NEW YORK—Post-production for Show Me a Hero, the new 6-part drama debuting
on HBO this month, recently wrapped up at Technicolor PostWorks New York. The
post house handled dailies processing, editorial conforming, final color
grading and deliverables. It also provided sound mixing through its PostWorks
From David Simon, whose previous work with HBO includes the
acclaimed series Treme and The Wire, and directed by Paul Haggis, Show Me a Hero is set in 1980s Yonkers,
New York and centers on conflicts among elected officials, bureaucrats and
citizens over federal court ordered construction of low income housing. It
stars Oscar Isaac, Winona Ryder, Jim Belushi, Catherine Keener, Alfred Molina,
LaTanya Richardson-Jackson and Bob Balaban, among many others.
The challenge for Technicolor PostWorks was to deliver six
hours of feature-quality material under tight time constraints. Simon’s
insistence on realism and absolute fidelity to the series’ time period also set
a high bar.

Both dailies and final color grading were performed by
Senior Colorist Sam Daley. During pre-production, Daley worked with
cinematographer Andrij Parekh in preparing color LUTs as an aid in setting
looks on the set. “We set two LUTs, one that was colder for bureaucratic
settings and one that was warmer for human interest aspects of the show,” Daley
recalls. “Andrij had a distinct style in mind and he stuck to it. He was very
consistent between what he had pre-visualized and what he shot.”
During production, Daley applied color looks to each day’s
camera media using a Colorfront system. Going beyond what is normal at the
dailies stage, Daley performed detailed grading on a scene-by-scene basis in
order to set looks that were near to final. His aim was to provide the
editorial team with imagery in close to finished form, and to make final grading
more efficient.
“The Colorfront system allowed me to set ASC CDL values that
I could carry over to the final grade,” he explains. “Most of the color
correction was done with primary grades. During final grading, I used Resolve
mainly for global adjustments within scenes, saturation adjustments, beauty
work and tracking.”
Once production was complete, the series went through weeks
of editorial (Jo Francis and Kate Sanford were the editors) then returned to
Technicolor PostWorks for editorial conforming and final grading. Conform
editor Ryan McMahon notes that his team took the unusual step of ingesting all
of the original camera media onto hard drives attached locally to an Avid
“We did our conform by pointing at the local drives and then
exported conformed sequences to a central SAN for grading,” he says. “Working
directly from drives was tremendously efficient; we were able to finish the
work in two or three hours per episode.” McMahon and his team also applied a
wide range of editorial visual effects, often to remove artifacts in
backgrounds that didn’t adhere to the story’s time period.
Final grading sessions with Daley were conducted under the
supervision of Haggis, Parekh and producer Nina Kostroff Noble. Daley notes
that the ultimate look of the series was influenced by the work of artists
Giorgio de Chirico and Tamara de Lempicka and classic films such as The ConformistThe InsiderThe Yards and The
Assassination of Richard Nixon
“It’s a high contrast look,” he says. “There is a lot of
backlight built into the photography with desaturation added on my end. We
often toned down the background colors to make the characters stand out.”
Having used Colorfront, with its limited set of color tools,
proved an advantage in arriving at an authentic period look. “It does not
appear to be a modern digital correction where windows, keys and other tricks
are used to create a highly polished look,” says Daley. “This was a very
aggressive grade that was based on a toolset similar to what was available at the
Authenticity was also an important theme during sound
mixing. Re-recording mixer Andy Kris notes that in building the series’
soundtrack every element was scrutinized for accuracy. “Yonkers in the 1980s
had a very specific flavor,” Kris says. “People’s accents had a distinct period
feel and regional feel and we had to keep track of all of that. David [Simon]
is very tuned into those things and has an incredible attention to detail.”
The series’ many scenes of Yonkers city council meetings
were especially challenging to mix, involving crowds that grow in size and
intensity as the drama progresses. The
final soundtrack mixes production elements with crowd voices recorded in
post-production ADR and Loop Group sessions. “We layered and layered
tracks,” Kris says. “Getting the crowds to sound big, organic and real—while
allowing dialogue to be heard—all at the same time, was a challenge. There was
a lot going on.”
Kris, who also mixed Treme
and The Wire, says that the
rapport he and his team have developed with Simon made it easier to find the
right aesthetic balance. “Yonkers is not the New Orleans of Treme or the Baltimore of The Wire,” Kris says. “But we were able
to take a lot of what we learned while working with David on those shows and
reapply them to a new show that’s different, yet the same in many ways. Doing
that successfully gave a great sense of accomplishment for our whole team.”
About Technicolor
PostWorks New York
PostWorks New York is the East Coast’s most comprehensive digital motion
picture and post-production facility, employing an exceptional team of artists,
engineers and project managers to serve our clients through the film and TV
finishing process.
PostWorks New York offers one complete source for every post requirement,
including data workflows, telecine/scanning, non-linear editorial and HD
picture finishing, digital intermediate and film recording, high-volume
encoding and high-speed data transmission, as well as comprehensive film and TV
sound services on nine mix stages.
For more information,
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