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EFILM Delivers a World of Color for Blue Sky’s ‘Ferdinand’

Colorist Natasha Leonnet previously lent her talents to Blue Sky’s ‘The Peanuts Movie’ and the ‘Ice Age’ and ‘Rio’ franchises.

‘Ferdinand’ © 2017 20th Century Fox.

Natasha Leonnet (La La Land, Hidden Figures) of EFILM in Hollywood handled the color grade on Ferdinand, just as she has the past eight Blue Sky productions, including The Peanuts Movie and the Ice Age and Rio franchises. Leonnet worked in her grading theater along with Production Designer Tom Cardone, who conferred with director Carlos Saldanha closely throughout the process. For the stereoscopic passes Stereoscopic Supervisor Daniel Abramovich was also present for the work. Lighting Supervisor Jeeyun Sung had the opportunity to offer notes or sign off on each pass too.

As with a very carefully-shot live action feature, Leonnet’s work comprised many small touches designed to use the colorist’s artistry and Autodesk Lustre toolset to even out continuity or perform subtle alterations to shots in a full digital theater environment. “I’ll even out skin tones sometimes or bring the light in a part of the frame up or down,” Leonnet explains.

Just as with a live action sequence, she adds, sometimes the filmmakers will wish they had made a slight adjustment to the lighting during production. The film has been rendered out in its entirety at Blue Sky by the time Leonnet gets to work but the grading phase allows for additional fine-tuning beyond that point. “There were some shots where sunlight is hitting a tree and Tom felt it would look better if some of that light were ‘flagged’” the colorist recalls. “We could do that quite nicely in the grade. We also went through every shot to make sure Ferdinand’s muzzle is always perfectly consistent from shot to shot.”

Leonnet points out that the files delivered from Blue Sky are in open EXR and so include the additional highlight and shadow information necessary for her to make small adjustments seamlessly. The studio also provided many mattes to give Leonnet greater and simpler access to certain important elements of shots, including skies, Ferdinand and some other characters, and sometimes even individual eyes, a muzzle or other key areas of the frame. While Leonnet can use secondary tools to isolate these types of details, she notes, “nothing can replace a matte.”

As with the previous Blue Sky titles, the 2D D-cinema pass always comes first. When Cardone and the other filmmakers have signed off on that, it then becomes the template for 3D and HDR versions, although Leonnet notes that there are always some aesthetic questions that must be addressed when taking imagery mastered for 14 foot-lambert projection and re-mastering for projection at other maximum light levels. The 6- and 3.5-footlambert 3D versions or the Dolby Vision 2D and 3D versions (she mastered at sister facility, Company 3 in Santa Monica) have inherently different qualities.

“In 3D you tend to push highlights a bit harder because you have less light to work with,” Leonnet explains. “But sometimes doing that results in highlights that are too high, especially on faces, and we go back and make the necessary corrections to parts of the frame that need them to make it feel as much like the template as possible. Tom, of course, has an incredible eye and can very quickly describe the qualities that he likes or doesn’t. Dan has amazing color and luminance vision and his input is instrumental in our being able to get the most out of the stereoscopic versions of the movie.”

Leonnet always enjoys working with the Blue Sky team. “They are so detail-oriented and they know exactly what they’re after,” she enthuses. “For me as a colorist it’s always rewarding to be working with such accomplished artists.”