Company 3 grades Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus'
June 13, 2012

Company 3 grades Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus'

SANTA MONICA — Company 3 ( provided color grading services for four different versions of 20th Century Fox's new film, Prometheus. Directed by Ridley Scott, the 3D sci-fi/thriller is a prequel to the Alien franchise and stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, and Charlize Theron.

Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, ASC, shot the feature, and Company 4 colorist Stephen Nakamura helped enhance the imagery by further desaturating the already minimal color. Nakamura used Da Vinci Resolve's tracking tools and Power Windows with the aperture correction feature to emphasize specific objects in the frame with some additional sharpening. 

“The filmmakers' vision was of a burnt, almost ashen-like look. Everything had to be muted and cold looking," notes Nakamura, "but the actors still needed to maintain their human qualities, and be seen in warm light without causing the darkness around them to appear muddy. To accomplish this in his films, and with Prometheus in particular, Ridley likes to make use of the aperture correction feature to subtly enhance the sense that the images have a more limited depth of field. It helps direct the viewer's eye right to a specific person or object without looking like a special effect.”

Nakamura adds that while some aperture correction worked well in 3D viewing situations, it did not always work as well in 2D. “The 3D glasses act as sort of a softening filter so that the amount of sharpness that looks subtle and natural under those conditions can look extreme when watching the film in 2D without glasses."

Using Resolve's Power Windows, Nakamura was able to shape some of the virtual lighting in environments that couldn't really be illuminated with traditional approaches, such as creating a kind of lighting inside characters' spacesuits to bring out the actors' faces. 

"I created Power Windows for walls and across the sides of caves," says Nakamura, "and built soft orbs of light around the characters that might not be motivated in the traditional sense, but made sense within the world of Prometheus."

Company 3 also worked with the film’s stereography team to refine shot to shot convergence for the 3D version. Resolve was also used extensively to prepare the film to be exhibited in a variety of different 3D venues. Different 3D projection systems bring varying levels of light and contrast to the displayed images. Company 3 was able to build look up tables within Resolve to partially translate the work done for the lower brightness systems and create an additional master designed to make the most of the greater contrast range offered by the higher brightness projection.

“That worked fairly well, but it still required us to go through and make some shot to shot adjustments for the brighter 3D display and again for the even brighter 2D version,” he notes. “It definitely helps that the Resolve lets me isolate and adjust every correction individually.”