'A Road to A Village' #1 - Colour Overview
Updated: Nov 22
Whoop! We are about to expect a series of blog posts! #GABFilmColourSeries
1. Color overview - https://ansoncheng.media/post/a-road-to-a-village-1-colour-overview
2. The Earth Tone - https://ansoncheng.media/post/a-road-to-a-village-2-the-earth-tone
3. Conflicts & Tragedies - https://ansoncheng.media/post/a-road-to-a-village-3-conflicts-tragedies
Some back story here:
Back in June 2023, I received a message on Facebook from Amod, the film producer, about colouring a film. I found this bizarre as people rarely approached me on Facebook, and after a few rounds of conversations we decided to have a call for the details, which landed me in my first feature-film colouring project - A Road to A Village.
I'm convinced I was a bit in luck and genuinely believe most people can deliver what I've done here, or maybe beyond my work. Despite any unforeseen challenges in the project, I kept myself faithful and stood up for my understanding of colouring in shaping narratives (rather than solely polishing visuals for a certain look, which is also equally important). I wasn't actually the first colourist the team approached, and it was the director and production manager's calls to have me on board, and I would be thankful for their trust.
We have quite a global crew working on the film. This wonderful Nepali film is directed by Nabin Subba and cinematographed by Josh Herum, an American Director of Photography. We have a few Hong Kong production members here, including Kwan Pun-Leung the editor, who is a renowned Hong Kong cinematographer and currently based in Taiwan, and Heidi Li who did the original film scores.
I am the film colourist and finishing editor, so from time to time, I would be communicating with the director and DP through our producer, since we all worked remotely. I hosted a Frame.io platform for them to tag their comments in specific timecodes, and we had a few rounds of revisions in the month.
Basically, I was responsible for conforming, colouring, finishing and delivering the graded masters (including dailies, VFX, graphics and audio) to the DCP studio.
Instead of using Resolve Color Management (which I've been using), ACES is the choice of colour management framework here as I expect multiple delivery specifications will be requested by different platforms, including theatres and online screener links. ACES will be more of a reasonable choice in adapting to any external standards.
This is by far the biggest scale project and is somehow challenging, and I never regret this as it takes me to another level of growth and exposure, followed by TIFF and BIFF (Toronto and Busan International Film Festivals) recognitions. Growth does matter to me and it has been my primary goal aside from earning - I need to be inspired for growth in my consideration of taking a project. Aside from the hardcore skill, I embraced different perspectives in exchange with the director and DP, regardless of cultural perspective, work practises and the understanding of aesthetics. This broadens my multicultural diversity when working with people from different backgrounds.
I will share some colour breakdowns in the series here, and this post will be an overview of the progressing colour palette across the entire film. More can be found on my Instagram (@ansoncheng.visuals).
Here 's the overall/progressing look in the entire film (more like a chronological film order):
If you see the stills in the order from top left to bottom right, it is more from an organic, naturally vivid colour setting to a more imposing colour palette (predominantly blue or even green) that distorts the natural colour in the scene. As a film that discusses human nature and struggles, my philosophy is to let the colour in the scene live, and possibly create a slight push for colour separation. Since the art direction sets a nice colour contrast from the earth, it doesn't take too much effort to establish the base look, followed by the artistic choice with Dehancer, a widely-used plugin for film emulation.
(Side note: more grains were introduced in the previous version. Since the director would like to keep the piece more contemporary, I've dialled down the settings by almost half and made the grain to be minimally visible, additionally a slight reduction in halation to keep it away from being 'vintage'.)
The more prominent concern will be desaturating some 'unnecessary' colours so as to have the audiences retain their focus in the spots. It can be slightly chaotic when everything is fighting for attention. I would have done better if more time had been given to tweak the images now, or at least figure out an efficient way to limit the saturation level. I will talk about this in a later blog post and address this, or share my node tree structures in consistently grading the 900+ shots.
During my internship in New York, I remembered what Vincent told me - green makes things less organic. Vincent Taylor was the Head of Colour & Senior Colourist at Chimney New York (being acquired and under Edisen now) and he was an amazing colourist who graded so many commercials and long-forms, who was also a colourist back at MPC Shanghai before moving to NYC (check his website here). When I was shadowing him in the Minyan session, a feature film he was working on, the film was coated in a cool-blue atmosphere across the film to represent the sadness of the character, and we were discussing how colour shapes and changes mood perceptions. Indeed, this is one of the rule of thumb that has been in my mind in my grading philosophy, so I intentionally imposed some blue/green to deviate from the pure blue in the sky for this tragedy, which was about to happen in the later part of the film.
This is how the transformation of the mood, from the organic to the distorted palette, is created for addressing the narrative. Stay tuned for the upcoming posts, the next one should be about exploring the organic feel that I was creating in the first half of the film.
Let me know your thoughts in the comment or by email!