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‘Sympathy For Delicious’ made its premier at Sundance Film Festival in January,Delicious-Sundance
where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize as the directorial debut from actor Mark Ruffalo.


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The film begins just after DJ ‘Delicious’ D Thornton has become paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. It follows his story as he tries to survive on the streets of Los Angeles as a faith healer, and encounters the members of an unstable rock band. Shot on 35mm 2-perf film, the film has a gritty, stark look. Colourist Doug Delaney from Prime Focus worked alongside Ruffalo to preserve the edgy, natural feeling of DP Chris Norr’s street style of photography.
In particular, Doug noted some scenes shot in very low light situations in which they wanted to maintain an ‘unlit’ look but keep a solid exposure. “In the DI, we could reinforce certain parts of the frame by bringing up highlights in faces or set pieces while darkening edges of the frame,” Doug said. “This helps keep the dark look while not allowing the scene to feel thin or underexposed. Other times we might tweak the colour temperature of a scene and create a little more colour contrast in order to separate actors from the background.”
Overall, the DI focused on making sure the film stayed true to Chris' original photography. Doug wanted to reinforce the image and support his style. “He wasn't reluctant to take chances," he said. “Chris's framing is unusual in that it creates tension and weight in the scene. We didn't manipulate the footage in DI to an extreme level or paint in something that wasn't already there. It’s a testament to Chris’s and Mark’s commitment and planning, as much as the costume and set decoration and other departments, to create images that served the story throughout production and into post. The lighting was very natural and true to the locations where they shot.
“Chris Norr is a very talented artist and works quickly, so in some ways we could let the colour correction process follow his lead, deriving the look based on the feel and circumstances captured in camera. We weren’t trying to create a technically perfect image that matched exactly shot to shot, scene to scene. Although with the technology available to us in DI, it's very tempting to exercise the footage into a clean, perfect position, that's not always the goal in my view. We tried to maintain the flow of the film and the emotional arc of the story.”
The film was scanned in 4K on a Northlight scanner for a sharp source with which to start the DI. They then conformed and colour graded it using Baselight. “I've worked off Northlight scans for about six years and have been on the Baselight colour corrector since coming to Prime Focus about four years ago. We also have Davinci colour correctors in our telecine rooms, so I bounce between the two systems depending on the application. But of course for DI work the Baselight is our tool. Prior to coming to Prime Focus, I was using Lustre.
The scans from the Northlight are very clean and sharp, especially when doing some custom oversampling, 4k-2-2k, as we do here. The consistency of the scanner means I have a very accurate representation of the negative the DoP shot, and I know that what I'm starting with is exactly what was captured on set.”
As part of the DI process, Prime Focus also received a number of cuts for ending options from editor Pete Beaudreau in New York. These alternatives were conformed at 2K so Ruffalo could preview the various endings, fully colour graded, on the big screen in Prime Focus' LA DI theatre. Doug said that it’s not actually typical to be working on a DI and be asked to preview alternative endings. “When doing preview screenings, it's fairly common. But if it’s a matter of accommodating the filmmakers and providing tools to make informed decisions, then I think it's an advantage.” The director Mark Ruffalo said he found it useful to be able to see the alternate endings in full context, and appreciated the willingness of the DI team to experiment and also to use the DI process to further the interests of the story, not just the look.www.primefocusworld.com