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Framestore CFC Completes Sahara's Digital Mastergrade

(April 22, 2005)

Sahara, based on Clive Cussler's novel, is Director Breck Eisner's feature debut. The film is a rip-roaring, old-school adventure, with a handsome hero, his trusty sidekick, a gorgeous heroine, thrilling chases and a world-in-peril theme. Sahara, a Paramount Pictures and Bristol Bay Productions picture, opened worldwide on April 8th, comfortably taking the number one box office slots in the US and UK.

Master explorer Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) takes on the adventure of his life when he embarks on a treasure hunt through some of the most dangerous regions of West Africa. Searching for what locals call the "Ship of Death," a long lost Civil War battleship which protects a secret cargo, Pitt and his wisecracking sidekick (Steve Zahn) use their wits and clever heroics to help Doctor Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz), when they realize the ship may be linked to mysterious deaths in the very same area.

Framestore CFC's Digital Intermediate team was responsible for Sahara's beautifully crafted digital mastergrade. In addition, the company's visual effects team created the film's title sequence, an elaborate and seamless motion-control sweep around a ship's cabin.

Working closely with Breck Eisner and his Director of Photography, Seamus McGarvey, BSC, Framestore CFC Colourist Adam Inglis digitally graded the two-hour film in five weeks.

Inglis successfully integrated nearly 400 VFX shots into the final footage, as well as dealing with the extensive colour correction and 'look' issues that inevitably arose when many of the action set pieces took place outdoors and were shot over many days. "One of the hardest things I had to do," says Inglis, "Was to key out the water and make the skies all match up during the big boat chase. Fortunately, the Baselight software we use is well up to the task, with its powerful secondary colour correction tools."

Although he has a career stretching back over 10 years in the industry, with feature credits that include High Fidelity and The Hours, this was Director of Photography McGarvey's first experience of Digital Intermediate. Whilst shooting Sahara he'd made extensive use of a filter he'd developed with Schneider Optics called Sahara Gold. The filter took cool fill light out of shadows in-camera, and provided the DI team with a great looking negative.

Despite being a first time user of the DI process, McGarvey's experience in the industry meant that he knew something of what to expect. He shot footage as a normal film, but with the knowledge of how the DI could help match everything later. In addition, many subtle things were added during the DI that would not be possible in a normal film laboratory. Says a thoroughly persuaded McGarvey, "We approached the grade initially from quite a classical point of view, and then I started to discover all the possibilities of this way of timing a movie. Normally, in the photochemical world of the laboratory, I am not able to alter the grade in a dynamic way i.e. during the shot. On a Sahara we did several of these timings that shifted subtly during the shot. Also, the ability to selectively enhance areas of the frame was a real asset, particularly when we were contending with hot desert skies. I think this way of timing a movie allows the film and the digital environments to bring out the best in each other!"

Both McGarvey and director Breck Eisner were thoroughly involved in the DI process, and both were delighted with the results. As Eisner puts it, "Adam Inglis and (Framestore CFC Producer) Marcus Alexander were surprisingly dedicated and passionate about their work on the film."
Paramount Pictures and Bristol Bay Productions present, in association with Baldwin Entertainment Group, a j.k. livin production, a Kanzaman production, "Sahara." Breck Eisner directs. The screenplay is by Thomas Dean Donnelly & Joshua Oppenheimer and John C. Richards and James V. Hart, based on the novel by Clive Cussler. The action-adventure is produced by Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin, Mace Neufeld and Stephanie Austin. Matthew McConaughey, Gus Gustawes, William J. Immerman, and Vicki Dee Rock are the executive producers. Additional cast includes Lambert Wilson, Glynn Turman, with Delroy Lindo and William H. Macy. The film is distributed in the United States by Paramount Pictures.

For Framestore CFC
Digital Intermediate
Colourist Adam Inglis
Producer Marcus Alexander
Digital Grading Assistant Mike Morrison
Title Compositor Steve Wagendorp
Digital Lab Editorial Gavin Round
Scanning Manager Andy Burrow
Shoot/Film Recording Manager Maria Stroka
Production Executive Jan Hogevold
Film Mastering Engineer Alistair Hamer
Scanning, Digital Clean Up & Shoot Jason Burnett, James Clarke, Paul Doogan, Jonathan Dredge, Joe Godfrey, Kevin Lowery, Dan McRae, Dan Perry, Matina Skouteri, Paola Varvaro, Annabel Wright
Data Operators Dianne Gordon, Charlie Habanananda, Maria Michalopoulou, Stuart Nippard

VFX Supervisor Jonathan Fawkner
Technical Director Dan Lavender
Coordinator Charles Howell
Producer Tim Keene

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Related Keywords:Framestore CFC, DI, Digital Intermediate, Breck Eisner


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