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A Winning Vision for Cannes Film Festival
Arguably the most significant film event of the calendar, Cannes is the festival that bought us films such as Pulp Fiction and Brief Encounter. This year, Cannes boasts films in Competition from directors including Wes Anderson, Ken Loach and David Cronenberg.
Running alongside the festival is Directors' Fortnight; an independent showcase created by the French Directors Guild showcasing a program of shorts and feature films, as well as documentaries from all around the world. Over the year's, directors, including Werner Herzog, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and even Martin Scorsese, have all featured their work here.
Numerous British talents were on show this year including Fyzal Boulifa who premiered his short The Curse, which was produced by Gavin Humphries of Quark Films and Karim Debbagh. Co financed by Film4 and the British Film Institute (BFI) and, The Curse won the Premier Prix Illy for Short Filmmaking at this year's Directors Fortnight.
Shot in the desolate Moroccan countryside, the film centres on the struggles of a young woman, Fatine, who is hounded by villagers after she is discovered to have had an affair with an older man. Colorist Jason R Moffat explains how he achieved the films distinct look.
A compatible vision
Colorist Jason R Moffat was brought in to handle the grading of The Curse following a recommendation by the film's Director of Photography (DOP), Taina Galis, to producer Gavin Humphries from Quark Films. "Taina and I have a very compatible vision of aesthetic, so it great to work with her again," recalls Jason.
"I loved this project from the outset. Shot in Morocco, the film relied on non actors auditioned in the surrounding villages they were filming in. Something of a Fyzal Boulifa trademark, this approach gave the film a real unique feel."
"Myself, Taina and Fyzal met initially to go over the film's visual arc. There were specific ideas of how the pallet needed to be treated. The sky in particular had to be a soft powder blue in the early part of the film so as to compliment the hot desert ochre's. The arc then shifts to a more natural middle section and then again into something more effected at the films end."
"The idea was to keep these transitions subtle, and so the story was designed in such a way that the these shifts felt and looked natural."
"The film is quite dark in nature, but the setting is one of natural beauty, and so it was very important that the grade made the most of the films surroundings without taking away any of the drama," said Moffat.
"So although we wanted to make a show of the colors, it was important that the characters took center stage. This was largely taken care with the framing in camera, and then within the grade I used the pallets of the surrounding landscape and sky to create a subtle separation between the characters and their surroundings."
"The film was shot primarily on 16mm Fuji Eterna 400T 8683, which during tests Taina Galis found to be the gentlest on skin tones. It also had a lower contrast ratio when compared to newer stocks," continued Moffat.
Ultimately, 16mm was chosen over 35mm as it allowed for longer takes with the child non actors, who feature extensively throughout the film. The negatives were then scanned as 2k Log and the final visible picture aspect ration was 1:66:1.
"The good quality of the captured image meant that there were no particularly problematic areas in the source, which allowed us a fair amount of flexibility, always a welcome situation. However, the relationship between the characters and their surrounding's during the film's opening required a fair amount of testing to get the look just right."
"We didn't want the sky to be the same color in each shot, at every angle, as that would have looked fake. It was about creating a feeling of a 360 degree landscape and keeping the viewer focused on where the camera was pointing in relation to the sun in such a barren landscape, while still having the feeling of continuity."
Given that not all of the film was shot at the same time of the day, Jason also had to manipulate some of the footage to get all the shots into line with one another.
A winning formula
The grade was carried out in Jason's London based grading Studio using Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve. "Built with growth in mind, my DaVinci Resolve grading studio includes Blackmagic Design's UltraScope, CalDigit HDPro Raid allowing Realtime 2k playback and a Penta HD2Line Pro 32 inch grading display with 4:4:4 dual link."
"Since working for myself I've been using Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve. It was an obvious choice for me as it's a robust, powerful system that I was able to set up for a comparably modest budget when compared with alternatives. It is GPU scalable and has multi operating system support too, which is a big bonus for the gradual expansion of the suite."
"Apart from the scalable aspect of Resolve, the tools I routinely use day to day include the ability to use multiple LUTs in one project, something which features a lot in how I work. Aside from the aesthetic advantages of multiple LUT usage, it allows me to mix Linear and LOG footage without any pre processing.
"Furthermore, the use of multiple tracks allows me to preview VFX variations and numerous other tasks such as adding scanned film grain to give some sources more bite."
"I can have the film grain in conjunction with an alpha selection overlaid using a transfer mode on shot footage, allowing me to control the level of grain, all real time, with sound, which is very impressive. It's fast becoming standard to 'have it all' during a grade," he finished.
Since picking up the accolade at Directors Fortnight, The Curse has also achieved further recognition having been awarded Best Film at the FujiFilm Shorts 2012 competition.