Se7en is arguably one of the most controversial David Fincher’s films. A project that has set the director apart from his previous work in ‘Alien 3’ as well as established the tone for his subsequent projects.
A lot can be analysed in Se7en, most notably a lot can be said about its colours. So perhaps it will come as a surprised that the film has an extraordinary 7 versions, which all differ in grade.
It is a well-known fact that careful thought and consideration was put into creating the Look of Se7en. Amongst other things, Fincher and his DoP Darius Khondji used Super 35mm cameras, which allowed the use of spherical lenses, smoked the sets to reduce contrast and pushed the stock one stop to increase density and saturation. However, despite looking like a colour-graded film, the original first run prints of Se7en only went under the Deluxe Colour Contrast Enhacement process (also known as CCE bleach-bypass).
After its theatrical release in 1995, Se7en was first released on DVD in 1996, then again in 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2010. Each time, the colours were tweaked and some of the versions differ greatly from each other.
For the 1996 DVD release, “Fincher chose to re-create the look of the CCE process. A low-contrast print was created to be telecine’d, and the movie was re-graded by David Fincher scene by scene, and a 480i master was produced. This master was shared by the New Line releases.
With time and technology changes, a new version of Se7en was created for the New Line Platinum release. After finishing work on ‘Fight Club’ in 2000, Fincher returned to Se7en to do a fresh anamorphic DVD transfer. Once again, he wanted to work from a freshly struck print, however he found it impossible to get sufficient density in the print blaming changing lab practices. So he opted to have the negative scanned directly, and perform colour-correction in the digital domain to restore the bleach bypass look.
A 1080i scan was made using a Spirit telecine machine, and recorded to D5 digital HD videotape. Fincher worked with colourist Stephen Nakamura, who had done timing work on video dallies during production of Se7en. Overall the transfer is a little more ‘pushed’ looking than the earlier transfer, with a green tint throughout. It doesn’t look bad, but starts to look more like a 2000 film, with the use of Davinci ‘power windows’ allow manipulation of the image that wouldn’t have been possible. Secondary colour corrections to the climax are apparent.
This is particular interesting to note as a quick research on IMDb will show you that Nakamura is listed as the uncredited video colourist alongside Andrea Gargano, who is listed as the final colourist (also uncredited). In fact, during one of Nakamura’s interviews for ICG Magazine, he says that his first work as a DI colourist on a Fincher project is ‘Panic Room’.
However, as the featurette on the 2000 version of the film shows, Nakamura graded the film per Fincher’s specifications. So it is possible to say that this is the “true Look” that Se7en was supposed to have all along, therefore making Nakamura responsible for its colours.
The more recent versions of Se7en, specially the Italian Blu-Ray, are shockingly different from the Look created by Nakamura. The green tint is gone, the colours are more vivid and simply does not look like the dark saturated film most people would have watched. Nonetheless, it is a great example of how colours can drastically change over time as trends and people’s tastes change.
To read Mac’s post on different colour’s of Se7ven, click here.
For more great insights on Fincher’s Look, click here.
To watch Nakamura featurette, click here.