UK Colourists Want Their Say On New Cameras With Newly Formed DCA

Posted on Jan 21, 2014 by Alex Fice

Sky Drama’s new Fleming was tested with Arri Alexa and the RED Epic. RED won as it’s colours suited the 1940s era.

DCA (Digital Colour Association) is a new group made up of Colourists, Digital Image Technicians, Colour scientists and a couple of editors. Asa Shoul, a senior colourist at Molinare in London has been one of the founders of the group, “The idea was basically with the advent of more digital cameras and the need for on-set monitoring or LUTs that we all try and get together to try and share some information and find some common ground. It is quite tricky as we’re all from different companies – no one wants to give away their trade secrets. The basic idea is to make sure, for colourists, what arrives in their suite is of the best possible resolution and colour space and exposure. We want to help DITs and DoPs to actually see what they’re getting rather than the present case which is a little bit of a ‘suck and see’ scenario. Every production we work on people seem to be re-inventing the wheel as far as LUTs and how they monitor. The other reason we set-up was to try and have a voice for colourists and also to try and become a bit of a pressure group for things like silver screens in cinema which the French managed to get rid of. I’ve talked to a lot of Head Projectionists about trying to get 2D films shown on 2D screens and not 3D silver screens. They all felt that they were under pressure after films like Avatar and now possibly Gravity to throw as many silver screens in as possible and not bother with a 2D screen on a roller.

“Also to work with the BSC and Director’s Guild, actually they’ve just managed to get Super 16 re-approved by the BBC which is fantastic. Whether there is a enough Super 16 film around I don’t know, it might be a bit late.

“But It’s really been formed (the DCA) to try and help everyone to come together and work their way through this plethora of new formats, colour spaces and viewing conditions because basically in the last three years all the colourists I’ve spoken to have just moaned more and more about the condition of the images that are hitting their suites.

“DoPs have not been given enough time to test, to try things out, to compare, to bracket exposures. Some of them do, some don’t. The ones that do and that we work with and build LUTs for go away very happy and come back with a fantastic image for us to work on. We’ve just worked on a new four part series for Sky Drama called Fleming which is out soon where we tested RED and Alexa. We went for RED which was quite surprising for us but for the 1940s period it looked better, it got the colours right. But An Adventure In Space And Time with that DP he came in and we were doing tests for clothes and make-up but we also got in the designer to look at paints, colours and everything that they’d shot. He said that in the old days when they had a different film stock you’d test your swatches, your paints, your clothes and you would change your decision on what you were going to use because of how that stock reacted. He said that he’d never been invited in since digital cameras have come about. It’s important because a purple hat might come up blue, a green snooker table might be a different colour.

“I think that’s the problem, it’s like a new film stock and very few people are given the opportunity to really test it properly.

The move to 4k is really interesting, the move to a higher resolution but use older glass, Russian anamorphic lenses and things like that. They don’t want things to look over sharp or over digital and it’s a great combination. I’ve got a 4K feature film going through called Ex Machina which is going to be a 2k delivery but was shot with Sony’s f65 in 4k but they’re taking a 2880 extraction from the middle. The studios want 4k now so we can archive it in 4k for future releases.

“When DITs get it right it’s invaluable, it’s really great, not that they get it wrong but when other people start re-inventing the  wheel and say ‘I’ve got this LUT, use this on-set’, or the dailies people  do something wrong it’s an absolute minefield. There was a classic case in a movie production where the colourist was kind of having a bit of a fun grade and kept forgetting to put the LUT on so making it too bright. The DoP was walking over occasionally and looking at the monitor and thinking it was too bright and then under exposing. So from shot to shot and take to take when they finally came to grade it and deliver VFX plates it was all over the place. It was basically them chasing each other and things were getting darker and darker. That’s the big danger, almost unusable footage.

“Marvel, when they shoot their films now are absolutely married to Alexas. They have one LUT that you have to use on-set. They have absolutely nailed down their pipeline. It might not be the best one and it’s certainly not other people’s.

“4K doesn’t really affect us as we are set up for it, all we need is a 4k projector which we’ll get next year. It’s just storage and rendering time. In fact we recently graded Belle which is a 4k movie and graded in 4k and that didn’t impact on grading time at all.”


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