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Case study: Grading the show within a show

A mockumentary shooting style and an encouragement to ad-lib has tickled the nation's funny bone enough to launch Meet the Richardsons into a second series. But how is the show's look managed?

The look of Dave’s Meet the Richardsons series two, for the most part, continued where series one left off. Lee Clappison, head of grading at Suite Post, worked on both series with the brief to keep the look as natural as possible. He explains the slight twist included in that, “It has to feel like it was a real fly-on-the-wall documentary, but everything filmed on the nicest day possible, so perhaps with a slightly warmer, sunnier edge.”

Because of the filming style, there are often blown-out windows, and darker parts to the interiors as Jon and Lucy moved about. That is something Clappison embraced in the grade. “There wasn’t necessarily a need to always correct for these. Sometimes we embraced this and even pushed it further.”

“We did have a couple of conversations very early in the shoot to iron out scenes filmed with an iPhone. Knowing that it was meant to look like phone footage and wouldn’t have to match anything kept it straightforward.”

For some of the window blowouts, Clappison keyed into the highlights, combined with some parallel nodes, to nudge down exposure levels and bring out a bit more detail in the image. “I also found myself using the Colortrace function too. It’s a massive timesaver with episodic work, as there are usually ‘previously’ and ‘next time’ sections. So, depending on the episode, you may have 40-50 shots that you’ve already graded at some point in the series. Colotrace will find those for you, so you don’t repeat work you’ve already done.

Throughout the series Jon and Lucy are producing a sitcom, so there needed to be a ‘show within a show’ feel. Clappison says it was fun to play with a slightly different look when it came to those sections, as they are meant to look like a studio filmed sitcom and feel slightly different to the rest of the show.

“In another episode, they visit Bridlington for a camping holiday, and there is some lovely, late sunset light,” he adds. “It was really fun to play with this and enhance the warm tones of the late summer sun – plus I’m originally from Hull, so I know Bridlington very well as it is very near, and if this helps generate a staycation holiday boom for 2021 for the area, then I’ve done my bit!”

Using DaVinci Resolve’s remote grading option, Clappison could mirror the project media at home and in the studio. “That allowed the client to be in the facility, in my suite, without worrying about Covid restrictions. I’d then connect in and grade as if I was in the room. The only thing getting transferred is metadata, and they can review everything on a properly calibrated screen, which eliminates issues we may have with other sign-off methods.”