Pitch Perfect takes advantage of P3 Colorspace

Anna Kendrick stars as an alt-girl out of her element when she joins a prissy college a cappella group obsessed with winning the finals in the film, Pitch Perfect.  The film, which also starts Brittany Snow, Anna Camp and Rebel Wilson, has been an indie hit for Universal Pictures and Gold Circle Films.

Colorist Leandro Marini walked director Jason Moore (the Broadway smash Avenue Q) and DP  Julio Macat through the brave new world of DCI-targeted color workflow using the Scratch system.  The film was shot digitally on the Arri Alexa camera to LogC Prores 444 Quicktimes.

For a peek at Pitch Perfect, check out the trailer.

Targeting the DCI-P3 color spec, which is the native colorspace for digital cinema projection, allows for a much wider contrast and color gamut than a traditional film-targeted workflow, and we took full advantage of that for this film.  The highlights of the film take place on a colorful stage with moving lights and flashy performances.  With all the saturated blues and reds, film prints can’t always handle that kind of rich color detail.

This a good moment to pause and talk about colorspace.  People use the term in various ways, but to understand colorspace you have to understand an image’s function in the world.  Colorspace, at its core, concerns itself with the display device that is showing your image.

The first rule: grade your film to natively match your primary distribution format.  These days, that is digital projection and DCPs (Digital Cinema Package).  It is now estimated that 80% of the world’s screens will be digital by the year’s end.  A wide domestic release now only prints a couple hundred film prints for US theaters, in contrast to a couple thousand DCP’s.

A digital image on a hard drive doesn’t technically have a colorspace until it is displayed on a screen.  How that image data looks when it is output to that screen defines its colorspace.  Therefore, on a disk, the digital data that defines color is only an abstract mathematical concept.

The basic colorspaces used in post production are these:  High Definition monitors (Rec.709), Standard Definition monitors (Rec.601), Digital Cinema Projectors (DCI-P3) and Cineon Log for film prints.  If your image “looks good” on an HD monitor and reflects the creative intent of the film, then that image is in the Rec.709 HD colorspace.  Same with P3, if your image looks great, as the creatives intended on a DCI projector, then your image is in the P3 colorspace. On the other hand, if you look at a P3 colorspace image on an HD monitor, it will look too bright, and colors that are heavily saturated will start to bleed out and lose definition.  If you look at an HD colorspace image in P3 mode on a DCI projector, it will look too flat & dark and not take advantage of the richly saturated colors available to you.

There often isn’t metadata in the image files to tell you what colorspace was intended in the grading suite, so be sure to label everything properly.

The second way that the term colorspace is used, I think is a misnomer.  If someone were to describe colorspace as 4:2:2, 4:4:4, RGB, YCbCr (aka YUV) or XYZ, then what these refer to is different ways to numerically represent color data in an image file.  They don’t inherently describe the color properties of a display device, but simply the data format that the signal is in.

You can have a digital image intended for HD monitors (Rec.709) that can be encoded in any of the above formats and there aren’t any significant color value differences.  Each of those formats are designed for different uses:  4:2:2 YCbCr for HDTV, RGB 4:4:4 for color critical monitoring, and XYZ for digital cinema.  The technical differences between them we’ll save for a more detailed article.

To further understand the distinct physical differences, below are a few stills.  Keep in mind that your computer monitor is in the sRGB colorspace, so none of these images will look as the creatives intended, but you get the idea.

Here is the final grade in DCI-P3 RGB:

P3 uses a native gamma encoding of 2.6, a perceptually brighter image, in order to show more detail in the blacks. It also has a white point that is perceived as green when viewed on an HD monitor.  Overall it has the ability to show more saturated colors in the spectrum, as demonstrated by this graph below comparing HD to P3:







Here is the transformation of that image to Rec.709 HD (RGB):

In order to remain in “legal” HD color levels for the home video version, some saturation has to be dialed out of the P3 image, and an overall shift toward magenta to make the white’s not so green.  HD has a native gamma of 2.2 (or 2.35), which leads to a darker image.

Here is what a “cineon log” curve encoded image looks like, with its color and contrast transformed to look good when printed to a release print film stock:

Here is what an XYZ translation looks like, but still in DCI-P3:

 XYZ is a different mathematical color plotting all together, representing axis on a color gamut chart (see above), rather than actual colors themselves.  Your monitor is showing the X value as “R” the Y value as “G” and the Z value as “B,” so there’s no way it’ll look anywhere close to a correct image in your browser.  This, however, is the highest standard of color representation, thus the choice for digital cinema projectors worldwide.

In addition to the color, we at Local Hero had fun using extra VFX style tools available in Scratch, for beauty work, clean-up and enhancing reality.  For example, not all those lens flares and glowing stage lights were real, just a little added movie magic.

The movie fires on all cylinders, laugh out loud jokes, and is a fun ride through cutthroat college competitiveness.  The music lover in you will jump up and cheer at some of the numbers.  Catch Pitch Perfect on Bluray and DVD starting Dec 18th.

