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New Scorsese movie colour graded with Baselight Eight

A FilmLight Baselight Eight colour grading system was at the heart of the ambitious workflow for Hugo, the new 3D film from master director Martin Scorsese.

A FilmLight Baselight Eight colour grading system was at the heart of the ambitious workflow for Hugo, the new 3D film from master director Martin Scorsese.

An adaptation of Brian Selznick book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Hugo marks not only the feature film debut of the Arri Alexa camera, but also Scorsese’s first excursion into 3D production.

During the months when Hugo was shooting in London, a DI theatre was set up just off set, in conjunction with UK-based workflow specialist Digilab Services and Cameron Pace Group. Featuring a Baselight Eight colour grading system and stereo 3D projector, the theatre was used by freelance colourist Greg Fisher to grade dailies. Once production wrapped, post-production shifted to New York, where Fisher performed final grading in a traditional DI theatre equipped with an identical Baselight system and calibrated to match the environment in London.

Having a complete DI theatre immediately available to the production had a number of advantages. For one, it allowed cinematographer Robert Richardson to oversee grading sessions with Fisher after each production day. They were thus able to develop a look for the dailies that was very near to final.

Fisher explained: “Over the course of a year of production, people can become quite attached to the look of the dailies and they may be reluctant to move away from that look in the DI. Often, not a lot of care is taken with dailies and it can be problematic if you need to move away from that look in a dramatic way. It’s an on-going problem for DPs but this method negated it. No one saw imagery in any form other than how the DP wanted it to be.”

Having immediate access to the DI theatre also allowed Scorsese to review scenes in 3D and, employing Baselight’s stereo 3D toolset, make 3D corrections on the spot.

“We were doing a lot of new things on this film, which means there were a lot of unknowns,” said Fisher. “Having a theatre available became essential.”

Hugo was shot in 3D with pairs of Alexa cameras mounted in Pace stereo rigs. Camera imagery was recorded to HDCAM SR tape. Fisher used FilmLight’s Truelight technology to calibrate on-set monitors and to create look-up tables for monitoring, grading delivery to ensure a consistent look at each stage of the process.

The grades that Fisher applied to the dailies were stored as metadata and therefore not ‘baked in’. During the final DI sessions, Fisher was able to work with the original camera elements and apply, or not apply, his earlier grades as he and Richardson chose.

In addition, the VFX department was supplied with its own Baselight One system and used it to apply established looks to completed visual effects sequences.

Fisher believes that the workflow employed on Hugo could serve as a model for other digital cinema productions, and is particularly enthusiastic about bringing DI infrastructure closer to the production.

“It allows us to offer a much better service to the production,” he said. “We can tailor the service to the film because we’re not tied to an existing infrastructure. We can take care of the archiving, data security, VFX deliveries—everything you need for film post—all within one set up. It becomes very simple.”