Colorist Sam Daley collaborates with Cinematographer
in recreating the look of New York City in the 1970s.

YORK— The Deuce, the new drama from HBO and
Executive Producers David Simon and George Pelecanos, is set in 1970s New York
City where prostitution and crime were rampant, and the modern adult
entertainment industry was just coming into its own. Bold, brash and visually intoxicating,
the series finished natively in High Dynamic Range (HDR) at Technicolor PostWorks
New York. Colorist Sam Daley collaborated with Director of Photography Vanja
Černjul, ASC, in mastering seven episodes from the show’s debut season, after
having similarly teamed with Cinematographer Pepe Avila del Pino on the pilot.

characters that include porn stars and prostitutes, The Deuce reveals a city that’s a mix of glitz and sleaze. Dive
bars and grimy bus depots exist alongside the pulsating, neon-illuminated
environs of Times Square. In approaching this world, Černjul says he drew
inspiration from such classic films as Midnight
and Taxi Driver, but took
a different approach in recreating the look of the city and the era where they
were set.

“I wanted
our 1970s New York to look as real as possible,” he explains. “I was intimately
familiar with a lot of films that were shot in New York at that time—it was
probably the most amazing period in American cinema—but I didn’t want to
simulate the period lighting style. I wanted to make it seem as though we were
actually in the 1970s, capturing that world with modern technology. I wanted to
erase the media filter that we have when we watch those classic films.”
chose to work with Panasonic’s VariCam 35 for principal photography as its
super35mm MOS sensor minimized the need for artificial lighting. “I wanted a
shooting style with the greatest mobility,” he says. “We needed to move quickly
as we sometimes were shooting two or three locations in a day. The sensor of
the VariCam helped with that as it allowed us to work with available light. If
we walked into a restaurant that was lit by candlelight, we could shoot it like
pre-production, Černjul worked with Daley on camera tests to establish a
preliminary look. For the sake of consistency, they chose an image texture
similar to what had been established in the pilot. “For the pilot, Pepe and I
created a film-print emulation LUT,” recalls Daley. “It gave the digital
photography the feel of a dye-based motion picture print. To complement that,
we used Livegrain, which generates
a filmic grain pattern based on the
unique exposure of each scene.
“For the
series, Vanja and I modified the LUT to accommodate the VariCam. We again used
Livegrain, but we did so a bit more aggressively. VariCam captures a very clean
image and we wanted something a bit grittier.”
The decision
to finish in HDR also occurred as the show moved from pilot to series. Although
the show will initially air in standard
dynamic range, the HDR masters promise an enhanced viewing
experience when the technology reaches more households.
Daley notes
that, even as the show moved to an HDR workflow, they continued to employ the
LUT they developed when they were expecting a conventional HD finish as the lighting
and other creative decisions had been based on that look. “We treated the existing LUT like a film print
being remastered in HDR,” Daley says. “We embraced the brightness of the new format, but we exercised restraint. The look pops where it needs to, but doesn’t
distract from the story.”
“It was a
challenge to match the HDR color space to the color space that we had prepped
for,” adds Černjul. “We had to redo the process we went through in
pre-production. It took some experimentation to get it right.”
Daley says
that the extra time and effort proved worthwhile and are evident in the
results.  “The colors are like characters,” he observes. “We have a lot of dark,
grainy, contrasty images, but there is real beauty in the period hues, even
when they are slightly askew. They provide a glimmer of optimism in an
otherwise bleak world. People who get to see the HDR version are in for a
treat. The scenes on 42nd Street,
with the marquees, neon and flashing lights… it’s like you’re looking through
a window into 1971.”
Černjul was
similarly impressed with the quality of the HDR master and with how smoothly
the process was managed by Daley and Technicolor PostWorks. “It’s very
important to me to have a good rapport with the colorist,” he says. “I worked closely with Sam throughout production
and we learned a lot together about the HDR format. I hope we can do it
again very soon.”
About Technicolor PostWorks New York
Technicolor PostWorks New York is the East Coast’s most comprehensive
digital motion picture and post-production facility, employing an exceptional
team of creative artists, engineers and project managers to serve our clients
through the film and TV finishing process.
Technicolor PostWorks New York offers one complete source for every
post requirement, including in-context digital dailies, film imaging and
restoration, collaborative non-linear editorial and HD/UHD broadcast finishing,
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