PROMETHEUS by COLOURIST STEPHEN NAKAMURA

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).

“We graded for different 3D projection systems, one that can put approximately both 4 foot-lamberts, the other 6 foot-lamberts, of light on the screen. We also mastered to 2D for digital cinema (a DCP version) and did another for film-out. We also had to create another one for IMAX, which has an entirely different aspect ratio. We also had to approve all IMAX prints, and there was IMAX digital and IMAX film. So that made for six versions of the film. Then of course there’s the Blu-ray and DVD.

“We started the workflow for grading the multiple 3D versions with the less-bright 4 foot-lambert version, grading that all the way through. Once that was done, then it’s easy to do the 6 foot-lambert version; it’s just about pushing more light through when projecting it onto the screen. Some shots that may be on the verge of being clipped, looking totally blown out, in 4 foot-lamberts won’t look that way when projected at 6 foot-lamberts. Basically, anything that looks good projected at 4 foot-lamberts will generally look better projected at 6. It still requires some fine-tuning, but it certainly makes a lot more sense than grading for 6 first. So much of what looks good projected that way will look terrible at 4. We also based the 2D master on the 4 foot-lambert 3D master and made refinements for 2D’s much brighter projection systems. For the IMAX version, the colour remains the same, but it involves panning-and-scanning to accommodate the aspect ratio”, Nakamura explained. 

Another challenge Nakamura faced was the amount of convergence, which he deals with through a function of Resolve in conjunction with the aid of convergence specialist.

“Yes, the production does set convergence between the two cameras during shooting, but some of those choices may not work perfectly when the film is edited together and projected on a big screen. It doesn’t really make sense to fine-tune convergence any earlier because before you get into the DI theatre, everyone is looking at a small monitor as opposed to looking at it on a giant screen in a dark room with 3D glasses. It’s a completely different experience, and the DI suite is much closer to how it will look in movie theatres. When the material is finally in the DI suite, you also see how all the shots interact with one another, and you can find that you have to push some object in for one shot or pull it back in the next in order to make the whole scene flow smoothly and not cause eye strain for the viewer”, writes Nakamura.

As for the workflow adopted to create the Looks for ‘Prometheus’, Nakamura said it started almost a year in advance, with a “looks session” with director Ridley Scot where they established the overall Look of the film and with some virtual sessions between him and DP Dariusz Wolski.

To view the palettes used on the film, click on the images bellow and for Nakamura full post about the grading process of Prometheus, click here