With its whiter whites and blacker blacks, High Dynamic Range (HDR) is transforming the way we watch movies. Two recent examples from Technicolor are the Oscar-winning “The Jungle Book” (Best Visual Effects) and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Best Costumes), in which the wider dynamic range heightened the use of color and light.
For Technicolor supervising digital colorist, Peter Doyle, who worked on the “Harry Potter” standalone, he’s become more of a finishing artist, thanks to HDR and management software advances from FilmLight (watch the video below and also on Vimeo and Technicolor’s YouTube Channel).
With “Fantastic Beasts,” Doyle was able to take advantage of the extra dynamic range to make the experience more visceral. “There was an assortment of characters that would emanate their own light,” he told IndieWire. “It was an intense light source with a physicality to it. And by having that extra dynamic range, we were able to get much more texture into that brightness. Whereas on the standard dynamic range, we had to do all the normal tricks of grading to imply that it was, in fact, bright.”
HDR also enhanced Colleen Atwood’s Oscar-winning costume design for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them.” In particular, it made the turquoise coat worn by Newt Scamande (Eddie Redmayne) really pop.
“It meant that we could really work with the shadows, which lent itself to the costumes,” added Doyle. “We were able to retain texture and detail away from the faces. It was a cleaner image.”
Coming up, Doyle has two very different movies to grade: Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” (May 12) and Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour” (Nov. 24), starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. HDR will boost locations and battle scenes in “King Arthur,” said Doyle: “And certainly in terms of night scenes, we’re able to run with darker nights but having the details hold up.”
By contrast, well-mounted “Darkest Hour,” set in war-time England in the ’40s and gorgeously shot by Bruno Delbonnel (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”), also lends itself to HDR.
The advent of laser projection in theaters with extreme high-contrast ratios has proven to be another great advantage. “It’s actually bringing an aesthetic back quite similar to the 70mm prints that were made many years ago,” Doyle said. “Except the advantage now is that you’re able to see greater sharpness, a lack of flicker, and a kind of purity in color. So, as the display medium is quite neutral, this allows you to design your look, knowing that it will be transferred and projected with an accuracy that hasn’t really been possible with film.”