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FotoKem Takes on ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’ with DaVinci Resolve

Starz Network’s new TV series ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’ follows on from the 1980s classic horror films based on the original movie ‘The Evil Dead’ released in 1981. The films are well-known for their horror, humour and distinct visual styles. The successful pilot of the new series, which premiered on Halloween night on 31 October 2015, was graded at FotoKem’s Burbank facility by in-house colourist Alastor Arnold, who was also the colourist on the remastering of the original ‘The Evil Dead’, working with producer Sam Raimi. 
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Working on the DaVinci Resolve Advanced Control surface, the most important aspect of grading the pilot was defining the look of the series. “For example, it was important to establish the look and perspective of the Evil Force, a demonic spirit, from the first time it appears on the screen,” said Alastor. “Although the look of the show overall is warm, Sam Raimi and the editor Bob Murawski wanted to give this spirit a very high contrast, desaturated look, juxtaposing the rest of the show. We spent a lot of time perfecting that visual element, which was devised entirely at the DI stage and will carry through the rest of the episodes.”
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To both keep the distinctive look of the classic films, and maintain the appropriate dark, foreboding atmosphere of a horror film, Alastor used colour correction tools in DaVinci Resolve including Power Windows, 3D tracking and noise reduction. “Sam was going for a very filmic, warm and saturated look,” he said. “The series was shot digitally on the ARRI Alexa, primarily in the RAW format, but because and all of the ‘Evil Dead’ films were shot on and distributed on film, and he and Bob are great film fans, they wanted to stay true to that feeling.”

“Sam likes to apply windows and shapes in intentionally dark scenes, with an emphasis on brightening the actors’ eyes and faces. Resolve’s Power Windows and associated tracker are useful for meeting those demands.”

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“Apart from the creative grade the project followed a workflow centred on Resolve from the DI to preparing and receiving VFX shots. It was more like working on a mini-movie instead of a TV series. Resolve handles RAW workflows very well, requiring no transcoding or supplementary steps prior to colour correction.

“On a show like this one, which makes heavy use of VFX, in Resolve we can also manage and manipulate the numerous hold-out matte channels for compositing. Actually, this ability was an important reason for choosing it as the grading platform for the pilot,” said Alastor. “To allow more control in the DI for the Force effect, as mentioned, all of the VFX shots were provided with EXRs with multiple matte channels, which meant we could keep very fine control over how and what to grade in the frame. DaVinci Resolve supports editing and grading of EXR files in real time.”

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Artists can export EXR or DPX image sequences for visual effects work. As work in progress sequences are returned, a folder for VFX can be created that automatically links to the Resolve timeline, making sure that an up to date conform is in place with the most recent VFX plates. Also, the external mattes can be used to key out a background using an alpha output.

Extending to other parts of the pilot’s post workflow, Alastor used DaVinci Resolve’s multiple-layer timeline for online editing for the show. The software includes titles tools and supports various 3rd party plug-in effects, such as Boris FX. A keyframe editor is integrated into the timeline so that keyframe positions are visible directly under each clip and can be used to animate real time effects. Alternatively, if graphics are rendered with an alpha channel they can be dropped into the appropriate video layer and placed on the Resolve timeline.

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Standard editing tasks like transitions, re-framing and retiming are also part of Resolve. Because editing tools are included, FotoKem were able to keep the entire project on one platform, and make changes and show different looks in real time.  www.blackmagicdesign.com