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RED DOG: True Blue Graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio by Deidre McClelland at Soundfirm

Fremont, CA - December 15, 2016 - Blackmagic Design today announced that Colorist Deidre McClelland, CSI, used DaVinci Resolve Studio to grade RED DOG: True Blue, the highly-anticipated sequel to 2011’s RED DOG. McClelland graded the feature at post production studio Soundfirm’s Melbourne facility.

The creative team behind the original RED DOG film, Director Kriv Stenders, Producer Nelson Woss and Writer Daniel Taplitz, all returned for the new installment which follows 11-year-old Mick (Levi Miller) as he is shipped off to his grandfather's (Bryan Brown) cattle station in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia. He prepares himself for a life of dull hardship but instead finds myth, adventure and a friendship with a scrappy, one-of-a-kind dog that grows up to become an Australian legend.

According to McClelland, Stenders brought a mood board to the grade with images from the region in the 1960s. “They included family photos and images of the landscape, and they all had the unique look that only Ektachrome can bring to an image: strong color and glossy blacks,” she explained. “Paintings by Albert Namatjira were also used as a reference for the incredible reds and oranges of the earth, the blue of distant hills and the sage green of the gum trees.”

While the Pilbara landscape was expertly captured by DP Geoffrey Hall, ACS, McClelland aided by enhancing vibrancy as the story follows Mick’s adaptation to the sudden harsh reality of life in the desert. Warmth permeates the dryness as Mick becomes accustomed to the terrain and befriends the dog, and the audience becomes more familiar with the pervasive intense color and heat.

“The Pilbara’s colors seemed too incredible to believe at times, and although it seemed extreme, it was accurate. There were many scenes where I questioned whether the color was too heightened, particularly sunset and sunrise, but it was all there to begin with, as Geoffrey Hall had captured it beautifully. It was just a matter of accentuating it in the grade,” said McClelland. “Continuity between the two movies was very important to Nelson, so we reduced the green in places as the desert landscape had changed due to more rainfall since the previous movie.”

McClelland cites careful use of color boost in DaVinci Resolve Studio’s Color Match palette as a great way to get the most out of the colors of the outback. “The midtone detail was very helpful when trying to get the skin tones looking the way I wanted them. There was often the dilemma of extremely different skin tones in high-contrast light between Mick and the station hand Taylor Pete, who wore a signature cowboy hat that further darkened his face. The tracking in DaVinci Resolve Studio is great, so adjusting a face and tracking it across the frame is a very efficient task,” she noted.

When the story returns from the 1960s to present day, a coolness contrasts the warmth and “rose-colored glasses” looks of the past, providing a sense of reality with a sleek and clean look. Cityscapes and house interiors have a crisp, cool feel, which is in stark contrast to the color and the heat of the Pilbara in 1960s. Darkness was also used to add a sense of dread where necessary, and brightness to uplift the scene where Mick finally leaves the cattle station.

“A beautiful but emotional scene with Grandpa and Mick needed to look like a Rembrandt painting: dark, warm wooden tones, intimate and cocoon-like. With the use of vignettes and specific areas of dark and light, this scene has a very delicate beauty to it,” explained McClelland. “Scenes that need to be dark enough to be mysterious but light enough to read expressions are always a bit of a challenge. When Mick loses his torch in a cave, I had to ensure the best of both worlds. Lifting areas that were not exposed to be bright can introduce noise. DaVinci Resolve Studio’s noise reducer was a great help and solved the problem without compromising the image.”

In another scene, Grandpa’s face is backlit and under-exposed under a hat, and McClelland needed to stretch the look to read his face. “Because of the complicated shape, it wasn’t possible to rotoscope the background and keep detail in the sky behind him. My solution was to introduce some sky from another shot on another layer and do a very soft edged key to bring through the rays of the sun,” she noted. “A scene that was supposed to be sunset through the trees had similar treatment. I graded it so that the sky became overexposed, and using another sky from an earlier shot, I keyed in some sunset clouds.”

DaVinci Resolve Studio’s Custom Curves also helped McClelland control the areas of the frame that became saturated without impacting the less saturated parts. “An amazing fire sequence was followed by shots of exhausted and soot-covered fire fighters and station hands,” said McClelland. “Through the smoke and dust, they looked partly charred themselves. To enhance the soot and dirt feeling, I used the Lum vs. Sat curve to give the darker areas a very black look. It is a great tool to give a really ‘grimy’ look to things.”

McClelland added, “With so many different looks, the ability to create several versions and display them on the screen for the client to assess was a great help. Also, creating several power grade still bins was handy to carry stills of similar shots into the next reel, as well as grades of course.”

Reels were stored as separate projects, which allowed additional background work while McClelland graded. “A red earth power grade bin was created so that when Kriv wanted to check the shots, he could refer to one I had saved from another reel,” said McClelland. “I was then able to do a split between a still from reel one alongside reels two through five to see that they all matched. As we switched in and out of present day to the past, it was important that the skin tones of the boy and his dad in a night scene were the same each time, so another power grade bin was created for their close ups.” 

McClelland concluded, “Tools like color trace are always a great help when there are revisions to the cut, and DaVinci Resolve Studio’s new edit tools are making everything more efficient as the software advances.”

RED DOG: True Blue hits Australian cinemas on Boxing Day 2016.

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