Grading Captain Philips

Posted on Nov 12, 2013 by Alex Fice

Tom Hanks in Captain Philips, graded on DaVinci Resolve.

Company 3 London has used DaVinci Resolve for colour grading the film adaptation of Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks.

Four years after it made headlines, the harrowing true life story of American shipping captain Richard Phillips, swept up in a hostage ordeal after Somali pirates hijacked his ship, has been made into a new film by director Paul Greengrass, with Barry Akroyd as the cinematographer. Colour correction was carried out by Company 3’s senior colourist Rob Pizzey.

“Barry has a naturalistic style of shooting and Captain Phillips was no different,” explains Pizzey. “Everything is filmed handheld, so you never have any locked off shots during the film. Because of that, Barry is right on top of the action. You almost feel like a part of the film.”

The challenge during this grade was the film’s climax, which takes place at night. “Most of the climax was actually shot during the day so we had a big job on our hands matching those shots, which were filmed on a variety of formats, with the night footage.”

A month before the DI, Akroyd and Pizzey had the chance to work on the conformed ‘day for night’ scenes, allowing them to start setting the look.

“We worked through the scenes making sure that we could achieve what we wanted and flagged areas where we could do with some help from VFX. DaVinci Resolve’s unlimited nodes and auto tracking capabilities were a big help during Captain Philips big ‘day for night’ scenes.”
— Rob Pizzey

“The camera is always moving because you’re at sea, so the tracking tool was perfect because I could hand draw shapes and then grade within that area. Resolve’s auto tracking would then map to the movement of the camera so we could get on with matching all of the footage. It was also really useful for lining up faces and pulling out eyes. With the auto tracking, you get the shape on there and it maps it all the way through. It really did save me a lot of time.

“Having got it in a pretty good place, we then rendered out the DPX files with the grade baked on and sent them over to the visual effects house, who were able to help us in areas where I’d darkened bits down to help sell the look.”

“When those shots came back into the timeline for the main DI they were 90 per cent final. The main DI was attended by Barry for the first seven days, during which time the pair set the look and mood and graded the climax of the film in full.”


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