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August 2014
Issue: July 1, 2008

DI: 'HANCOCK' DIRECTOR PETER BERG TURNS TO TECHNICOLOR

By: Randi Altman
CULVER CITY, CA — What if all you want to do is kick back with a few cold ones and watch TV, but fate has bigger plans? You see, fate wants you to be a superhero. So you begrudgingly save someone here and there, but your heart is not in it, the public knows it, and they're annoyed. You're only option is a public relations expert to turn things around. Such is the life of Will Smith in Sony Pictures' Hancock.

Director Peter Berg had a very specific look in mind for the film and called on, once again, colorist Jill Bogdanowicz from Technicolor (www.technicolor.com), with whom he worked on The Kingdom. "He wanted it to be really saturated and really rich looking," she says, "not anything like The Kingdom, which was desaturated. He wanted it to be more comic book-y and surreal with colors that really pop, and to keep the surreal feel without going gaudy."

Because Bogdanowicz also did the previews — as well as the home video master — for the movie, she got a sort of head start on knowing what Berg wanted in terms of color and feel. And she worked very closely with DP Tobias A. Schliessler, who visited her suite twice during the DI process.

After the previews, when the director came in to discuss the look, they had the entire movie to run through. And thanks to Bogdanowicz getting temp visual effects shots early — cut in by Technicolor editors on Smoke — there were no big holes missing. "When we were going through the color timing I was able to temp color, and when the final came in I could do final tweaks."

THE PIPELINE

They say location is everything and, in this case, they are right. Bogdanowicz worked out of Technicolor's Sony Studios Stage 6 facility in Culver City. Her DI suite was about 50 feet away from the Sony stages where the film was getting its final audio mix.

They were also connected via a 4GB fiber line to Sony Imageworks, which was providing the Hancock's many visual effects shots. The pipeline was similar to the one used by the two studios on Spider-Man 3. Imageworks' artists would just drop the VFX shots onto Technicolor's SAN, making it very simple for Bogdanowicz to get her hands on the visual effects shots early. "It would essentially just be there waiting for me to work on," she says.

Bogdanowicz uses da Vinci Resolve running on a Linux system for color grading, and it makes her job easier. "The software allows me an infinite number of Power Windows, and there is no limitation of how many layers I can put on a shot. It allows me to autotrack a window, which means if we want to brighten Will Smith's eyes, which we did once or twice, I can do two small Power Windows on his eyes and let the machine autotrack it."

She says that since the majority of the movie was handheld, it made it much easier to Power Window details with the autotracking, which will basically follow camera motion perfectly.

CHALLENGING SCENES


In one scene, Will Smith and another character are having a big fight on Hollywood Blvd, and the light changes from a very sunny golden color to very stormy, very quickly. The shot's VFX storm clouds, as they rolled in, presented a challenge. "We had to color on top of the visual effect and that cut to a non-visual effect shot, so we needed to make sure that would work smoothly — that we'd have a constant darkening as those clouds rolled in."

This is also where having worked with the director in the past came in handy: they had developed a sort of shorthand. "I already had it pretty close to what I thought he wanted and he told me to make it magical and surreal — he would talk to me about how he wanted it to feel, and I would go ahead and work on that," explains Bogdanowicz. "We had a good understanding."

Hancock's opening chase sequence presented a similar challenge, but with lots more cuts and lots of visual effects. "Anything that has a lot of cuts, mixed with visual effects takes more time to match," reports Bogdanowicz.

Another interesting scene is toward the end of the film, and it's set in a hospital. "Most of the movie is really rich and saturated with poppy yellows and greens," she says, but the color changes in the hospital scenes. "It was still rich and saturated but more on the blue and cyan side."

Creating a mood with color. All in day's work for super-colorist Jill Bogdanowicz.