Coloring 'Best Picture' winner <i>Moonlight</i>
Issue: March 1, 2017

Coloring 'Best Picture' winner Moonlight

NEW YORK — Alex Bickel, the co-founder and senior colorist at Color Collective (,served as the final colorist on the Academy Award-winning film, Moonlight. Directed by Barry Jenkins, the movie took home the Best Picture honors, as well as the award for Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Moonlight looks at different stages in the life of Chiron, a young black man, who experiences physical and emotional abuse while growing up in Miami.

“Work on the look for the film began during pre-production,” recalls Bickel. “(DP) James Laxton and (director) Barry Jenkins were adamant, even in those early days, that the film’s cinematography transport the audience into what Miami felt like in Barry’s memory. Although many locations and scenes depict the harsh realities of going up poor, in difficult circumstances, it was vital to Barry to show all the beauty that surrounds those same moments in his memory.”

Bickel used the color process to tease the vibrant hues in the city’s palm trees, create a strong contrast in drug-dealer Juan’s car, and bring out a rainbow of rich beautiful skin tones in the feature’s main cast. The film was graded using Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve V.12 running on a Linux system. Bickel used the Resolve Control Surface to perform the grade.

“Barry’s vision for Miami was to show the cinematic beauty that exists, even in darkest places,” notes the colorist. "Moonlight is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of film. Barry and James walked into the grading suite with a desire to push the limits and force me outside of my comfort zone. It’s always great as a colorist when your collaborators challenge you to go too far. In many cases, too far wasn’t far enough.”

Bickel says he is very proud of this film, not only for the way it looks, but for it's message of inclusivity and love. “I hope that the Best Picture win will intrigue more people, who maybe never thought they’d go see a movie like this, to see the film and feel the love."