MAKING LIVE BY NIGHT
Traditional color timing for dailies has been simple, often just using look-up tables and CDL-based printer light adjustments to show an approximation of the desired look that can be created and processed quickly so that deliverables can be delivered to everyone in a timely manner. The more intensive color grading is saved for the digital intermediate. However, some cinematographers and facilities are turning this process upside-down.
Yvan Lucas, founder and senior colorist at SHED in Santa Monica (shed.la), was involved in Live by Night from the very beginning, working with Academy Award winning cinematographer Bob Richardson ASC to create the look before a single frame was captured. Live by Night is one of the first films to be entirely shot with the ARRI ALEXA 65 camera, with recording, media and workflow handled by Codex. It’s a gritty gangster movie set in the Prohibition era, directed by Ben Affleck and starring Ben and Zoe Saldana. Yvan’s involvement continued as production ramped up as he supervised the dailies, working with his team at SHED and Bob Richardson on the color and look design. According to Patrick Ready, executive producer at SHED, the dailies were similar to a full digital intermediate grade, using tools such as secondary color correction to craft a virtually final version of every shot. Although this sounds like a lot of work to get done when editorial is waiting for dailies, it had enormous benefits.
“During the time allocated for the digital intermediate grading, both Ben and Bob were had crazy schedules and just couldn’t spend every day supervising the grading”, explains Ready, “the up-front work by Yvan in designing the look and grading the dailies meant that we were ahead of the game – he could work on finalizing the look, with Ben and Bob stopping by to review, make changes and sign off when they were available.”
Another big benefit of all the upfront work was that everyone was seeing an almost finished look right from the beginning. Any previews coming out of the Avid looked great and the trailers could use the dailies grade and enabled everyone to start thinking about any possible changes that could be made in the DI. This efficient process meant that the first pass of the DI took only two weeks, and allowed for very intricate and sophisticated finishing.
Yvan concurs, “Bob really wanted to lock in the look when we did dailies. It took a bit longer but it meant that everyone was seeing Bob and Ben’s vision. Color plays an important role in this movie - different looks were used for different locations. Boston has the look of a bleach bypass film with deep, rich blacks. Florida looks far more Kodachrome and colorful. So color is really used to help tell the story.”
On-set, Arthur To was the DIT, with loader Natasha “Moneypenny” Mullan handling the large amount of data generated from the ALEXA 65. Arthur worked with the team from SHED up front to ensure that the monitors were calibrated and true to what Bob Richardson and Yvan Lucas were seeing in the DI suite. Click here to learn more about Arthur To’s role as DIT.
The dailies process was accelerated by the use of Codex 8 TB Transfer Drives (now available in 16 TB). On-set, a copy of the camera original files was made to an 8 TB Transfer Drive and this was used to move the data from set to SHED, where the dailies were completed. Overall, Live by Night is a great example of a simple workflow supporting the creation of some amazing images.
We had the good fortune to talk to Bob Richardson ASC about Live by Night.
Why did you decide to shoot Live by Night with the ALEXA 65?
The decision to shoot with digital was very much up in the air when I met with Ben - the initial thought was to shoot on 35mm anamorphic film with some digital work with ALEXA to aid the nights. When the ALEXA 65 was offered as a possibility I asked production to allow for a test. With Trevor the A.C., we put together one set of anamorphic lenses that would be used on the Panavision 35mm camera and the same lenses (Panavision) on the ALEXA. Then we found a series of 65mm lenses for the ALEXA 65 that l thought matched closely the feel of the anamorphic. We then shot all three cameras on the same image - a sequence of images that varied from faces to sculpture and paintings - within a house that was immensely populated with artifacts but had no lighting. The test was graded by Yvan Lucas to have each image match the other as far as possible but in truth one can not mask the differences. When Ben viewed the test we all witnessed that the ALEXA 65 was superior to the ALEXA and had a wider range of adaptability in the DI suite than the 35mm. Ben felt hesitant but then he embraced and we went with the ALEXA 65.
What do you like about the 65mm format?
I love the quality of the ALEXA 65 especially when aligned with older lenses - the ASA is remarkable and not what ARRI claims in my opinion. They claim 1000 but I think nearer to 2000. In interiors or on-set that can and will force a shift in lighting techniques.
Tell us about your approach to creating dailies?
I believe we should have dailies that are graded by the final grader - on Live by Night we were working with Yvan Lucas at SHED in Santa Monica who Ben had worked with prior on Argo and I have for many films. Both Yvan and I believe that in dailies a look is developed that will more or less set the final look of the film and it is the most creative aspect of grading. For the three of us – Ben, Yvan and myself - that became the path.
How about the DI? Did the work you did during dailies translate to a smooth DI process?
Yes, the work done in dailies did translate to a smooth and rapid DI - that is the reason to pursue this particular path in grading.
Can you tell us a bit about the collaboration with Yvan Lucas and the team at SHED?
Yvan is a brilliant grader - the best in my opinion - his sensibility to a film is vast - his eye for color incredible - he is a master and a teacher.
“IN THE DIGITAL WORLD THIS IS PERHAPS THE FIRST FUNDAMENTAL REQUIREMENT - SECURE AND EFFICIENT - SENSELESS OTHERWISE. CODEX PROVIDES BOTH.”
How important is it to you to have a reliable form of media and a secure, efficient workflow for your dailies?
In the digital world this is perhaps the first fundamental requirement - secure and efficient - senseless otherwise. Codex provides both.
Live by Night had a limited release on December 25th 2016, followed by a wider release in January 2017 and is already considered an Oscar contender. Yvan Lucas and Bob Richardson are already planning their next project together.
Images courtesy their respective owners.
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