Decentralized Post Production On Sundance’s “Native Son”
A Q&A with Samuel Gursky, Post Supervisor, Irving Harvey
The post production process can be a daunting one, especially in the world of independent feature filmmaking. We spoke with Post Supervisor Samuel Gursky of NY-based post production company Irving Harvey to talk about his role supervising the post production process of Native Son and how he used Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Studio throughout the post production process as his toolset to handle all the moving pieces coming in and going out to the various departments.
Q: What was your role for the film and how DaVinci Resolve Studio came into play?
Sam Gursky: I like to think of our work on Native Son as an attempt to service a trend that we call decentralized post production which we have seen developing over the last few years in independent cinema. Our experiences have shown us that filmmakers want increased freedom during post production, often working with independent editors out of their own studios and a variety of vendors for their post production needs. We work as the foundation to make sure that everything runs smoothly and on schedule, and ensure that everyone has the tools they need to do their best work.
Native Son was a perfect example of this. We were brought on by Bow & Arrow Entertainment who had engaged Brad Turner and his company SeeThink for the edit, as well as Company 3 for color and Goldcrest for sound. We worked closely with assistant editor Jeffrey Star to provide each post production department the assets needed to execute their job, and then finally we compiled all finished assets to generate the final deliverables. We used DaVinci Resolve Studio for all of our work on the film.
You used DaVinci Resolve Studio for a lot of your work on “Native Son,” including dailies, edit prep, online editing, VFX pulls, color turnover and finishing. Can you explain your workflow, and how you collaborated with Company 3 regarding their work on the film’s final grade?
Gursky: Our work for Native Son started during production. We liaised with DIT Paul Schilens, who used Resolve to generate our offline edit proxies with the color adjustments made on set using a CDL workflow. We would receive runner drives from production every few days, and used the DaVinci Resolve Studio clone tool to securely consolidate the media to master and backup drives, then used DaVinci Resolve Studio’s sync audio by timecode tool to quickly sync the footage and provide watermarked dailies for production to review, in the meantime sending the footage to SeeThink so they could begin working in tandem with the production.
Once picture lock was reached, we used an XML workflow with DaVinci Resolve Studio to online the edit from the offline files to the original camera files. With the help of assistant editor Jeffrey Star, we used the tools in the DaVinci Resolve Studio edit tab to make sure all of the reframing and other adjustments made in the edit were preserved. Throughout the edit and once we reached picture lock, we generated final VFX pulls to send to Josh Johnson of VFXdaily and generated reels to send to Company 3. A fun note, we delivered linear EXR sequences to Company 3 in order to give us the most flexibility in the future to adapt the film’s color grade to changes in color science and viewing technology.
Once we received final assets from color, VFX, sound, and graphics, we used DaVinci Resolve Studio to compile everything and render final ProRes and DCP deliverables. Finally, we used DaVinci Resolve Studio to do a QC pass on our DCP before sending the DCP to the theater for the final pre-festival review screening.
Q: Why did you use DaVinci Resolve Studio?
Gursky: Our studio is primarily a DaVinci Resolve facility, and as such all of our workstations are set up with DaVinci Resolve Studio and networked together to our PostgreSQL database and media servers. This gave us enormous flexibility, scalability, and ease-of-use using Resolve's various tools to take care of all the various workflow challenges for the project. We could do the consolidation and conform work on our conform machine, then quickly move over to our render station to generate transcodes, and during the final finishing we could hop between our conform station and color suite for screening and QC.
The biggest overall benefit of using DaVinci Resolve Studio to process our assets at every junction is consistency. Whether assets were going to dailies reviews, editorial, VFX, color grading, or to generate the DC, the image processing has stayed consistent through and through and allows us to remain confident in the accuracy of our final deliverables.
Q: What are some of your favorite DaVinci Resolve Studio features and why?
Gursky: Throughout Native Son there were a few features that stand out as particularly useful:
- Sync audio by timecode was a huge timesaver in quickly generating watermarked and synced dailies.
- The new fairlight sound delivery options made generating the various deliverables that called for different audio stems much simpler and easier than any way we’ve seen in past projects.
- The PostgreSQL database and remote rendering functionality allowed us to divide renders among our infrastructure as we needed, allowing us to generate assets and deliverables faster.
Q: Do you have any advice for filmmakers looking to get their work into Sundance?
Gursky: Having a rock solid workflow planned from the start of production is make-or-break when it comes to keeping the project in-budget and on-schedule. There’s no room for surprise expenses after production or missing deadlines while working in this capacity, especially under the pressure of a festival deadline. DaVinci Resolve Studio can be a uniquely useful tool in keeping workflow smooth, and we implore independent filmmakers to learn about the software themselves or work with professionals experienced with it.
For workflow help in general, there are tons of resources available, from information online to professionals looking to get involved in independent film projects. We at Irving Harvey place a big focus on working with independent filmmakers to see their projects through from production to completion. Aside from the work we do in post supervision and technical support like on Native Son, we are also in the process of developing a mentorship program and collected knowledge base for independent film post production that we call Fellowship At (www.fellowshipat.org).
Q: What are you most proud of regarding your work on the film?
Gursky: I’d say overall I’m most proud of being able to roll with the punches and keep up with the various challenges that arose during post production. DaVinci Resolve Studio was instrumental in being able to do so. It saved us so much time and offered us so many more options than we are used to having during this phase of post, and allowed us to make things happen in time spans we used to say were impossible.
For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the coverage of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.