Photos Property of Universal Pictures


Local Hero teams up with The Post Lab

We are proud to become a partner in a new online information hub for the digital post industry, The Post Lab, founded this year by post producer Chris Russo.

Geared towards the independent filmmaker, THE POST LAB’s mission is to become a repository of extremely helpful information — case studies, workflow diagrams, interviews with filmmakers about their creative and technical processes in post-production — that will demystify some of the technical aspects of post-production, and inspire creative solutions.

Future blog postings about our work in the DI space will appear over at The Post Lab, and this blog will remain dormant. 

Visit the Local Hero category on The Post Lab to keep up with the news.


Assimilate features Pitch Perfect case study

We were proud to participate in a case study about the DI for Pitch Perfect, accomplished on Assimilate's Scratch platform.

You can read the nicely designed PDF here at this link.

Pitch Perfect, a Universal Pictures release, was captured on the Arri Alexa camera and graded in DCI-P3 color space on the Scratch system by Local Hero colorist/owner Leandro Marini.


Pitch Perfect in theaters September 28

Local Hero is proud to have completed the DI for Universal Pictures Pitch Perfect, starring Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp and Rebel Wilson.  The film is directed by Jason Moore (the Broadway smash Avenue Q) and lensed by Julio Macat.  This is our third film with Gold Circle Films after ATM and The Haunting in Georgia.  The film's release date has been moved up a week to September 28th.

Shot entirely on the Arri Alexa camera, the film used the "direct to edit" Prores 4444 LogC capture, edited in Avid, and graded on Assimilate Scratch.

If you haven't caught the trailer, check it out here at this link.

Here at Local Hero we exclusively grade our films in an environment that targets the DCI-P3 spec, which is the native color space for digital projection in theaters.  This allows for a much wider color and contrast gamut than a traditional film targeted workflow, and we took full advantage of that for this film.  The diverse cast of uncannily good singers is featured throughout the film singing and dancing on stage with exaggerated colors and flares from the tricked-out stage lighting design.  Be sure to watch it in a digital cinema (which these days will be hard not to do) to take full advantage of that.  

The director and cinematographer worked at length with colorist Leandro Marini to bring out the colorful energy of the film without sacrificing a natural feel.  On top of the grade, we used every trick available to liven it it up, including more lense flares, glowing and glistening lights.  

The buzz on the film has been full throttle lately.  Here is a promo (not footage of the movie) shot exclusively for MTV's site HollywoodCrush:


Get More: MTV Shows


And a scene from the film:

If you see the film in theatres in a couple weeks, be sure to stop back and let us know how you thought it looked on screen.


"Any Day Now" goes to Tribeca

Read a more detailed verison of this article at THE POST LAB.

Director Travis Fine debuted his 2010 feature The Space Between at the Tribeca Film Festival, and is now back with his second feature, Any Day Now, which plays at Tribeca April 26, 27, and 28th.  


Click here for information on the screenings.

Click here for an interview with director Travis Fine.

Any Day Now stars Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt as a couple who take on the foster care of a neglected down-syndrome boy from the building.  When it's revealed that they are in a relationship, the court system rips the boy from them, which leads to a legal battle for their right as a loving household to care for this child that they love.

Local Hero Post was proud to have done the DI for The Space Between, and was thrilled to be back for the DI of Any Day Now.  Local Hero put Assimilate's Scratch system through its paces to handle all of the needs of the film, at a budget the production could afford.  Both films were shot with the Red Camera, though Any Day Now used the MX sensor and Local Hero took advantage of updated colorimitry settings from Red to work with the footage in linear space.    

The challenge of the film was to evoke a sense of the era.  The story takes place in the 1970s, a decade where we also had powerful dramatic films with a specific look, such as Dog Day Afternoon.  As with any production, the heavy lifting in the creation of look is done onset.  DP Rachel Morrison took the edge off the RED's sharpness by choosing old coated Ultra-prime lenses made in the 70's, and worked with production design and wardrobe departments to ensure a cohesive look was achieved.  The filmmakers worked with colorist Leandro Marini to carry that look to the finish line in post.  Marini developed a specific process in which the blacks were crushed and then lifted, in order to give the images the low-contrast look of films from the time.  The film has a strark contrast between the colorful, saturated world of Alan Cummings's character's job singing and dancing in a night club, versus the desaturated, sepia outside world that harshly judges his lifestyle.  As a last touch, Marini also did a pass of the film in which he mixed in artificial film grain to the image.

Local Hero also put together the minor visual effects for the project, which are invisible to the story.  They involve realistic manipulation of the footage in order to achieve the perfect performance.  Editor Tom Cross has a keen eye for how to match the timing of elements within the shot to smooth out a scene-- splitting the screen between two characters and combining two sides into one seamless handheld shot.  Other clean-ups were done during the DI sessions, where Marini can composite pieces on the fly to cover visual distractions in the footage.


Projects come and go through a post production facility, but occasionally a film will inspire us with its quality and powerful story-telling.  Any Day Now is certainly one of those.  We recommend you get out to see it.