Colour Is BeautIful – In the ever-changing landscape of post production, colour grading house Mytherapy has established itself as a true high-end grading and finishing specialist. Company founder Dado Valentic explains what lies behind its success The business of colour grading has changed significantly in the past few years. The best way to describe what is happening is to look at the rise of independent coffee shops. A few years ago, if you wanted a great coffee you’d have to go to Starbucks, Costa, Nero or a similar chain. But, in recent years, an increasing number of independent coffee shops have started appearing. They use slick retro coffee machines, source their coffee beans from special organic plantations and know the name of their clients and exactly how they like their coffee. These shops are passionate about the detail – and ultimately serve the best coffee in town. What has happened to the post industry is very similar. The chains are the equivalent of the large post production companies, and the specialist post companies that focus on a single discipline of post production are the equivalent of the independent coffee shops. THE FLAT WHITE OF POST Mytherapy is such a company. We are the post production equivalent of Flat White, Lantana or Kaffeine. Since 2005 we have been working tirelessly on finessing our skill of colour grading, motion picture retouching and finishing. Today we are a studio where producers, directors, DOPs and photographers go to when they need exceptional images and finishing. INNOVATION AND RESEARCH Mytherapy is not a traditional post production company. We are a mix between a colour grading studio and research lab. We invest continuously in the development of tools and techniques for digital image processing. We have a very close relationship with camera manufacturers. We were the first company to get our hands on the Sony F55 and were given the first Red Dragon in Europe. We also have a direct line to the head developer of our colour grading software, and, on top of this, we were given one of the first new Apple Mac Pros in the UK. GRADING ARTISTRY Since August 2012, we haven’t worked on anything less than 4K. We’ve even developed a colour science for the processing of raw data for motion picture cameras. All of this has culminated in what we call the ‘Mytherapy Colour Method’, which is a set of processes, workflows and applications that give the results we’re known for. A testament to the quality of our work is the fact that only last year we graded the Golden Lion winning Philips commercial, consulted on a colour pipeline for the biggest 3D feature film production in the UK, ‘The Book of Exodus’ by Ridley Scott, and completed fashion films for brands such as Armani, Christian Dior, YSL and Agent Provocateur. CRAFT – THE FUTURE OF POST ProductionHistorically post production companies have closely guarded their colour science. But we’re a little different and have decided to make ours available to everyone, both in the form of looks available through our website and in an array of training seminars. We’ve seen our colour method being deployed in many productions around the world, especially ones looking for a great retro 35mm feel. So far, Mytherapy seminars have taken place in London, Los Angeles, New York, Moscow and Amsterdam, spreading the Mytherapy colour wisdom. On top of this, we also run a charity event every summer in Pula, Croatia giving 8-12 year olds the opportunity to work with the latest cameras and equipment to make and screen a short film during the country’s largest film festival.
Splice Magazine recently featured our Chief Therapist Dado Valentic. Written in his own words the article gives incredible insights into our business and how we arrived at this point: Multi-award winning colorist and company founder, Dado Valentic talks about what inspired him to become the artist he is today and how he has gained the enviable reputation for being an expert in all things digital. He also talks about he started his company ‘Mytherapy’ and how he has made that a success. “When I was 15/16 I used to live in a small town in former Yugoslavia, which is now Croatia and I just knew very early on that I wanted to become an artist. Actually my whole childhood was defined by my uncle who was an actor and who I absolutely loved. He used to take me to film sets and to the theatre and as a child I totally fell in love with film making. There was one thing that my uncle asked me to promise him as a kid and that was that I will never become an actor! So I knew I was not going to be an actor but I definitely wanted to become an artist.” “At school I studied physics. I don’t think I choose physics because I liked it, it was mainly because the school was very close to where I lived and it was very convenient. But once I started going to the classes I actually enjoyed it!” “Another great thing about that school was they had a classroom that was equipped by a big medical research centre, and there was about 12 Apple IIc’s. Now this was the 80’s and an Apple IIc at that time was like a spaceship enterprise, it was amazing what this computer could do. So very early on I started programming. When I was 14, my Uncle bought me a computer as a christmas present, it was a ZX Spectrum. That was my first computer I started working with it day in and day out.” “Then a year later I started my first company, it was a software company called ‘Floppy Soft’. The reason I called it ‘Floppy’ was at that time the software was distributed on magnetic tapes and I was dreaming at that time to buy myself a floppy drive, so I called my company ‘Floppy Soft’. I started selling software, some software I was versioning myself and some I was copying adding a bit and then re-selling. That was going really well until I reached 16 years of age where my Father realised that some of my software dealings was not legal. When he realised this, and with him being a lawyer he decided I needed to shut down my company and that was the end of my first business venture!” “I was left with all of this equipment for duplicating tapes, and I realised that I can record music with it and my Father was ok with that. So I started copying and making mix tapes and I was selling them to bars and friends. I also started playing those mix tapes at school and then I gave one of those mix tapes to a DJ in a local club, and eventually through those tapes and my DJ friend I became a DJ. Lucky for me also there was a teacher at my school who