Collaborative digital workflow creates look for sci-fi movie directed by Jonathan Glazer
Dirty Looks, the London colour grading studio specialising in Baselight grading for independent movies, carried out the finish of Under the Skin – the latest movie from director Jonathan Glazer, starring Scarlett Johansson. Visual effects were completed by Dirty Looks’ creative partner, One of Us; sharing the same building made collaboration even easier to realise the director’s vision.
The film, shot in Glasgow and rural Scotland, was captured by Daniel Landin on the ARRI ALEXA and one-cam, a unique small cinema-quality digital camera, specifically developed by One of Us for covert shooting in Glasgow’s city-centre. Custom colour science was developed to enable the cameras to sit together in the edit and used in Baselight to help balance the feel of the cameras.
As visual effects developed they were regularly conformed and worked on in a 2k grading environment, allowing the look to evolve while keeping creative options open. Dirty Looks’ Tom Balkwill explained: “Combining technical resources allowed a quick turnaround between creative departments and helped us deliver what this film needed, not only quickly but to the highest standards – the efficient workflow from VFX, aided by the Baselight integration, meant quality never had to be compromised.”
From this starting point, colourist John Claude came in to set the grade. “I worked closely with Jonathan Glazer to achieve the look that felt right,” he commented. “He was very clear that it should be rooted in an everyday Glaswegian reality.
“The balance in the grade was naturalistic in the street cinematography, then more stylised as we took the viewer through some of the more curious, unsettling sequences,” he added. “The blue ‘swimmer’ sequences, when one of Scarlett’s victims is under the pit, were quite challenging, but made easier with Baselight’s matte-layer stack management.”
Tom Balkwill pointed to another key scene that represented a huge technical challenge. “In this scene Johansson’s face emerges from an accumulation of street visions – a very complicated montage made up of 93 blended 2K layers. This sequence could only be finished with Baselight, because each individual layer needed its own tweaks in stabilising and grading. You absolutely need the power of Baselight to achieve what we did for Under the Skin.”
Under the Skin has been critically acclaimed by festival audiences worldwide. It goes on general release in the UK on 14 March and in the USA on 4 April.