<I>Miguel Wants to Fight</I>: Color grading the Hulu feature
October 18, 2023

Miguel Wants to Fight: Color grading the Hulu feature

In Hulu’s Miguel Wants to Fight, high school junior Miguel (Tyler Dean Flores) has never found himself in a scrum, despite it being a part of everyday life in his neighborhood. When a combination of events turn his life upside down, Miguel and his three best friends — David (Christian Vunipola), Cass (Imani Lewis) and Srini (Suraj Partha) — enter into a series of funny misadventures as he tries to get into his first fight. The film was directed by Oz Rodriguez.

Nice Shoes’ colorist Marcy Robinson immediately clicked with DP Diana Matos when it came to creating the film’s different looks. Grading with Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Studio, Robinson was tasked with navigating several distinct dream sequences that give nods to classic cinema fight scenes. 

“We had to reproduce fight scenes inspired by The Matrix, Enter the Dragon, Gangs of London and Shogun Assassin, with a dapple of inspiration from anime and music videos,” Matos explains. “We didn’t have the budget to match every format shot on these productions, so we had to shoot digitally using spherical lenses while maintaining the intention of these films.”

“For these dream sequences in which Miguel gets into fights, we created different, very specific stylized looks that referenced each of these classic films,” adds Robinson. “All of them have heavily manipulated color, and we used a lot of Resolve’s tools, stacked on top of each other. I kept just pushing, stretching and stacking the tools. Several times I scratched and reworked grades and entire scenes until I felt we were as close as we could be. Usually, I'll generally use printer lights, a bit of contrast and a few masks here and there, but in these cases, there were lots of masks, several layers of saturation and what I'd normally think were unnatural hue shifts. I had to break some of my own rules, which have to do with working fairly simply and not doing anything that I couldn't essentially do chemically, meaning like in the darkroom.”

Robinson says there’s a grittiness to Matos’ work that she really appreciates. 

“She likes things that are not too clean, and we’re on the same page there,” says the colorist. “I like to let different types of light steer things a bit, while too often people are trying to neutralize and sanitize everything. In the boxing gym, for example, we totally leaned into the fluorescent lights. It’s much more fun to embrace the contamination – dirty greens and yellows – in order to emphasize what’s there, rather than to fight against it by pulling out all the character. It’s beautiful and ultimately much more dynamic.”

For Robinson, there’s one word that comes to mind when thinking about her work on the film: fun.

“Miguel Wants to Fight is fun from a color perspective, as it’s very dynamic, and in addition to the distinct looks of the dream fight scenes sprinkled throughout, the ‘real world’ is also quite varied and stylized,” she notes. “Some of the colors are really saturated and poppy, like reds and greens, which are a theme throughout the film. On top of that, there are just so many cool rooms, locations, lighting situations and palettes. We were always leaning toward warmth, and everything was intentional with the goal being to create a heightened feeling without being gimmicky. It added a nice fantasy element.” 

Robinson says she enjoys working with Matos because she is very clear about what she wants, and is great about explaining it. 

“The amount of thought, hard work, care and talent she puts into everything is impressive,” says Robinson. “And then being aesthetically aligned makes collaborating with her super fun and satisfying.”