<I>Everything Everywhere All At Once</I>: Color grading this Oscar favorite
March 13, 2023

Everything Everywhere All At Once: Color grading this Oscar favorite

NEW YORK CITY — A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once was the top winner at the 95th Annual Academy Awards, taking home the Oscars in seven categories, including Best Picture, Directing, Film Editing, Actress in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, and Writing (Original Screenplay). Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (the Daniels), the sci-fi action adventure follows Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese American woman, who saves existence by tapping into her alternate lives from other universes. 

Using Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Studio, Color Collective (www.colorcollective.com) founder and senior colorist Alex Bickel helped create a specific look for each of the different universes that Evelyn experiences within the multiverse.

“We started by building the look for the IRS universe, which carries over into Evelyn’s family life at the laundromat – her main universe,” he explains. “It’s based around Fujifilm print stock. It was important to the Daniels and (DP) Larkin (Seiple) that the challenges Evelyn faces in her normal life felt authentic and that the grade for this universe was grounded in reality. We had to lay a solid, realistic foundation before we could begin making wilder grading choices for the other universes.” 

One of Bickel’s favorite scenes to grade was the family’s Lunar New Year party. Since red is considered the color of good luck and fortune in Chinese culture, it was featured heavily in the scene. 

“Reds were a huge factor in the production and costume design for this scene,” notes Bickel. “Red is hard to represent digitally as it can look electronic quickly, so we dropped the luminance to give the reds an inkier, print-like feeling. The result was successful thanks to three departments coming together: production design, cinematography and color — or post production.”

From drawing inspiration from The NeverEnding Story to create a balanced lo-fi look for the Temple universe, to taking cues from Lifetime movies and leaning into beiges and magentas to create a more delicate look for the Hot Dog Fingers universe, the film required a range of unique looks. 

“The funny thing is, some universes are only a few shots, but they still required a completely distinctive grade,” say Bickel. “We literally had two shots paying homage to The Shawshank Redemption and one shot of a universe that we created a Law & Order look for. Rich skin tones are vital for Larkin, so the one thing that was consistent throughout the universes was keeping the right complexity in skin tones, no matter how hard we were working the rest of the grade.”

While creating the seemingly-infinite number of looks for the film was fun for Bickel, it was also a technical challenge.

“With so many universes, we were constantly switching back and forth, so organization was key,” he explains. “In addition to color, we also incorporated aspect ratio and unique grain/halation characteristics to further delineate each universe. We always decouple our look LUTs from our ODTs, and for films like this with multiple LUTs and aspect ratios, I’ve found Resolve’s adjustment clip workflow to be a huge benefit. We used one adjustment clip for grain, one for the look LUT, another for aspect ratio and a final one for ODT. I liked working this way because it enabled us to have a visual, timeline-based representation of what LUT/grain was being applied to each universe, and it helped us stay organized. It was important to find ways with technology to manage organization, so we could be as creative as possible, and the best way was using adjustment clips.”