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1970s Look Generated with 2014 Technology

Lit Post completed digital intermediate services on period horror film 'The Quiet Ones.'

Lit Post completed digital intermediate services on The Quiet Ones, a period horror film directed by John Pogue and produced by Jillian Longnecker. “Our film was ambitious and challenging, with high demands on both technical requirements and aesthetics,” Longnecker explains. “Lit’s proprietary film emulation technique was key to the film’s visual style.”

“Director John Pogue and cinematographer Mátyás Erdély had a very specific and authentic look in mind that used all our latest innovations in the digital intermediate process,” explains Lit Post senior colorist Tyler Hawes. “From the advanced film emulations, to compositing and relighting VFX in context of the DI, to proofing looks during preproduction, this film really shows the heightened aesthetic that can be achieved when the production is forward-thinking and starts planning for the DI very early in the process, even before principal photography begins.”

Because the film takes place in the 1970s and intercuts narrative with documentary-style footage, the filmmakers wanted it to look as authentic as possible, combining the looks of 35mm cinema, 16mm documentary, 8mm black and white, and VHS tape. Pogue had heard of Lit’s proprietary film emulation process, which transforms digitally shot footage to closely match the look of film, and started talking to Lit about how the technology could be used on The Quiet Ones.

“There was discussion of shooting various film stocks and cameras,” explains Hawes. “However, besides the high costs and difficult logistics of so many formats, it would have locked in choices during production, leaving less flexibility in editing. Available stocks also look different from historical ones, so some amount of digital work would have been needed regardless.”

Sam Claflin (Brian McNeil) and Jared Harris (Professor Coupland). Photo by Chris Harris.

Hawes points out that the company’s film emulation works interactively in the DI suite—in real time or near real time and without long renders—so it can be applied in-session during the normal course of color grading. “You can start with the look of a real-world film stock, including many historical ones we’ve profiled,” he says, “and then mix various aspects you like from different stocks to create your own look.”

Lit colorists developed the film emulation process in reaction to the trend for productions to shoot digitally. “We love the look of film and sought a way to hold onto most of its special qualities. The so-called ‘film looks’ we’d seen before looked a little kitschy. Many of the looks relied on a broad and nostalgic stereotype of what film looks like rather than actually reproducing the look of film. While there are times you want to be overtly stylized, we had something far more subtle and authentic in mind. Once filmmakers see it used in that way, most of them really love it.”