Grading for this documentary turned out to be a much quicker job than I originally expected. I think this came down to the change in the narrative, the film followed a series of interviews and cutaways. As the surgery was delayed it was the case of hearing Billy’s entire story before the resolution at the end where he receives a surgery date. This meant the majority of the film was a dark, cold and contrasty palette to reflect HDR photography and the emotional state of the subject.
Working with ProRes meant I had to bring the entire clip into the media pool on DaVinci Resolve using scene cut detect. The program reads the clip to generate what it suggests are cut points, then its the case of reviewing the footage and amending any errors in the automated cuts. The entire film came in at 42 shots during its 11mins and 48secs duration. Seeing as most of these were repeated shots it meant the grading process was even less.
I started off with a first pass luminance grade, going through the entire footage and focusing purely on this element. I found a lot of overexposed elements, having to drag down the gain to accommodate. The general theme was expanding the gamma to leave a good range of colour space, just the case of reviewing on a clip to clip basis.
My second pass grade started off as focusing on colour balance, trying to clean shots ready for stylistic approaches. Having started on the balance using the RGB scopes I realised my stylistic approach would end up destroying these grades so it became counter productive. Instead I found myself shifting most of the palette subtly towards blue tones.
The opening walk ended up dictating my approach to the entire grade. Starting off as colour balance I ended up shifting to the general stylistic approach. Increasing contrast to mimic the HDR feel (difficult for any other method due to limited colour space). I shifted the offset towards blue to break away from reality and introduce the coldness of the characters state of mind and disconnection with their female self.
Following this I started to play around with a variety of shots. Adding contrast and pulling lift/gain with offset towards blue. Expanding gamma range so details aren’t lost, but not exceeding limit so that noise appears. Generating a selection of nodes I called Liz (Director) on Skype for feedback before progressing further.
Liz really liked my approach to the grade, the blue contrasty look matched her idea following inspiration from HDR photography. She had little else to common on the main bulk of the grade other than continue to do what I was doing.
The final section of interview was intended to be ‘dreamy’ symbolising his journey coming to an end with a brighter future to follow. Liz appreciated the palette, however with the introduction of music she wanted me to bring in the colour when he discusses the nurse.
Playing around with the colour balance and contrast I created a colder version as a continuation of the films colour palette. The proceeding image was to be replicated through keyframing as a dynamic change during conversation. I have to be careful approaching a change in colour during the film so that it doesn’t look clumsy or unnatural. The whole purpose is approaching colour subtly to become an extension of the characters state of mind.
Liz finally brought up the still archive photographs asking if I was going to grade them. I did a first pass luminance but decided to leave them as they were. She requested that I use the 21st birthday photos as another opportunity to extend the cold depressive palette. Once again pull tones towards bull and increasing contrast.
Reviewing all of the footage I continued to implement the following for a general blue cold palette throughout:
- Added contrast (around 1.3)
- Pull offset towards blue, maybe add lift, gamma or gain
- Increase range in gamma so highlights and shadows don’t clamp
- Desaturate (around 38)
With a range of footage and differences in how it was all shot I had to approach each shot different, but ultimately getting the same palette as an outcome.
Approaching the keyframe shot “Nurse enters….well I care”:
- Pull blue palette towards natural colour tones subtly
- Change in quick period of time so the palette change is established before cutaway, otherwise looks like next cutback is wrong
- Additional node palette:
- Lift: -0.04, -0.03, -0.04, -0.07
- Gamma: 0.01, 0.01, 0.01, -0.01
- Gain: 1.03, 1.06, 1.02, 0.89
- Offset: 29.44, 22.25, 15.65
- Contrast: 0.982
- Saturation: 50.20
I’ve exported the film as ProResHQ and will deliver it to Chris (Editor) or Liz tomorrow. I’m very happy with the final version, the entire grading process was much quicker than expected. Once I established a general colour palette the rest of the films colour fell into place. Liz is happy with how it looks, I’ll await a final review before accepting my role on the project as complete.