da Vinci's 2K Plus

For a McDonald's commercial, the da Vinci 2K Plus Defocus option was used to add a soft vignette or long lens feel.

As a colorist for Video Post & Transfer, I've been able to experiment and push the envelope with some of the best postproduction tools on the market. VPT has earned its reputation among the elite with more than 20 years in business serving agencies, production companies, edit houses, and others in the production community.

The bulk of my work is with agencies and production companies in commercial advertising. The discerning tastes of these directors, art directors, and other creatives require the utmost attention to detail and advanced post tools.

Our Millennium Suite — equipped with a Millennium telecine, da Vinci 2K Plus color corrector with TLC Assistant (secondary workstation), Aaton Keylink, and a 32in. Sony HD monitor — is my arsenal to answer their demands.

The da Vinci 2K Plus, the Florida-based company's latest-generation color enhancement platform, is the most recent addition to the Millennium Suite. We decided to purchase the 2K Plus to complete the Millennium Suite's HD/2K environment and meet ever-growing demand for HD and 2K projects.

Adding the 2K Plus allows us to go for more intensive color correction on our commercial projects, including spots that use the “Big Freeze” effect made popular in the film The Matrix.

Our 2K Plus includes an integrated, resolution-independent Image Gallery, which lets us compare live and recorded images. Da Vinci Image Gallery also comes with a user-friendly image export function, which makes it easy to deliver session stills to clients. I post every session's photos on VPT's Web server, which is convenient for client approvals.

The most obvious advancement with the da Vinci 2K Plus over previous color correctors is the addition of multiple Power Tiers, each with two processing channels. This translates into what clients know as “Power Windows.” Think of these as a color corrector within a color corrector, which allows you to isolate many different regions of a film frame. With the 2K Plus, we can now use multiple programmable Power Windows on each scene.

As anyone who has ever sat in on a transfer session knows, Power Windows are an invaluable tool that has revolutionized the way people shoot film. But until the 2K, da Vinci only offered one Power Window per scene.

Why are they so important? Power Windows allow DPs to complete a day of shooting at a faster pace, with less worry about getting the perfect lighting and color balance on the set since they can continue lighting and enhancing their picture in our film transfer suite.

DPs can't wait to visit the film transfer suite. They tell me on a daily basis that this is their favorite part of the process. Together, we spend hours fine-tuning the look of the film.

The power of the 2K's secondary color correction became key in a commercial for Nissan. At first glance, it may simply look as if it was de-saturated and then the yellow re-introduced. While this is partly true, I also introduced significant density into the sky. First I isolated the blue, brought its luminance down and then de-saturated it.

One may assume it would have been easier to vignette the sky, but the footage was much too bouncy from the SUV's speed over the rough terrain. Those luminance qualifiers were virtually unusable before due to the noise they introduced. Now they have become a favorite tool.

We decided to include the Defocus option. This allows user-defined areas — using those Power Windows — to be selectively defocused. Not only can you mimic the look of a swing-and-tilt lens, you can also defocus defined colors. For instance, if there are blue noise and grain in the sky, you can define the blue vector and add linear defocus to only that vector. In other words, you're able to defocus only the blue in the sky without defocusing the detail in the clouds.

In a McDonald's commercial, I used the Defocus board to add a soft vignette or a long lens feel. The client wanted an image that was extremely saturated, even a bit posterized. However, since it had lots of primary colors, it wasn't long before the chroma was illegal. I then used secondary color correction to isolate and bring down only the illegal spikes, without adding any noise.

Da Vinci also improved key functions by including refined clips and softening. This allows cleaner keys of problem areas such as blown-out skies. Once the matte has been defined, you can introduce a color into the key selection for a more pleasing image. When used with Defocus, the keyed-in color can be refined more by softening it. This virtually eliminates the detectable and undesirable hard-edged matte sky look.

I believe da Vinci has built the best secondary color corrector to date, with the lowest signal-to-noise ratio ever. Selecting individual colors is easy with the significantly improved methods of clipping and softening. The ability to affect such an isolated area is invaluable. For example, you can easily change the color of someone's shirt or eyes. With the 2K Plus, we can also ensure that a product label is a 100-percent accurate color rendition of the original.

While we used secondary color correction for several years, we were limited as to how much could be applied. With the older systems, this became a problem since more correction created objectionable amounts of electronic noise. To minimize that, we then applied electronic noise reduction, which in turn could introduce its own artifacts.

We also use Colorist Toolbox with the 2K Plus. Toolbox is a collection of special effects filters that can be used alone or with Defocus. With this toolset, users can mimic the look of bleach bypass, “Technicolor,” or the perfect black-and-white, all with any of the current color negatives.

The chroma light and chroma dark clips have also been dramatically improved. They allow you to be extremely precise when removing contaminating saturation in the whites and blacks of an image. This allows us to get truly white whites and black blacks.

The new graphic interface eases management of color correction lists and visual navigation of the controls. Also improved are the user-friendly macros that allow us to consolidate multiple key presses and operations. These improvements allow me to navigate the control panels and interface more efficiently, translating into more time to paint an image or achieve the desired look quickly.

From VPT's point of view, the bottom line of our new 2K Plus is the creative flexibility it provides. Using the advanced tools of the 2K Plus, we're able to spend less time focusing on the technical aspects and more time on creativity. Never before have we been able to achieve such high levels of real-time color correction with so much attention to detail.

Kelly Riemenschneider has been a colorist with Video Post & Transfer since 1999. The Dallas-based company provides the best in film-to-tape transfer, film processing, broadcast design, digital effects design, postproduction, and audio services. For more information, call 214-350-2676 or visit