was into electronics and loved to build his own mixing consoles who told me that if I really love music, I should go and study sound engineering, so that is what I did. It was actually around that time my Father died and his last wish was for me to go to that school. And I did.” “I moved to Munich, I started at the school and at the same time I was working really hard on my DJing career. In September in 1991, Munich used to have an airport called Munich-Riem that had closed down and the huge hangers were turned into this free zone, a party zone! I remember the first time I went into one of the hangers and heard loud music and saw DJs and everybody going completely crazy. I stayed there for the whole weekend! That experience has changed me, I realised that there is this counter-culture and that I really loved and wanted to be part of it. After I finished my studies I worked for a radio station producing and DJing, and by that time I had a name as a DJ and producer. It was the time of the big raves and I was in the middle of it.” “In 1996 I decided to go on holiday to London for 2 weeks, that was 18 years ago! I never left. I just fell in love with London from the moment I came here. There was a lot work in sound engineering at that time. I moved to Portobello Road and found that just in that area of West London there was about 200 record labels. I got into the scene and started playing and DJing a lot. I had a friend who was a visual effects artist working on the Quantel ‘Henry’ and she asked me if I would like to come in and help her with a few things. And so for the first time in my life I entered the world of picture post production!” “I remember walking into the grading suite where she worked and it was incredible. There was this guy sitting in front of these 3 balls and had beautiful pictures on a screen, it was amazing. In those days colorists would sit in their rooms and have these beautiful women come in and offer them and the clients whatever they wanted. So I asked this guy if he could show me what he does and he started to show me and I thought – it was really boring! I just felt that the potential of what this wonderful human invention could do was enormous but what he was doing was very little. Because all he was doing was looking at the scopes and balancing R G and B. I remember asking one of the assistants that was working there, how does one become a colorist? He said you become an assistant and then you move into the colorists role. This guy was an assistant for the past 7 years and was waiting for the colorist to have a heart attack before he could take his position! This is what it was like then in London at that time, because there was only 5 or 6 places in London that were able to do colour grading.” “I thought I really like this colour grading thing because of my synesthesia but there was no way I was going to sit as an assistant for seven years or more. What I did was carry on with my music and keep trying to add picture into my music production. That helped with getting a job with Apple. Steve Jobs had taken over Apple again and they were desperate to get new people on board. I believe they liked the fact that I was into music and thought I could do really well supporting some of the clients that Apple had in that area of creative industry. I really enjoyed my new job and stayed working for Apple for about a year, but at the same time I still carried on DJing.” “I then got head hunted by Sony. That is where I fell in love with R&D. I love the world of crazy scientists who are working out these amazing things with technology. But out of the blue I was asked to sign a DJ contract with Bacardi where I had to travel around the world DJing at Bacardi B-Bar events. So at that point I had to stop working for Sony and commit to DJing full-time.” “I just came back from tour of Brazil. loved the place, so one night as I met these guys who were making this documentary about street kids in Brazil and were looking for some help I decided to help them. I’ve used my skills I learned through my jobs at Apple and Sony and have onlined and very roughly graded their film. As good as I was able to do it at that time and very instinctively and completely for no fee. That project went on to win a BAFTA for the best kids documentary. That was the sign – I thought.” “I packed my bags and went to LA and did a course with Da Vinci, it was fantastic. The real problem at that time was that Da Vinci was the size of a huge cupboard and cost something like a quarter of a million pounds so I was not going to be able to buy one! Whilst on the course I met few guys who were neg-cutters and they introduced me to a company in Hollywood who used this system called Final Touch, and it only cost around twenty thousand pounds and it would run on a mac!” “At the same time I met this producer who was from London, and I convinced him to give me a job to do a DI on his film. I came back to London, re-mortgaged my house, took some advance and bought a Final Touch. I formed a company but was struggling to find a name. It was that client who said to me “hey you are my therapy” and I thought that was a perfect name for a company! So that is how Mytherapy was born.” “I did for that producer 3 DI’s in a row back to back. I was doing 2K grades on a Mac Pro using a Blackmagic decklink card with this Final Touch system, which was unheard of at that time. That was how I started as a colorist. Slowly I gave up DJing and committed more and more to colour grading and started doing bigger and better jobs. When the final touch become part of Apple’s FCS the big magic was no longer in it because everyone could have a system. It was at this time I became interested in stereoscopic 3D, that was before Avatar. I just thought it was beautiful and very artistic. So I worked with a company in Germany called Iridas and I built my very first stereoscopic grading system.” “Then one day this guy opens the door of my studio. He had a great hair cut and I though OH MY GOD it is Brian May! The famous guitarist from Queen. What many people don’t know about Brian is that he loves astronomy and stereoscopic photography. He had this project where he uncovered stereoscopic photography from the 17th century and he wanted to put it onto an IMAX screen. He asked me if I could do it, and I accepted it. So we did our first stereoscopic job together.” “Around that same time UK’s most prolific 3D producer came into my studio and he was really knowledgeable about 3D. So