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Dylan Kress

Amelie

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What's up guys?

 

Just wanted to start a little discussion about one of my favorite flicks of all time; Amelie. Love the story... Love the imagery... Love the colors and tones of the world the filmmakers have created. I know they digitally color timed the film but I'm curious how much was really done in the DI process. I've been experimenting with film quit a bit lately and can't seem to get anything quite as colorful and vibrant as what they have created. I have a feeling the immaculate art direction of the film has a lot to do with why it's so damn gorgeous.

 

Here are a few screen grabs:

Screenshot2010-10-12at34951PM.png

Screenshot2010-10-12at44305PM.png

Screenshot2010-10-12at35854PM.png

 

I'd love to know your guys' thoughts on how they captured images like these (i.e. film stock, gels, filters, etc...). I'd love to see before/after footage of the DI process.

Any insight is helpful.

 

Thanks in advance,

Dylan

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Dylan, i'd say it's almost all about the art direction, a few camera tests, and adding continuity and increasing some saturation in the DI. If memory serves the special edition had some nice behind the scenes information on the film (someone nabbed my dvd version of it, so I can't confirm). Though, that first screen grab probably had blue added in in the DI on the fill-side.

It's a lot like Days of Heaven, beautiful beautiful film, which comes from shooting beautiful things in the first place.

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Adrian is totally right... I recently watched the movie and the behind the scene footage because a director I worked with wanted that look for a music video. If he hadn't worked the production design the way he did the whole feel wouldn't have worked.

 

The DI they did for the movie did added to the whole feel. Bringing back colors on skin tones that you see in the environment.

 

Here is the music video I was talking about. It's not totally there, but it's pretty close (and it's in french!):

 

Of course vimeo took allot out of the tones...

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I think I have the ASC article on it somewhere. Let me see if I can find that issue. I haven't picked the thing up probably in 7 years, but I seem to recall there was quite a bit of filtration used too to augment the "off" colors of the movie. Maybe special makeup too to make certain colors render a natural hue with the rest of the scene having a color bias. . .

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Okay so I did some homework and found some uncorrected shots in the outtakes...

A bit of computer magic and we have a side by side comparison. The images on the top are the uncorrected ones.

I have a bunch more of these but I'll post a few of the good ones.

 

01.png

You can really see how much they punched up the saturation in this one. What a beautiful image.

 

03.png

This one really surprised me. The uncorrected footage almost looks out of focus. You guys think it looks sharper in the corrected shot because of the added contrast?

 

15.png

Gorgeous.

 

13.png

The skin tones on this changed completely!

 

It's strange but after looking at all of these side by side it looks like most of the uncorrected images are a little soft. Can anybody lend some insight into what they're doing in the post process to bring in the sharpness and clarity of these final images?

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NOt really a side by side. The un-corrected ones are probably from the dailies, most likely on SD, whereas the corrected ones have been scanned at at least 2K for a DI; hence why they looks so different. You'd need to see a scan of the neg before and after grading to really see what's going on.

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Is there a difference in the process between scanning to SD (for dailies) and scanning to 2k for your final DI other than the obvious size of the image? (i.e. the way they scan it, etc...)

I should probably just call a processing house but if anyone cares to elaborate or point me to another discussion that'd be a huge help.

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Most certainly. Different machines, for one, and for two, they generally just apply a quick look, if anything correction-wise at all to the neg, and then output it on very low quality recording media. It's just used to "see what was shot," and to work off of in an edit, sometimes. There's a huge difference, not jut resolution in pixel wise, between a mini-dv tape and a DPX file... (color space, data rate, bit-depth, could be 60 (or 50i), 720x480 -v- 2046x 1150 ish)

If anything, the dailies there show me that the vast majority of the look was dialed in on set, in camera, and then tweaked and accentuated in post.

