Tag Archives: The Asylum

‘Sharknado 3’: The Asylum’s Mark Quod talks color, post

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.

Mark Quod

Mark Quod

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.

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No - 2015

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.

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A big part of Quod’s job was to turn bright skies grey.

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.

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Before and After: Quod called on Resolve to make this shot Universal Studios Orlando brighter.

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.

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No - 2015

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.

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Before and After: The White House without and with color correction.

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.

Bringing killer sharks to the Big Apple in ‘Sharknado 2’

Sharknado has become a phenomenon all to itself. After the first made-for-TV movie became a cult classic, it was only a matter of time until we saw those storm-raveling sharks on screen once more. This week Sharknado 2: The Second One premiered on SyFy and it quickly started trending on Twitter.

Artists at Burbanks’s The Asylum, producers of the Sharknado films, brought the chaos to the streets of New York City, and Citi Field in Queens. “From the outset, the entire Sharknado 2 project was challenging, but perhaps a little easier than ‘the first one,’” says Emile Smith, VFX supervisor on Sharknado 2.

Smith and team called on LightWave 3D to deliver final renders in a very short time. “We use LightWave for 99% of everything. We used a lot of the new Dynamics tools as well as the TurbulenceFD plugin [from Jawset] to generate the actual Sharknado, which is exactly what you might think it is—a monster tornado, filled with amongst other things, hungry angry sharks.”

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The opening teaser of Sharknado 2 takes place on an airplane in the middle of a storm. This presented the challenge of generating art-directable volumetric clouds that allowed the plane to fly through a ‘Sharknado’ before landing in New York. “This sequence brought in every effect we would use in the film, except for a water surface,” explains Smith. “There was a lot of digital double work for the latter part of the film and the volumetrics of the final Sharknado sequence will entertain for sure. Perhaps some people will even be impressed by how real the VFX looks. Of course, if it didn’t look real, it wouldn’t be funny.”

Placing debris (and the sharks) inside the cloud formation was where the crew started to have a lot of fun in LightWave. The creative brief called for the creation of an animatable 3D tornado; LightWave allowed the animators to animate the tornado before handing it over for simulation and rendering.

There’s a particular scene in the film where a single taxi completely surrounded by man-eating sharks is stuck on a flooded New York City street. Parts of the scene were shot on location, while other elements and environments were completely greenscreened. “The visuals tell the story of the two occupants climbing onto the roof of the cab while several sharks are swimming around and sizing them up,” says Smith. “With LightWave, the multiple elements in the passes and layers for this sequence came together quickly.”

“This project was on a very tight timeline. LightWave’s ease of use and really straightforward nature helped The Asylum crew hit the deadline we were presented with,” says Mark Hennessy-Barrett, VFX artist on Sharknado 2. “Because LightWave is a really forgiving piece of software to use, we were able to break the rules and take immense liberties in the rendering engine to get the job done and out the door.”

To read about how the film was edited, see our interview with Vashi Nedomanksi about his work on the project.

Vashi Nedomansky edits up a storm for ‘Sharknado 2’

By Randi Altman

When the over-the-top made-for-TV movie Sharknado splashed onto TV screens last year, the reaction was fierce. People, including high-profile celebs, took to Twitter to talk about it. Late-night talk show hosts included jokes about it in their monologues.

Sharknado, which told the story of a group of Angelenos trying to save themselves and loved ones from a deadly hurricane that brought with it deadly sharks — on land, in houses, on highways — became a pop-culture phenomenon.

The film’s popularity was not lost on its creators, The Asylum and SyFy, which are about to launch Sharknado 2: The Second One in June. Director Anthony C. Ferrante returns for the Continue reading