Grading 'Blue World Order'
Blue World Order
Directors Che Baker and Dallas Bland
DP Robb Shaw-Velzon ACS
Producer Sarah Mason
Starring Jack Thompson, Billy Zane, Bruce Spence.
Grading Blue World Order was probably the biggest challenge I have ever taken on! Now that’s a big call when you have been coloring for over 25 years.
BWO is an indie film that really punches above its weight. A sci-fi triller, shot in Canberra with top actors and considerable VFX components.
First time movie director Che Baker contacted me back in 2014, sending me his BWO script. I said I was really keen but didn’t hear anything so assumed he had graded elsewhere. I was wrong, the movie had been delayed so he still wanted me to color his film.
TIP Always follow up, never give up. Don’t hide behind an e-mail, pick up the phone and call.
The bulk of the film was shot on the BMCC 4K, with the Canon C500 used for cave sequences where the pictures needed to be as clean as possible.
Che started by sending me some of the finished scenes. VFX were being completed by over 30 different artists around Australia, so even some of cut/finished sequences where still missing locked VFX shots.
TIP It is vital when coloring a film that you understand it. I know this sounds obvious but I really feel the more you know about the story and the characters the better your work will be.
My early stills went to Che and Robb in Canberra. They commented, I made changes then did another round of WIP stills followed by some short WIP movies. I wanted to get a good base for the key scenes before I started matching.
TIP Always involve the DP if the Director and Producer are happy for you to do so. As a colorist you can learn so much from a DP, and they will love the opportunity to attend the grade.
I then started with the individual scenes that didn’t contain VFX shots. Because of the run and gun nature of indie movies we colorists probably have to deal with more mismatched shots than a higher budget production. When I was happy with the balance of the scene I would see how I could aid the story line. What time of day was it, how are the characters feeling, how dark (in story) is the scene. Having said that some scenes only needed a balance. Not every shot needs 20 nodes and keys on top of keys!
TIP Get started early. Don’t worry if you only have part scenes, you can always copy the grades later. Don’t be concerned either if you haven’t colored a shot very much, that probably means it was shot nicely.
When Che arrived in Brisbane, I had a temp grade on all the available sequences. The opening camp scene where we first see classic actor Jack Thompson needed a look that could help hide the mixed conditions on the day it was filmed. The optimism of the scene led me to grade the pictures a little warmer. We then learn the camp might not be such a happy place, leading me to the look created for ‘Harris’s Lab’. I wanted to convey an almost ‘mad scientist’ feel so added windows of color which helped to break up the grey walls.
TIP Don’t be afraid of pushing the grade where you see it will add interest and help tell the story. A director might say no it doesn’t fit on this occasion but will keep that look in mind for their next film.
The big alleyway fight was complex, with smoke, mixed lighting, different skin tones and green screen shots. Not a scene where I changed too much, it was just a case of bringing everything together. Once I was finished the scene really fell into place.
Every sky needed to have an orange cast, most were VFX shots but I also matched a number in Resolve as the deadlines got tighter on the VFX artists. This involved some fine keying and tracking and meant the VFX to-do list was shortened.
Che visited me in Brisbane with the remaining scenes, but not the final film cut in order. This meant I could grade the scenes as individuals, but couldn’t easily see the flow of the movie. I decided to roughly edit a finished timeline, just so I could see the flow of the movie.
The film’s big chase sequence proved the most challenging. Multiple cameras and VFX artists uploading shots as we were grading meant it was always a moving feast. Some VFX shots had a big grade to compliment the added orange sky, others would have the sky changes but very little change to the foreground. It took me a day to grade 5 minutes of screen time.
I thought that was a tough day until the final sequence. Billy Zane is a great asset to the film but his limited availability meant his shots needed to take priority. This meant the crew ran out of time at the ‘Resistance Camp’ so was back at the same location 6 months later rebuilding the set to film all the non Billy shots.
I then had varying weather conditions to match, still had mixed VFX sequences, but above all Billy needed to look good.
So ½ way through the 10th and final day of grading VFX were still being downloaded and I still had 30 separate sequences to render! It was the classic case of the taxi is running and the plane won’t wait!
Back in Canberra Che assembled the graded scenes, added the audio before Cutting Edge made the DCP. Friend and Colorist Adrian Hauser had me add color bars with grading and monitor info burned into the bars so he could insure the correct DCP P3 translation from my REC709 monitor grade.
I headed to Canberra two months later for the cast and crew premiere of the DCP at the iconic National Archives. I’ll admit to being a little apprehensive, as I hadn’t seen the entire film in order, I was pleasantly surprised and got a great shout out from DP Robb Shaw-Velzon.
TIP. Not easy but always try and get to screenings and PR events. It is how you build relationships.
BWO has a limited cinema release around Australia in November
Filmlink article including the new tailer.