amount of work and the kind of work we’re doing, and I intend to push that expansion along at an even faster rate. We’ve always had an amazing team of colorists, producers and editors that are really the heart of Efilm. We have wonderful technical and support staff. And, of course, we have access to all of those elements at our partner companies and we continue to build on that.

It’s early to talk about specifics, but we all know the industry is changing rapidly. We’ve been among the very first to introduce new technologies and workflows and that’s something the team here is going to expand on.

FotoKem colorist Walter Volpatto discusses his process, ‘Stonewall’

FotoKem colorist Walter Volpatto comes from a family of farmers in Italy. He studied electrical engineering at the local university, which gave him an entrée into broadcasting. He began his career at RAI (Italy’s national public broadcasting company), where he became proficient with electronic compositing, lighting and photography. Around 2000, as more computers came to market, he segued into digital mastering, learning the craft with the help of film color timers.

Volpatto then transitioned to Cinecitta Studios about 10 years later, and subsequently became a freelance colorist. After working in that role on a documentary for FotoKem (@fotokem), Volpatto joined the facility in 2003. His credits include many features, such as Interstellar, San Andreas, CBGB, Chronicle and Hustle & Flow, along with some TV movie and restoration projects. His most recent project is the film Stonewall, about the 1969 Stonewall riots, which kicked off the gay rights movement in New York City.

Volpatto SMALL

A photographer himself, Volpatto says he is particularly attracted to the artists of the Renaissance, and the purest form of art. He claims his best work is influenced by art representing reality. Let’s find out more.

How has the state of the art of DI technology changed over the course of your career? 

Computing power has advanced exponentially over the years, making it easier to review footage and make changes in realtime versus waiting for files to render. But machines are simply tools. The color science and approaches we use today have pretty much stayed the same — other than slightly different strategies that support digital and film projects. The bottom line is I can certainly work faster with the new tools, but the concept behind the DI hasn’t really changed.

How did you work and communicate with director Roland Emmerich and/or DP Markus Förderer regarding their vision for the look of Stonewall? What did those discussions reveal in terms of the direction you would take? 

I worked with Markus about 99 percent of the time. He and Roland had a bold vision for the movie, and they were very much in sync on the look they wanted. When they approached us about the project, I asked Markus some standard questions about the camera and his intent for the look, and we immediately started talking about film. Even though he wanted to use a digital camera, it was obvious he wanted the final product to look like film. That resonated with me, and we further explored what his thoughts were about grain structure and film emulation. We did a test, and he loved the results. 

We also looked at a few images in a photo library he kept on his computer.

Markus is a technical connoisseur. He knew from the beginning where he was going with the look. After showing me a few photos, the main visual theme for Stonewall — a 1970s filmic look — transpired" STONEWALL " Photo by Philippe Bosse. We basically changed grain to emphasize a look that reflects the warm highlights and cool-ish lowlights of film, without feeling artificial.

At FotoKem, we have a team of experts overseen by our in-house color scientist Joseph Slomka, who spends a lot of time engineering solutions so that digital cameras look like film stocks. Joseph assisted us on this project, so when we started, we were on the right path and just had to fine tune along the way. Markus is also a big fan of anamorphic lenses, using the full anamorphic format on the Red Epic Dragon at 4K. And we finished the entire movie at 4K.

Have you previously worked with either of the filmmakers?
This was a first-time collaboration. They came to FotoKem because they wanted the convenience of finishing in Los Angeles. They saw my resume and that I had experience with film projects in the DI, and, as they say, the rest is history.

Stonewall is the story of an incredibly important event in history, highly charged politically and emotionally — were certain visual elements relied on to create certain moods in a scene or to convey the mood of a character?
I was not familiar with the Stonewall riots until this project came in. We established a certain look that becomes a little harsher when the riots ensue, and it’s a little smoother when happier events are taking place. It’s very subtle – not something you can see but rather feel. The tension in the movie wasn’t meant to be overpowering.

What tools were you working with? How did it help to enable your work?

We chose a Quantel Rio because we needed to finish in full 4K with full film emulation with grain layers, and at the time it was the best color correction tool for accomplishing this in realtime.


