Issue: May 1, 2007


Indie filmmaking is as much about resourcefulness as it is about storytelling. Optimus, the full-service finishing house known for its commercial work, is aware of the challenges indie filmmakers face and does its best to support the independent community. The studio recently transferred and color corrected Milwaukee-based director Chris Smith’s The Pool.

The film was shot in Goa, India, and follows the tale of a young boy who yearns for a life of riches. The film screened at Sundance and was awarded the “Special Jury Prize for Singularity of Vision.” 

According to Optimus partner/senior colorist Craig Leffel, the project was challenging because of the tight deadline faced for submission — just over two weeks.

“Because of time constraints, we did not have time to scan,” Leffel explains. The project was shot on 35mm and, rather than scan material as data, was ingested as HD video, allowing them to work in realtime. A total of 350 select takes were ingested from 133 rolls of film. A Spirit telecine was used for the transfer and a Quantel eQ served as a massive disk recorder for the 4:4:4 material. Leffel says a base correction was performed using a da Vinci system during the transfer, leaving room for further, more specific color correction later.

“[Chris] wanted it to feel like you were there,” says Leffel of the look, which he describes as a having a gold and dusty, light, atmospheric tone. “He had a real predefined look of what he wanted, and in the end we ended up really trying to make it look as pretty and lush as it could.”
The studio worked in 24p HD, but used the eQ to deliver a 1080i version in order to meet Sundance’s submission requirements.

While Optimus handles predominantly commercial work, Leffel and partners feel it’s important to support the indie community, particularly in Chicago, where there is less independent production than on the coasts. “With Chris and I, it’s not rate card. It’s good will,” he says, adding that the value of having a Sundance-winning film on his credit list is also tough to measure. 

“Optimus worked with us. They went above and beyond,” adds director Smith. “They believed in the project.”