Vancouver post house SKYLAB developed a custom workflow to integrate creative grading with editorial and visual effects for director Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie. Working with Vancouver visual effects studio Image Engine, the team created a feature finishing architecture that took advantage of FilmLight’s BLG file format, Baselight, and Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) technology.
Chappie is set in the near future where crime is controlled by an oppressive mechanized police force. The title character—realized entirely in VFX, based on a motion capture performance by Sharlto Copley—is stolen and loaded with experimental software that allows it to think and feel for itself.
Principal photography took place in South Africa. An on-set FilmLight Baselight grading system created proxies for editorial and prepared full-resolution content for transport. SKYLAB managed all of the media, as well as color metadata, on behalf of the studio. Background plates were delivered to Image Engine and other VFX houses as OpenEXR files, using ACES to ensure consistency between viewing environments and BLG files to manage technical grade information in a non-destructive way.
Using Baselight’s color grading and finishing tools, SKYLAB creative director and colorist Andrea Chlebak began to develop the look during the shoot. She says, “Crafting the final look from the start of VFX—in a movie where practically every frame has some effects in it—was really valuable.”