CREATING A 70’s VIBE WITH DIGITAL TOOLS FOR TRAVIS FINE’S “ANY DAY NOW”

| 11/19/2012 | 0 Comments

With over seven audience awards and several acting laurels for star Alan Cumming, Travis Fine’s new film Any Day Now hits theaters December 14th in select cities. Set in 1979, Alan Cumming and his new boyfriend, an attorney played by Garret Dillahunt, struggle to become the legal guardian of a neglected down syndrome child from the building. The film has been hailed for its compelling, nuanced performances and timely treatment of social issues we still face today.

This is Local Hero’s second DI with director Fine after 2010’s The Space Between.  Shot on Red MX, the film took advantage of the efficiencies provided by digital cinema, yet wanted to maintain a lo-fi, grainy film vibe that we’re used to when we think of the 70’s era in cinema. Colorist Leandro Marini put Assimilate’s Scratch system through its paces to handle all of the needs of the film, at a budget the production could afford.

Footage shot in the Raw Red format is continually the beneficiary of updated color science as its released from the camera’s manufacturer.  Using the second generation color science (which has since been upgraded yet again), Local Hero graded the film in linear HD color space, to keep costs in line for a film yet to enter the competitive festival circuit.

The challenge of the film was to evoke a sense of the era.  The story takes place in the 1970s, a decade where we also had powerful dramatic films with a specific look, such as Dog Day Afternoon.  As with any production, the heavy lifting in the creation of look is done onset.  DP Rachel Morrison took the edge off the RED’s sharpness by choosing old uncoated ultra-prime lenses that were actually made in the 70’s, then worked with production design and wardrobe departments to ensure a cohesive look was achieved.

Working with colorist Leandro Marini, the filmmakers carried the look the rest of the way in the DI suite.  Marini developed a specific process in which the blacks were crushed and then lifted, in order to give the images the low-contrast look of films from the time.  The film maintained a stark contrast between the colorful, saturated world of Alan Cummings’s character’s job as a nightclub performer, versus the desaturated, sepia outside world that harshly judges his lifestyle.

The all-digital pipeline at Local Hero includes not only color and mastering, but advanced editorial conform and visual clean-up as well.  Any Day Now included several editorial tricks, such as split screens (of hand-held footage) where the left and right sides were re-aligned for dramatic purposes. Also, fixing production problems with hair and make-up or imperfections in the set design are able to be cleaned up quickly right inside the DI suite, or a quick round trip to a VFX room.

To further transform the ultra-clean 4K Raw camera source into the 70’s look, after the grade was complete, Marini took the entire film and rendered a version with simulated film grain, which was then dialed in very precisely in the highs and lows to keep it subtle as to not detract from the story.

This is a process that is often the opposite of cinema trends today.  The influence of digital cinematography has become the new norm, and even movies originated on 35mm film are going through a grain-removal process to mimic the cleanliness of digital.  But the power of digital finishing allows a filmmaker to achieve nearly any look they desire in the DI suite.

The addition of grain adds a number of questions to the mastering process. Local Hero made a master of both the “grained” version of the film, which would be used to create the DCP, Blu-ray and broadcast masters, as well as a “clean” version of the film that could be used to print to 35mm film for a traditional theatrical release. These are considerations to think through as you are mapping out how a look for your film affects the finishing budget.

Projects come and go through a post production facility, but occasionally a film will inspire us with its quality and powerful storytelling.  Any Day Now is certainly one of those. We recommend you get out to see it.

Photos Courtesy of: PFM Pictures

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