Blackmagic Design recently announced that Senior Colourist Andrew Francis used DaVinci Resolve Studio to grade the new 2021 Sundance documentary “Cusp.” Francis relied on an at home setup powered by a DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel, Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR converter and UltraStudio 4K capture and playback device for the project as he pivoted to a fully remote workflow.
Directed by Isabel Bethencourt and Parker Hill, “Cusp” follows three teenage girls in a Texas military town as they confront the dark corners of adolescence at the end of a fever dream summer. The film premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where Bethencourt and Hill both received the Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker.
According to Francis, “‘Cusp’ is a shocking slice of life. When a project comes along like this, one has to invest 110 percent, and knowing Blackmagic Design’s toolsets are top notch made for a completely immersive colour experience.”
“‘Cusp’ is an intimate, verité portrait of three teenage girls in Texas that explores what it means to grow up with trauma,” said Co-director Isabel Bethencourt. “After spending so much time on the ground, immersing ourselves in the lives of our main characters, we knew we wanted to enhance the natural richness of Texas with authentic and intimate colour. We started collaborating with Andrew early on during production by sending stills to set looks from. This was so helpful in understanding what we could get away with in camera; how flexible it was going to be for us.”
“Once we were in the grade, working remotely was seamless,” added Co-director Parker Hill. “Andrew was able to bring out even more complexity in our colour than we thought possible. The look of this film is so important to understanding the tone of the story, and Andrew’s incredible work helped elevate the film to a whole new level.”
In the beginning of the pandemic, Francis transitioned to an at home setup and incorporated the DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel, Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR and UltraStudio 4K alongside an Apple Pro Display XDR monitor into his workflow to ensure he would be able to deliver the same high caliber work remotely that he was used to delivering from a larger post house environment.
“The plug and play nature of the setup was simply breathtaking in its efficiency. I have been working in the world’s leading post houses for well over 20 years and found my at home system was not only intuitive, but also highly precise,” said Francis. “Utilising the UltraStudio 4K and Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR meant I could be confident that the content I was monitoring was color critical. Additionally, the on screen scope display was brilliantly versatile in the positioning and sizing options, and I was delighted with how quietly the technology ran.”
“This setup not only ensured less hardware was needed, but also meant I could cut down on equipment real estate in my home suite. Sending my signal from DaVinci Resolve Studio through the UltraStudio 4K to my propriety IP encoder system ensured that my clients enjoyed an ‘in room’ experience independent of geographic location, which has been crucial over this past year,” he continued.
As part of the post production process for “Cusp,” London based Francis collaborated with Samuel Gursky from New York based post house Irving Harvey, who used DaVinci Resolve Studio for the conform and consolidation of the camera media.
“When Irving Harvey finished conforming, all they had to do was share a .drp file and I was up and running with the colour grade. Since we were both using DaVinci Resolve Studio, we were able to easily collaborate whenever needed. It was as if we were in the same building, even though we were transatlantic on different continents,” said Francis.
For Francis, his goal as a colourist is always to further the narrative with colour without being too heavy handed. “I have quite a unique colour approach and DaVinci Resolve Studio is instrumental for me. I try to achieve the vision of my collaborating filmmakers with as few adjustments as possible so that the work appears elegantly photographed, organic, and most importantly, in camera. A significant part of the colourist’s job involves hiding our hand,” he explained.
Francis concluded, “Furthermore, simplifying my workflow with DaVinci Resolve Studio means that my render and QC process are exactly consistent. Creative colour grading is very rewarding, but when a colorist fails to deliver the final renders perfectly, the client’s confidence is lost. While freelancing, avoiding making simple errors is paramount. ‘Cusp’ was one of those projects in which the colour process combined with the directors’ vision to really beautiful effect, but once we put our pencils down, I still needed to print two masters, DCiP3 and REC_709, on a very tight deadline for Sundance. DaVinci Resolve Studio brought us over the finish line.”