Company 3: This is the studio where they make “magic” with Hollywood films | Technology

barbie, The hunger Games, Napoleon And Dune They not only have in common that they are among the most famous films on the planet. All have passed through the hands of professional colorists from Company 3. This company is responsible for the post-production of 80% of Hollywood series and films, according to Stefan Sonnenfeld, founder and CEO of the company, who has worked on creations from the caliber of Top Gun: Maverick, The White Lotus And Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3.

EL PAÍS visited the facilities of a Company 3 post-production studio in Los Angeles. In one of its rooms is Siggy Ferstlcolorist who worked on series such as Narcos, The boys And Gene V and in hundreds of advertisements for Nike, Mercedes Benz, Cadillac and other companies. When editing a scene Gene V He explains that he and other colorists receive material directly from films and series recorded with the original cameras. “Most of the time they shoot in raw mode, then we edit and adapt them,” he says.

Sometimes they simply enhance what was originally filmed by changing the saturation and contrast. But if the director doesn’t like what was filmed or wants to change it, he can “color it and use visual effects.” “If it’s a simple drama and you’re just looking for balance between scenes, it can take 80 hours to complete. But if you want a visual effects show, it can take 500″, says the expert.

To a non-technical person, it appears that colorists use some sort of advanced Photoshop for film. In addition to changing lighting and colors, they can go much further: blur the background to enhance part of the image, remove blemishes or imperfections in the skin, simulate the movement of a ship or convert the original camera footage into a scary and intimidating scene. For the latter, “it is sometimes enough to darken and desaturate certain colors like blue”.

Weather is an important factor to consider when planning a shoot. “When you shoot a scene shot outdoors over a week, the weather conditions can vary from time to time. One day there may be sunshine and another day there may be clouds. If we just put together everything that was filmed, the lighting would be jarring,” says Ferstl. One of their tasks is to adapt it so that it is coherent. Sometimes you are asked to simulate weather conditions. For example, to recreate a storm, use a flickering animation reminiscent of lightning.

Although a priori We may think that the colorist’s job consists solely of perfecting the image, sometimes he seeks the opposite: to degrade or dirty it. “Cameras are getting sharper and sharper, so a lot of the creative process now can be about hiding details because we have too much information captured,” he says. Cody Boulangera colorist who has worked on such popular series as Space Force, Stupid sick man, Star Trek: Picard And Euphoria. Sometimes they cause some kind of analog damage to the image, as if it were an old VHS or a black and white TV, simulate that the scene was recorded with a security camera or add lens flare.

In these studies, not only is color corrected, but spots and small imperfections in the artists’ skin can be blurred.

Some changes would leave many speechless. In a matter of seconds, Baker makes magic happen. Transform a scene recorded on the street in broad daylight into a night scene with little light cast by streetlights and car headlights. “While this is achievable, it’s more believable when filming at night because you can control all the shadows in real time and get a more realistic result,” he says.

Seeing this studio’s colorists in action is a delight. It seems like they can turn any scene into whatever they want. Ferstl plays with a scene in which a boy is sent spinning through the sky. “It’s a visual effect. In reality, a crane was lifting it with cables that were eliminated from the image,” he explains. He created a mask for the sky and now it is completely cloudy or completely cloudless and a bright blue.

On each project, Baker works hand-in-hand with the film’s cinematographer and director. For him, the biggest challenge from the point of view of color is “when you are asked to transform it into something that it is not”: “There is a limit to what you can do with an image. If you push it too hard, it collapses. It’s like she’s not supposed to look like that. For him, the most beautiful projects are those which are projected and filmed from the start with a focus on color. This involves the production design and direction of the film. “If the scenes are captured beautifully, we’ll make them a little more beautiful,” he says.

What do people see at home?

In the rooms where the two colorists work, there are several screens. One of the monitors comes from Panasonic, a company that invited EL PAÍS to visit Company 3, in Los Angeles. “We also have professional instructors that go for up to $40,000,” says Sonnenfeld, who wears sneakers, high socks and a gray tracksuit. He speaks with closeness and looks like a modern CEO. As a colorist and business owner, he says he’s always been frustrated because they spent a lot of money on technical infrastructure, but until a few years ago they didn’t have consumer equipment.

They now work with Panasonic monitors: “Obviously they are much cheaper, but at the same time they have very accurate colors and allow us to know what most people are going to see at home. » Toshiya Mizuno, chief picture quality engineer at Panasonic, says the Japanese company has been working for years to improve picture quality so its TVs will be used by Hollywood studios and post-production companies.

In Company 3, each room has two to four monitors of different sizes. Mike Chiado, CTO of the company, says that although they are different technologies, “they allow you to measure everything and reproduce the same values ​​on a standard TV as on a giant screen worth thousands of dollars.” However, he points out that in the real world, not everyone sees colors the same way. For him, this is where the work of professional colorists who take this into account and who have experience, sensitivity and above all photographic memory is essential.

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