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Friday, 27 June 2014 16:45

A Conversation with X-Men’s Colorists

Written by  Thea Green
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 Grading color in a way that effectively drives the storytelling of a film is a fine-tuned and often under appreciated art form.

EC3 dailies colorist Adrian DeLude and colorist Stephen Nakamura both used DaVinci Resolve to bring to life the specific vision of Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, ASC, by coloring the newest installment of X-Men. In a recent conversation with ProVideo Coalition, DeLude and Nakamura expanded on their collaboration with Sigel, the inspiration for Future Past’s color, and their process on the film.

DeLude created custom dailies that felt right for the film, and Sigel would often pop in on his lunch break to talk about what he was going for. “The people who are shooting all day are very eager about seeing their dailies quickly,” DeLude said. “But when you've got someone like Tom (Sigel) there asking to push the technology as far as it will go, it's also incredibly rewarding. You have to be very comfortable with the technical and creative possibilities to work in this kind of environment.”

Sigel came to the table with ample visual inspiration, which served as a springboard in DeLude’s process. “Tom brought in a lot of pictures from the 70s, particularly those by William Eggleston, and we designed a way to achieve a similar look in DaVinci Resolve. We pulled color out of shadows, adding softness to the highlights and then we'd push the greens more toward yellow-green, blue in the direction of the hue from Pan Am's logo and we'd give the reds a rich, primary red look. That didn't make it into the final but it helped Tom work through his ideas.”

Nakamura, who did the final DI grade at Deluxe’s Company 3 facility in Santa Monica, talked about stepping in on the project after Sigel and DeLude had already worked on the initial grade. “It's always something of a process but a big part of that had been worked out with Tom and Adrian already. By the time we worked on the 1970s portion, for example, Tom had seen the story with the very saturated "Kodachrome" look and had decided instead to go with a more desaturated feel for all but a few key colors that we isolated to make them  "pop." So certain iconic 1970s colors stood out while we desaturated the rest. It wasn't really about him changing his mind as having time to develop the look.”

DeLude mentioned that the process of dailies grading is undergoing change to better suit the needs of filmmakers. “Dailies grading has traditionally been more global. We'd work mostly just in primaries (affecting the whole image rather than isolated portions) and the goal was to create a version of the material that shows everyone in the production what's there with maybe a suggestion of where it could go during finishing. Today, we're also starting to do more fine-tuning if that's the way the filmmakers want to work.”

Both Nakamura and DeLude mentioned that color isn’t just about fixing errors. “A lot of people think that color is just about 'fixing' or 'correcting' mistakes,” DeLude mentioned. “But coloring is a major component that helps filmmakers tell their story.” (Pro Video Coalition)


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