DI Colorist Dave Hussey of Company 3 performed final color grading for 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, a romantic comedy from first-time director Marc Webb and a surprise hit at the Sundance Film Festival. The film, which stars Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is about the tumultuous relationship between a young woman who doesn't believe in love and the man who falls for her.
Color grading was used not only to make the film look beautiful, but also to subtly affect the way the audience reacts to the story. Hussey, who has a long history of working with Webb on music video projects, said that the director had very specific ideas about how to use color to reflect the mood of his characters.
"At the start of the process Marc, Eric Steelberg [the film's cinematographer] and I reviewed the whole film and came up with a game plan for each scene," Hussey recalled. "We gave the film a very real look. We colored it in a way that didn't take away from the story, but enhanced it."
Webb plays a lot with time in the film. Events don't happen sequentially and in some instances time shifts occur within a single scene. One scene begins with Tom (Gordon-Levitt) on "Day 28." It's early in his relationship with Summer (Deschanel) and Tom is happy, but when he enters an elevator, it's suddenly "Day 333" and things are no longer going so well.
Color helps to communicate the time and mood shift to the audience. At the beginning of the scene, Hussey said, "Everyone is high fiving Tom. He's happy and smiling because that's how he sees the world, so that stuff we made very colorful, bright and happy, but after the switch to day 333, we colored it to suit that mood environment. It's depressing and down.
"So you have one scene that goes from happy and poppy to subdued and depressed. Because the movie was non-sequential, there were a lot of opportunities to use the lightness and brightness of a scene or color to enhance the mood and underscore what the director was trying to say."
500 DAYS OF SUMMER will be distributed later this year by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Hussey is thrilled with its success. "It's a really good movie and I was curious to hear how audiences are reacting to it," he said. "I'm told the audience at Sundance gave it a standing ovation."