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Perfecting the Color Palette of ‘Pee-wee’s Big Holiday’

"[We] wanted an image that was definitely colorful but not oversaturated. In fact, we pulled back on the saturation of some of the reds and greens," says colorist Siggy Ferstl.

For those who remember the cartoonish colors of the CBS Saturday morning program Pee-wee’s Playhouse, the palette of Pee-wee’s Big Holiday ought to evoke some strong memories. When preparing for the film’s color grade, director John Lee and cinematographer Tim Orr briefed colorist Siggy Ferstl (of Deluxe’s Company 3) that they were not looking to “reinvent” Pee-wee’s world or somehow bring it into the current day.

Ferstl explains, “They wanted an image that was definitely colorful but not oversaturated. In fact, we pulled back on the saturation of some of the reds and greens in the color grade.”

Also joining Pee-wee on his adventure are, from left, Alia Shawkat, Stephanie Beatriz and Jessica Pohly. Photo by Glen Wilson/Netflix.

Shot with Sony PMW-F55 cameras and finished as 4K EXR files, the Netflix original feature is characterized primarily by very open, colorful looks. “That might seem a simple approach from a color standpoint,” Ferstl explains, “but it can introduce its own complexity, having everything in a very even palette, because there’s no place to ‘hide’ anything. Nothing goes off into shadow.”

Ferstl, who works in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, used the color corrector’s layering abilities to enhance a scene involving fireworks by adding extra firework elements provided by VFX during the DI. He also added in some glow and focus effects to give the scene extra depth. “Sometimes it can be helpful to put the final touches on effects shots like that in the DI theater, where the filmmakers can see the elements come together projected onto a big screen.”

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