Summer Looks Amazing!

by Cyrus David

This innovative program was developed by award-winning master colourist and colour scientist Dado Valentic. He is a decade-long author of several advanced colour programs ranging from colour Management, to ACES, to Dolby Vision Mastering. His colourist IMDb credits include Game of Thrones, Exodus, Marco Polo, and Sherlock Holmes, alongside more than 30 feature films and numerous commercials.

After years of development, on August 10th, Summer Look Academy 2020 was launched remotely to the planet, and arrived to change the world of colour grading, and to advance the careers of its students. Although the course was strictly limited in size, it was available internationally through an application process. To begin with, I’ll just say, this was not a class for beginners or knob-twirling newcomers, but a curriculum for the next generation of industry leading colourists. It was a master’s-degree-level study in the art of Look Design.

Today, the modern post production landscape has all-but-abandoned the apprenticeship model. So, exposure to industry-leading mentors who coach the next generation of colourists, along with teaching the technical expertise needed to reach Hollywood-class level expectations, is difficult to find, at any cost. But here we were!

Participants ranged from editors to cinematographers, to established colourists who have graded films, Coke ads, beer and car commercials. But make no mistake, we were all students here at the Summer Look Academy.

We started by exploring our roots, as we learned about Natalie Kalmus, the original colourist, co-founder and driving force of Technicolor ‘s development, over a century ago. She was responsible for changing the colour of Dorothy’s shoes from silver to ruby red in the Wizard of OZ, and was commissioned to write a S.M.P.T.E. book titled “Colour Consciousness,” the first book written about the use of colour for storytelling.

Each week we researched world renowned directors and cinematographers like Vittorio Storaro, David Fincher, Denis Villeneuve, and Roger Deakins. We studied these Oscar winners, their colour palette choices, and visual styles in order to understand their vision.

Every week we studied in real-time, with Dado Valentic, and elite guest lecturers.
We had exclusive access to giants like Josh Pines, Lawrence Sher, and Walter Volpatto, all world-class innovators whose impact on the industry has been nothing short of spectacular.

They revealed many insider techniques, personal stories, and perspectives. They each happily answered all our questions. There was no chance to be intimidated by their IMDb’s because they were so deeply engaging, and so much fun. Learning this way should be the norm.

Josh Pines, a two-time Oscar winner for his technical achievements, was our first guest lecturer. His work on the digital versions of Star Wars, Blade Runner, Mission Impossible, Saving Private Ryan, and Star Trek, further underscores his outstanding contribution to the industry.

On LinkedIn, Josh describes himself “trouble-maker at Technicolor.” I’m convinced he is a standup comic disguised as a world renowned colour scientist. To meet him, remotely, was a pleasure. His job was essentially to spoon-feed us PhD-level technical colour science, but he did it with a healthy dose of humour. He was seriously the best “professor” I ever met.

Oscar nominated cinematographer Lawrence Sher, ASC, was the next guest lecturer. Lawrence is among the new breed of cinematographers blazing a trail in Hollywood. Known for his work on the Joker, The Hangover, and Garden State.

Lawrence shared how he created the surprising look for the Joker, and how, the largest library of high-definition fully searchable movie images in the world, which he developed, could be used to advance the Art of Look Design. It’s an invaluable tool to help filmmakers build decks for every stage of a project from the pitch stage to final colour grading.

Lawrence generously shared his wisdom, and also agreed to become our client for our final assignments. He gave a lecture on his one day off, during a heavy schedule in his first week of production on a comedy series. To not only have the opportunity to learn from the very best, but to have a personal assessment from the cinematographer who lensed the Joker, well, it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Final guest lecturer was Walter Volpatto, a Senior colourist at Company 3 in LA., who currently has more than 100 credits as a DI colourist including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, and Best Picture winner, Green Book, for which he received an Oscar nomination for colour.

There’s no manual for learning at this altitude, you just need to have this kind of one-on-one facetime with a Senior colourist who wants to develop the next generation of colourists. The Summer Look Academy provided us with that in full living colour.

Walter displayed his technical prowess as he carefully deconstructed his Resolve node tree. He revealed an organized workflow that ensures colour consistency across the timeline, while empowering the colourist to work at lightning speed. This was the big league!

And if that were not enough, Dado, granted us a first hand look at game-changing Resolve plugins and AI powered software. Years in development, these ground breaking tools were

designed to elevate the colourist workflow into a new era. These remarkable tools were GRAIN LAB, LOOK DESIGNER 2.0, and COLOURLAB.AI.

GRAINLAB, a regenerative grain plugin accelerated by metal, openCL, and Cuda does not merely add a static grain layer temporally, but embeds regenerative grain to the camera negative. And the grain is customizable across the dynamic range of exposure. Grainlab is a monumental step towards making the digital negative look perceptually like film. It took years of development that benefited from research at six universities worldwide. Digital Cinema will never look the same.

LOOK DESIGNER 2.0 is more than an update. This Color-managed LOG-space plugin adds much more functionality and precision. More brilliantly, LD2.0 enables subtractive colour grading in an otherwise RGB workspace. Only high-end Hollywood movies use subtractive colour grading (CMY) in their DI, through carefully guarded LUTS, created by top notch colour scientists. Netflix certified this plugin for their deliverables, and Blackmagic Design enabled LD 2.0 on their Resolve Mini Panel.

For the finale, we were given access to an AI powered tool called COLORLAB.AI, an OSX application that matches shots, even across various cameras, with immense accuracy and speed. It works seamlessly with Resolve Studio and with this incredible tool, AI does the heavy lifting so the colourist can spend more time finessing their images. These cutting-edge tools are a must.

To say that this was one of the most important training courses for professional colourists in 2020 is a wild understatement. We discovered so much from Dado’s experience, from his industry-leading guest lecturers, and from each other. So what, I didn’t get any sleep in August, I’m pretty sure this course changed my life.

Cyrus David
Senior Production Editor, Bell Media, Toronto International award-winning editor Footagebank cinematographer

Copyright 2020. Cyrus David. All rights reserved.

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