Blackmagic Design has announced that the short film Dreaming of a Better Place was graded using DaVinci Resolve Studio editing, grading, visual effects (VFX) and audio post production software.
Directed by SixTwentySix director Cameron Thuman, Dreaming of a Better Place is a documentary short that cinematically details the inspiring story of Jeff Gostlin, who carries on his father’s legacy by operating Keefer Lake Lodge, a cat skiing business nestled deep in Canada’s Monashee Mountains, with his cousin and most trusted friend Dave Gostlin. While primarily a tribute to the elder Gostlin, the film is a stunning visual tale told in snow, around fire and within a storm, with each visual element designed to drive the emotional story forward.
Director of Photography Christopher Clark worked closely with Thuman on the visual style early in the process. “We aimed to break the traditional style of ski documentaries and do something never seen before,” said Thuman. “The film’s look stems from visuals that exist between reality and a dream; we framed the story to play as a heartfelt winter tale told around a roaring campfire.”
With striking visuals, Thuman knew a great colourist would be critical, and he turned to Company 3’s Parker Jarvie. “With this high level of nuance placed on the aesthetics, we entered pre production already intending to work with Parker,” continued Thuman. “I always put a lot of emphasis on the right colourist for a job, but this time it felt vital to the fundamental way we were telling the story. Parker was perfect.”
Jarvie connected with the project at once, eager to contribute. “Having recently lost my father to cancer, I had an immediate emotional connection to the film and really wanted to play a part in helping tell this story,” said Jarvie. “The way Chris captured the surreal snowy landscapes mixed with both slow motion and fast paced skiing really helped inspire me in the grade. I wanted to make sure the grade was in keeping with the dynamic photography throughout.”
The film’s diverse lighting and shooting conditions, including both interior and exterior as well as snowscapes from nighttime to bright daylight, provided Jarvie with a creative tableau to work from using DaVinci Resolve Studio. “For the nighttime and blue hour shots, I leaned heavily into deep shadows and rich blue tones to help contrast with the daytime skiing footage,” he added. “I used several Power Windows to shape the frames and keep the shots from feeling flat. For example, I would add a soft gradient to the sky, window the background and lower the contrast, and then add more contrast and saturation to the foreground. Then I would find one interesting ‘subject’ within the shot and selectively add a bit of contrast and sharpness. This combination, I felt, helped not only draw the viewer into each frame, but kept each shot feeling individual and new; your eye could explore the shot and everything within it, but it also felt grounded to one point of interest.
“I had a similar approach to the daytime skiing footage in using Power Windows to help focus the viewer’s attention and create depth. In terms of colour, I wanted to create separation wherever I could. I leaned into the classic warm highlights/cool shadows vibe but kept it from feeling too forced or manipulated in that way. From there, I brought out the predominant colour of the subject within each shot, such as in the orange of the skier’s jacket, so that your eye goes straight to what is most important. Lastly, I’d use any chance I had to throw in subtle Power Windows to add warmth where the sun would hit the snow or coolness to further enhance the depth of the colour and draw the eye in.”
Thuman and Clark worked closely with Jarvie throughout the process, providing mood boards as reference and making specific notes of styles they were looking for in certain scenes. “The first session was setting the look with Parker and exploring variations for each world,” said Thuman. “In the second session, we could deep dive into all the details and look at the grade contextually shot to shot.”
The grading process was smooth throughout, something Thuman appreciated in working with Jarvie. “Sometimes, there isn’t a technical way to explain a gut feeling, so instead, I phrased ideas emotionally and philosophically with Parker, keeping our choices story focused. We always fully trusted Parker’s eye, and it was incredible to watch how quickly he could translate our ideas in DaVinci Resolve. He made the process effortless and very collaborative,” added Thuman.
Dreaming of a Better Place was produced by NativeFour and released online with Teton Gravity Research. The short film world premiered at the 2022 Whistler Film Festival and screened at the Academy Awards qualifying American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs. For more information contact Carrie Wick of CWPR at email@example.com.
DREAMING OF A BETTER PLACE from Cameron Thuman on Vimeo.