Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve was used at Deluxe Creative Services’ Company 3 by colourist Stephen Nakamura to grade 20th Century Fox’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, directed by Ridley Scott.
The overall look of Exodus: Gods and Kings is a departure from what audiences normally associate with an epic Bible film, explained Nakamura. “The idea is that you’re watching these epic battles and the seas parting, but it’s not the same kind of movie as The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur. It’s designed to feel more realistic.”
“When you’re working at 3.5 fL, you need to globally pull everything up to get the midtones and shadows feeling like they’re in the right place to look as much as possible like the 2D version,” Nakamura explained. “But when you do what’s necessary to get the midtones and shadows in the right place you can start to clip the highlights. So then you need to isolate those areas of the frame that clip and pull them back down. This can be a time consuming process where you draw Power Windows and build highlight keys or other tools to isolate the highlights and manipulate them without affecting the midtones and shadows.” The Highlight and Shadows tool on DaVinci Resolve 11’s Color Match Pallet was used, letting Nakamura bring the highlights into the range for 3.5 fL display without having to create the elaborate secondaries.
“I use it all the time now, especially when I’m grading for multiple display formats, such as on Exodus. It’s pretty incredible,” he continued. “Instead of using all the tricks I had to resort to, I can just dial down the highlight adjustment where I like it and everything else falls into place.”
A lot of Exodus, especially as it gets more intense, was designed to be really desaturated, with a lot of cold tones in the colour that was there. “It was something I could apply over the whole image,” the colourist added, “but there were some portions where colour, especially the red in blood, was very important to the story.”
For the colourist, Exodus, like all his work for Scott, was challenging and exciting. “There’s no director in the business more attuned to the power of visual storytelling,” he summed up.