LaserPacific Delves "Into The Blue"
Into the Blue, a thriller set on the ocean and underwater at exotic locales including the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, was directed by John Stockwell (Blue Crush) and stars Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious) and Jessica Alba (Honey). Into the Blue depicts a paradise vacation turned nightmare. After four young divers discover the wreck of a cargo plane and its valuable contents, they wind up crossing paths with a group of ruthless criminals searching for the same wreck.
Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut (Crazy Beautiful) shot the film with an eye toward capturing every detail of the lush environments. The film also offers extensive underwater cinematography by Peter Zuccarini.
From the outset of production, it was clear that this film would be a perfect candidate for digital intermediate color correction rather than traditional film timing. The vast amount of location shooting presented the production with "some very difficult lighting and color issues," says Bruce Markoe, MGM's executive vice president of feature postproduction. Given the uncooperative nature of the ocean, the production team anticipated color matching from shot to shot would be virtually impossible without a digital intermediate. Additionally, the digital intermediate process offered the only solution for mixing the 3-perf 35mm underwater cinematography of Peter Zuccarini with the 4-perf Super35mm employed for the rest of the production.
"Doing a digital intermediate gave us the opportunity to enhance the images, smooth out areas of concern and balance the picture to a much higher degree than would have been possible using traditional timing."
"Water can photograph differently depending on reflections and angles," Markoe says. "It can look blue one minute and gray or brown the next." He notes that the film's underwater shots weren't captured in a tank at a studio but, rather, at sea, so the filmmakers didn't have total control over the production variables. But much of the film's excitement comes from the realism that only true underwater photography can provide.
"Since they shot in the ocean, it was extremely important to be to able balance out the lights and reflections and deal with the contrast issues inherent in underwater photography. We wanted to make a film that would be consistently beautiful. It was a very critical thing for us to be assured that the sky and the water and the actors' skin tones would all look consistently beautiful."
Of particular concern was obtaining accurate skin tones for the actors in the underwater sequences. In a clever concession to this potentially prickly problem, Hurlbut employed daylight-balanced film for the underwater scenes.
LaserPacific scanned the original Super 35 format negative; Colorist Frank Roman then handled the elaborate work involved in color correcting the film, including keying, windowing and painting the water. Shots with varying hues of blue, gray and brown were rendered with the deep and penetrating blue one expects of Caribbean water, while skin tones, always of paramount concern, were teased out to make the actors both beautiful and natural in appearance. By Roman's own account, Into the Blue is one of the prettiest films he's ever done.
During the process, the film was blown up digitally from its original Super 35 size to anamorphic widescreen format for theatrical presentation. A digital blow-up saves the generation loss inherent in performing this step the more traditional way, with an optical printer.
The color-corrected anamorphic widescreen results were then filmed out using one of LaserPacific's three ARRILASER recorders. "As with all of our digital intermediate work," notes Doug Jaqua, vice president of engineering, "the efforts and talents of the filmmakers and colorist in the suite can only be truly realized with the finest film recording."
Fortunately, Jaqua says, the company's ARRILASER film recorders were up to the task. "In terms of all the things involved in a DI workflow, the ARRILASER is really a workhorse. It does exactly what you think it's going to do. All three of our ARRILASER systems function beautifully and run in lockstep with one another. They are reliable and provide repeatable results, which is absolutely necessary.
"The ARRILASER outputs frames lickity-split," he adds. "We can record at two to four seconds per frame with confidence that we will be able to deliver film to our clients that meets their stringent requirements."
LaserPacfic's history with the ARRILASER goes back five years. When the company was preparing to roll out its first digital intermediate services, a technical team carefully analyzed available film recorders knowing they would have to be able to offer top-notch film recording to become a serious player on the DI stage.
LaserPacific chose ARRI's color management systems and its graphical user interface, known as ALICE (for ARRILASER Interactive Configuration Editor). "ALICE lets you pre-visualize what's going to happen on film. It helps answer questions before you actually go through the process of recording, processing and printing your film."
Jaqua notes that the ARRILASER system's ability to alter the dot pitch of its output makes it the only laser recorder capable of shooting at a resolution of 2048 across the Academy frame. "Other systems give you 2048, but that is across full aperture," he elaborates. "That's something that many people don't know. The actual amount of resolution they're getting in the picture area is more like 1828. The ARRILASER lets you leverage 2K into the active image area, which also means better resolution."
An increasing number of clients today want to be able to work in 4K for all or part of their shows, and LaserPacific has been ready to service that request since its first ARRILASER was up and running. "We expect to end up in the 4K world because we can," Jaqua says, "so it will become the de facto standard, and ARRI positioned itself early to allow for that option. Because we can output at different resolutions, including true 4K, we can give clients the ability to experiment and see for themselves exactly what works best for their needs."
Jaqua admits that "film recording isn't one of the sexier aspects of moviemaking; it's very scientific and extremely exacting, but it's also a very important part of filmmaking today." He adds, "It's actually a fairly gutsy business to be in. In some ways, we have to be the gatekeeper of the image. We are translating digital information into densities on the negative, and you've got to be 100 percent sure that the machine's going to do what you think it's going to do. Repeatable results are super important—day to day, job to job."