Light Iron’s colourist Charles Bunnag graded this dramatisation of the Twisted Metal video game in Resolve with a high contrast, saturated look to focus on characters and world building.

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The ten-part TV series ‘Twisted Metal’, streaming on Peacock, was created by screenwriter/producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick as a violent, fast-paced dark comedy based on the video game of the same name originally developed during the 1990s. True to its post apocalyptic genre, the outsider protagonist is offered a chance at a better life, if he can successfully deliver a mysterious package across the hugely dangerous wasteland that America has become.

The series was graded by Senior Colourist Charles Bunnag at post production house Light Iron, part of the Panavision group of companies.

Charles said he always likes to begin a new project with as much background as possible about the story and production. Although he wasn’t familiar with the video game series, he immediately began his research. “I haven't played video games since I was a kid, so I wasn't up to speed with the IP. But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that many of my friends, colleagues, even my sister in law, were fans of the series,” he said.

Fun and Danger in Colour

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“I learned more about the game, and as I started looking at some of the dailies, I saw that Anthony Mackie was giving an unexpectedly humorous performance. At this point, I decided to just go on instinct as I began to grade. In my first session with our showrunner MJ (Michael Jonathan Smith) I came to understand that the idea behind the show was simply to have a good time.

“MJ was looking for a world full of contrast, saturation, colour distance and anything we could do to make the images more fun, while helping us focus on the characters and do some world building.” Charles was working on the grade in Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve Studio post production software with a DaVinci Resolve Advanced Panel to complete the show’s final colour grade. Though he had early conversations with cinematographer James McMillan about the look of the show, Charles was given free rein to create a first episode pass based on his own instincts.

But, despite that free rein, he also understood he needed to create a look that worked for all of the creatives. He said, “As much as I have my own sensibilities, I don't think it's my place to enforce a look or style on anyone. I think I can use my experience to help guide or suggest ideas, but that is always done in the spirit of helping our fellow creatives achieve the best version of their vision.”

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Resolve’s OFX plugins were instrumental to help create the look. Frame Replacer and Optical Flow were also used to get rid of light flickers, fog, haze and even some rain. “I also used Texture Pop to help make some of the nastier characters more… unpleasant,” Charles noted. He enjoyed the challenges of the show, both in the sheer volume of shots that comprise the action storyline, but also in the ever changing conditions in New Orleans under which some sequences were shot.

OFX Glow, Aperture Diffraction, Light Rays and Lens Flares all became useful when he had to find solutions for shots that weren't matching. “The opening of episode 110, which really begins at the end of episode 109, has a mix of shots with cloudy skies, overcast skies, flat lighting, harsh, directional lighting, skies with big fluffy clouds, and skies with no clouds at all,” he said.

Weather and Light

“This confetti of weather and lighting conditions concludes with a final confrontation between the characters Quiet and Agent Stone. This scene, unlike all the preceding action, is made up of mostly medium and close up shots with the two actors exchanging dialogue, all under consistent, direct sunlight.”

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Charles felt he could anchor the scene here, using the natural and consistent lighting to inform the earlier action, and help manage the visual nature of the changing conditions. “My thought was to grade the beginning of the scene – at the end of 109 – to feel like early morning, and then use the chaos of the battle in the beginning of 110 to allow us to transition the look to late morning/bright midday during the final confrontation between Quiet and Agent Stone,” he said. The slow transition helped smooth the sequence, bringing a visual focus to the final confrontation.

‘Twisted Metal’ is now streaming on Peacock.

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