Blackmagic technologies are making their way into more high-end production and TV shows.
Today we take a look at how Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Red Notice were supported by the BMPCC 6K and DaVinci Resolve and how filmmakers can take advantage.
Everyone knows that Netflix has a standard for streaming content that drives the industry. Blackmagic is more than happy to not only meet that standard with its hardware and software, but also exceed it. So much so that secondary cameras like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K have become the go-to for shooting high-energy action scenes like the opening of Falcon and the Winter Soldier for Disney+, and creating custom LUTs for movies like Netflix's Red Notice.
What does Blackmagic have over the competition? Mainly, its flexibility and ease of use. Let’s take a look.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier in 6K
When looking for a mobile camera system that could not only be lightweight enough to fly on a Wingsuit that skydivers would wear, the filmmakers behind Falcon and the Winter Soldier also needed a camera that could match the same kind of look and feel of their main cinema camera, the Panavision’s DXL2 8K camera. This meant matching the digital emulsion of the DXL2, while also being able to track the sudden movements of the fight choreography. For the team, there was only one real choice: the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K.
“We very quickly settled on the Pocket 6K,” said Falcon Cinematographer PJ Dillon. “The Pocket 6K made sense for many reasons, including the ability to use high-quality, low-weight stills lenses, but primarily because we could shoot in Blackmagic RAW. That gave us far greater control for subsequent VFX work and grading. We could set our exposure and be reasonably confident that nothing would clip and that we would retain sufficient detail in the shadows.”
The added benefit was that even though the camera weighed in at under two pounds, the filmmakers were able to strip the camera down even further to make it as light as possible for being mounted to the chest of a skydiver’s wingsuit.
“This was important to us as we wanted to strip the cameras back to the bare minimum in terms of weight so we didn't want remote iris or focus systems,” Dillon said. “The concept was to be able to set an exposure that could contain the full range, from bright sky to shadow detail, and the sensor performed really well."
Dillon went on to say, “We were actually really blown away by the image quality”
The image was so good, the final cut of the sequence incorporated 90% of the practical shots, leaving fans with a near-impossible task of telling the difference between the live-action elements and the rest that were shot on blue screen. Moreover, the filmmakers were able to take full advantage of the lightweight design of the Pocket 6K, and mount it to places that you couldn't with a regular camera like the DXL2.
A brilliant example was when a Pocket 6K was attached to the wingspan of actor Anthony Mackie’s Falcon costume, which gives the character the illusion of flight. From this unique angle, the audience was able to be right in the middle of aerial fisticuffs with a wingsuited villain.
“Falcon and a wingsuit pilot are punching each other while falling through the air,” visual effects supervisor Eric Leven said. “In several quick cuts we see real skydivers fighting in a wide shot, real skydivers fighting in close over the shoulder, actors fighting on a blue screen, and full CG digi-doubles; all cut together, and it's all seamless. You don't know which shot was done with which method.”
Consequently, the Blackmagic Pocket 6K proved to be more than up for the high-performance challenge when it comes to this kind of kinetic filming and took whatever the cinematographers could dish out in the process.
DaVinci Resolve and Red Notice
On the software side, DaVinci Resolve is also up to the challenge.
While filming the shifting color palette of Netflix’s hit action-comedy Red Notice, the filmmakers dealt with the nearly impossible task of shooting a film in the middle of a pandemic, where being on location around the world wasn’t possible. Wanting to capture the look and feel of other countries while having to stay at home is nothing new for seasoned professionals, but when you’re looking to craft a special look and tone, the effort can be even more challenging.
Cinematographer Markus Förderer collaborated intimately with his post-production team to work out the film’s look. At times, the look shifts from a cooler tone, to a warmer, red tone. To bring both into harmony, Forderer brought in colorist Walter Volpatto of Company 3 to do the heavy lifting.
Together, along with his visual effects team, they put together a custom lookup table (LUT) within DaVinci Resolve that could be flexible enough to adjust according to each scene’s unique ambient lighting and on-set color palette.
“It's closer to the work method cinematographers used to use,” Forderer said, “where they would get to know everything about a particular (film) stock, and then they would know exactly how to get the look they want for that stock. For the final grade, we sit together and shape the scenes and adjust the details. But the overall attributes of the image are set in advance so we’re not reinventing the wheel in the final grade.”
This kind of advanced planning also freed up the filmmakers to send a much smaller crew on location to get the second unit scenes that they couldn’t do in the studio. This prompted an increase in the visual effects footprint of the film, which offered up its own unique set of challenges.
“We may have shots that were shot beautifully but would still need work to blend together with the surrounding material,” Volpatto said. “A lot was done in VFX and sent to us as we did the color, but we used some tools to just refine looks when different parts of the same scene had been shot many months apart.”
Volpatto has nothing but praise for the design of Davinci Resolve to accomplish this without skipping a beat.
“My finishing editor Chris Doerr and I both worked on the same project within Resolve, which meant he was able to very quickly flag any shots that were going to be replaced, drop in the replacements and take care of some of the small VFX work that finishing editors did,” Volpatto said. “He was on a workstation where he only had access to the Rec. 709 version, but I could immediately look at the new shot in my theater, and by using the Color Space Transform, I could immediately see the new shot in Rec. 709, P3 and HDR without having to drop in LUTs or do anything else to the node tree. I just had to adjust the outputs in the Color Space Transform. It was very efficient. We never had to stop working for a moment."
The Benefit to Every Filmmaker
The benefit of Blackmagic’s products has always been its ability to deliver a huge amount of bang for the buck. Whether a big-budget film or a low-budget, one-man crew, the hardware and software that BMD has put out provides the kind of performance that can tackle any project. It doesn't matter if it ends up on your TV at home, on the big screen, or on your favorite streaming service. It’s become the very face of democratizing the craft of filmmaking.
While many in Hollywood rely on the other more high-priced suites to manage a post-production window, that seems to be shrinking as time goes on. The little guy and even some of the bigger players are relying on Blackmagic Design hardware and software. Davinci Resolve is able to not only keep up with the speed of this shrinking workflow but find solutions that could speed it up even more. And do it without sacrificing peace of mind.
No matter how big your budget, post-production is stressful enough.
Most importantly, these tools are available for pennies when compared to the hardware used by some big productions. In the case of DaVinci Resolve, it can even be free. Putting this kind of power into the hands of creatives without big budgets opens the door to creativity in a way we never thought possible. It stops you from worrying about how you'll be able to fund your film and gives you the freedom to just make it.