Color Grading ‘The Courier’ with Louisiana’s Films In Motion and Colorist Omar Godinez

‘The Courier,’ an upcoming thriller by Oscar nominee Hany Abu-Assad, staring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Til Schweiger and Mickey Rourke, tells the tale of a courier hired to deliver a package to a crime boss, who is then pursued himself by criminals and corrupt police.

‘The Courier’ will take its audience on a journey to a number of locations around the world, each accompanied by a unique cinematic atmosphere. The film has to have a high quality look and feel that was planned for this film is typical of mostly associated with Hollywood blockbusters. But ‘The Courier’ was finished on an independent film budget.

Shot and finished in Louisiana, ‘The Courier’ joined massive features such as ‘Battle LA’ and the ‘Twilight’ movies, as well as the host of independent films and television series that have transformed the state into the fastest growing region in the US for feature and television work. So while faced with the need to create a blockbuster look on a tight budget, the producers of the film needed to join forces with local post professionals that had experience handling all levels of production. To finish the film, the filmmakers chose Baton Rouge’s Films In Motion.

Films In Motion is one of the largest television and film production and post production companies in Louisiana, working on a number of high profile features, commercials and broadcast shows. In taking on ‘The Courier’, the company was tasked with completing all post production, from editing to color grading and finally to finishing the film in the different formats required for distribution to movie theaters as well as film festival venues.

A huge part of the challenge faced by Films In Motion was color grading ‘The Courier.’ Until recently, high level color grading for Louisiana post production facilities had been a task outsourced to freelancers or out of state post houses specializing in color. But for ‘The Courier’, Films In Motion decided to build the state’s first full DaVinci Resolve color grading suite and bring every step of the finishing process under one roof.

“At first, we were planning on simply outsourcing all color correction and conforming for ‘The Courier’. But with the affordability the Resolve now brings, and the fact that we have worked with the system in the past and knew how powerful it was, we decided there was no reason we couldn’t build our own color suite and handle it ourselves,” said Jason Hewitt, owner and president, Films In Motion.

Jason installed a high performance Resolve Mac workstation along with a Resolve control surface into the company’s Baton Rouge facility and brought in Dallas, TX colorist Omar Godinez for the film.

Omar has more than two decades experience with DaVinci color correction, having worked with different DaVinci systems on national commercials, features and television series since 1984.

“With ‘The Courier’, color grading was a primary means of setting the tone and feel for the entire movie,” said Omar. “Color for the film included a full range of different tasks, from standard corrections to green screens, and specific looks required that I work on a system that was built for complex color grading. Resolve was perfect for this task.”

System Management and Planning

Omar continued: “I was really excited when Jason told me he purchased the Resolve Mac system with the control surface for the film. I looked beyond the capabilities that colorists already know and love, such as Power Windows, 3D Tracking and HSL Qualification. Those are a given. What really set Resolve apart and made it perfect for this film is what the system allowed me to do in terms of efficient color grading and organized session management.”

‘The Courier’ was shot using RED cameras, with all RED media copied via eSATA from the editor’s RAID directly into Film In Motion’s RAID 5 system to ensure fast throughput and conforming. Omar was then given six reels of project footage that had been edited on Final Cut Pro and then exported to Resolve where he was able to easily access RED Codec settings on a clip to clip basis using the Resolve control surface.

From here, the first step Omar took to color correct was a Best Light first pass. Through this, basic color balancing that would be used throughout the film were developed and Omar was able to get a better sense of what scene content would be and how many scenes would need similar looks.

One of the two most useful features for Omar with the initial setup and first pass was Resolve’s PowerGrade and ColorTrace. With PowerGrades, Omar was able to develop specific requested looks that could be used throughout the film at a single click, greatly improving efficiency.

With ColorTrace, Omar could compare newly conformed EDLs with a database of source time codes to match original grades. From there, he had the ability to match and update EDLs, ensure that proper corrections were being made and get additional use out of already completed grades.

“We imported all six EDLs to Resolve and conformed them all in a matter of minutes. The performance of this system was amazing,” Omar said. “And I had many scenes that repeated throughout the reels. Using ColorTrace allowed me to copy grades quickly and easily from the clips of one project to those within another.”

He continued: “’The Courier’ had several looks and key characters with unique skin tones. I used PowerGrades for those looks and skin tones to be applied respectively throughout the reels in the movie. It helped me work quickly and consistently.”

Once a first pass was completed, Omar went right into the deeper, more time consuming and intricate color grades requested by the director. For these shots, he relied on a number of Resolve’s powerful features. Features such as unlimited non destructive Nodes, Stills allowing a reference in Wipe or Mix mode to compare color looks for matching and for direct grade copy and pasting, Automatic Image Stabilization, Hue and Sat Curves for fixed vector corrections and real time playback with audio to hear and feel the moods of the scenes he was grading all played an essential part of in the film’s color style.

An additional Resolve feature that was used frequently was the Offline/Timeline Comparison. Through this, Omar was able to verify clip order and recreate effects and grades from the NLE per the client. This allowed him to examine the editor's version directly from his cut. “The best part is that it's easily accessible on the T-Bar panel of the Resolve Control Surface.”

Moving Forward with Resolve

Films In Motion is looking to quickly expand their color grading services with new films and productions coming to Louisiana.

“Adding Resolve to our services is like adding a new Ferrari to a garage. We have the best tool in the business and we are expecting to to use Resolve on at least six to ten more features in the coming year,” said Jason.