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Rivalry on the Ice
Grading VFX Heavy Spots with Boston's Finish Post For Epix's 'Road To The Winter Classic'
There is almost no rivalry in professional sports that matches the intensity of one in the National Hockey League. It is not just team against team, but city against city competing against each other in rivalries that have been passed down through generations. 

Which is one of the reasons why the Winter Classic has become a huge success. Every year, the NHL highlights hockey the way it used to be played: Outside, open to the elements, and in front of thousands of screaming fans. All while featuring teams that have forged generations of bitter rivals.  One of these heated rivalries is between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins.  These two teams are members of the "Original Six", the first professional hockey teams in the NHL, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. 



These two teams recently met outside at the Winter Classic on January 1st, 2016 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts to settle their differences.


To cover the build up to the Winter Classic, premium TV network EPIX aired "Road to the NHL Winter Classic." The series included four one hour episodes that went behind the scenes and focused on the rivalry between the Bruins and the Canadiens.  All episodes streamed worldwide on EPIX.com and NHL.com.


Fans of both teams exist all over the world, and getting the word out to them about the show had to be done right. This included the creation of several TV spots and promos running through November and December. Each doing their best to capture the essence, grit, and determination of both teams while celebrating the icy, raw game itself.  To accomplish this, EPIX turned to Boston's Finish Post for the color grading of the spots and promos.  Finish Post utilized Blackmagic Design's professional editing and color correction software, DaVinci Resolve, to achieve the desired look and feel.


Grading VFX Shots
Finish Post's senior colorist, Rob Bessette, a hockey player himself, is no stranger to the rivalry between the Canadians and the Bruins. He was well aware of the anticipation and hype surrounding the Winter Classic.  "I tried my best to replicate the buzz that was running through city," says Rob. "Everyone was really excited about it.  I felt it important to give the spots a look that would help evoke that feeling."  Rob is no stranger to DaVinci Resolve, having graded hundreds of national spots, television shows, and feature films on the software while using the DaVinci Control Surface.

"The look we were going for was very rough, gritty, and cool.  We sharpened some faces, desaturated the overbearing colors, and added a blue tinge to the blacks that really helped us accomplish the desired look." explained Rob.


 
According to Rob, one of the most challenging parts of the color process was integrating the background plates with the foreground talent.  Every shot had at least one VFX element that helped place the players in the outside rink location.  In actuality the players were filmed at their practice facilities in Montreal and Boston.

 

"We had a discussion beforehand with the production and VFX teams on how to approach this job knowing what the final deliverables would be." said Rob.  "As long as I was provided a fairly representational background plate and a rotoscoped foreground layer I could easily combine the two in order to see the players in the environment in which they were intended to be graded.  Without using external mattes it would have been extremely difficult to grade consistently across the spot since it had such a unique look.  Resolve easily handled the mattes and if we needed to tweak them or make any subtle adjustments all that functionality was built into the software.  It was a great project to work on, and I was very happy with the results."



About Rob Bessette and Finish Post
Rob Bessette is the senior colorist at Finish Post in Boston. He has been working non-stop for over ten years helping his clients visions come to life on the large and small screen. His clients include brands such as Toyota, Sam Adams, McDonalds and Subway.

Finish Post Boston is a full service postproduction facility in Boston that can handle everything including offline and online editorial, vfx, color grading, digital cinema packages, and film scanning. Finish Post is a division of The Soundtrack Group, which has been in business since 1978, and has more than 80 employees and approximately 27,000 square feet of editorial/production/sound space in their Boston and New York locations.

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