<I>Selling Sunset</I>: Creating the rich look of Netflix's Emmy-nominated series
August 11, 2023

Selling Sunset: Creating the rich look of Netflix's Emmy-nominated series

Known for its beautiful imagery and glamour, Selling Sunset recently premiered its sixth season on Netflix. Featuring the daily drama at leading real estate agency The Oppenheim Group, the show features both the Los Angeles market and the luxurious lives of the agents and their affluent buyers.
Produced by Done+Done Productions and Lionsgate for Netflix, Selling Sunset is nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program category. To create the unique look for the show during Season 2, co-executive producer Joe Eckardt of Unbreakable Post and colorist Aleks Ver relied on Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Studio editing, grading, visual effects and audio post production software for a wide range of tasks. Eckardt, who has been with the show since Season 1, wanted to develop a simplified post process. 

“My goal was getting the show finished and delivered without having to go out of house to a third-party vendor,” he explains. “Netflix was incredibly supportive in allowing us to evolve our workflow in how we saw fit for our complex show needs and schedule.”
Once an episode was edited, Eckardt, who also provided online editing, would conform the project in DaVinci Resolve Studio and provide it to Ver for the grading pass. Also involved from Season 1, Ver has evolved the workflow to bring a more advanced and finished look to the show using the grade. 

“The first season was SDR only,” explains Ver. “By the time we got to Seasons 4 and 5, we moved to Dolby Vision HDR, and we built our workflow in Resolve around ACEScct to handle the multiple camera formats we would receive, as well as to create a more efficient IMF delivery process.”
The slick feel of Selling Sunset starts with Ver in the grade. 

“I built a hook shaped curve with 80 percent LUM point and 100 percent LUM roll off, rising up the mid/high part of the image without clipping,” Ver explains. “We are using a fixed node structure that never changes. Every scene has its dedicated group, which allows me and my assistant (Alexandra Makarenko) to ripple color changes quickly across the entire group when we need to make a whole scene warmer/cooler or brighter/dimmer.” 

Ver also uses DaVinci Resolve Studio’s built in Texture Pop OFX to soften the skin in each shot.
The biggest challenges are managing the bright Southern California light. 

“Interviews, drone shots and indoor scenes with bright windows are the most time consuming moments,” Ver continues. “I manage them by compressing the highlights overall, then I use the highlights tool at -100 and a soft luma qualifier to knock down bright objects as needed.”

Once the grading pass is returned to Eckardt, he applies critical shot-by-shot noise reduction. 

“Doing a noise reduction pass on roughly 900 shots per episode is extremely time consuming, but it’s well worth the reward of a completely-polished episode,” adds Eckardt. “It’s what gives the series ultimately its gorgeous, glossy and shiny look, when combined with Alek’s grade, of course.”
Back in online, Ryan Moser, the show’s VFX artist, uses DaVinci Resolve Studio’s Fusion tools for adjustments, such as painting unwanted elements out of a shot.
For both Ver and Eckardt, the reward in the end is the quality of the series and how viewers, including other filmmakers, react to it. 

“One of my favorite moments is when other shows come to us looking for a color grade like Selling Sunset,” says Eckardt. “It’s great knowing that other producers have made note of our work and the quality of the show itself and hope to receive something similar on their projects.”