Kyle Prince (Editor) and Geoff Levy (Director of Photography) proved to be a dynamic duo for color correction. In production, we used a picture profile called “Cinestyle” which produces images that are flat, with almost no contrast and minimal saturation. While this may seem unfavorable, it allows for the most latitude when color correcting. They spent ten days bringing out everything these images had to offer. Seeing the results makes me wonder how I was able to watch the film all these months as they were.
With this film, I have a penchant for low-key, moody and dark images and they applied that preference throughout while adding their own tastes. Geoff wanted to hide most of the qualities intrinsic to the “DSLR” image, yielding an image that seems as though it was shot with higher-end cinema camera.
We used Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Lite, which is free to download here. Don’t let the fact that it is free fool you; this is professional, powerful software that rivals Apple’s Color and Adobe’s Speed Grade. Kyle used a black magic UltraStudio Express box to run SDI to a calibrated CRT monitor and a cinema display. The CRT, while standard-definition, had excellent color rendition, and was the best way to gauge each color grade. We used the high definition cinema display to check for noise. I found myself wanting to watch the CRT the whole time because the colors were just so vivid.
DaVinci basically works in nodes, which are the individual corrections that make a grade. A grade is the entire color correction applied to an image. Nodes are organized in flowcharts that show the order in which the corrections are processed. Some grades were so complex, that they involved over ten nodes.
A primary correction adjusts the entire image: blacks, mid-tones and highlights. A secondary correction isolates a portion of the image and is processed after the primary correction.
This scene was overexposed for a night scene and needed a lot of work.
The original shot:
The flowchart of the primary and secondary corrections:
The primary correction for this image included two parts:
We warmed up the image.
We also brought down the exposure and added more contrast.
For the secondary correction, we used a vignette to keep the Grace’s face at the same exposure as the primary but bring down the exposure of the rest of the shot.
The final shot:
A common filmmakers plight, we shot exterior under terrible conditions: overcast and dusk.
The original shot has overcast, looks like dusk (because it is!) and doesn’t match the rest of the footage (which was late afternoon).
Primary: Adding warmth to the image, matching the late afternoon golden look
Secondary: The sky was still grey so we isolated the sky to add some more blue
Secondary: The street was too grey and needed a more brown and orange to give the feel of “hot summer day”. Therefore we isolated the street.
Tertiary: Lastly, the house, especially in the windows needed some more golden sunlight, as since the sun is supposed to be setting to the left. We had to isolate the house to warm it up even more than the rest of the image.
The final result is night and day, almost literally.
A vignette allowed us to apply a correction to a portion of the frame. The portion inside the green oval is where the effect is strongest. It lessens as it approaches the yellow oval, allowing it to blend in with the rest of the image. Artful placement of vignettes seemed to be the longest part of the process; while it smoothed the effect out, you could sometimes spot the gradient.
This shows the correction that the vignette is doing without any softening
Here is the final soft vignette.
When we were able to hide it well, we were able to achieve extremely complex grades. For those of you wondering what the title means, in DaVinci Resolve, the keyboard short cut for vignettes is “option-C”.
Here is the original in all of its flat ugliness.
Primary: Adding contrast
Secondary: Fixing grass by bringing out the greens.
Tertiary: Fix the sky by bringing out the blues
Then option c to finish it off.
In rough-cut screenings, we often received feedback that the dreams didn’t stand out enough. Kyle and Geoff went through numerous looks and discovered a channel blur, which allows you to blur one or more of the RGB channels. Basically, we blurred the greens and blues, which meant that any part of the image with a green or blue hue would seem soft or slightly out of focus. We left the reds crisp, which created this jarring effect.
Primary: Crushing the blacks and adding contrast.
Secondary: Adding vignettes to darken the hotspots on the left and brighten her face.
Secondary: Adding of the channel blur was processed on top of the primary
The final grade has an otherworldly appearance, allowing the dreams to stand out.
In addition to color correction, we had a few minor visual effects shots. Ron Quiliche, a professional VFX artist, helped us out there. You can see a demo reel of his work here. His work is best told in pictures:
Adding video to a TV that was off.
Creating fake websites
The original intention was to replace the purple screen on the laptop with a fake website that we would create in post. However, the laptop screen that you see in the final shots was completely recreated after the fact. I wrote the content and supplied the pictures. Kyle designed the website in Photoshop. Ron then animated the website and added a bunch of filters to make it look like the laptop screen was filmed.
A brief update: Matt Bukaty is working on finishing up the score this week! I’m very pleased with his work so far and I’m excited to have an original score for Pembroke Circle!