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It's always a bit misleading to compare dailies to the final color-correction and think that the dailies represent the "true" look of the original. Not to mention, it's even misleading to compare a flat scan of the original negative to a color-corrected image and think that the look was created by the color-correction. Negative was never meant to be viewed directly, it was designed to be printed, so most scans just show you the max highlight and shadow information on the negative and leave it to you to add the amount of gamma (contrast) and saturation in the digital grade, or conversely, print the negative in which case the print stock is adding the gamma and saturation and you'd be timing the color and brightness.

 

I suppose the only meaningful comparison, if you are trying to determine what was created in the digital color grade compared to how it was shot originally would be to compare the final digital grade to a one-light print off of the negative, both projected.

 

In any case, a lot of the look of "Amelie" was done in camera -- warming filters for example were often used, and of course there's the production design and lighting, etc. -- but then it was further adjusted in the D.I., sometimes though not to add more warmth but to actually restore some of the color to blue objects in the frame. Obviously the title sequence was more heavily processed in the D.I. for that odd cross-processed reversal look.

 

Also I believe they used the lower-contrast 5277 320T negative and added the contrast back in the D.I.

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The whole processing and transfer process just seems like a lot to wrap your brain around.

I guess it's just one of those things you need to experience to really understand.

 

When you do a 2k transfer you're obviously not transferring to an HD tape. Are they transferring to an analog format or straight to a computer?

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Generally right to files on a SAN, though you can do a poor man's 2K by going out to HDCamSR (1920x1080 is very close to 2046x (whatever))

 

There is also the choice of LTO tape for data storage. Though for a D.I. they would scan and store it on their SAN usually for immediate access.

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Is print stock similar to shooting stock in that it is uses light sensitive emulsion or are you actually printing a transparent ink onto the film?

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Sorry I just realized how retarded that question was. LOL. I should have just looked that up on my own.

 

Found my answer tho. :rolleyes:

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Negative was never meant to be viewed directly, it was designed to be printed, so most scans just show you the max highlight and shadow information on the negative and leave it to you to add the amount of gamma (contrast) and saturation in the digital grade, or conversely, print the negative in which case the print stock is adding the gamma and saturation and you'd be timing the color and brightness.

 

I suppose the only meaningful comparison, if you are trying to determine what was created in the digital color grade compared to how it was shot originally would be to compare the final digital grade to a one-light print off of the negative, both projected.

 

 

What do you mean by 'timing the color and brightness?'

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Good call on the LTO David; something I forgot about (like many things, of course). By the by, is LTO something for real time access? I always figured it wasn't -- a kin to say throwing some ProRes files on a Blu-Ray or the like for storage/moving from place to place, but just curious to anyone who knows.

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Good call on the LTO David; something I forgot about (like many things, of course). By the by, is LTO something for real time access? I always figured it wasn't -- a kin to say throwing some ProRes files on a Blu-Ray or the like for storage/moving from place to place, but just curious to anyone who knows.

 

No, I don't think LTO's record or playback in real time, they aren't videotapes.

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What do you mean by 'timing the color and brightness?'

 

When you color-time a print, you basically have control over the printer light levels for three colors (RGB or YCM), so this controls both the overall brightness of the print and the color balance of the print.

 

You don't have (much) control over gamma (contrast) though unless you do something extreme like a skip-bleach process. When I tell a director what a timing session will be like for a print, I tell him that his choices will be basically brighter or darker overall, and/or more or less red, blue, green, yellow, cyan, magenta -- again overall. That's basically it. You can't say "crush the blacks a little but keep the highlights the same" or "lift up the area just under his eyes" or "match the saturation of the blue in the sky to the sky in the proceeding shot" or "darken that left corner of the room", etc. Instead you say things like "the cut before needs a bit more blue and has to be a point or so brighter to match the shot that follows better", or "this whole sequence needs a bit of magenta added to the warmth, it's too greenish-yellow" or "that moonlit shot should have a hint of cyan to the blue, and be a lot darker".

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okay, so it gives you one last chance to make final basic adjustments before you're stuck with what you've got essentially...

So it's not as powerful as a DI if you plan to make lots of adjustments?

