Check It Tribeca Premiere

Last Month I was fortunate enough to work on the documentary Film, "Check It", directed by Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer, executive produced by Wren Arthur, Steve Buscemi, and Stanley Tucci. Check it is follows the story of four LGBT gang members in Washington, D.C.

At first glance, they seem unlikely gang-bangers. Some of the boys wear lipstick and mascara, some stilettos. They carry Louis Vuitton bags – but they also carry knives, brass knuckles and mace. They’re known on the streets as the Check It – an African-American gang struggling to survive in some of the most violent neighborhoods of Washington DC. As vulnerable gay and transgender youth, they’ve been shot, stabbed, and raped. Once victims, they’ve now turned the tables, and they’re fighting back. Started in 2005 by a group of bulled 9th graders, today these 14-22 year old gang members all have long rap sheets riddled with various street crimes and many have done time in jail.
Check It poster

Check It poster

Because this was a documentary that took place over several years, the footage was a mix bag of different cameras and lighting environments. Early on we decided not to do a typical "doc" style color correct, but instead gave the film a hyper real saturated look exaggerating the colors of tobacco and turquoise. 

Tribeca Premiere with Steve Buscemi, Dana Flor, and Toby Oppenheimer

Tribeca Premiere with Steve Buscemi, Dana Flor, and Toby Oppenheimer

One of my favorite things about coloring is when I can finally get out of my color suite and into a theatre with an actual audience. The Tribeca premiere was great, and it's always fun to screen something you have been working on in front of a large audience. Being a freelance colorist in NYC always means working on interesting jobs, and I look forward to what other fun projects 2016 will bring!

Making The Grade: Steve Buscemi / Michael Shannon Edition

On my reel you can see a lot of the "before/afters" of color grades that I have done…but what exactly goes into creating a look in a color session? In this post, I will attempt to show what's "behind the curtain" for a basic grade that I came up with for Steve Buscemi's new show Park Bench. If your a colorist yourself, hopefully these posts can help you become the best Davinci colorist you can be!

This show was shot on the Canon C300 and the raw files look very flat and bland. Below is the raw uncolor corrected media:

Boring, dull, un-colored media.

Boring, dull, un-colored media.

And here is the after:

Now that pops!

Now that pops!

To create this look, I came up with a simple 5-node color grade. Below is the order of my nodes:

5-node color correction

5-node color correction

1. Primary color correction. I do a basic contrast/saturation fix. If the shot had an incorrect color cast to it (too yellow for example) I would adjust it here. 

Primary grade

Primary grade

2. Skin-tone warmup. I isolated the skin tone by pulling a qualifier on the characters skin and I pushed the highlights towards orange/red to give the skin a nice wash of color. I increase the saturation.

Skintones are keyed and then saturated

Skintones are keyed and then saturated

Close up detail of skin tone qualifier

Close up detail of skin tone qualifier

3. Shadow cool down. I isolate the shadows and things with low saturation (like the hoodies and the jackets) and I push the shadows (blacks) towards blue.

Shadow isolation

Shadow isolation

4.  Primary out.  I do another primary color correction to fix any contrast and saturation that might have shifted after I did nodes 2 and 3. From here the look is pretty much set.

5. Vignette. I put a vignette on the shot to focus your eye towards Michael Shannon's character in the middle of the screen.


And that is basically it! Next time you watch a TV show or movie and wonder "Are Leonardo DiCaprio's eyes really that blue?" "Is Brad Pitt really that tan?" you will realize that there was a colorist behind the scenes in a dark room enhancing everything you see. Check back soon for another Making The Grade, and to see this episode of Park Bench, check out the video below:

Bonus: check out this "behind the scenes" photo that Steve Buscemi took of me while I was coloring:

Color grading on the Davinci Resolve Panel

Color grading on the Davinci Resolve Panel