Production still from BBC's Roald Dahl drama, Esio Trot.
BBC1 feature length drama Esio Trot, based on the Roald Dahl tale, was produced using a dailies grading process devised by Molinare. “As far as we know most facilities provide a digital lab process but not a dailies colorist, so this is unique,” says head of grading Gareth Spensley. “It was the first time we had done this. The show had a permanent pair of human eyeballs instead of predefined LUTs applied arbitrarily.” Molinare colourist Jat Patel used Baselight’s dailies toolset to manage the overnight dailies. The 90-minute Endor Productions drama was shot on ARRI Alexa at 2K by DP Ben Smithard (Belle, My Week With Marilyn).
The story is about an elderly man’s passion for his neighbour who only has eyes for her tortoise.
“A lot of Roald Dahl writing has got an element of fairy tale to it,” explains Spensley. “That was very much my brief – to provide a grade which whisked us off into a fairy tale world. There's a vibrant and strong look across the whole piece, very much a nod toward films like Amelie.”
He continues: “The DP wanted a colorist to apply a balanced look on a daily basis and provide coherence to the overall rushes. From our point of view we wanted to learn what benefits there would be over what has become the traditional method of having LUTs or CDLs passed back from set.
“We found we could react more quickly and the DP had more time on set. The DP could drop an email to the dailies colourist, about say slates 20-30 which maybe a little but down in exposure or the colour balance needs tweaking. Or if he had any concerns he could find out there and then. We'd be able to open up the rushes in the cloud, whatever other job we were working on, have a quick check, confirm to the DP that it was sorted. He could then carry on with confidence that the grade was in check.”
On Esio Trot one of the issues was to match the apartment block of the location with that of the set and also to match the set shots into the location shots. This required, for example, changing the colour of some railings, balconies and woodwork.
“Normally this sort of thing happens in editorial where there's a real detachment between final picture post and the shoot process,” says Spensley. “If the DP wants to check and tweak in post then it becomes an issue of time and resource, whereas doing it on-set in almost realtime is far more efficient.
“We will definitely recommend this route to productions that come to us, but of course no production fits the same template. In this case the DP wanted someone with a colorist's background to go through this rushes. It meant he can get more done on set because he's not having to constantly check if the CDLs are right.”
As well as the grade, Molinare conformed all rushes and VFX review updates plus final online and deliverables. Senior online editor Justin Eely used Avid DS at 2K and HD to complete technical fixes. Audio post was done by Boom.
The show premiers on New Year's Day.
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