Definition August 2024 - Web


IMAGES Netflix

W hile VFX supervisors Jabbar Raisani and Marion Spates were overseeing the colossal task of bringing Avatar: The Last Airbender to life, they knew they had a secret weapon in Siggy Ferstl. A senior colourist at Company 3, Ferstl has fully embraced recent enhancements in DaVinci Resolve Studio to expand the scope of work his filmmaker clients can accomplish during the colour grading process. “They knew what I could do beyond traditional colour. We completed a large amount of work in my colour bay that would otherwise have had to go out to VFX vendors,” Ferstl begins, sharing how this method offered the producers advantages like the ability to fine-tune elements in real time – and in context. Traditionally, VFX shots are sent out to specialist companies, where they are worked on and returned. This can take days, especially during the iterative process of requesting changes and waiting for them to be delivered. Paying homage to the beloved animated TV series, Avatar: The Last Airbender – made by Albert Kim – follows Aang (Gordon Cormier), a boy on a quest with companions Katara (Kiawentiio) and Sokka (Ian Ousley). Together, they venture through a fantastical world of magic and monsters to bring peace and balance to a war-torn world. Ferstl started to prep for the job six months before the production began Company 3 colourist Siggy Ferstl discusses VFX support on Avatar: The Last Airbender

CHOSEN ONE Avatar: The Last Airbender’s real and spiritual planes, plus its elemental magic powers, required visual distinction

delivering scenes to his colour bay. Having been briefed on the series’ look, he began working in DaVinci Resolve Studio, using OpenFX and Fusion tools to come up with methods to achieve the tasks required of him. This included altering whole environments, building and integrating digital lighting, creating digital lens and diffusion characteristics, as well as enhancing key transitions in the series. According to Ferstl, to give the imagery a more organic feel than the digitally shot material possessed, “we came up with ways to ‘dirty up’ the image, taking it away from a clean studio vibe to make it more cinematic.” Using imagery shot through various strengths of different glass filters as a guide, Ferstl combined diffusion, halation and softening tools within DaVinci Resolve Studio’s OpenFX plug-ins. This helped him form a custom set of digital filters to apply to certain shots in post-production. He also put together a few image distortion tools to create a Lensbaby- style defocus effect, combining OpenFX functions to add distinctive anamorphic lens flare and lighting effects to parts of shots. Ferstl used a custom film emulation LUT to impose more of a photochemical feel to the images’ contrast. He also incorporated a separate film look recipe as an individual node, which gathered more colours from the camera original material within a specific range. This approach both enhanced the cinematic

feel and added specificity to the hues of the Avatar: The Last Airbender world.

SYNCHRONISED EDITING As scenes (and then episodes) started coming in for colour grading, Ferstl and finishing artist Mike Delegal – in separate locations – made the most of DaVinci Resolve Studio’s collaboration features, enabling them to work concurrently on the same media and communicate with each other about every detail. “There are some elaborate transition shots before and after important flash forwards, where Aang sees his future,” Ferstl shares. “The outgoing shot was done on the colour page as I worked on the incoming shot on the edit page, which as a colourist I don’t usually touch. That’s an example of where Mike and I had to be in close contact, as we could be working on the same shot at the same time.” Ferstl was an early adopter of a handful of tools added to DaVinci Resolve Studio in the last couple of years, primarily Magic Mask and Depth Map, which have opened a path for colourists to perform more tasks traditionally in the realm of dedicated compositors. In skilled hands, these tools let an artist qualify (isolate)



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