I said to him ‘How about I cut all your showreels and in return you teach me more about 3D’.” “Very soon after he hired me to post-produce the very first stereoscopic 3D production in the UK, it was the Opera Carmen in 3D. It was the first time I worked on a multimillion pound project. The really cool thing about it was that I had beaten all the big post houses to get the project because they could not deal with 3D. After that I did another big 3D job which won a BAFTA and then as soon as you know I was MR 3D!” “Around the time of Pirates of The Caribbean I realised that the 3D bubble was going to burst because 2D imagery was being converted into 3D and that was not the point and all creativity was lost. So I was trying to work out what was going to be the next big thing. Very early on in 3D we always had to work with digital cameras.” “It was a British Society of Cinematographers who asked me to help them with their infamous digital camera tests. I realised at that point that someone has to process the images that come off the digital cameras in the same way the lab would process a film. So there came the idea of digital lab services. There was nothing like that around at time. “ “So I thought I am going to start a data lab. I delved deeper and deeper into RAW digital imagery and learned that we could do amazing stuff with it. I slowly gained a reputation for knowing a lot about RAW data processing.” “That year my biggest clients were big post houses, like Frame Store, The Mill and Moving Picture Company. They would send me the data and ask me to work my magic! I was getting some great results. Then the big movie producers started knocking on my door. Guy Richie was shooting Sherlock Holmes and had some helmet camera and high speed stuff going on and they asked me if I could match that footage to the stuff shot on film. I said yeah of course! For the next year that was all I did, I would be matching the digital footage to the film footage for various feature film productions.” “The more I did this, the more I developed my own idea of how things should look and how things should be done. I was just really imitating the way that film looks, and I thought the time has come for somebody to develop looks that are completely different to those coming of film. And to my rescue came Da Vinci Resolve. At that time Blackmagic bought Resolve and changed it to work on a MAC and made it to work with nodes and not layering. I felt like I was born again! I needed a tool that allowed me to express myself and I felt that this was the tool that I was waiting for.” “I then found a new premises for Mytherapy and turned it into a small science lab with a colour grading facility. It was not easy, the industry had changed. But I did not give up and a year later things have started paying off. I have built a ‘Mytherapy’ method of digital color processing using mainly Da Vinci Resolve but with an open mind. We haven’t done any work in less than 4K for the last year. I am very proud of the quality and results we are getting right now. We have slowly built a niche where we are the specialists for really good looking digital images.”
This is a special edition of our 4K showreel. We were looking at some of the shots we worked on before and after colour grading and were so excited by the results we decided to share them with you.
After it’s LFF premiere Blackwood was featured in the Hollywood Reporter: “Beautifully shot on digital 35mm in golden-bronze hues, Blackwood has the high-spec visual polish of a much bigger production.” Well here is the news, the film was actually shot on Red Epic and it was graded by Dado Valentic deploying Mytherapy’s famous film stock emulation. Thanks Hollywood Reporter, we are so happy that we managed to fool you it made our day!
What happens when you blur the boundaries between Stills and Motion? EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW EVENT We’ve brought together the industry’s brightest stars to open the world never seen before. 10 October 2013 4pm – late Brunswick Studios London By invitation only To register your interest e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
We have been working with John Downer Productions in Bristol to deliver the 3D version of their critically acclaimed BBC/Discovery series Earthflight 3D. The 3D version is a complete new cut of the acclaimed BBC series, which has gone through the entire DI process again. Our Chief Colourist, Dado Valentic, has been hard at work grading the stereoscopic footage and doing all the necessary adjustments. Other services provided include the mastering of the theatrical version and all deliverables for the 3D TV broadcast.
In 2009, Neill Blomkamp had his directorial debut with ‘District 9’. The feature, which reportedly cost only $30 million, grossed over $200 million and was also a critical success. Its raw naturalistic visual approach was one of the reasons for much of the praise. Despite being a science fiction film set in an alien populated South Africa the film Look is extremely realistic.
Due to its critical and box-office success there were strong rumors that Blomkamp follow-up project would be a sequel to ‘Distric 9’, however he decided instead to create a new post-apocalyptical world in ‘Elysium’.
With ‘Only God Forgives’, Nicolas Winding Refn’s new feature, opening nationwide in the UK today, we turn our attention to the colours of on of our most favourite films ‘Drive’.
It is impossible to create a Colourist Hall of Fame without talking about Stephen Nakamura from Company 3, one of the pioneers of DI colour grading. Since early 2000s Nakamura has worked with many iconic directors and DPs such as Martin Scorsese and Michael Ballhaus (The Departed), Quentin Tarantino and Robert Richardson (Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol 2), and Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski (The Terminal) as well as Ridley Scott (Robin Hood, Prometheus).
Rencently Nakamura wrote at length about the experience of grading ‘Prometheus’ on Creativecow’s website. Amongst some of the challenges described by him was creating different grades for each deliverable (six in total).
Shot over the summer of 2012, ‘Wayland’s Song’ is an indie feature film about a man who goes on a dramatic journey looking for his daughter upon returning from Afghanistan. The movie was written and directed by Richard Jobson best known for his time as lead singer of the punk rock band The Skids and later for his modelling work.