Digital color correction for movies is referred to as DI or Digital Intermediate. With an all digital file based workflow, there is no'intermediate'. Color correction occurs on the original captured files. Color correction could happen during all phases of the project. New and ample possibilities open. But pitfalls can also arise.
The traditional film based workflow recorded images on negative and then created prints or telecined dailies for viewing. the objective of the negative was to capture a wide contrast range, while prints were optimized for a 'pleasant looking picture'. The resulting look was actually never engineered to look truthful to the original subject matter.
Some of the same concept is applicable to digital workflow; others do not. With all digital camera systems, the contrast ratio that can be captured is smaller than that of film. This difference gets noticeably enhanced by the fact that film slowly stops reaction to more light while all CCD systems have to react with a 'hard clip' at the edge of their capabilities. Film goes to '11', while digital can not. Viper was used in FilmStream mode on Zodiac and most other Features it has been used on. The notable exception here is Miami Vice. When carefully exposed, filmstream images have a small amount of extra room in the head and tail. Harris Savides, the DP on Zodiac, did an amazing job. In preperation for the shoot we set up nine different initial 'looks' that could be applied to all tools in the processing chain. The meta data tracking system was able to track what the preferred look was for a given scene.
We developed a system that allowed for the creation of additional looks in any software that can handle color. A simple droplet allowed the extraction and upload of the newly created color look information. It turned out that there was no need for this system on this movie. From the initial nine lookup tables, only 2 were used in the beginning; ultimately there was one used on everything. Having a color management level for a digital workflow tool is far from being obsolete. On Zodiac however is was not needed, since Harris and David did such an outstanding job in getting the files right in the first place.
Future datalab, llc projects will further integrate color correction. Since the files are available natively and the computing power to color correct 2K images in realtime is readily available, this will certainly be a viable option.
On the other hand, it is the objective of datalab,llc to give filmmakers access to the best tools and working environments. Its solutions integrate into any coloring solution that the director might want.