Post looks at a number of popular shows that might get Emmy attention.
HOLLYWOOD — Modern Family, which will be entering its sixth season on ABC this fall, has been hailed from the start as one of TV’s funniest, best-written and best-acted sitcoms. The show, which highlights three very different, yet related families and their ups and downs in a unique and comedic manner, has earned an array of awards, from Primetime Emmys to Golden Globes.
In this issue of Post Magazine, on page 15, we take a look at color correction — a more subtle, yet important element that lends itself to the show’s unique documentary-style approach. According to the show’s colorist Aidan Stanford of Modern VideoFilm, “The look of the show is to look like there is not a look — it’s supposed to be documentary. I know DP Jim Bagdonas (ASC) has gone a touch more theatrical with his more recent lighting, but still keeping the original look of the show.”
While Modern Family is shot single camera on the Arri Alexa, Stanford relies on many of the tools in Blackmagic Design’s Da Vinci Resolve for color grading once in post to achieve a “very clean, neutral look that at times can be more difficult to achieve than a show that has a heavy look,” he says.
NEW YORK — FX’s Louie stars comedian Louie CK in a semi-fictional version of his life, where he splits custody of his two young daughters while working as a stand-up comic in New York City. The show is shot in 4K with a single Red camera — first an Epic and more recently a Dragon — and is cut by the star using an Avid Media Composer working at DNxHD36 resolution.
Ryan Cunningham is the show’s post production producer and is responsible for overseeing everything that takes place from when the media leaves the camera until the final deliverables are sent to the network. Running Man Post in NYC handles dailies for the show, which Louie CK is able to view in his home theater. The show has a very natural look, and Cunningham says Louie is OK with leaving scenes dark if that’s how they appeared on-set. Parabolic in NYC provides audio post.
TORONTO — BBC America has generated some buzz with Orphan Black, from co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, which, after just having wrapped its second season, has already won and/or been nominated for a host of awards. These include Golden Globes, Canadian Cinema Editors Awards, Critics Choice and a recent 2014 Canadian Screen Award for show editor, D. Gillian Truster, for "Best Picture Editing in a Dramatic Program or Series."
The show, which follows street-wise hustler Sarah Manning (played by star Tatiana Maslany) as she uncovers a mind-blowing secret that she’s one of a series of genetically-identical individuals — otherwise known as clones — features multiple noteworthy scenes where Maslany portrays not only Manning, but any number of her clones.
“People want to know, how are the clone scenes done?’” says Truster. “They definitely add an additional complication to the editing process.” She explains that through a bit of a complex process that involves carefully blocking out the scenes with Maslany, a motion-control camera, and capturing several takes with Maslany playing each of the clone characters, she cuts the performances together on an Avid Media Composer. “When we get the [Arri Alexa] footage, and we’re cutting those scenes, we’re creating the master shots. We’re picking takes and doing sort of a temp composite to see how it works.”
Look for our full-length interview with Truster in an upcoming issue of Post.
HOUSE OF CARDS
LOS ANGELES — The second season of Netflix’s popular House of Cards series was released in February and made available to subscribers in 4K Ultra HD. The show is set in present-day Washington, DC, and tells the story of Congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), who, after being passed over for an appointment as Secretary of State, initiates an elaborate plan to get himself into a position of power.
Deluxe Entertainment’s Encore studio handled the show’s post, with lead colorist Laura Jans-Fazio grading the series in uncompressed 4K. Jans-Fazio employs FilmLight’s Baselight Two system on the show, along with a Blackboard control surface. The drama was captured on Red cameras, some using the HDR functionality for extended contrast and color dynamic range.
Co-producer Peter Mavromates and post supervisor Hameed Shaukat worked directly with Jans-Fazio on the grade, with director David Fincher and DP Igor Martinovic providing feedback via using the Pix digital collaboration tool.
The overall look of the series has a slightly moody cast, reflecting the tense, internal political intrigue of the story. The grade avoids over-saturated colors, maintaining the palette throughout — which was Fincher’s vision for the show. The Baselight Two allowed Jans-Fazio to reveal detail in windows that appeared to be over exposed. This detail was then composited back into the rest of the scene.
BURBANK — Starz’s Black Sails series is set in 1715 — the golden age of piracy. The show takes place on New Providence Island, a lawless island that’s controlled by notorious pirate captains. A number of studios contribute VFX services to the show, which is shot in South Africa.
George Murphy, chief creative officer at Reliance MediaWorks, says his studio relies on as many as 300 artists to help create VFX for the series, including wide-open (digital) oceans that are used for scenes in which ships are at sea. VFX scenes, says Murphy, typically run :03 to :05, but there have been a few as long as :08 in length. The studio divides work between its Burbank studio and its facility in India. As many as eight episodes can be in-house at a given time.
“We don’t reinvent our core pipeline,” says Murphy. The studio models in Maya and renders in V-Ray. Houdini is used for water, cloth and sail simulations. Mari is used for paint and Nuke is used for compositing.
“I won’t say it isn’t a challenge,” Murphy continues, “but the show has been well received. We have to think efficiently: what should go into a shot; what is the most important thing? And take advantage of our international resources.”
Crazy Horse VFX in Venice, CA, also contributes to the series as a lead vendor. The studio has created environments, matte paintings and digital water too.
BURBANK — When Fox decided to bring back to life literary figure Ichabod Crane for its Sleepy Hollow series, which premiered in the fall of 2013, it naturally had to raise the spirit of the feared Headless Horseman as well. Following Crane through the modern-day town is a convincingly-realistic rider on horseback, minus his noggin.
Synaptic VFX, with offices in both Burbank and New Orleans, is credited with creating an array of VFX for the show, including the infamous Horseman, among other visual effects. According to 3D artist/compositor and founder of Synaptic, Shant Jordan, brother Shahen did the concept art for a number of the show’s VFX. “Synaptic provided a complete solution for the show, from concept to execution.”
To create The Horseman in the show’s first season, several stuntmen dorned green masks. With an arsenal of tools that include 3DS Max, Maya, LightWave 3D, Nuke and After Effects, Synaptic later removed their heads in post and swapped them with a blood-soaked base. One stand-out scene features the Horseman riding through a burning forest, with embers soaring past him.
“The challenge for this character is that he’s always moving,” says Jordan.
GAME OF THRONES
SANTA MONICA — Whether you prefer the knights of Castle Black, the wealthy Lannister family or Daenerys Targaryen and her three dragons, HBO's Game of Thrones offers no shortage of storylines that quickly capture the audience's attention.
Smoke Artist Barry Goch of Modern VideoFilm (www.mvfinc.com), here, recently completed work on the 10 episodes that made up Season 4 of the series. He's been working on the show for two seasons now and says, "These are the highest level of standards for this show. There are no shortcuts."
Season 4 made use of the most visual effects to date — over 1,300 VFX shots and they all go through Goch's Linux-based Autodesk Smoke system as part of the online. Goch is part of a Modern VideoFilm team that also includes DI producer Heidi Tebo, final colorist Joe Finley and editorial assistant Chris Abdon.
The show is offlined in Belfast and London, and then Modern VideoFilm handles the video finishing. Grading is performed in Da Vinci Resolve. Goch is often working with placeholders for visual effects sequences, as many are created entirely in a computer.
"The body of the show is graded, and the VFX are added later," Goch explains. "Some are totally digital shots, so I am using reference material like previs as a placeholder."
After grading, Goch adds the subtitles for the series and lays the video to tape. Todd-AO has been handling the audio mix and layback for the series.