Colourist Eric Whipp talks about working remotely with his team between LA, Toronto and Sydney to build the looks on Baselight that tell the story of the new Mad Max film, Furiosa.

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George Miller’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is the fifth film in the Mad Max series and a prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road, made in 2015. Colourist Eric Whipp from alter ego took responsibility for the colour on this new movie.

He and his team worked on Baselight’s new version 6.0 across three locations – alter ego in LA and Toronto, as well as Spectrum Films in Sydney where the workflow supervision, conform, home entertainment mastering and delivery were all handled in Baselight.

Eric, George Miller and the Spectrum team had worked together previously on Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022) and applied a similar workflow to Furiosa. Eric and George also collaborated on Fury Road but, in fact, the two of them have worked together for nearly two decades.

“It’s been almost 20 years since the first film I did with George, which was Happy Feet, back in 2005,” Eric said. “Since then, we’ve worked through five films together, and created a kind of shorthand between us. I have learned what type of image and style he likes, and at the same time, he’s challenged me further and further in the grade, knowing that I can most probably achieve whatever he’s looking for. Together, we’ve pushed Baselight’s capabilities and embraced every little toolset we can find to help tell stories.”

Three Cities

The work on the movie was spread across three different facilities and cities – starting with Spectrum Films, who handled the conforming in Baselight in the same space as the editorial department. Michael Messih, technical operations manager at Spectrum, commented that the production had started on the workflow for Furiosa while they were completing Three Thousand Years of Longing. “The same on-set VFX supervisor worked on both films, so we were able to bring a lot of what we had developed in Baselight directly over to the Furiosa pipeline, he said.”

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The Rebel Fleet managed the dailies and all the VFX pulls, and because nearly all of the shots required visual effects the team decided to work on all of the material as EXR sequences. Interestingly, at no point did they actually see any of the original camera raw files. One of Baselight’s most useful features at that stage was the shot versioning tool. They typically received up to 100 shots per day, so having the version refresh feature sped up the process. Also, being able to look ba back and compare versions during VFX reviews was extremely helpful.

Spectrum helped to develop a workflow for 4K graded streams between LA and Sydney, and maintained a rigorous calibration check procedure – including colour comparisons and render tests – for the review equipment to ensure that everyone was seeing the same images.

Rolling DI

“George likes the term ‘rolling DI’, implying a tight integration between departments so that the grading process happens alongside all the VFX work,” Michael said. “Having the remote working ability between Spectrum and alter ego meant that Eric didn’t have to spend weeks over in Sydney – and George could review everything from the 4K DI theatre at Spectrum.”

The Spectrum team worked entirely in ACES and frequently used Baselight’s ability to switch between colour spaces to compare the colour in different viewing conditions. They could also use it to quickly switch formats, which was often necessary to compare 4K, HD and UHD against the various references.

Supported by a team of finishing editors and production experts, Spectrum used Baselight’s reporting tool to generate daily data reports that the VFX supervisor used to cross-check versions. This task became essential for Furiosa. DI was effectively leading the edit, and because most of the VFX changes were done in Baselight rather than waiting for an updated EDL, access to timely reports was critical.

Filmlight furiosa scope

Super Synchronisation

alter ego opened its LA office in September 2023, knowing that one of its first projects would be Furiosa. “We ensured we had everything we needed to grade the film while building out the new office,” said Eric. “A big part of the project was ensuring that our six Baselight suites in Toronto could synchronise with the two new Baselight suites in LA.

“We also needed to find a way to sync with the Baselight suites at Spectrum, so we set up a project server here at alter ego in LA, which everyone was connected to. This way, once a reel was conformed in Sydney, it became as easy to open in LA as in Sydney, and all workstations were linked.”

Because the movie required a large amount of rotoscoping, a dedicated team of colour support at alter ego in Toronto and LA was on hand to assist. Some of the looks required layers of shapes and keyframing before Eric could even begin, so having the extra hands meant Eric could spend more time on the look and some of the other complicated issues that came with this film.

Terabytes of data moved between the three facilities on a daily basis, which required managing and tracking all shots and scenes and keeping track of the Baselight work in progress across the three facilities.

“Towards the last couple of months on the film, the project really did become a bit of a rush,” Eric said. “In LA, I was grading until 3am, local time, to sync with the Sydney time zone where it would be morning. Then I was back at it at 8am. We had so much work to do in Baselight that having the three facilities working continuously between three different time zones actually worked out very well for us.”

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He was able to grade the film remotely almost entirely, and is very happy with the result. “We streamed the 4K image from alter ego’s LA office where I was working, to Spectrum Films. The image looked flawless,” he said.

Look Development

Eric began work on the movie around two years ago, completing grading tests as the shoot began, but the heavy work started towards the end of 2023. He said, “We went through a series of look development sessions first, which were very important to getting the look right because George is very hands on with the grade and loves to sit in the Baselight suite and explore options. But I always tried to find a sweet spot before going into those sessions, to guide where we might go.

“What’s great about working with George is, he’s not afraid to really push and go hard on certain aspects. He loves a rich contrasty image, so it’s my job to try and deliver that look without it looking too cheap or too digital.”

As the film is a prequel, Eric began by re-watching Fury Road to remind himself of where they had ended up. “We knew it had to be similar for the sake of storytelling, but to provoke interest, it couldn’t be exactly the same,” he said. “In Furiosa, we visit locations like Gastown and the Bullet Farm that are only talked about in Fury Road. That left the door wide open for us to explore.”

