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Galactic News

Friday December 14, 2001
Homing Beacon #50

The latest Homing Beacon has arrived and ILMís HD Supervisor Fred Meyers talks about the difficulties in matching colors on film with a multitude of locations that were shot on different days. Very cool!

Shooting a movie out of sequence and at scattered locations results in images of varying color values. The sky may not have been as bright from one day to the next, or the interior of a locale may have too different a look than its imagined exterior, shot in a different country. The process of color timing balances the hues, provides continuity, and evokes specific moods through enhancement or manipulation of colors.

In the pre-digital age, films were color timed using filters and photochemical methods. Now, digital color timing happens in real time and is computer-controlled. As Episode II is shot entirely on HD, and so much of the finished image undergoes the addition of visual effects, it seems fitting that Industrial Light & Magic is now taking on the role of a digital lab.

"The process of color timing is using a very extensive color manipulation and level luminance and gamma manipulation device that a colorist operates and manipulates the images in a way that generates a list that is memorized, and corresponds to a custom look for basically each shot or even regions within a shot," says ILMís HD Supervisor Fred Meyers. This list of variables, stored in computer memory, can then be applied to frames and assigned to shots, creating a specific palette for specific scenes.

"With this system any one of the millions of hues and levels in an image, including selective areas within an image, can be manipulated on a frame by frame basis. You can go at a very slow or fast speed through the picture and match things together or adjust levels in an iterative process. The changes are committed to memory in the system, and you can apply them to the entire reel or the entire movie, executing those changes in real time. Itís the same type of editing and flexibility that you have with the other post-production tools in editorial and in computer graphics. You see the changes right then and there."

As testament to the flexibility of the system, outputted images from Episode II can be optimized for the medium it will appear on -- whether output to film, digital projection, television broadcast or QuickTime.

"The same system was used to make a version of the trailer for the web that would exploit the qualities of the web delivery," says Meyers. "The system creates a list of what gets optimized for each screen that it will ultimately appear on, and then it plays it out to that format. So we can work from a master file and create any number of versions."

Jedi Power