Color grading on Deadpool was done in FilmLight Baselight by Tim Stipan of Deluxe’s EFILM. Stipan worked with director Tim Miller and DP Ken Seng on finishing the look. He delivered several grades of the film, each requiring specific aesthetic choices particular to the display format, including an HDR version for IMAX laser projection, a traditional version for standard IMAX, an HDR version mastered to 1,000 nits brightness for home video, and a Dolby Vision theatrical version that was mastered to roughly 100 nits.
“We start in P3,” Stipan explains, referencing the traditional digital cinema color and dynamic range specs published by SMPTE, “because it’s still the industry standard. Then we do additional passes” for the various deliverables designed to get the most of the different display formats.
Photo by Joe Lederer.
“We made it more of a gritty looking film than, say, Iron Man,” says Stipan, referring to the look associated with the type of Marvel franchise features Deadpool slyly references. “It’s not quite so nice and glossy. We didn’t make anything super saturated.”
To further push the grittiness angle, Stipan added film grain to the ARRI Alexa-shot material. The effect was generated from real film grain and fine-tuned to feel present, not distracting to audiences. He adds that “we didn’t like the look of the grain on the IMAX or Dolby Vision or HDR [TV] versions. It was just too much. So it’s there in the P3 and standard Rec. 709 versions.”
For the HDR passes, he went back and reworked scenes to maximize their effect in that space, particularly in areas featuring bright areas such as skies. While it was technically possible to simply map the images into the newer dynamic range, Stipan and the filmmakers felt shots needed fine-tuning to make them feel right. “There are two big action scenes on a bridge and the sky is in almost every shot,” Stipan notes. “When I looked at them at [sister company] Company 3’s Dolby Vision screening room and on the Sony 4K HDR monitor, I felt I was seeing more information in the skies than ever before. It was fantastic!”
Colorist Tim Stipan in one of the DI theaters at Deluxe’s EFILM, Hollywood.
But there were times when the skies in the HDR version were so bright and detailed that they distracted from the main action of the scene, which was about Deadpool’s antics, not how beautifully bright and blue the sky was. “Sometimes for HDR I would bring the skies down a bit so everything in the shot worked in context,” he explains. “You see so much more in HDR. I think, as a colorist, I can match shots better than was ever possible before because I see so much more information.”