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Delivering the Swirling Colors of ‘La La Land’

Colorist Natasha Leonnet of Deluxe’s EFILM in Hollywood found La La Land a fascinating project because of how color itself plays such a vital role in the film. “Working on it was a dream,” says the colorist, who had previously worked with Chazelle on Whiplash, performing the film’s digital intermediate.

Of La La Land, she says, “The filmmakers paid so much attention to every single hue—the sets and locations, the costumes, the times of day they were able to shoot and, of course, Linus Sandgren’s cinematography. It was just a beautiful film to work on.”

Sandgren used anamorphic lenses and 35mm film to provide a link to the creative past. “He felt there was no way to achieve this look aesthetically if he shot digitally,” she notes. EFILM scanned all the negative at 3K in the ARRISCAN film scanner and down-resed to 2K DPX for dailies, which the company’s Matt Wallach graded in Colorfront’s On-Set Dailies system.

After Cross’ picture edit was complete, the original negative was re-scanned via ARRISCAN in 6K and down-resed to 4K DPX files that Leonnet colored in Autodesk Lustre. She worked with Chazelle and Sandgren to fine-tune the look, retaining the characteristics of celluloid. Leonnet didn’t suppress grain and worked through a LUT that confined color and saturation corrections to what would be possible to achieve photochemically.

“Everything in the film is touched with color,” Leonnet says. “The locations, the costumes, even the asphalt on the street. There’s never a neutral value. And we worked in 2.55:1. Nobody does that! The whole thing is a love letter to L.A. that shows the city as extraordinarily magical.”