Think Wes Anderson and what comes to mind?

The auteur is renowned for his long tracking shots, recurring actors, quirky dialogue with deadpan delivery, visual symmetry and perhaps most obvious of all, his fondness for intricate patterns, pastel shades and highly saturated contrasting colours.

“Anderson’s colour palettes are integral to his cinematic world-building,” comments artist and Wes Anderson enthusiast Hamish Robertson.

“His eye for art direction and fantastic attention to detail creates the appropriate space and tone for his characters to exist in – and for the viewer to lose themselves in. They ultimately become their own visual language, the way character themes are elaborated in cinematic scores, allowing an immersive visual experience whether the sound is on or not.”

To help develop that signature look for The Grand Budapest Hotel, the director turned to colorist Jill Bogdanowicz, supervising digital colorist at Modern VideoFilm, who colour graded
the film using Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve.

“Working with Wes was a collaborative, creative and experimental process,” Jill reflects. “Wes was very specific with the looks he wanted, from using colour to help differentiate time periods down to wanting a certain light bulb to be brighter.

“Wes is very visual and known for his use of colour, so it was fun to collaborate and create different looks,” she continues. “There were three time periods in the film, each with its own aspect ratio and look. Within those time periods, we experimented with many ideas, pushing and pulling the colour in different directions.”

The film takes place in the 1930s, 1960s and 1980s.

Jill used Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve to help enhance each time period’s look while maintaining the production value of the footage.

“The 30s had a 4:3 aspect ratio with light pinks and deep reds and purples,” Jill explains.

“The 60s had an anamorphic look with pronounced yellows, golds and greens, a more saturated and richer look than the 30s. The 80s had a traditional look with neutral colours. The different colour palettes we developed really helped enhance and differentiate the time periods.

“We even experimented with a Photochrom look for the opening of the film,” she continues.

“Wes sent me Photochrom prints from the Library of Congress and I experimented by combining keys in DaVinci Resolve to create the colours. I even worked with my dad, Mitchell Bogdanowicz, who is a freelance colour scientist. He created a library of Photochrom looks in the form of a 3D LUT.

In one scene Jill was tasked with making it look like flashlights were lighting the scene, when in reality the scene was shot with much more light.

By drawing Power Windows in conjunction with alpha channel mattes coming from VFX, Jill was able to pinpoint the light source on the flashlights, creating a darker scene illuminated only by flashlights.

“I used layered alpha channel mattes from VFX along with Power Windows for the day-for-night looks,” she explains.

“There was one specific scene in a tram car that was shot in an overcast light, and it took a lot of alpha channel mattes, keys and fine-tuning of colour to make it look like dusk. There was also a lot of work that went into finessing the reflections in the windows from people walking by and making the light bulbs outside the windows glow so it looked as if they were on at night.

“For this detailed work, I drew Power Windows around the faces and light bulbs, which allowed me to isolate them. DaVinci Resolve’s tracker was key to making sure the Power Windows were imperceptible and very natural and the tracker made them stay put. I couldn’t have made any of those fine-tuned looks without being able to track them correctly. DaVinci Resolve helped me deliver creatively and efficiently, which was helpful in making the most of my time with Wes in London.”

Jill did the majority of the colour work in Los Angeles but spent several weeks working alongside Wes in London throughout the grading process.

Though the days spent working in London were full 10-hour days, they were fast-paced, as the team sought to get as much done as possible.

“I made four trips to London over the course of a year, so the overall timeline wasn’t too bad, but when working in London, it was intense,” Jill admits. “I was lucky to have a strong team and my engineer would arrive a day early, set everything up and we were ready to go.

“There was no time to wait, which is why I chose DaVinci Resolve. It’s so fast that no time was spent rendering, making it a seamless process. We were processing live, throwing alpha channels and Power Windows on something or running shots with 20 layers, and DaVinci Resolve didn’t slow down at all.

“Directors already have a lot on their plate and they don’t have time to stop and wait, so I always want to make colour super easy and efficient. DaVinci Resolve’s speed, toolset, flexibility and overall power of what you can do really helped me deliver on Wes’ vision for The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

 

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