Egyptian film Before the Summer Crowds, which premiered at DIFF 2015, was graded on DaVinci Resolve 12 in Lizard VFX Shop, a Cairo-based post-production studio. BroadcastPro ME speaks to the Founder of Lizard, Karim Mira, about his experience colour grading the film
Egyptian director Mohamed Khan’s latest feature, Before the Summer Crowds, takes a look at contemporary life in Egypt’s metropolitan cities. A light-hearted romantic drama, the film has a very modern image and feel.
Before the Summer Crowds was part of the Muhr line-up and premiered at Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) 2015, where its entertaining storyline struck a chord with Arab as well as international audiences. This was not the first time one of Khan’s films had been hosted at DIFF; his previous film, Factory Girl, was presented at DIFF 2013 and went on to be shown at other film festivals around the world.
Shot mainly on a beach resort on the coast near Alexandria, the plot of Before the Summer Crowds could take place anywhere in the world, yet it is distinctly Egyptian. Using an ARRI Alexa, the director has captured the scenic beauty of the beaches of Alexandria and kept the frames bright and sunny to portray the brighter things in life. Shooting for the film began in 2014 and the film was ready for post by October 2015, just in time for DIFF in December. The 94-minute film was shot in 1:85 DCP.
To continue in the same vein and maintain the director’s vision of the film, Cairo post-production house Lizard VFX Shop ensured that the grading of the film was carried out accordingly. The brief given by the film’s director was to keep the continuity in the film, explains Karim Mira, Founder of Lizard VFX Shop.
“The grading shouldn’t disturb the viewer; it had to remain simple to serve the story and its location, which was mainly the beach. So we chose a colour scheme that was soft and natural, to go with the overall rhythm of the film. The mood of the film is relaxed yet uplifting.”
According to Mira, the film is a light satire on relationships without any dark patches, a rather straightforward film, yet keeping it simple was tricky since, at times, simple and uncomplicated features turn out to be more complex. It’s challenging to portray simple expressions on screen, he notes.
Colour grading played a key role in this film because it was used to show the variations in time and seasons in the post-production stage.
“The director’s brief said that the grade should be almost unnoticeable, which was a challenge. While watching the film, the viewer wouldn’t notice the changing colours of the moving images. The colour grading had to be very subtle and look natural. If the film is drama and romance, and the rhythm is slow and subtle, then the grading should represent the same look and feel,” he explains.
Mira and the film’s Editor Dina Farouk used the Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 12, which he has been using for most of his TVCs.
“DaVinci Resolve has powerful tools for grading in general, especially if you are working on films. It comes in very handy when you are handling multiple formats, and needless to say, it saves a lot of time at the editing desk because of its comprehensive toolkit. The software has all the features to export your final delivery to DCP easily, and the colour management tools are perfect for colour space conversions.”
It took the editors at Lizard two weeks to grade the film, but before the project began, the post-production house bought a DCI-compliant grading projector. This being Lizard’s very first film project, the post production facility needed a bit of tweaking to help with film projects. A consulting company from London helped Lizard upgrade its post facilities to handle film projects.
“We were previously colour grading only TVCs, and upgrading our facility to handle films was a natural progression for us but it didn’t come without its set of challenges. I am glad our very first film project was such a prestigious film. At the start of the project, I was very anxious because it was our first film project and a very prestigious one at that. When I met director Mohamed Khan, I found him a very inspiring and modest person, which gave me confidence to work on the film. He communicated to me what he wanted in the film.
“During the sessions, DOP Victor Credi and I exchanged ideas to create the best look for the film that reflected the director’s vision, which we were able to achieve in the final product,” says Mira.
Before the Summer Crowds was shot in one location and most of the scenes are outdoors. The post-production team, therefore, had to deal with a lot of natural light.
“We had to ensure that the sunlight and sand colours matched the time of day depicted in the film,” he says.
The story of the film progresses over four months, which had to be shown as well. The film begins in spring and moves into summer towards the end.
“We had to consider these factors and show the summer heat and brighter days at the colour grading stage.”
The team had three main set-ups for colours. There was one for the scenes on the beach in the morning, another one for the night scenes, and one for the scenes set at the beginning of the summer season to depict the changing seasons and time.
According to Mira, colour grading a film is a completely different ballgame from colouring a TVC, both on the technical as well as the creative side.
“In terms of duration, of course, it is very different and quite challenging, but also the idea of showing feelings and applying this to colours. The colour grade in a film has to enhance the feelings and the mood of the film. The two should complement each other and take the story forward. The films’s colours engage the viewer in a seamless way.
The colours in a film have to move in parallel with the story and the location.
“You want the viewer to have a certain feeling at a certain moment and emphasise this with tools such as colour grading and sound. They are powerful tools that definitely serve the film and convey the feelings to the viewer,” he concludes.