The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents August 2009 Return to Table of Contents
Julie & Julia
Page 2
Page 3
Julie & Julia's DI
Short Takes
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up
Innovations Spice Up Julie & Julias DI


Kodak’s high-contrast Vision Premier print stock would seem to be an unlikely choice for a film such as Julie & Julia. As Steven J. Scott, EFilm’s supervising digital colorist, notes, “When you’re trying to make the leading ladies look as soft and beautiful as possible, Premier isn’t the first stock that comes to mind, as its stronger blacks and saturated colors can result in a harsher, less flattering look.”

So why Premier? Because the filmmakers believed everything around the actors — including colorful Paris bistros, stylish period dress and décor, and, perhaps most importantly, the food — was best served by Premier’s vibrant color and strong blacks.

However, Kodak’s standard Vision promised a gentler look and smoother skin tones. Director of photography Stephen Goldblatt, ASC, BSC wanted the best of both worlds, and in the end, he got it, thanks to a digital filter developed by Scott, his longtime collaborator in the digital-intermediate suite. “With our software and proprietary filter, we could tap the advantages of each stock wherever we wanted,” says Scott.

Scott had been tinkering with the idea for some time, and Julie & Julia seemed the perfect film on which to try out the new tool. After testing both print stocks, the filmmakers decided to print on Premier using the new DI filter. During the digital grade, Scott and Goldblatt used EFilm’s proprietary Premier Deluxe look-up table and added Scott’s new filter, which allowed them to selectively emulate some of Vision’s characteristics, even though they were printing on Premier.

As an example, Scott points to a scene in which Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and her husband (Stanley Tucci) sit in a corner booth in a French bistro. “Stephen wanted the rich, saturated colors of the décor and the deep color of Meryl’s dress to come through, but he also wanted Meryl and Stanley’s skin tones to be soft and luminous. With this filter, we were able to get both. The scene has an almost three-strip Technicolor look.” (The results were so impressive that Scott used the filter again on the next picture he graded, Night at the Museum 2, whose entire Imax run was printed on Premier.)

Goldblatt was also pleased with something else Scott worked out for Julie & Julia’s DI, a “sunshine effect.” The production spent its last two weeks in Paris, shooting exteriors, and “I prayed to the gods of weather that we would have the dull, overcast skies that are so wonderful for actors’ close-ups,” recalls Goldblatt. “The gods listened to me, but I found that the wide shots, the architectural shots, needed some bite, and dull light didn’t give it to them.”

The first use of the digital sunshine effect can be seen right after the opening credits. The Childs arrive at their new Paris residence in a powder-blue American sedan that rounds a corner and pulls up to the front gate; the camera starts low and wide on a crane at street level and tracks out as the arm booms up. Goldblatt wanted subtle streaks of sunlight to grace the buildings in the wide shot, and he wanted shafts of light hitting the walls of the house as Julia enters the courtyard. But on the day of filming, there was no hard sunlight. Scott solved the problem by creating a series of articulated mattes that moved through the scene. “You’d think it was real sunlight,” says Goldblatt, “but it was a matte done on the fly during the DI.”

 

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