Image Workflow Supervisor Ernie Schaeffer used DaVinci Resolve Studio and Blackmagic Cloud as the main DI processing tools for most of the image for the new documentary film ‘Frida’.
Showing at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival’s US Documentary Competition, the film ‘Frida’ looks into the life and stories of artist Frida Kahlo. Director Carla Gutiérrez brings Frida’s life into the project through Kahlo’s own words from her diary, letters, essays and interviews, as well as visually through her remarkable artwork, including creative animations based on some of them.
As Image Workflow Supervisor, Colour Team Director and Senior Colourist on the film, Ernie Schaeffer set up the workflow and logistics for the image processing for the DI. “The project was unusual in the sense that updates to the final archive continued throughout post production, right up until the last moments before QC and delivery for Sundance,” he said.
“We also had a dispersed team working remotely, so flexibility and collaboration were going to be key factors from the start. This aspect of the project was supported by DaVinci Resolve Studio and Blackmagic Cloud.”
The work began with synchronising NAS devices across different locations in Mexico City and Morelos, Mexico. These were the locations of three teams – archive delivery and restoration, animation/VFX, and colour grading and online. Throughout post, the animation/VFX team updated and delivered approved shots within the NAS synchronisation, and each location had certain read and write privileges to make sure each department was responsible for the specific deliveries required for the post process.
The archive masters were delivered remotely through FTP from New Jersey to the server in Mexico City, which was synchronised to all departments. Additional remote collaboration was required within the colour/online team, as Ernie was based in Morelos, another colourist in Mexico City and Carla in New York.
“The challenge was to continuously integrate the final archive masters into picture lock online, which was handled by the restoration team, and then delivered to the animation/VFX and colour/online departments,” said Ernie. “The conform and grade were done in DaVinci Resolve Studio using Blackmagic Cloud for the colour/online team to work within the same project simultaneously.
Live-streamed Colour Sessions
“Blackmagic Cloud Storage was also used to move media files for colour proposals and treatments. During colour sessions, we live streamed our DaVinci Resolve viewer via the DaVinci Remote Monitor app to Carla in New York. She was using an iPad Pro M2 with Reference Mode to be sure of proper calibration of the image during the approval process. This was critical to the creative decisions made between Carla and the colour team.”
This workflow allowed colour grading to begin from the start of the post process and continue through the delivery and restoration of archive masters. The DaVinci Remote Monitor app shares the colourist’s screen over the internet directly within DaVinci Resolve Studio, so that a colleague can view it as a stream on another computer with Resolve Studio, or on an iPhone or iPad. Because it is colour managed, it makes a suitable alternative to Zoom. The colleague will see a good quality image that closely matches what is seen on the reference monitor, and it is also compatible with HDR.
Ernie also used DaVinci Resolve Studio’s Fusion page for some cleaning and restoration aspects for the archive, which was important because the film is composed entirely of archival footage. “We used Fusion quite a lot for final dust busting, fixes and cleanups but, of course, never had to leave the timeline,” he said. “We used Resolve for the complete online, as well as for our mastering and delivery of mezzanine files and mastering for the creation of the DCP.”
Eventually, Ernie travelled to Mexico with a small team to finalise colour, restoration and online in his own studio. Even after that, the team continued working with Blackmagic Cloud and the DaVinci Remote Monitor, as the remaining archive masters, credits and animations continued to arrive until the last days of the post finishing schedule.
“I always adapt to remote options so that the creative process is not limited by logistics or physical locations. On ‘Frida,’ the remote workflow gave us flexibility, and these remote monitoring and collaboration possibilities form a new standard for post production teams working from different countries and locations,” Ernie said. www.blackmagicdesign.com