Fluid Post post production in Sydney carried out colour grading, finishing and mastering for
the production of a new series, ‘The Travel Bug’ currently airing on Channel Ten. So far,
Fluid Post has graded 8 X 1 hour episodes from Final Cut Pro offline source in the AVID Symphony.
|the setup for the colour grade needed to be carefully managed as there were two Sony cameras used during production, each with a very different look and quality, and both cameras were intercut throughout each episode. An HDCAM F900 was the main unit camera and an EX1 XDCAM was the second unit and underwater camera. Different lens quality, colour space and overall censor and recording quality between the two cameras meant a colour and white balance line up was essential.
However, the challenge was that no reference information was available for the EX1. Consequently, Gavin Dutfield, senior colourist at Fluid Post, had to perform regular colour matching and testing on both cameras throughout the grade. To help with this, Gavin used the Blackmagic Ultrascope for reference. The Ultrascope is a PCI card with HD and SD selectable input, real time metering and has a useful range of scopes such as waveform, vectorscope, RGB parade and histogram, with audio metering available within the scopes. Gavin was also using the Ultrascope to accurately monitor ‘broadcast legal’ colour and luminosity levels to ensure there were no issues when the program was presented to the networks for broadcast.
The Ultrascope runs on the second input of one the Symphony’s computer monitors, which saves grading suite space. Traditionally there would be a waveform/vectorscope standalone hardware device in the suite, or a rack mounted unit with a separate in-suite display.
The overall goal of the colourist - apart from meeting the director’s brief, which in this case was to make the show look like a “glossy, high profile international travel show that makes you feel like you are on holidays!” - is to create a seamless viewing experience for the viewer. This means that any deviation between shots, be it from the different cameras being intercut, changes in location lighting, abrupt scene changes from extremely bright locations to extremely dark locations and so on, needs to be graded in such a way the viewer is unaware that the source footage wasn’t all shot at the same time, on the same camera and under perfect lighting conditions.
This problem was accentuated by the tight shooting schedule experienced by the producers. They would often land in a location on a light aircraft, quickly scramble to get the cameras up and running, shoot the location, then pack up and take off. Luxuries like lighting and adjusting the camera setup simply weren’t possible. In order to create a seamless viewing experience, creative colour grading quickly became a big part of the project for Gavin. “This challenge is being faced by modern colourists everyday as the media landscape changes and we are faced with footage from an increasing range of sources,” Gavin said.
The Perfect Holiday
"With some well placed masks, a heap of tracking, and Symphony’s real time secondary colour correction, we were able to add mood to flat scenes, saturate certain colours to lift a shot, enhance countless blue skies, and quickly create a consistent feel of being on holidays throughout all eight episodes.”
Tracking was typically used for problems like lightening faces in dark shadow. The faces could be followed or ‘tracked’ through a scene to maintain the correction. Gradients were applied to elements like skies. Colours in sandy areas and on hills often needed to be lifted, and for very specific areas or shapes he could apply masks or ‘power windows’.
Gavin used the Symphony’s primary and secondary colour grading toolset, and likes being able to work in real time with quick reviews and colour matching tools without rendering. The secondary toolset is particularly useful for enhancing key elements including skies, clothes, skin tones, trees and other vegetation and water.
The Symphony will save colour grades and effects such as masks, gradients and tints as presets for re-use, valuable for TV series because of the need for a quick turnaround, especially since the director wanted a fairly consistent ‘holiday feel’ across the episodes, that could still be varied in the final review sessions.
All media was ingested at DNxHD 185 10bit at 1080 50i, which is Avid’s proprietary compressed format and typical for HD footage in the AVID systems. It keeps the file size under control while maintaining image quality. Files were stored on Avid Unity 5, and the show was mastered to HDCAM. www.fluidpost.com
Post Production and VFX: Oktobor
Inferno: Nigel Mortimer
Anthem Rising: Rhys Dippie, Damon Duncan
Explorers: Gary Sullivan, Geoff Kirk-Smith
VFX Producer: Steen Bech
Illustrator: Anton Petrov