NEW YORK — Independent film Restrepo, which recently won the “Grand Jury Documentary Prize” at the Sundance Film Festival, was finished at Goldcrest Post Productions using two Quantel Pablo systems connected by GenePool. The film was online edited by finishing artist Peter Heady, and then color graded by colorist John Dowdell.
The film, by American journalist Sebastian Junger and British photographer Tim Hetherington, follows a platoon of American Airborne soldiers during a year’s deployment in Afghanistan. All of the post took place at Goldcrest (www.goldcrestpost.com).
According to Dowdell, the project was shot mostly with two Sony HDV cameras running at 29.97. Interviews were recorded on DVCPRO at 23.98. His first priority was to conform the DVCPRO material at 29.97 into a multi-resolution, multi-layer timeline ingested from Final Cut Pro via Automatic Duck.
“Although the footage was amazing in content, the HDV lacked saturation and had that typical flat video look,” Dowdell recalls. “It was also over-exposed, with the brightness going up and down a lot. All in all, it presented something of a challenge to give it a rich theatrical look while maintaining a feeling of live immediacy.”
Using Quantel’s recently updraded software, Dowdell was able to control the S curve. “The S curve puts all the shadows into the nice toe, the straight line smooths out the mids, and the top end rolls off just like film,” he explains. “So the S curve gave this low-end, HD video-shot material this incredible depth — a film-like quality.”
Once he got the material into suitable form, he went to work on the grade.
“Keyframing enabled me to even out the exposure rides quickly and easily, and I used windows galore in any shape to isolate areas for correction,” he notes. “Tim and Sebastian were thrilled with this, watching me dodging, marking and burning. Then I would be cascading layer after layer, correcting then another layer to brighten up a certain head. What’s particularly great about Pablo’s cascading is that you can then go back and ‘poke’ things under a cascade layer — it’s a fantastic time-saver.”
Dowdell also did some sharpening with a plug-in. The whole look is slightly desaturated, and he was able to achieved color continuity despite the material being shot over a 15-month period.
“When we put it back out to film,” he says. “We did a cine-compress back to 24fps. The problem of course was the 29.97 stuff, so we utilized the Arri Relativity grain, noise and motion estimation tools, which did a phenomenal job. We turned all the frames into a 23.98 timeline using vector analysis – creating new frames. Putting it back out to film adds a little extra magic, and most people looking at it in a theatre think they are looking at film not video shot material.”