Dressmaker colourist reveals post secrets

09 October, 2015 by Brian Karlovsky

Dungatar locals look at Molly Dunnage's house on the hill in The Dressmaker.

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Colourist Trish Cahill has revealed the key post production processes in the making of new Australian film The Dressmaker ahead of its October 29 release.

Based on the book by Rosalie Ham, The Dressmaker takes place in the 1950s and follows Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage (Kate Winslet) as she returns to her hometown to take care of her ill mother, Molly (Judy Davis). 

She left the town at the age of ten because of accusations of murder. 

Tilly, now an expert dressmaker, transforms the locals with her couture and in the process, exacts revenge on the people who betrayed her all those years ago.

The film is produced by Sue Maslin, directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and also stars Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving and Sarah Snook.

The Dressmaker was graded using DaVinci Resolve Studio by Cahill in Melbourne and Sydney at post production facility Soundfirm. 

Cahill said the look of the film needed to be true to the dry Australian landscape it was set in. 

"But it also needed to remain rich and beautiful," she said. 

"Don McAlpine is a master cinematographer, so as you can imagine, the film came to me with wonderful meat and bones already.

”After the initial balance was in place, we looked for little things to enhance each frame, such as a chop at the top of frame here or an extra bit of sunshine on a patch of grass there.” 

Cahill said the film gaver her the opportunity to experiment a little with the memory scenes, where Kate Winslet’s character remembers moments from her childhood, which needed to look different from the present. 

"We ended up with a moody contrast look with a desaturated, ashy palette. 

"Wherever we had skies and silhouette trees we graded, keyed and dropped the mids. There was definitely a focus on the environment.”

In one day for night shot, the camera is on a dolly moving towards a silo.

Trish was tasked with retaining the camera movement while creating a starry nighttime sky. 

“It fell into place very quickly using Resolve’s super fast tracker for grades and the intuitive keyer to control the various areas of the image,” Cahill said. 

“The very next shot is the two main characters gazing up at the stars and talking about the night sky, and the shot needed stars. 

She made numerous one pixel windows with a slight blur and lots of brightness and started moving them all over the place.

"Occasionally making some brighter than others to recreate the randomness of a starry sky," she said. 

"The consensus in the room judging on a still frame was that it worked well.” 

However, once the scene was played back, the stars needed more integration into the shot as the camera dollied forward. 

“Luckily for us, Resolve's shape tracker and stabilising tools are fantastic, so one run through at real time with default settings on the stabiliser tool and bam! 

"DaVinci Resolve made the stars sit perfectly into the night sky without any loss of our wonderful dolly effect,” said Trish.

DaVinci Resolve Studio’s tracker also proved beneficial when protecting the performances and subtlety of the actors’ eyes and faces while maintaining the rich and tonal look for the film. 

Cahill said the film had gorgeous actors with beautiful blue eyes, which were sometimes a challenge to maintain in warmly lit scenes. 

“To be able to go through the film and highlight the moments and selective colors we needed and yet keep the frame rich, vivid and inviting on a whole was a case of having our cake and eating it too.”

The shape tracker allows for a colorist to keep the match and the beauty of a scene and also keep the performance and draw subtle attention to the moments that enhance the film. 

Without tool, you would have to keep a very strict priorities list of what could be achieved in the timeframe, Cahill said. 

"Now I find myself leaping into the tough stuff without hesitation and without having to do mental calculations as to whether this will blow out the schedule.” 

DaVinci Resolve Studio was also used for the online edit of the film at Soundfirm, which has a number of Resolve Studio suites in both its Melbourne and Sydney facilities. A

Soundfirm imaging supervisor, Jonathan Burton, said the flexibility of the system really allowed for it to form the backbone of the DI post workflow.

"Especially given that the production wanted to retain the 4K RAW files all the way to the final mastering of the film,” he said.

“Resolve was used as the primary conform tool at Soundfirm Melbourne where the offline edit of the film was also done. 

He said there was a big advantage in being able to conform the film as the edit progressed. 

"Allowing the production to go between the online and offline versions of the cut and ultimately reflect any minor edit tweaks until the final picture lock off," he said. 

Resolve was next used to handle all of the VFX I/O, creating deliveries to go to the VFX team along with temp grades, reviews and returns of VFX finals to go back into the online. 

Burton the final conformed Resolve projects were then sent up to the grading theatre at Fox Studios in Sydney, and DaVinci Resolve’s Consolidate Clips tool was used to move all the media and manage the transition between facilities.

“Overall the integration of DaVinci Resolve between Soundfirm's multiple facilities allowed us to manage the complexities of the workflow in the simplest and most effective post pathway.”

"Purely as a grading tool Resolve is fantastic and a top choice by colorists the world over, but from the point of view of a post house, the ability to use the same system across multiple facilities for everything in the DI path is a very powerful asset.“

 

 

 

 

 

 

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