 

Can you skip the whole process of digitizing your film (other than dailies of course) by color-timing and printing? And if that's the case you must be watching a projection of the processed negative to determine what you need to correct when printing???

 

I may be way off here...

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Dylan, here's a fantastic book on classic and modern motion picture lab technology written by Dominic Case:

 

Film Technology in Post Prouction

 

This will give you more insight into film lab procedures. Your print stock question is not retarded, but if you are interested in finding out how certain effects were accomplished, you need to know the basics. You'll find reading Dominic's book great fun and quite an inspiration.

 

If you have access to a good film library, there's an older book called Basic Motion Picture Technology by Bernhard Happé, of course it doesn't cover digital intermediate processes since it was written in the 1970s.

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Dylan, here's a fantastic book on classic and modern motion picture lab technology written by Dominic Case:

 

Film Technology in Post Prouction

 

This will give you more insight into film lab procedures. Your print stock question is not retarded, but if you are interested in finding out how certain effects were accomplished, you need to know the basics. You'll find reading Dominic's book great fun and quite an inspiration.

 

If you have access to a good film library, there's an older book called Basic Motion Picture Technology by Bernhard Happé, of course it doesn't cover digital intermediate processes since it was written in the 1970s.

 

Christian,

 

Thanks a ton for the recommendations. I'll run out to see if I can find 'em anywhere. Definitely interested in reading up on this subject.

 

Thanks again,

Dylan

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Can you skip the whole process of digitizing your film (other than dailies of course) by color-timing and printing? And if that's the case you must be watching a projection of the processed negative to determine what you need to correct when printing???

Thanks for the book recommendation, Christian. Hope you find a copy, Dylan.

 

To answer your question (which the book would explain too!), the short answer is yes, you are remarkably close to the truth. In a non-digital-intermediate process, a print is made directly from the colour negative, onto print film which works photographically the same as camera negative. (Different stock, different chemicals but the same principle of exposing a silver halide emulsion, and developing up a colour dye image).

 

But how do you know how to colour-balance the print? The negative is run in a colour analyser, which is similar to a telecine, but calibrated differently. The controls simulate the effect of changing the proportions of Red, Green and Blue light in the printing machine, which would make the printed image more or less biased to any colour, or lighter or darker. The R, G,B settings are noted for each shot in the reel, and that data is used when the print is struck.

 

Typically, once the first (answer) print is made, the colour grader can look at the results and make some fine adjustments before making a second print. A really good colour grader won't need to do this, especially if the cinematographer has supplied a consistently well-exposed negative.

 

Yes, this process can also be used to tidy up any errors in a digital grade - but labs will strive hard to get the digital grade perfect, as you can't put scene-to-scene light changes in high-speed printers used for bulk release copies, so it's usually just a matter of setting the overall balance throughout the reel.

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Thanks a ton Dominic,

 

Just ordered your book this morning. I'm excited to experiment with the various techniques and workflows.

 

So I'm guessing you do an offline edit before you do an answer print??? Then you print only what you need for the answer???

 

In your opinion do you think films will continue to be made without going thru a DI or do you think it will become cheap enough where it will become a common part of the film workflow?

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Thanks a ton Dominic,

 

Just ordered your book this morning. I'm excited to experiment with the various techniques and workflows.

 

So I'm guessing you do an offline edit before you do an answer print??? Then you print only what you need for the answer???

 

In your opinion do you think films will continue to be made without going thru a DI or do you think it will become cheap enough where it will become a common part of the film workflow?

Yes. Telecine the camera original neg. Offline edit. Cut and splice the original negative to match the edit, using EDL (edit decision list). Then grade the neg as described earlier and make the first print.

 

Not many films are made now that don't go through the DI process. The advantages of the digital grade are becoming irresistible, and you can also do the titles, dissolves, fades, repositioning, dirt removal and other fix-ups digitally. hey used to be done optically, but those skills are disappearing from the labs as people retire. Film has hung on a lot longer than many younger people expected, but the result is that its death is being hastened by a lack of entry into the skilled jobs a decade or more ago.

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