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Post-Moderne: A Modern Method to Color Grading with DaVinci Resolve

For the first time in recent history, a Montreal based colorist has been nominated for the prestigious Hollywood Post Alliance Awards in the Outstanding Color Grading for a Feature Film category. Post-Moderne's Charles Boileau is one of five nominees for his work on Monsoon, a documentary shot in 4K that explores the social, economical and philosophical aspects of the Monsoon in modern India. Charles stands among nominees from some of this year's top films, including Birdman, Whiplash, The Boxtrolls and Lady of Csejte.

Monsoon was color graded on Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, and Charles has sworn by the suite since he decided to make color grading his profession. It's his unique background, however, that gave him the edge he needed to receive this incredible nomination. Charles Boileau started his career by snowshoeing up backcountry mountains and snowboarding back down with a film gear filled bag on his back. His hobby turned into a cinematography career when he was recruited by Pléhouse Films to shoot freeskiing films. For a couple of years, he traveled all over the world to shoot, and after leaving the business, he worked as a project manager in a post house that focused on motion design and animation. He eventually moved on to get more involved in DP work in a duo partnership called Chuck & Twist, where he added music videos, advertising and short movies to his resume.

"We were two DPs that also did lighting and framing. This may seem unusual, but in Quebec, DPs take on these tasks," Charles said. "It turned out that learning to control the light during the shoot was key for my move into color grade."

Because Charles already had a background as a DP who understood lighting techniques, he had an advantage in the business even as a novice. Although the field was competitive, there was a potential to work on exciting projects and grow professionally. In order to move forward with a career in color grading, he needed additional hands on experience, so he picked up the phone and cold called one of Quebec's best DPs, Jérôme Sabourin.

"At the time, Jérôme was doing his own color grading and shooting," Charles said. "I didn't know him at all, but I called him and told him that I was comfortable with the concept of color grading and wanted to learn more about using the craft on a regular basis. He told me that he happened to be looking for an assistant. It was perfect timing and a bit of luck."

Charles spent a year with Jérôme learning all he could about color grading, but it only took a few days for him to test his talents in a big way. He began working on some of Canada's most popular television shows, often having only a day or two to grade 400 to 500 shots. During this time working with Jérôme, Charles made a mental list of all of the professionals he wanted to work with. One of the top contenders was Alexandre Domingue, the owner of Post-Moderne.

About a year into his work as an assistant, Jérôme moved on to other projects that didn't require an assistant. Charles took the next step and made a connection with Alexandre. He was so determined to work at Post-Moderne as a colorist that he provided the company with free service for three months, bringing all of his clients along with him. After that, he was fully integrated as part of the team.

Full Service Post and a Woodsy Escape
As a full service post house, Post-Moderne offers a slew of services such as color grading, online, digital lab work, editing, workflow expertise, preproduction and professional cinematography equipment rentals supplied by the company's distributor, 3Di synthèse. It caters to both Canada's indie scene and national spots. The company's intimate size accommodates smaller budgets as well as complicated workflows. And because Post-Moderne rents out its equipment, companies are able to save production costs by editing in house and going to Post-Moderne talent for the next step if desired. Alexandre also owns a beautiful house in the woods equipped with an editing suite that he rents out to clients looking for a calm, relaxing place to work. All of this contributes to Post-Moderne's strong relationship with project directors and DPs.

"We like to get involved as early as possible in the process," Charles said. "We can help them through the whole chain of workflow, on set and off and pride ourselves on working very closely with our clients."

Post-Moderne has worked with many large names and is making quite a reputation for itself. Charles alone has worked on projects for music artists such as Celine Dion, Madonna, Metric Band, Moment Factory, Simple Plan and Sigur Ros, on movies including The Cut and Monsoon, and on commercials with Red Bull, Revlon and Acura. And now with his latest nomination, it's no doubt that Post-Moderne's portfolio will continue to grow.

Preparing for a Monsoon
"Monsoon was one of the largest 4K projects we've done so far," Charles said. "I knew the DP, Van Royko, personally, and he sought me out specifically so we could work together. When he heard that the film was to be done entirely in 4K, he asked the production team to come here since we had recently set up a grading room with a 4K projector. The rest was history."

Charles and Van met when Charles was in the process of becoming a DP. Van was his assistant on set and the two ended up staying in contact over the years. When they finally got the chance to work together again on Monsoon, the old friends developed a great workflow and put their plan in motion.

The filming crew shot Monsoon in India while Post-Moderne supported them from Canada with film dailies. Editing was also done outside, but Post-Moderne's in house system integrator and technical director Benoit Breault set up an assistant editor to work with the film team remotely. When it was time to color grade, Charles already had a good handle on the film and what the director was looking for.

"I was working natively with the RAW footage files, and Resolve gave us endless possibilities," he said. "We would work carefully with nodes and film LUTs to craft the perfect look and the magic just happened from there. Because Resolve isn't an integrated product, we had the freedom of making sure we had enough horsepower to get everything going. I could work with and manage 4K right in the software with the possibility of adding GPUs to make sure we had enough memory to play back the images. It all went off without a hitch."

For Monsoon, Charles had to make sure that certain areas of the frame were dimmed down or highlighted per the director's wishes. As adding a vignette is part of his signature style, Charles already had a node tree template saved in Resolve fit for the challenge. Having this structure saved in his suite gives him a clear picture of what he wants to do and how to execute it, even after a colleague has done edits in the same project. Charles and his fellow colorist colleague, Julien Alix, have a set node sheet that they always work with just for this reason. In case another person needs to jump in on someone else's project, they have no problem remembering what step needs to be taken next.

By building the node structure he used when grading Monsoon, Charles is also able to assign specific nodes to their respective channels in a parallel structure. To make this work, he splits the signal into three different nodes (red, blue and green), one of top of each other so they come from the same source. Although these nodes act on one another, Resolve allows him to pinpoint certain colors to adjust for pollution, dimming or brightening. This way he can fix even the most minute detail without affecting the other colors present.

"This is a fantastic feature that most suites don't have," Charles said. "Without it, achieving Monsoon's level of success in terms of look and feel would have been much more challenging and time consuming."

Charles Boileau
The Aftermath

Charles hopes that his recent Hollywood Post Alliance Award nomination will result in bigger projects for Post-Moderne. And always, he still keeps a list of DPs in mind that he wishes to work with in the future, and he is doing his best to get their attention.

In the meantime, Charles teaches courses at a college in Montreal on color space, color management and basic color grading, and he uses DaVinci Resolve to show examples of successful color work.

"I'm already impressed with version 12's new features, especially the ability to import photo DNG files," he said. "If I ever work on a project similar to Monsoon again where there is a lot of time lapse material shot on a still camera, I'm going to be able to transfer all of the RAW files and just play them back in Resolve. It will be a huge time saver."

To view Charles' impressive demo reel, please visit To review the Monsoon trailer, please visit

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Related Keywords:Blackmagic Design, DaVinci Resolve, Color Grading, 4K

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