You mention the movie was shot on Red Epic Dragon. Did that affect how you worked or approached coloring scenes?
Markus was familiar with Red and knew how to light for the camera. On Stonewall, he exposed and lit to create some texture. With that strong visual foundation created by Markus’ photography, we were able to focus on the task at hand — to fine-tune the images in order to create the film look he and Roland wanted.

A colorist works at the intersection of art and science. How do you translate what a cinematographer says into pictures?

The first thing I do is get an understanding from the DP about his or her digital experience. DPs who have worked more heavily in the film format will be able to make reference points from using printer lights and being in a lab. They have a way to express what they want.

The process is scientific in that there is only so much a colorist can do to bring the original material where they want it, and the artistry lies within how much further the DP wants to go with it. The work in the suite can become almost visceral. It’s usually expressed as a feeling — I want it to feel this way — and then I decide which tool will best accomplish that. I don’t rely heavily on controls and buttons. I’m a minimalist and bring that predisposition to the suite.

How do you know when you have gotten to where you want to be, and where the filmmakers want to be?
When the material comes to me in great shape, with good lighting and captured as close as possible to the intentions of the filmmakers, my job is to not mess it up!

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a colorist?

There are two approaches to color. You can use color to represent reality or emotions, or a blend of the two. For colorists inclined to being a realist, I’d tell them to learn how to represent that within the limits of their display. They should start in black and white — or work on a black and white short film. With the influx of a younger generation of colorists, I’ve noticed they are prone to using color to represent emotions, and they tend to make strong color choices. 

I’d recommend to anyone who wants to be a colorist to look at what other people do and understand how light works, and how the camera and display (monitor) react to light. Then they should practice achieving a particular look with the minimum amount of tools. There are many fabulous places where colorists can learn the craft, but to be proficient a basic understanding of color science will go a long way. 

Lastly, it’s the colorist’s job to bring the vision of the DP to the screen — not just to make a pretty picture. To do that, you need to learn to understand what’s inside the mind of the artist.


Stonewall is in theaters now.

Behind the Title: Harbor Picture Company colorist Joe Gawler

NAME:  Joe Gawler

COMPANY:  New York City’s Harbor Picture Company (@harborpicture)

Harbor Picture Company is a large, artist owned-and-operated post production studio in NYC. Harbor is an awesome place to work.

Senior colorist and partner

I spend the majority of my day in my theater collaborating with filmmakers. There’s a technical aspect of balancing shots to match one another, but, most importantly, there’s a level of taste and artistry that the colorist needs to help bring the most out of an image.

It’s a full-time job, and then some. Successful colorists are always there for their clients. I’ve worked countless weekends and 24-hour sessions.

suite shot grading theater

The relationships I’ve developed with amazing cinematographers and directors. It’s very humbling and motivating to have a filmmaker seek you out to help complete their vision.

When there are too many cooks in the kitchen and a beautiful image gets compromised for no good reason. The ability to manage a room full of clients successfully can be what separates a good colorist from a great colorist.

Getting to Harbor in the morning on day one of a new show or film.

Something creative that involves collaborating with a team and working on my craft.

I’ll never forget my first experience editing a project for school. I was in the editing suite for 16 hours and it felt like one hour. That’s when I knew post production was for me.

I was fortunate to assist a very talented telecine colorist early in my career. He made the whole process so much fun that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Magic Mike XXL, Ricki and the Flash, The Knick.

Ricki and the Flash

Ricki and the Flash

Well, I may be best known for Midnight in Paris, but I have also graded three films that won best cinematography at Sundance and have helped restore many, many classic films for The Criterion Collection.

iPhone, DaVinci Resolve, my car.

Facebook and Instagram. DPs, such as Reed Morano, Tas Michos and Chivo, are posting amazing images daily. Truly inspirational.


It depends on who I’m working with. Picking the music for the day is usually the first decision the clients and I make together.

Quality time with my family is precious and all too rare. So we try to get away on cool trips, somewhere international whenever possible.

Kevin Vale to head feature post at Harbor Picture Company

New York-based Harbor Picture Company has added Kevin Vale as its director of motion picture post production. He has over 51 feature film credits and a decade in the film industry.

