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BVK/CSI Seminar: Look Management – From Prep to Post at Camerimage 2023

Dec 7, 2023

At Camerimage the Colorist Society and the German Society of Cinematographers BVK organised a seminar on look development with luminary cinematographers Steve Yedlin ASC, Ari Wegner ACS ASC and Pascale Marin AFC.

It was hosted and moderated by colourists Dirk Meier BVK CSI and Kevin Shaw, who is also president of the CSI, with Ari Wegner and Steve Yedlin joining remotely.

To start the conversation Dirk Meier referred to sessions that Steve Yedlin gave himself at Camerimage in 2015 and 2016 and that very successfully demystified the importance of the camera as image capture device.

In this loose follow-up Steve Yedlin presented a very detailed look into the technical development and toolset he uses to create the imaging pipeline for his projects. Showing colour and image transformations in Nuke as one example, he pointed out the differences to standard camera manufacturers’ Look-up-Tables and the benefits of evaluating and lighting images on set with a much more refined preview.

Continuing on the thoughts of preparation for a specific project Ari Wegner eloquently explained how she plans a shooting philosophy for each film rather than locking into a pre-defined Look. The shooting philosophy might include the point-of-view, lens choices, framing, eyelines and basically a set of rules or guidelines on what to do and what not do on the particular project.

Referring to Steve Yedlin’s presentation and previous sessions Ari Wegner said, “I would agree with Steve that there is a lot of thought given in the choice of camera body and lenses, and that is a little bit of marketing. I think we all like to hope that if we use a particular camera or a particular lens then our film’s going to look a particular way.”

“But actually I would argue they are one of the more minor factors in the overall final result and the viewers’ experience. And, just because you love the look of another film you can’t hope that look will work for your film. Every film has different priorities.”

In the following discussion Steve pointed out a quote from Ari that he particularly liked.

“Not every look is possible in every situation, for every project. But I think a good look is possible in every situation for every project. You’re going to have to find the right look for both the script and the resources you have.”

While noting that her projects tend to have lower budgets than the other speakers, Pascale Marin said that she follows a similar approach. She relies on communication with colourists, directors and producers to achieve high quality solutions within budget constraints.

“Thorough preparation isn’t something that freezes you, on the contrary, it’s something that liberates you, because it allows you to improvise on the set in the right key.

“Designing a look in preproduction that satisfies the director, cinematographer and producer saves time (and money) at every stage, on set, whenever the film in progress needs to be shown and of course in post-production.”

All the DPs were clear that they contact the colourist as soon as they get the project, and value colourist input, particularly for exploring conceptual ideas, creating show LUTs and planning colour management.

Kevin Shaw’s conclusions upon feedback and discussions throughout the Camerimage festival was that five years ago, colour management was rarely discussed and colourists were usually engaged after the editor had reached picture lock.

He said, “Today, we see that around 80% of projects are colour-managed to some extent and that cinematographers and colourists are working much closer together. In the past continuity was understood to be matching shot to shot, today every effort is made to achieve continuity from set to post and that makes better pictures.”

Photos courtesy/copyright Edmond Laccon

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