Published on Friday, 15 June 2012
‘Prometheus’ was treated to a specialised colour grade to suit stereo and 2D projection
systems at the hands of colourist Stephen Nakamura at Company 3 on Blackmagic
Design’s DaVinci Resolve.
|The story of ‘Prometheus’, director Ridley Scott’s science fiction thriller, takes place on the beautiful, cold but lifeless moon of a distant planet, where much of the action takes place in dark environments. Colourist Stephen Nakamura of Company 3 in Los Angeles helped enhance the feeling of the footage, captured by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, ASC on the RED Epic, by further desaturating the already minimal colour in the sequences. The filmmakers wanted the environment's darkness to feel oppressive but not obscure the dense detail of the alien world or the complex machinery and tools the characters used.|
Stephen combined DaVinci Resolve's tracking tools and Power Windows with the aperture correction to emphasize specific objects in the frame with some additional sharpening. “The filmmakers' vision was of a burnt, almost ashen like look. Everything had to be muted and cold looking," he said, "but the actors still needed to maintain their human qualities, and be seen in warm light without causing the darkness around them to appear muddy. To accomplish this in his films, and in 'Prometheus' in particular, Ridley likes to make use of the aperture correction to subtly enhance the sense that the images have a shallower depth of field. It helps direct the viewer's eye right to a specific person or object without looking like a special effect.
“Interestingly, aperture correction that worked well in 3D viewing situations did not work as well in 2D. The 3D glasses act as sort of a softening filter so that the amount of sharpness that looks subtle and natural under those conditions can look extreme when watching the film in 2D without glasses." He explained that the node based setup of Resolve allowed him to go through the footage for the 2D version and selectively pull back on the sharpening effect without affecting the rest of the image, without too much trouble.
Stephen also used Resolve's Power Windows to help shape some of the virtual lighting in environments that couldn't be illuminated effectively with conventional approaches, such as creating lighting inside characters' spacesuits to bring out their faces within the lifeless environment. "I created Power Windows for walls and across the sides of caves," he said, "and built soft orbs of light around the characters that might not be motivated in the traditional sense, but made sense within the world of 'Prometheus.'"
Company 3 also worked with the stereography team to refine shot to shot convergence for the 3D version, a very important facet of refining the 3D effect and smoothing out what could otherwise be jarring transitions.
Resolve was used to prepare the film to be exhibited in various 3D venues as well. Different 3D projection systems bring varying levels of light, and therefore contrast, to the displayed images. Versions were prepared for traditional RealD systems projected at approximately four foot-lamberts, and RealD's higher brightness protocol designed for projection at six foot-lamberts. Company 3 also provided additional grading services for the IMAX 3D and traditional 2D versions. The facility built look up tables, or LUTs, within Resolve to partially translate the work done for the lower brightness systems and create an additional master designed to make the most of the greater contrast range offered by the higher brightness projection.
“That worked fairly well,” said Stephen, “but we still needed to go through and make some shot to shot adjustments for the brighter 3D display and again for the even brighter 2D version. It definitely helps that the Resolve lets me isolate and adjust every correction individually.”
Stephen was using Company 3's dark fibre network to grade sequences from his DaVinci Resolve theatre in Santa Monica while Ridley watched the work progress in real-time at the Zanuck Theatre on the Fox lot, where the director was also engaged in the sound mix on a nearby dubbing stage. Ridley watched the images projected with the RealD system in the large theatre and the two could compare notes via teleconference.
Stephen graded the first pass to optimize the imagery for the brightness level of the standard RealD system and subsequently adjusted and fine-tuned the material for the higher-brightness 3D versions. He then completed a further pass to make the most of the 2D version, which is screened with an even brighter projection and is not subjected to the softening effect that 3D glasses may introduce.
"The difference between the versions is subtle," said Stephen, who has worked previously with Ridley Scott on ‘Robin Hood’. "But of course filmmakers would want their visuals to be just as amazing at four or six foot-lamberts and this way of working really helped us fine-tune the finishing process efficiently." www.blackmagic-design.com www.company3.com