Prior to joining Harbor, Vale worked as a digital intermediate producer on a range of feature films, including Triple 9 (2015), Freeheld (2015), Noah (2014) and Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013). Vale was also responsible for overseeing the DI post on Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated film Moonrise Kingdom in 2012 as well as Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar-winning Black Swan in 2010.

“His experience with high-end feature films is a perfect fit for Harbor right now. Kevin will be the driving force behind the picture post department and his skills will be a great addition to all of our post-production services,” says Zak Tucker, president, Harbor Picture Company.

In his role as director of motion picture post, Vale will focus on creating seamless transitions with the array of services offered within Harbor’s DI department including transcoding, conform, VFX, color and deliverables.

“Recently, Harbor has also become the largest post-sound facility in New York, and I’m looking forward to being able to deliver on projects where all post services are offered here at Harbor,” says Vale.

Vale knows Harbor well, having previously collaborated with Harbor’s head colorist Joe Gawler on projects like Darjeeling Limited (2007), as well as working with Harbor’s head of post-production Darrell Smith, on Lee Daniel’s The Butler (2013).

Jean Lane joins Light Iron NY to oversee operations, growth

New York — Hollywood-based Light Iron, a post studio specializing in file-based workflows, has hired executive producer Jean Lane to lead its expanding New York facility.

The timing of the addition is no coincidence. Lane, who was most recently at New York’s Goldcrest, joins just as Light Iron (http://www.lightiron.com) has doubled the square footage at its Soho location. The studio will be focusing on features, television and spot work.

CEO Michael Cioni, who is typically based in LA, started spending much of his time in New York leading up to and opening Light Iron in Soho. He says that Lane’s experience was the right fit for the  company. “I directly oversaw our Manhattan launch a year ago, but then looked for a New Yorker to take over the reins as we moved into year two. Jean brings strong managerial, technical, and client relations experience to the team.”

Lane, most recently at NYC’s Goldcrest, has led teams there and a Lost Planet Editorial, overseeing post production services for docs and commercials. Her long career also includes creative editorial, production management, and casting.

“My role is to build on Michael’s groundwork from last year,” she reports. “I’ll see to it the construction of the expansion is completed as well as continue to build the feature work, round out the team with new hires and make sure operations are running smoothly.”

Light Iron NY - Edit Suitesmall

Doubling square footage at the 580 Broadway location, Light Iron’s expansion creates additional edit suites for the company to package with its on-set dailies services and digital intermediate services.

“We’ve customized these boutique suites to the New York film community’s tastes,” remarks Lane. “They’re high-end, spacious, and comfortable. And clients love the collaborative integration with picture finishing.”

Each edit room is fully customizable to the clients’ needs, with Avid, FCP (7 or X), Adobe Premiere as options.

Goldcrest UK adds Patrick Malone as MD, ups Chris Quested to CEO

London – Goldcrest Post, with the intent of entering the UK film post arena has named Patrick Malone (pictured) as managing director. Former managing director Chris Quested has been named CEO.

Based in London, Malone will oversee the accelerated growth of the company’s digital intermediate department in addition to strengthening the executive management of the existing sound facility, home to the Academy Award-winning team from Les Misérables.

Malone most recently served as Head of DI at Company 3, a subsidiary of Deluxe Entertainment Services and a pioneering provider of post services to all the major studios, where he was responsible for feature films collaborating with filmmakers such as Ron Howard on Rush, Sam Mendes on Skyfall, Tom Hooper on Les Misérables and with Paul Greengrass on Captain Phillips.

“All the awards confirm Goldcrest Post has a long and enviable track record for their sound work. This is an incredible opportunity to add London’s premier picture facility to their client offering. I’m thrilled to be joining Chris and the team and I can’t wait to get started,” said Malone.

Chris Quested noted “It is very exciting to have Patrick join us at Goldcrest Post. He has a unique record of achievement in his field… this unrivaled depth of knowledge and expertise will play a key role in our aggressive on-going expansion.”

Currently, Goldcrest Films (www.goldcrestfilms.com) is fully financing and distributing The Autopsy of Jane Doe, director Andre Ovredal’s English language follow-up to his international hit Troll Hunter. In addition, they recently announced they will be financing and distributing Brooklyn Bridge to which Daniel Radcliffe is attached to star.