Post Magazine

December 2015

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PRIMETIME 19 POST DECEMBER 2015 as much in-camera as possible, every shot also runs through a VFX workflow that, at a minimum, requires rod removal, but often grows to include painting out puppeteers or more complex composit- ing techniques, including motion control, chroma key elements and CGI patches." In discussing his cameras of choice, Kief explains that there were some key factors to consider. "The Muppets is about the making of a late-night talk show starring Piggy, and these nuanced styles we approached the 'documentary' with end when the ed- itors cut to the 'show.' We never want the audience to mistake the docu- mentary for the TV show. "I strongly believe that digital cam- eras are the new film stocks. Each of them has qualities built into the sensor design and color science to make them distinct that can never be graded out completely. I wanted the documentary to have a very real, creamy and cine- matic quality to it, so I chose Arri Amira cameras. These are basically Alexas optimized for handheld work. "Piggy's show has a high-contrast, high-saturation, crisp look with perfect- ly placed hard lighting and cameras on pedestals, which are all classic late-night talk show techniques. Those shows are usually shot on 2/3-inch broadcast video cameras. I chose to shoot this part of our show with Sony FS7s, which even though they are 35mm digital cinema cameras, the Sony look has a more video quality to me. In addition, [colorist] Chris [Boyer] uses an older Sony LUT file we converted to a grading LUT that really takes the color and contrast to a traditional broad- cast video camera look." POST As with most DPs and colorists, the relationship is a close one that begins with the shoot and extends into post. Kief stresses the importance of getting the color right on a show where its lead characters are so well known, as well as keeping in mind that clear distinction between the series' two parts. "Since we are shooting a 'documenta- ry,' Chris and I go through great lengths to shift the wide range of colors on the characters into a very natural and realistic tonality. The puppets have very saturated colors, which draws attention to their puppet nature. So we do a lot of general and specific tone desaturating in the grade to make them look more real. I still want them to stand out from the backgrounds though, so I work closely with the production designer to find the right colors for the sets that will enable this and hold up in the grade. It isn't easy considering the ensemble contains every color of the spectrum! "The Muppets is a really tough show to grade. I only use mixed light, so there's no white reference and certainly no skin tone to start with. There's also a lot of different looks — day and night in the offices, a backstage area, the TV show set through our doc cameras and the TV cameras, plus swing sets and location work. Each area we shoot in has a slight- ly different texture of light and color, which is meant to be a reflection of a real documentary — where you don't have perfect situations to shoot in and the means to always control the light." According to Boyer, who colors the show from Level 3, one of the Deluxe companies across the street from the Disney/ABC lot, "There is definitely a specific look to the show." In the behind- the-scenes, documentary-style portion, he says he keeps to a "lower contrast, lower saturation, slightly flatter, not as polished look." For the Miss Piggy show, he says, "We go for hyper contrast and hyper saturation to make it feel different from the docu-style footage. We also do a motion blur on the whole thing. It helps create a different feel for the whole show. So, the 'Up Late with Miss Piggy' is a sharper, more contrasty, more colorful feel than the rest of the show." In keeping with the low contrast feel, Boyer adds, "They're colorful characters, so they pop a little bit anyway, but we'll go so far as to key all the red tones. Like Kermit, the inside of his mouth is very red, some of the feathers or hair on the other characters are deep oranges and pinks, so we key those specific colors to try and bring them down or they'll take over the color palette of the scene because they're so vibrant. But it is the main body of the show, too, so you don't Level 3 colorist Chris Boyer Kermit the Frog was one of creator Jim Henson's earliest and most famous stars. His red mouth is a challenge for colorist Chris Boyer. The "production team" behind 'Up Late with Miss Piggy' includes Scooter (center) and Kermit (right), along with newer favorites Pepe and Rizzo (L-R).

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