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Seabiscuit: Digital Intermediate Plus Color Correction Equals Fine Art

Director Gary Ross and Cinematographer John Schwartzman create Oscar-nominated film using DI, da Vinci By Miles Weston
Image Courtesy Universal Studios and DreamWorks LLC
Seabiscuit is the Oscar-nominated Depression-era story of a racehorse, three men, and a country, all of which overcame loss, heartbreak, or neglect to shine in what was a difficult time for many.

In addition to bringing these characters to life within a captivating story, the film adaptation of Laura Hillenbrands award-winning bestseller has been hailed for what one critic has called ?gloriously beautiful filmmaking.

Director Gary Ross knew he would need a cinematographer who could capture the visceral edge of racing while telling the story with beautiful images, colors, and lighting. John Schwartzman emerged as his choice for the films director of photography.

For Seabiscuit, Schwartzman shot in Super 35, a format visually suited for the subject of horse racing but potentially limiting because it requires getting a good blowup out of a smaller negative space.

?It was the fact that we were shooting super 35mm that convinced me to do a digital intermediate (DI), says Schwartzman. He had shot The Rock in Super 35 two years before digital intermediate work was popularized by Pleasantville (1998). Ross and Schwartzman took Seabiscuit to Technicolor's Digital Intermediate Technique facility in Burbank professional home to many Pleasantville alums for the post-production digital intermediate process.

?DI gave me the ability to avoid an optical blowup, continues Schwartzman. ?I was able to output a first-generation anamorphic negative, which is a huge step forward in getting Super 35 films to the screen.

?Each day at the lab I printed film so that I would have a standard to judge the DI against. The DI allowed me to fine-tune the look of the movie because the film was data until we rendered it. I was also less afraid to tweak the image. In traditional photochemical timing you only want to handle the negative a few times for fear of damaging it. DI freed me from that concern.

Another benefit of DI was the latitude and confidence it gave Technique Senior Colorist Stephen Nakamura during the color correction process. Nakamura added the finishing touches to Seabiscuit with da Vincis 2K Plus color corrector.

?Stephen was instrumental in keeping me honest with realistic manipulations. The collaboration between the colorist and DP during a DI production is vital, and Stephen proved to me that the ?nut behind the switch is even more important than the system, adds Schwartzman. ?For Seabiscuit, our primary goals were to have a realistic color space and contrast. If no one ever knew that we did a DI, then we were successful.

?Ive heard a lot of people say this is the best DI theyve ever seen, says Nakamura. ?And if thats true, its because the footage is so good. If you shoot well, all the other stuff comes easy. John has done a bunch of Bruckheimer movies and knows a lot about commercial and telecine work. His footage looked great.

?Even though all I had to do was punch up the color, add to the contrast, and smooth it out, it really helped the director to know that almost anything that needed to be fixed, we could fix.

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Related Keywords:Oscar-nominated film, Seabiscuit, Director Gary Ross, cinematographer, beautiful images, colors, lighting, John Schwartzman, director of photography, filmmakers, digital intermediate postproduction techniques, artistic color correction

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