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For Gastown, for example, he developed two looks. The first matches a typical industrial site but the second, which comes years later after Dementus has run the facility into the ground, looks much darker and dirtier. “We also graded some shots to resemble a Renaissance painting, while overall the film leans toward a graphic novel look. We didn’t use any specific references, but it was definitely inspired by paintings and graphic novels,” he noted.

Pushing Colours

He used the new Chromogen tool in Baselight 6.0 to support look development, saying that he had moved into Baselight 6.0 specifically to work with Chromogen,” said Eric. “I knew I needed rich-coloured sand and deep-blue skies in a lot of cases, so I made look strips in Chromogen that pushed the sand colour in a richer direction and deepened blue skies by twisting toward a nice cyan-blue colour. In some scenes we needed the greenery to pop, so I created look strips to open up the greens.”

The strips are sets of parameters that represent different effects such as grading operators, transforms, filters and so on. When a strip is selected, its settings or parameters are selected as well. In all, Eric ended up making approximately 20 look strips that he used for different scenes.

“All of these helped with the overall look while not being too destructive to the overall image,” said Eric. “I converted them all to look strips so I could slide the amount of each effect shot by shot. As we graded this film in ACES, a show LUT wasn’t really needed. Working with look strips essentially does the same thing anyway, but with the advantage that everything is colour space aware, which made it easier to transition to HDR and rec.709.

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Playing with Chromogen

“It was interesting to work with Chromogen on this film. I’d take a scene, play with it in Chromogen and find a look that I felt was helping. But a day or two later, I’d find myself returning to Chromogen to refine it. Then another scene would come along with a slightly different look, and I’d find that the Chromogen look I had just created two days ago was not going to work, so I’d jump back in and adjust it specifically for the new scene.

“Traditionally, I have never had that much control over a LUT. I’d have to grade around it. For example, I used this one LUT for years that I loved, but green colours were not very strong and in fact got twisted to yellow. So I’d often have to key green colours and bring them back over the LUT. With Chromogen, I can literally adjust something like that and save off a LUT that won’t require all that keying shot by shot.”

Visual Effects

He used many types of Baselight tools on the grade – from shapes and keys, to working with embedded mattes from EXR sequences and optical flow retimes, to compositing new skies and adding new elements.

“In a shot or two in the film, one of the actor’s eyeline was slightly off, which made him look slightly cross-eyed. We used the gridwarp tool to shift the eyeball position over and correct the issue. On other shots, we added a lot of additional dust, smoke and fire in Baselight. We used flicker and heat haze effects, lens flares – you name it. I even photographed a series of lens dirt elements that we could then use to composite over certain shots to add some grunge and realism if needed,” said Eric.

Filmlight furiosa fire

“Because so many of the backgrounds in this film are full CG, we would start with a basic lighting pass and composite of a shot from VFX, jump into the Baselight suite and experiment with the look. Often we would try different skies and looks and sculpt the lighting to get it right for the scene.” Once he had hit on a look that George liked, he would send that reference back to the VFX teams to match the lighting and look, and the shots would come back with the amended sky and lighting.

“We had a great collaboration with VFX on this film. Andrew Jackson was the VFX supervisor, whom I had worked with on Fury Road. It’s imperative that we work together closely and support each other on huge projects like this. That is why colour was brought in so early. Between colour and VFX, we could work out which would have the best approach to achieve a look. In many cases, we opted for Baselight so that it could be adjusted to George’s preference, rather than bake it into the VFX composite.”

He also found this was a good way to explore looks as they could take a shot and very quickly composite a new sky or add layers of dust or light rays. If we get these early VFX-passes into the Baselight suite, George can adjust and control the parameters in real time and find the desired look much faster.”


Unlike Fury Road, which was shot on location in Namibia, Africa, Furiosa was shot in Australia where the original 1979 Mad Max was filmed. Nevertheless, the film still needed to look like the desert from Fury Road, and consequently, many background environments in Furiosa are CG.

“The weather wasn’t playing nicely once the shoot began, and at some points the wind was so strong on set, the production had to move into a studio to shoot outdoor action scenes,” said Eric. “So once the edit was done we ended up with a mix of sunny shots, overcast cloudy shots and studio-lit shots, leaving us with a lot of work in the Baselight suite to even these out and relight as best we could.”

Filmlight furiosa sky

The CG backgrounds themselves required specific work as well, to prevent them from looking too perfect and crisp and remove the ‘CG edge’. Depth hazing was used in the grade to reduce some of the contrast and help draw the eye to the main action taking place.

Taking It up a Notch

One of the most challenging sequences for Eric was a section they called the ‘war montage’ that involved a series of shots that dissolved and overlaid on top of each other. “That alone would have been quite a task, to bring through certain parts of the image via a dissolve and get the timing perfect,” he said. “But we took it up a notch and also composited new backgrounds into each shot and added layers and layers of fire, smoke, embers and ash flying across the frame. A huge amount of compositing and roto work was required in Baselight to get that little sequence working.”

When asked about his highlight on this project, Eric struggled to single out a scene, sequence or look. “I certainly prefer the look of some scenes over others,” he said, “But George once told me that people often ask him what his favourite shot is. He said it’s like asking a composer to tell you their favourite note. It’s the combination of all of the notes that makes the music. I feel very similar about colour. If the story is being told well, and the images look rich and graphic, then we must have done our job right.”

The crew at Spectrum Films, with director George Miller.