Colorist John Persichetti helps cinematographer Anastas N. Michos, ASC recreate the look of Motown.

Culver City, Calif.— Colorworks, Sony Pictures Entertainments’ digital intermediate facility, recently completed final post work for Sparkle, the new movie from Tri-Star Pictures, starring Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston. Digital intermediate colorist John Persichetti worked under the supervision of director Salim Akil and cinematographer Anastas N. Michos, ASC in performing final color grading for the film.

A remake of the 1976 film of the same name, Sparkle tells the story of three sisters who form a singing group in 1960s Detroit. It is a family drama that plays out against the glitz of Motown and the political and social tumult of the era.

In grading the film, part of the challenge was to capture the flavor and essence of Detroit in the 1960s, both its working class neighborhoods and the many small clubs where Motown dreams were born. “Detroit in the Sixties was a vibrant industrial city,” observes Michos. “It was the center of the music industry and the auto industry, the heartland of America.”

Certain combinations of bold, rich colors were typical of the era. Those color patterns, evident in costuming and production design, were accentuated and sharpened in post production. “The costumes and set design were spectacular,” notes Persichetti. “We built on that, but were careful not to push the colors into a direction that would have been unrealistic for the time. They used colors that you just don’t see anymore—olive green rugs and things like that—and we wanted to keep that true.”

Particularly challenging was recreating the atmosphere of Detroit’s smoky nightclubs. “The rooms were very colorful but they were often underlit,” Persichetti notes. “So, we let some of the dark areas go very dark to the point that you can’t see the audience, but that’s how it would have been.”

While verisimilitude was important, Michos points out that Sparkle is not a documentary or a bio-pic, but rather a musical drama about stardom. It required an element of glamor, especially during performance sequences. “When we move in for a close up, we want the performers to look their best,” he explains. “The scenes need to pop and the women should look like stars, because that’s what they are.”

Persichetti employed a variety of techniques to accentuate the star quality of the film’s lead performers. He used tools to isolate details to achieve consistency in skin tones and to tone down a colorful costume to keep it from distracting from an actress’s face. “Salim was insistent that the actresses always look beautiful,” he recalls. “The three central actresses have different skin tones and we adjusted somewhat for that. Our aim was to make them look their best, even when they were wearing curlers.”

Color, then, plays an important part in establishing the mood and aesthetics of the story. “The Detroit Riots and the Viet Nam War were part of the era of this film, so it has very serious undertones, but it is also the story of a girl band, so it has romance,” observes Michos. “The film has a lot of arcs and we follow them with camera movement and with a color palette. With Colorworks’ help we were able to give this modestly budgeted film a big-budget look.”


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