FREMONT, CA — Blackmagic Design’s (www.blackmagicdesign.com) DaVinci Resolve Studio and DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel are being used by video director John Steer and on-tour post production specialist Chris Sobchack for a variety of video productions for legendary singer/songwriter Elton John.
“While on tour, John (Steer) and I are responsible for shooting and post on a variety of video productions, such as content for Elton’s YouTube channel, clips for broadcast television and award shows, packages for fan clubs and VIPs, dedication videos, and more,” explains Sobchack. “It can involve archival footage, current tour footage and new footage that we, or outside video production companies, shoot, such as interviews and BTS, so we rely heavily on DaVinci Resolve Studio in post to bring everything together, often on very tight deadlines.”
Chris Sobchach and John Steer at work
A Micro Studio Camera 4K is used on tour, in conjunction with a Micro Cinema Camera, Video Assist and Video Assist 4K to shoot interview and behind-the-scenes footage, along with HyperDeck Studio Pro and HyperDeck Studio Mini to record the live performances, and MultiView 4 to monitor camera feeds. Teranex Mini and UltraStudio Express are also used to send camera signals to the video wall on stage.
The process involves taking tour footage with reference audio tracks from the sound engineer and deconstructing the footage, along with archival elements, BTS and newly-shot footage, into component shots for editing, grading and audio sweetening, all in DaVinci Resolve Studio. According to Sobchack, audio post can be as simple as compression and leveling, or as complex as getting some or all of the multi-track files the team records each night to augment, or even create a complete studio mix.
“I’ll also add and keyframe audience microphones to enhance the live ambiance or use the Fairlight page to minutely fix any visual sync issues,” he notes.
For editing, Steer splices the archival footage, BTS and newly shot footage with the raw footage from the tour’s live shows. “I handle the offline edit, while Chris handles the online, and that’s where DaVinci Resolve Studio works so well, as we can work simultaneously by sharing files back and forth,” he says. “I also use DaVinci Resolve Studio to make copies of the whole show in a lower resolution, so we have a backup viewing copy. We use DaVinci Resolve Studio to put together everything from video idents to full songs from the show while we are on the road touring, and I find it so intuitive and easy to use. Also, with Fairlight, it's so easy to sweeten the audio, and its features keep expanding.”
“During the live performances, the lighting is constantly changing, and overall, the footage is darker than what’s needed for broadcast or the Web, as the concerts are lit for the human eye rather than for a camera,” says Sobchack. “My main objective is to retain the flair of the live show’s lighting design, but also be able see Elton’s face. I also have to make the performance footage cohesive with any BTS or newly-shot footage. In DaVinci Resolve Studio, I use gradients, vignettes on faces, HSL qualifiers and Power Windows to brighten things up and meld the radically-different colors in the shots.
“I also reframe shots on occasion and rely on DaVinci Resolve Studio’s temporal noise reduction. Since we don’t shoot in light that is really video project-friendly, when we make the kinds of adjustments we need for broadcast, especially if it’s being up-resed for a primetime network for instance, this feature can take a shot from a zoomed in camera that was 60 yards away from the stage and make it look perfect.”
As multi-camera recording has not been feasible on the tour, the footage also has burned in transitions, so when grading, Sobchack picks a cut point from shot A to shot B and implements an animated color transition using keyframes, ensuring the first frame of shot B matches the last frame of shot A.
“Instead of using primary wheels, I use levels, and being able to jot down numbers and easily match them using the DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel is great,” says Sobchack. “The panel not only adds a great tactile feel to my workflow, but since it has both dedicated and soft, page-specific knobs, it really lets me dial in and drop down to exact values, which helps with getting everything to match really quickly.”