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Grading Norwegian episodic comedy, Pørni

Senior colourist Dylan R Hopkin discusses series where every episode has its own unique colour palette

Pørni is a six-part television drama written and starring comedian/actress
Henriette Steenstrup. This comedy, with serious undertones, has proven an enormous success in its native Norway. 

Pørni follows Steenstrup’s character as she balances her work in child services, with her somewhat quirky family. It focuses on the obstacles everyone faces in life with moments of humour, tragedy and everything else in-between. 

Produced by Monster Scripted, the NENT Group has commissioned an additional two seasons for its premium online video streaming service Viaplay. The first season has been one of the OTT platform’s best performing Norwegian language productions.  

Image: Viaplay/Monster Scripted/Maria Ducasse

Senior Colourist Dylan R. Hopkin worked closely with series conceptual director Gunnar Vikene and conceptual cinematographer Sjur Aarthun to define the look, completing the grade on DaVinci Resolve. Hopkin says, “We strived to reflect the poetic realism of the drama, giving the series a feeling of being ‘lush and juicy’ but not going overboard with the overall saturation.

“We sought to find an organic sensibility to the grade creating saturated looks by deepening the luminance of selected hues. Adding too much saturation often leads to brighter hues, which can feel ‘digital’. 

“We embraced this technique throughout the series. Saturated looks demand very robust shot matching. With desaturated looks, you can get away with far more shot-by-shot deviation.”

Acquired in 3.2K Prores 4444 on the Alexa Mini using KOWA Cine Prominar lenses, the final aspect ratio was 2.35:1 to give the series a more cinematic appearance. All six episodes were finished in 1080p25 and delivered to Viaplay as SDR IMF-masters.

“The basic building block to go from LogC was a modified Arri LogC to REC709 LUT with a softer highlight roll off. This helped us to recover highlights more smoothly,” says Hopkin.

Every episode has its own colour palette, with coinciding hues common throughout the series. The palettes were outlined for the team in the director’s concept, created by Gunnar Vikene in cooperation with other department leads.

“It covered everything,” explains Hopkin. “Character descriptions, the cinematic language, sound design and a detailed visual guide. That also included separate colour palettes for each episode, courtesy of production designer Maria Ducasse.”

Hopkin imported each episode palette into a dedicated Power Grade Album using PNG-files generated from the visual concept. “That way, it was easy for me to reference how certain hues and saturation levels should appear on the calibrated grading monitor,” says Hopkin. “I then used the Resolve’s Vectorscope to match the colour values at hand.” 

Image: Viaplay/Monster Scripted

The series look was set over four days with Hopkin and Sjur Aarthun. “We used the first three episodes as a visual playground, carefully choosing hero shots for each scene and defining the key looks,” says Hopkin.

Gunnar Vikene was unable to attend these sessions in person. However, by using and iPad Pro tablets, the entire team could share previews and opinions. Those notes would appear as comments on the grading timeline in real time. 

“We made sure that Gunnar was able to give creative feedback as soon as we found what we perceived to be a sensibility for any given scene,” says Hopkin. “Producer Ida Håndlykken Kvernstrøm and executive producer Bård Fjulsrud were also involved in guiding the aesthetic choices further.

“We quickly found the balancing point that underlined the narrative, characters, cinematography and production design for the Pørni universe.”

Once the first three episodes were approved, director Charlotte Blom and cinematographer Anne Myking took the helm for the remaining episodes. Hopkin worked closely with them both to complete the grade on series one. 

Season two is currently shooting in the Oslo area, and Hopkin has provided show-LUTs for the next series.