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MDI Goes To Charm School At Sundance

Matchframe Digital Intermediate color grades three movies in one (January 20, 2005)

Director Randall Miller engaged Matchframe Digital Intermediate (MDI) of Burbank to achieve three distinct film treatments for "Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School," premiering on January 24th at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. With an all-star cast that includes Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei and John Goodman, the film follows a widower who embarks on a journey to find a dying man's lost love.

The film is based on a short of the same name that Miller directed sixteen years ago while at AFI. Shot in 16mm, the story followed a group of kids whose parents made them attend the charm school. Since the new plot turns on that original story line, Miller asked MDI to restore much of the 16mm film to serve as a key element of the 35mm anamorphic film. "The 16mm negative was sixteen years old," said Dave Waters, President of MDI, "and it was so warped in many places that it was impossible for us to scan. We made a wet gate IP and scanned 2K files from the IP."

While the wet gate removed much of the dirt and scratches from the original, there were still many sections where stains, dirt and hair were still visible. MDI used various software tools along with Filmlight's 2k DI Baselight Color grading system to restore the 16 mm, digitally color grade, and transform the 16mm to 35mm anamorphic output.

Another third of the film revolves around an accident scene for which Miller employed a skip bleach process during developing. Scanning negative that has been through a skip bleach process presents special challenges according to Julius Friede, MDI's senior colorist ("Oh Brother Where Art Though," "Traffic"). "When you scan [skip bleach negative] it throws off all of your lookup tables," said Friede. "During color grading, if you try to pull in more of one color, it may unpredictably give you a totally different result."

In order to accommodate the skip bleach negative, MDI built custom lookup tables to scan all of the skip bleach negative. Lookup tables effectively transform color values so that what is displayed electronically will be reproduced exactly when recorded out to film.

"MDI took extraordinary measures to create three very distinctive treatments for "Charm School," said Miller. "Those treatments were essential for distinguishing the time periods in the film and driving the story line. I was especially happy with what they were able to do with my original 16mm from AFI. Restoring the 16[mm] and making it work with the 35[mm] was absolutely critical to the success of the film."

In addition to "Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School," MDI also created the digital intermediate for John Asher's "Dirty Love," written by and starring Jenny McCarthy. "Dirty Love" premieres at Sundance on January 22nd. At Sundance 2004, another MDI project, "Primer," took the Grand Jury Prize.

About MDI
Matchframe Digital Intermediate (MDI) gives feature filmmakers total creative control over the look of their productions. Whether shooting on film or acquiring in HD or SD video, MDI puts a powerful cluster of digital tools at the director's disposal to achieve stunning results on the big screen. MDI, a subsidiary of full-service post facility Matchframe Video in Burbank, packages the full array of Matchframe postproduction services with negative handling expertise and cost-effective 2K digital intermediate and 35mm film out systems. MDI is located at 1807 Victory Blvd., Glendale CA 91201. Phone: (818) 240-6404.

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Related Keywords:MDI, Sundance, Matchframe Digital Intermediate, color grades, Randall Miller, MDI, Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, AFI, anamorphic, Dave Waters, wet gate IP, Filmlight, 2k DI Baselight, Julius Friede, colorist, skip bleach, digital intermediate, Dirty Love, filmmakers,

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