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A Perfect Look With Mistika: The Art of Colour and Finishing for ‘Smiley’

The Netflix series ‘Smiley‘ has made its mark among the top 50 best TV shows according to The New York Times. Produced by Minoria Absoluta, the entire post-production process of this popular series was completed by Barcelona-based Antaviana VFX and Postproduction studio using SGO’s full-finishing and colour grading solutions, Mistika Ultima and Boutique.

‘Smiley’ follows the story of two men and their friends as they navigate love and relationships while confronting their own issues and insecurities. As a Christmas romantic comedy, the desired visual aesthetic was bright and cheerful, with warm shades of red playing a dominant role in creating the final look.

A colour perfection journey with ACES

The team at Antaviana were looking to achieve the right balance between a TV and a film-like look for the show. Through meticulous colour grading, creatives were able to bring the digital image to life with a cinematic chromatic scheme. The techniques used included split toning, adjusting the white balance to a warm and soft state, colour separation, and subtractive saturation.

To ensure the highest image quality and compatibility across different displays, Antaviana optimised the colour pipeline for HDR in Dolby Vision. An ACEScct LUT was created as the project’s LMT and adapted to Rec709 for the preview on set.

To facilitate look previews and decision-making for DPs Pol Orpinell and Hermes Marco during filming, the team also created CDLs with offset and saturation variations. This streamlined approach helped maintain consistency in the colour grading pipeline throughout the post-production process.

Mistika as an optimisation tool

“Mistika is our primary solution for conform, colour grading, and finishing, and it offers unparalleled flexibility in colour management with ACES,” emphasised Cristóbal Bolaños, Digital Intermediate and Finishing Artist at Antaviana VFX and Postproduction.

The colourist Martí Somoza and the DP Pol Orpinell collaborated closely on the final look of the show. To support the creative vision, the team at Antaviana simplified each timeline in Mistika as much as possible. With Somoza being new to Mistika Technology and to allow him to quickly adapt to the new system, Display Filters were used for the ODT P3D65 1000 nits and the LMT. The ability to rapidly switch between SDR and HDR display ODTs, as well as independently modify the GUI and final render, made the use of Display Filters in Mistika Ultima a crucial component during the colour grading process.

Martí Somoza emphasises the advantages of using ACES as the colour management system. “Making adjustments to balance in the ACEScc/cct is much more manageable than in other colour spaces. This made it possible for precise and effective adjustments to exposure using the Offset Tool. To fine-tune details, Somoza utilised the bands settings, qualifiers, and masks. “Using the masks in Mistika is incredibly easy and fast as you can easily draw shapes directly on the image and work with them both inside and outside without having to create new vectors,” he explained.

Colour consistency throughout the process

Besides serving as the main tool for colour grading, Mistika was also utilised by the team in the post-production process as a VFX module. “As we always worked in the same Mistika environment, it was easy to make different transitions between shots, which often involved rotoscoping and compositing between several layers,” explained Cristóbal Bolaños. Working within the same project made the process much easier, eliminating the need to apply colour to each shot individually, and freeing up time for the team to concentrate on bringing their desired look and feel to the final product.

Despite the complex nature of the project, Antaviana was able to successfully overcome the tight filming and post-production schedules, and manage the various teams involved in editing, HDR, VFX, and graphics. This was achieved through the use of a robust post-production infrastructure, completed with multiple specialized rooms and departments, ensuring a smoothly coordinated workflow.

“Using Mistika as the primary tool and ACES as the colour management system certainly proved to be a key factor in the success of the project. It allowed us to achieve colour uniformity not only between departments but also throughout the various post-production processes,” concludes Bernat Aragonés, Post-production Director at Antaviana VFX and Postproduction.

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