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Colorist Mark Todd Osborne Navigates a Child's Fantasy

And the Reality of a Racing Audi TT with DaVinci Resolve Studio in National Ad Campaign
"Audi TT: Reality? Check." The recent national ad campaign for the Audi TT from MediaCom, the agency behind the concept, features the iconic sports car racing through rugged terrain and busy cities alike. The spot enters the mind of a child, and as he races his toy car around a track and imagines a full-throttle adventure of challenging terrain and jaw-dropping stunts, the Audi TT achieves it in real life. Mirroring the boy's movements, the spot cuts to real life shots of the Audi TT racing on the edges of cliffs, through dense forests of tall pines, around jagged boulders and hairpin turns, as well as through the nighttime streets of San Francisco, weaving through trollies, traffic and tractor trailers.

Directed by Mouse McCoy and produced by Bandito Brothers, "Reality? Check." required a very specific look to help portray the fantasy of the child's imagination while delivering on the intensity of the shots of the racing Audi TT. According to freelance colorist Mark Todd Osborne, who graded the spot using DaVinci Resolve Studio at Bandito Brothers' in-house color suite at its L.A.-based facility, there was a fine line between the fantasy and the reality when it came to color.

"The colors were meant to represent what a child might see in his or her own mind, so they are slightly more exaggerated than in real life," Mark explained. "However, I didn't want to go too far overboard in a saturated or fantasy-world kind of way. After reviewing the color several times, we found that some shots had to be pulled back a little, just enough to not appear too ordinary. DaVinci Resolve Studio really helped me find the right tone and toe the line between reality and fantasy."

While grading, Mark performed many color passes for balance, refining color correction and very subtle, finite color tweaks with luminance keys, using Resolve's Power Windows to add more shape to each image.

Enhancing the Fantasy
Central to visually challenging the viewers' perception of reality was the use of tilt-shift photography, which was added as a visual effect in post production. "We decided to color after the effect was applied. Doing it this way helped me make better color decisions once I could see the final results of the focus effect," said Mark.

Mark relied on DaVinci Resolve Studio's breakout color controls for fine-tuning of shadows, mid-range and highlights when grading the tilt-shift footage.

"I could crush down specific areas of the image, while leaving other areas untouched," said Mark. "Resolve helped me paint across the frame with different 'brushes' in order to achieve the desired effect. I employed the use of the A/C mode to put all shots that were similar in order, which helped me to quickly apply the color and check them against one another. It's a simple, yet effective tool for fast color grading."

He continued: "It was an evolving workflow to say the least. We were constantly getting VFX shots and having to drop them into the timeline, as I was coloring the final spot. I was getting new shots to replace older versions and, sometimes, the cut would change slightly, so I used Resolve's trim-tool function to adjust the timing of particular shots.

"Resolve's group clip function really came in handy and helped me tackle this workflow," added Mark. "We had so many color changes that it helped to grab the clips I needed to change and quickly try different colored versions for the client, so they could see the entire spot in several different color palettes, rather quickly."

An Eye for Matching
Not only did Mark have to keep pace with the ever-evolving content, but he was also tasked with delivering a daytime sequence that gradually turns into a nighttime sequence, while keeping it visually consistent. He explained: "In the 90 second version of the commercial, we have a daytime sequence which gradually goes into night. The nighttime sequence was primarily used for the 30-second version."

One of the daytime scenes shows the Audi TT racing in and around large boulders. Since the sequence was shot throughout the entire day, Mark had to ensure all the footage matched.

"This is where my eye for matching comes into play, and Resolve is my tool in order to do it," said Mark. "I used a combination of lift, gamma and gain and a variation of adjustments on the track balls. Sometimes I like to use a luminance key node for highlights that get too hot, so that I can bring the detail back into view to keep things from looking too much like 'digital' and more like film.

"I'm really enjoying the finite highlight control I get with Resolve's luminance keys and creating my own high dynamic range shots, so to speak," he added. "I then can soften, defocus, add noise reduction and sharpen inside the luminance keys, once I've grabbed them. A truly great tool!"

When it came time to create the nighttime sequence, a dark and brooding look was needed. According to Mark, the look was almost akin to grading an action feature film. "The latitude was there in the footage, so the director had me keep compressing down on the darkness of the image in order to get the desired look," he noted. "Resolve's LOG control came in handy for settling shadow areas where I needed them, while leaving the rest of the mids and highlight temperatures alone. I use that function quite a bit now in all my grading."

About Mark Todd Osborne
Mark Todd Osborne is a 17-Year Senior Digital Colorist who works in all genres of media, from features and TV episodics to commercials, music videos and web content. Recent feature work includes Kevin Smith's "Yoga Hosers," "It Follows," and DreamWorks "Need for Speed," plus commercial campaigns Audi, Coca-Cola, Target, XBOX and BMW & Toyota. Mark's meticulous eye, professionalism and strong visual sense of taste and style make him a stand out color artist. He freelances at Bandito Brothers and works at several post facilities in L.A., as well as at his own company, MTO ColorData.

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Related Keywords:BlackMagic Design, DaVinci Resolve, color correction


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