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RED and Undead: Company 3 Completes 3D and Color for ‘Underworld Awakening’

Company 3 used Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve with Resolve Control Surface for color grading the 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D versions of Underworld Awakening. Directed by Mans Mårlind and Bjorn Stein and shot by Scott Kevan, Underworld Awakening is the latest in the popular and visually arresting vampire-themed Underworld series.

Underworld Awakening Trailer
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Senior colorist Siggy Ferstl at Company 3’s Santa Monica facility worked with the filmmakers to help bring a “refreshed” look to the series. While the previous films were defined by a cold, steely blue look, the world of Awakening is somewhat different. “The creative team was intent on building a bold new look for the franchise, especially since this is the first 3D installment,” explains Ferstl. “Of course, being part of the Underworld series, a lot of the story takes place in darkness with characters who are often dressed in very dark costumes. We used color a lot to help the viewer differentiate between people, vampires and lycans, often during intense, fast-paced action scenes.”

Shot by Kevan with RED EPIC cameras, the original material, Ferstl recalls, “had very rich, deep blacks. The wealth of information in the shadows gave me a tremendous amount to work with during color grading. It was great to have so much to work with in the darker areas of the frame and to have such control in Resolve to finesse things.”

“This is especially important for a stereoscopic film,” he adds. “Today’s 3D projection technology can’t display whites as brightly as we’re used to in 2D, so if we want to see a lot of contrast on the screen, it has to come from the darker areas.”

Ferstl explains how he made extensive use of Resolve’s parallel node function to help fine-tune the film’s look: “If you give the scene an overall cold, blue look, of course you lose a lot of your warmer tones,” he notes. “The richness of red—say, in blood—will be lost. But by using parallel nodes, I can very efficiently give a scene that colder feel in one node and then bring back certain information from an earlier node. This way, the shot can have a kind of blue feel overall, but the blood can still retain that powerful red color it had before I added the blue wash.”

Resolve’s stereoscopic 3D hardware capabilities also played a significant role in the grading process. “Any movie shot in 3D can have some alignment issues between the left and right eyes that impair the 3D illusion,” Ferstl explains. “In the past, these would have had to be fixed at a visual effects facility. But I was able to use the Resolve’s auto-alignment function for virtually every shot that needed adjustment. It worked very well and added a great deal of efficiency to the DI process.”