When Senior Colorist Siggy Ferstl of Company 3 (www.company3.com) started work on the Disney+ feature Disenchanted, he learned from director Adam Shenkman (What Men Want,
Happy Valley) and cinematographer Simon Duggan (
The Great Gatsby) that they wanted to enhance a significant amount of the imagery in ways that would involve an enormous amount of rotoscoping and a high-level of detailed Power Window work. The colorist would need to affect all sorts of hard-to-isolate details, including hair, jewels gowns and dresses – work that would typically either involve considerable time building and tracking shapes, or in the case of VFX shots, requesting mattes from the company that did the compositing.
Disney’s 2014 hit Enchanted starred Amy Adams as Giselle – a maiden from a fairytale world, exiled to hectic New York, where she falls for and marries high-powered attorney. The juxtaposition of worlds, the performances and the clever story delighted audiences. Now, 14 years later,
Disenchanted revisits Giselle and many of the other characters from the first film, as she reconsiders her life and her marriage. The new film also takes place partially in a fairytale world and partially in a more realistic world, and much of the vision for realizing the fantasy sections would involve fine tuning specific portions of the frame in these challenging ways.
“When I started the project,” says Ferstl, “we had just upgraded to (Blackmagic Design’s) Resolve 18. I knew it had the new AI-based Magic Mask feature that detects and isolates objects in ways that you just can’t do by a traditional Qualifier or Power Window.”
Ferstl had been aware the feature was in the works; he’d been an early beta tester. But he wasn’t sure exactly how well the new tool would perform in the real world. What he saw exceeded his highest expectations.
“I think Magic Mask is as big as what the Power Window was when it came out,” he enthuses, “if not bigger. I used it about a thousand times on Disenchanted.”
Shenkman, recalls Ferstl, “wanted to really enhance Giselle’s hair. He said he wanted it to have a rich feeling. Hair can be a nightmare to window and isolate. It’s really time intensive. Normally it would be a combination of keying and tight window work, but there’s rarely enough information to grab onto for a clean key. It could have taken a very long time just to adjust her hair in every shot and we had about a week!”
But it wasn’t just her hair, Ferstl continues.
“It was gowns, jewels, faces, sky’s and pieces of paper flying through hair in a bright environment – all difficult types of things to isolate. Shots where we would traditionally request mattes from the VFX vender, I was able to it all using the Magic Mask.”
For Ferstl, this feature was significantly more than the normal upgrade that Blackmagic Design provides, and marks the start of this next generation of AI tools.
“It really changes the way I think about color correction,” he says. “By roughly swiping on the object, you’re telling the tool what you want to isolate. Then wherever it spills over, you simply swipe again to reaffirm the areas you don’t want. If there’s an area you want to include that it doesn’t pick up – say her shoulder – you swipe it and continue on.”
This allowed Ferstl to qualify part of a dress or the sky and bring it out using exposure, contrast or saturation and the other tools at his disposal. And he could do it all while interacting with the filmmakers, rather than having to slow the session down or put that work off until later.
Of course, as with all tools that simplify creative work, it’s ultimately the colorist’s eye and sensitivity that makes it work. In the wrong hands, it could be used to push images further away from the filmmakers’ intention and more into the realm of a completely artificial look.
“You have to be able to assess what works and what doesn’t,” Ferstl points out. “Disenchanted is very much about the fine details. The look of hair and costumes and design is very much a part of the essence of the film. So that made it a perfect test case for a tool like Magic Mask.”