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In ‘It,’ HDR Darkness is the Scariest of All

"In the Dolby Cinema version, we were able to take advantage of that very high contrast range that lets you have a scene that feels significantly darker."

The feature film IT, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, pits a group of small-town kids against a murderous shape-shifting predator, Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Banding together over one horrifying and exhilarating summer, the young outcasts of the Losers’ Club form a close bond to help them overcome their own fears and stop a new killing cycle that begins on a rainy day, with a small boy chasing a paper boat before it can be swept down a storm drain. From New Line Cinema and Warner Bros., IT was directed by André Muschietti and shot by cinematographer Chung-hoon Chun (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Oldboy).

The film’s enigmatically short title refers to the story’s central villain, an ancient shapeshifter that takes the form of its victims’ deepest fears and comes out of hibernation every 27 years to feed on the most vulnerable residents of Derry, Maine: the children.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema

Colorist Stephen Nakamura of Deluxe’s Company 3, who completed the film’s digital intermediate in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve at sister facility EFILM, explains the approach to the film’s imagery: “The [filmmakers] didn’t want to make a ‘creepy world.'” Instead, he says, the film captures the sleepy atmosphere of small-town America in Derry, Maine, playing against expectations by situating events in fully lit spaces. It is only later, when the action moves underground, into the city’s sewer system, that darkness drives the film’s sinister atmosphere.”

Nakamura notes that the scenes set in darkness work powerfully in the 14-footlambert standard digital cinema version—and even more so in the 31-footlambert HDR pass they completed for the film’s Dolby Cinema version.

“We were able to take advantage of that very high contrast range in the Dolby Cinema version, which lets you have a scene that feels significantly darker while also showing more detail. You’re pushing more light through the images overall and the contrast ratio is massive. It feels more like really being in a very dark space where you can just make out some details. It’s a very effective tool to have for this kind of movie.”