A new documentary titled ‘Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall’ celebrates the Jamaican dancehall scene that landed in Brooklyn in the 1980s and 1990s leaving behind music and a cultural impact that still influence today’s younger generation. The documentary is executive produced by singer/songwriter Shaggy and features artists such as Sean Paul, Ding Dong and others.
Director Ben DiGiacomo noted that the film, which is premiering at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival, celebrates a culture that is long overdue for acknowledgement, despite its pervasive impact on pop culture. Though the project had to incorporate historical archival footage spanning decades, the result also needed to be feel as vibrant and entertaining as dancehall culture itself.
“To properly do that, I needed time, but there’s always a rush toward picture lock, so the film can be handed off to colour and to mix,” Ben said. “Using Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Studio as our post production system from the beginning was a luxury for us because we could access all parts and aspects of our film at any moment and constantly evolve all elements of the project artistically. Without that flexibility, I don’t think it would have come out as the intentional piece that it is.”
Focussed on Editing
Also working as editor, colourist and VFX artist on the project, Ben wanted to move into the edit room early, especially as documentaries require a lot of long takes. “After processing dailies, I made all my selects while the shoot was still fresh in my memory. I based my editing decisions on colour, and I needed a quick way to match exposure and white balance while making selects, especially for the documentary’s uncontrolled environments. Having all those balanced selects ready to go allowed me to stay focused on editing without being visually distracted,” he said.
“I found Resolve’s Cut page very helpful when making selects,” Ben said. “Sometimes we really focus on a single clip and having a clean UI gives that feeling of special attention. I also don’t think I could log without the source tape viewer anymore. It’s very simple but immediately gives you a good sense of all the material you’re working with.” Source Taps pales all video clips into the preview window as one long timeline. From here, the editor can scan through the clips and start cutting.
Ben also frequently worked in DaVinci Resolve Studio’s grouping framework and used its render caching abilities during editing. “Node groups, clip filters and shared nodes are a huge help in the editing process for feature length projects. I always create plenty of smart filters that allow me to watch it down in different contexts, for example, watching all the archival clips back to back. It’s a great way to achieve a bird’s eye view of the project,” he said. “I also love how the render cache pipeline works, since I often move back and forth between the pages while editing.”
Trying Out Looks
“Using adjustment clips really speeds up the editing process while trying out different tools like reframing, effects, looks, dynamic zooms or all of that combined. I can quickly see how a shot would feel without having to go through the inspector panel. It’s fun with VFX, and afterwards I can drop them in a power bin to keep them handy.” Adjustment clips are ‘empty’ clips used to apply effects, change parameters or apply colour grades to the clips placed underneath them on the timeline.
Ben regularly works in DaVinci Resolve Studio’s Fusion page for his commercial work, but dove deeper into the VFX tools for ‘Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall’. “Our entire intro credit sequence was built in Fusion using a large variety of Resolve FX, such as lens distortion, lens blur, lens reflections, colour compressor, watercolour and film grain,” he said.
“I also used a character level styling template to build all the title animations in Fusion, but on separate clips. When I originally built the template, I pushed some of the Fusion node parameters, like text and position, through with user controls, so I was able to change the names and positions directly from the edit page. This was a very efficient approach when constantly moving and editing dozens of titles,” he said. “Like DaVinci Resolve, Fusion’s power comes from taking a comprehensive approach with compositing, 3D and motion graphics. It really brings them together.”
Director Ben DiGiacomo
Importance of Sound
With his music background, sound is extremely important to Ben. “I put a lot of work into sound while editing, so having a dedicated Fairlight audio page in Resolve with filmmakers in mind is a big asset. Sound needs special attention, and it’s hard to achieve this level of finesse with any other NLE,” he said.
“Documentaries can be challenging to grade due to the uncontrolled environments. Exposure and temperature will shift, and DaVinci Resolve’s colour stabilizer and colour warper helped fix these issues without complex keyframing. Moreover, archival footage on film or tape has usually acquired damage over time. Resolve’s analogue damage tools allowed me to match these subtle but very characteristic details quite easily with just a few adjustments.”
Ben remarked that he is quite particular about look and feel. “Even deep into colour, I might want to tweak a cut or a lower third, or a cold sound effect might influence how warm I’d like to push the look of a shot, and vice versa. I like all these decisions to be evolving together to create the perfect emotion, and DaVinci Resolve gave me that flexibility for ‘Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall.’” www.blackmagicdesign.com