The Social Network's Image Experts
Issue: October 1, 2010

The Social Network's Image Experts

HOLLYWOOD — On one of the larger soundstages at Red Studios in Hollywood, Lightiron ( colorist Ian Vertovec is perched on a raised platform about 16 feet in the air at the center of the nearly empty space. He gently moves track balls on the Pablo’s Neo control panel, adjusting the color timing for the David Fincher film The Social Network. On the far wall behind him is a Sony SRX-T420 4K projector. On the front wall is a 40-foot screen with an image from one of the first features shot with Red’s new Mysterium X chip.

“What Lightiron is doing is putting more creative control with the people who are the creatives,” says Lightiron founder/CEO Michael Cioni. “We believe in file-based acquisition because we believe in file-based exhibition. We want to pull all the chains off the limitations of the media.”

Color correction, continues Cioni, is evolving in line with computer technology, expanding its potential and opportunities. The process of color correction can be myopic, he says. You bring in files, do the color correction and then you output the files. “A colorist like Ian Vertovec,” he says, “knows how to use the Pablo, but also understands color science, workflow, computer networking, compositing, conforming and input-output formats. He’s not just a colorist, he’s an ‘imagist,’ an image manipulation expert.

“On this film David (Fincher) speaks so logically about process,” recalls Cioni. “He wanted to capture images, and to have the best catalog of what happened in that moment. David wants to efficiently manage what is captured and to have exclusive control over its manipulation.”

“David had the camera,” says Vertovec, “and loved the look of it. He loved the low-light capabilities.” The MX sensor, he says, turns the Red One into a completely different camera. “The noise in the blacks is almost non-existent unless you are gaining it up extremely.

In a traditional digital intermediate workflow, continues Vertovec, you get an EDL list from the editor, you conform it, color it and deliver it. In the case of The Social Network, conforming was done by editorial. 

“David’s editorial teams have always been one step ahead of everyone else. They do it all internally because they have the competence to do it right. I coordinated with Tyler Nelson on exactly what color space and what gamma curve we wanted to debayer in,” explains Vertovec. “We debayered the files into Red log just to have a good gamma curve that had nice shadow detail and a nice dispersion of bits. He supplied DPX files and I worked on those uncompressed files. All of the Red native, internal color space is done at Rec. 709, so if you want to have the color on screen that was seen on set you should do your creative work in that color space.

He notes, “There was a lot of attention to detail all around” on this movie. “We had a good size team on it doing all sorts of split screens and stabilization. So there was a lot of coordinating between editorial and effects vendors.”

They did not use color correction to do any “relighting” of scenes but, he says amused, “there’s a ton of power windows everywhere.”

The final output is a 2K DCP. “I did the creative space monitoring in linear color space, which is truer to the DCP, “ he says.