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December 2018

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Page 32 of 43 31 POST DECEMBER 2018 OUTLOOK O OUTLOOK O OUTLOOK COLOR & FINISHING S ometimes it feels like the only constant in our industry is change. The way society con- sumes media is evolving, but as delivery formats multiply, the budgetary pie is getting smaller. Thankfully, technology is keeping pace with change. Visual effects that would've taken a day a decade ago now take an hour. Similarly, the rise of digital cinematography means you no longer need a $2M Spirit DataCine suite to do color work. A vintage Cooke anamorphic that used to find work on an Arri 435 is most often found on an Alexa these days. At Flavor, we've grown our VFX/finishing department, combining color grading, VFX and finishing with fantastic results. TOOLS OF THE TRADE Flavor's parent company, Cutters Studios, bought one of the very first Autodesk (née Discreet Logic) Flame systems in North America back in the early 1990s. Flame has been a huge part of our pipeline ever since, so when Autodesk threw in Lustre a few years back, we jumped in headfirst. We got software training and dove deep into the art and craft of color grading — from the nuts and bolts of color theory and camera formats to how to best convey and enhance a cinematographer's intent. However, while grading and finishing work are different disciplines, each com- manding respect, they do overlap quite a bit, leading to unnecessary duplication of labor if done separately. If the same artist does both the grade and finish, they can use the best tool for the creative task at hand. Rather than trying to darken some- thing to the point of obscurity in color, just track and paint it out in compositing. Rather than trying to push teal into the shadows and orange up the skin tones in 85 shots one at a time in finish, do it in seconds in color and maintain the realtime experience that clients expect. Conform the project only once. Create mattes and tracking data only once. Eliminate lengthy Internet transfers. Eliminate the time it takes to push the graded footage out to a drive and ship it via FedEx. All this time saved means we can deliver additional value to our clients by both grading work that wouldn't have been graded before, and keeping up with the massive influx of deliverables that now accompany a project. The big watchout here is to treat the craft of col- or with the respect it's due. We started our grading business small and grew it over time, and have progressed to where we've got a few features and Super Bowl spots under our belt. Without the right talent, your foray into grading could be short-lived and potentially damage your core business. Along with Lustre and Flame, other grading products have embraced the overlap, adding compositing and edito- rial features. I recently finished a job that was graded out-of-house by a Baselight colorist, and in addition to the grade, he'd also done a bunch of logo removals with the compositing tools FilmLight added in a recent release. Blackmagic bought stalwart compositing app Digital Fusion and integrated it into Resolve. The lines get blurrier by the day. 'RENDERLESSLY' RENDERING A particularly exciting development for us has been the ability to "renderlessly" send color grades to compositing as metadata. Autodesk's Connected Color workflow was originally designed for feature DI work, but we hijacked it for a recent VFX-heavy Nissan job to great effect. Our team transformed a college stadium into a 1986-vintage World Cup match with Maya and V-Ray, adding a CG stadium and 100,000 cheering fans. While I created a vintage look for the spot with the agency creatives in the color session, our CG team was able to start working immediately with the ungraded footage. In fact, they never had to bother with graded shots! We didn't have to tint the CG to match the grade, darken it as it passed through a vignette or otherwise reinvent the wheel like you do when you don't get final color until late in the job. I was able to push the image even farther creative- ly during compositing because I was working interactively through the grade. It also no longer mattered whether the clients wanted to color the spot at the beginning or end of the project. For complex VFX jobs, this workflow is a massive improvement. It's also possible with Baselight via its .BLG format, which can renderlessly send complete grades to Avid, Flame and Nuke. We've come a long way from photo- chemical color timing and transferring film to videotape. As technology and the market evolve, it's on us to evolve too or risk irrelevance. Even though we are constantly asked to do more with the same (or less), by embracing technologi- cal advancements we can still deliver great work for our clients and further advance our craft. THE RISE OF THE HYBRID COLOR & FINISH WORKFLOW BY BRIAN HIGGINS CREATIVE DIRECTOR, COLOR AND VFX FLAVOR LA/CHICAGO/DETROIT WWW.FLAVOR.TV A recent Nissan spot.

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