Outlook 2018: HDR - A creative storyteller's dream
Issue: January 1, 2018

Outlook 2018: HDR - A creative storyteller's dream

Lenny Mastrandrea is the Senior Colorist/Head of Color at Nice Shoes (http://www.niceshoes.com) in New York City. Nicknamed “The Maestro,” Mastrandrea has a passion for discovering the potential within raw material, seeing each collaboration as a unique opportunity for exploration. He has collaborated with agencies to highlight the strength and power of both cars and athletes across a number of successful athletic apparel and automotive campaigns, and to showcase beauty and appeal for top fashion and food brands. Outside of advertising, he has worked with a number of top directors on projects for Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and most recently, on the award-winning independent feature film, Rockaway.

STRENGTHS: “A lot of the focus has been around UHD, but it’s only a step up from HD, signifying a higher resolution. HDR, however, is a creative storyteller’s dream. It combines a higher resolution with a color space that is immensely larger than what we currently see at home. We’ve been seeing a visual trend develop in television, movies and now advertising, where artists are playing with stronger, more dramatic color palettes — look at Guardians of the Galaxy, John Wick, Atomic Blonde and series like Master of None. There’s a lot more color in the art direction and cinematography of this content, and HDR gives colorists the opportunity to create more separation and contrast, highlighting the work that has gone into telling stories through color.

“Adoption of the format has picked up momentum. Streaming players Amazon and Netflix are already making HDR content available, and Apple has just recently made 4K HDR versions of films available to their users at no extra cost (once they’ve upgraded to a 4K capable Apple TV). Studios with experienced colorists and finishing artists that have invested in developing 4K and HDR workflows will be in a strong position as consumer and client demand for this high-quality visual content grows.”

WEAKNESSES: “There’s more competition than ever before, and budgets are shrinking. Evolving technology and the saturation of social media have led to a demand for more content for less money. None of this is new.  Any weakness within the industry lies with studios and artists that haven’t evolved to meet the changes and have expected to continue to do business the same way they did 10 years ago, five years ago or even a year ago.”

OPPORTUNITIES: “Not only has the quality of our televisions improved, but also our phones. VR headsets will take a giant leap in the next few years.  As we’ve seen with social media, soon it will no longer be enough to create ‘good enough’ content on these platforms. From my perspective, a good colorist will be a key collaborator to aid directors and creative directors to enhance the story in worlds that envelop the viewer. To keep viewers immersed in the world, VR and 360 content will need to be crafted and delivered with a high level of artistry.

“As I mentioned before, HDR also represents a huge opportunity, both from an artist’s perspective and a business perspective. There’s the chance to exercise more creativity, but there’s also the need to deliver extremely high-quality content, which will be best executed by a post house and artist that have invested money and time in developing a workflow and eye for color grading in this format.

“A short I did for Digitas’s New Fronts presentation is a beautiful and funny film called The Caveman and The Astronaut. There are beautiful colors at play and had we finished the film in HDR, we could have pushed them just a bit more. The same goes for a piece I did for Puma promoting their collaboration with the designer Jahnkoy. There’s a lot of detail in the clothing and accessories in this film and, with HDR, you can help that all stand out more. 

“Across a number of advertising genres — beauty, food, pharmaceuticals — there are going to be opportunities for agencies and brands to make their products stand out more. The opportunity for post production studios and artists, especially colorists, is to be a partner in guiding them through the nuances of delivering content in this format.”

THREATS: “As new platforms emerge, there’s a tendency to deliver content at a level that’s ‘good enough,’ and that can result in relying on generalists working across all post production skillsets. That lowers the bar and lowers expectations representing a threat to expert artists. The creative collaboration that arises from creatives, directors, editors and colorists bouncing ideas off of each other is lost when hitting a lower budget takes priority over creativity.

“That’s not a knock against people who have been able to enter our field sooner, but I would encourage them to find talented collaborators rather than try to take on whole projects by themselves, otherwise they contribute to the ever-deepening ‘race to the bottom.’”

OUTLOOK 2018: “In short, I’m optimistic. Whereas the trend in the past was that new technologies created more competition, I feel like adoption of HDR and VR is going to help experienced artists stand out as experts.”