Primetime: AMC's <i>The Night Manager</i>
Issue: August 1, 2016

Primetime: AMC's The Night Manager

LONDON — AMC’s six-part series The Night Manager is set across several international locations, including civil war-torn Egypt, the mountains of Switzerland and the Mediterranean island of Mallorca. The show centers on Jonathan Pine (played by Tom Hiddleston), who serves as the night manager of a Cairo hotel. There, he discovers one of his high-profile guests is connected to an international arms dealer. The show also stars Hugh Laurie and Elizabeth Debicki. 

The Night Manager is nominated for 12 Emmys, and underwent numerous post processes at Deluxe’s Encore facility in London, where colorist Jet Omoshebi worked to define a specific look and feel for each international location. The series was directed by Susanne Bier and shot by Michael Snyman using Red cameras. Here, Omoshebi, who is a senior colorist at Encore (, details her work on the program.

How did you get involved in The Night Manager?

“I met up with the director of photography. He’s based in South Africa and he wasn’t going to be around for the grade. We were in the great position of having all six hours of the series. It had been shot with real continuity and real purpose of vision, which you don’t always get. So we had all six episodes to look at before we started. We spent a couple of days looking through the footage and talking, really about the show and about the different locations, and how we could guide the viewer through this story. It’s a complicated story. There are flashbacks, and different time zones, different locations, lots of different characters, and we wanted to find a flavor for every location — every time zone — so the viewer would get a little help in understanding where they were.”

Were you working with the edited show or just raw footage?

“We were lucky to have rough assemblies of all the shows. It was kind of like a rough cut, where we had key scenes of each location.”

What services did Encore provide?

“We did strictly the color grading, the sound and the online effects, but not the visual effects. It’s not a very visual effects-heavy show. Most of it was actually captured in-camera. The DP and director both come from a feature background. I think they brought with them that very sense of scale and building up a story. As storyteller, having six hours to tell a story is such a great luxury. I think the success of the show is that you are with the characters — you get to know them. They are very three dimensional.”

Do you follow a specific process?

“The first thing I do in any job is sit down and try and work out what is in the DOP’s head. What their taste is? What’s important to them? How dark they like things to be? How bright? 

“We talked about texture and colors. There's a lot of night stuff. My client has very specific color for night. He did not like that kind of ‘blue’ night. He liked that green/silvery light. Your initial talk with a DOP is really finding out what is their taste and what is important to them. Then we talked about grain — whether or not we were going to add any grain to add a slightly more filmic look?”

Is that because it was shot using a Red camera?

“That’s right. And, in fact, we did introduce grain over the whole show in the end. We spent three days together looking through the footage and just talking about the emotion he wanted to convey with the pictures…Looking at skin tone. It’s all of those kind of things where you are trying really hard to understand what’s in the head of a DOP, and catch up on all the decisions that were with him and the director before you were involved. The colorist is really last in the chain. Then we decided that we would make all of the locations look very different and have a distinct look.”

In the pilot alone, you have Egypt and Switzerland — two very different places.

“There are a few more — there’s Turkey, Istanbul. A lot of it is in Spain, which is the baddy’s lair. All of them have a very distinct atmosphere. One of the most important things was, we wanted to be in all of those places. It’s kind of like watching a travel show. There’s no point in shooting these beautiful locations if you don’t in some way — even though there are awful things going on — you don’t make the viewer go, ‘Oh man, I kind of want to be there.’”

Did you work in a linear fashion, starting with Episode 1?

“We played with all six episodes in a very rough state and then a couple of months later, I started on Episode 1, and worked all the way through in a linear way. That doesn’t always happen. And I already had a skeleton to work from.”

What were your delivery expectations?

“We didn’t deliver them all at once, but I think we did deliver them all before they went out. We had a very tight delivery because we had to get Episode 1 and 2 ready for the Berlin Film Festival to premiere there. We also made a DCP version for the film festival.”

What tools are you relying on for your color work?

“We use the (Digital Vision) Nucoda Film Master. We also have (Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci) Resolve here, which I also drive. Those happen to be the two systems that we have in-house. I am pretty agnostic when it comes to systems. We find that for TV work, the Nucoda suits our work a little better. We tend to use the Resolve for the DI work we do. That would be in our film theater. You pick the right tool for the job, and for DI, the Resolve seems to work better for us.”

How much time could you spend on each episode?

“We had three days per episode, and then because the DOP wasn’t present, we’d then send out copies to him and to the various executives to watch, and they would give me notes, and I would have a further session to correct [those] notes. Around three or three-and-a-half days per episode.”

Is that enough?

“It’s never enough (laughs)! It was fine. It was enough time. They were not constrained particularly by budget, so I’m sure if I needed more time, we could have got it.”

What kind of feedback are you getting in regards to changes?

“You have to remember that it’s the first time that they’ve seen their show with real color and in proper resolution. Before then, they had probably been looking at an offline copy. They are going to see more than they’ve ever seen. They are going to really start to see that the color — much like a script of words — they need to see that [it's] working, along with the descriptive words. A color script kind of tells a story in the same way as the words do. They are meant to hold hands. And then the sound comes and they have to do the same thing. Their feedback is really making sure that those two things meet — that the emotional beats are in the right place — that we are not too dark and losing expression, or that we are too bright and losing that sense of drama. People have a lot of different ideas about how to make things work. We had one director the whole way through and she was incredibly focused about what she wanted.”

What kind of files were you working with?

“It was a UHD project, so it was captured at 4K and we worked in 4K all the way through the facility. Generally, they are converted to DPX for me and debayered somewhere else, and then I get them. I believe we worked in DPX, so from my memory, things got debayered. Saying that, we have worked directly with the Red files and that works just as well.”

Does the camera choice influence you creatively?

“People ask me quite a lot whether I prefer Red or Alexa, or any other camera system, and I don’t actually. I think what was nice about this being Red was we were able to do different things with it. And I think it looks different. I don’t know if that was one of the choices for using it. I think that it’s important to use different camera systems to get different looks. I don’t know about the States, but in Europe, Alexa is the predominant camera for drama. I think Red got a reputation for being hard to work with. From a post production point of view, it’s not a struggle at all. We are in that nice position now where we all kind of know what we are doing with digital capture and how to post produce it. And I think we now can just use the right tool for the job.”