Color Grading Netflix’s Mindhunter

Eric Weidt, Dolby’s Thomas Graham, and Netflix’s Chris Clark.

A look at the show’s unique HDR look and workflow

David Alexander Willis (Twitter, Instagram)
June 2018
Post Magazine

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Each Mindhunter hour-long show (from the 10-episode run) was graded using FilmLight’s Baselight color grading tools by colorist Eric Weidt, who navigated between ultra-modern capture technology, the time and place of late 70s cinema and the very specific needs of David Fincher.

Adding an editorial and visual effects team at his facility in Hollywood, Mindhunter was the first time that the auteur established his own in-house DI. “It’s important to note, we had a lot more time to work on this show than most grades,” Weidt pointed out during a special HDR presentation by FilmLight, Dolbyand Red Digital Cinema at Hollywood’s Dolby Cinema Old Vine theatre.

“The 70’s and serial killers backdrop brought to mind David Fincher’s Zodiac, which is an absolutely brilliant movie; a masterpiece in terms of both content and color,” he says. “The 70s has a distinct color palette” he continues. Street photographers William Eggleston and Stephen Shore are personal sources of inspiration for initial color grading.

Post and edit began as production rolled in Pittsburgh. Dailies were usually available to Fincher by the following day. The production used FotoKem’s nextLAB dailies system and the PIX asset and data management and delivery platform.

Due to overlapping shoot and post production schedules, “David looked at things on his iPad for two-thirds of the season,” says Weidt, explaining that he had a complex rendering process that allowed him to manage new HDR footage as well as sending regular corrections from Fincher to view in SDR. The Baselight workflow file was separated into two timelines, one for any creative color adjustments, and another that had stabilizations and lens emulations applied. Weidt would daisy-chain them, run it through the Dolby Vision HDR professional tools, and create offline files to view on an iPad or monitor.

Weidt says that Fincher’s color design for Mindhunter was heavily influenced by the organic palette of several classic films, such as McCabe and Mrs. Miller, All the President’s Men and the more chromatic yet grittier look of The French Connection. They also wanted a low contrast, information-rich picture, and had first experimented with low contrast optical filtration on set but preferred in the end to “set up the digital chain in a way that Fincher was getting the type of image that he wanted.

Weidt’s starting point for dailies, as well as any color work on the master, began with a low-contrast log curve that maintained as much of the dynamic range provided by the Red Xenomorph camera as possible, and gave the SDR monitoring on set an approximation of Weidt’s HDR workflows.

The HDR look was developed in post production: “In HDR, we initially came across a lot of scenes where the light sources were taking too much prominence,” Weidt says. “David and his post supervisor Peter Mavromates really wanted an elegant balance. Mindhunter’s HDR is not trying to strike you or slap you in the face. Just like the sound mixing, or cutting, it is not trying to blow your mind, but rather convey the story content. The latter is really what’s going to punch you.”

Many of Fincher’s notes require simple dodging and burning, performed primarily through Weidt’s use of shapes, masking and tracking in Baselight. Using PIX, Fincher would circle subjects or areas of a frame, giving suggestive chromatic terms like ‘sallow’ or ‘ruddy,’ and ‘equidistant’ or ‘symmetrical’ in regard to reframing.

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Areas of focus

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After the grade

“David is famous for having a visual style where he is going to stabilize two-thirds of the shots in an episode, or in a movie, so that everything is absolutely perfect,” says Weidt. “What he wants is that the camera, the gaze into the image, is totally unconscious, and you’re really in there without distractions that most people take for granted.” After Fincher returned to Los Angeles, their standard workflow on a scene together would start with a master shot that incorporated the characters as well as background, timing color and light levels for other shots and angles in scenes to be timed from that reference.

Fincher’s eye for detail goes far beyond that, though, and Weidt noted several corrected items that would have escaped his attention, like plants outside a prison that were too vibrantly green, or highlights in reflections that needed to be turned down to match light sources. “There are certain colors that David needs to suppress, and that’s mostly pink,” he continues. “Pink appears in people’s skin tones, and if you get it wrong in the grading suite and ends up on a monitor outside of that environment, it’s going to appear like they have pink faces and it looks really bad. David wants to control that.”

Using Summilux-C primes from CW Sonderoptic, XML information was created for every focal length. This was a requirement on Mindhunter as simulations of grain, lens barreling and chromatic aberration in Baselight were tailored to the specific focal length throughout the show. Weidt even created anamorphic effects for the spherical lenses. “David wanted to refer to 70’s in what could be called ‘the anamorphic wide-screen era,’” he says.

He also added pseudo chromatic aberration “on every shot and every episode of Mindhunter,” which he developed himself, as the vast majority of plug-ins and filters will simply shift one of the primary color plates, stretching from center, resulting in bi-color aberrations. These created results that Fincher found lackluster, when for example given a cyan-red, he’d really only want the cyan. “I found the solution in Baselight, which essentially took 20 layers, using blending modes that are usually the purview of a compositing tool,” Weidt says.

“David directed four episodes of Mindhunter, but he’s the executive producer for the show, and he’s definitely the director of the DI,” he adds. “All of the color, he directed himself, with contributions from Erik Messerschmidt.”

This is an abridged version of the full in-depth article available in the June issue of Post Magazine

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“Heavy Metal” R-rated animated anthology might finally be happening as a series on Netflix

Last March, during several promotional interviews for his new film Prodigy (1, 23), veteran actor and voice actor Richard Neil talked about one his recent projects:

I just voiced one of the lead roles in a graphic anthology series directed by Tim Miller, who directed Deadpool. That’s being produced by David Fincher and is supposed to debut on Netflix later this year or early next year.

I cannot even say the name of the series at this time.

In that, I took on a kind of Nick Nolte meets Tom Waits voice. You just have to make sure you can sustain it and not hurt yourself!

According to Longmire TV series actor Adam Bartley, David Fincher might be directing one episode:

This year, since I’ve finished Longmire I’ve done two films and a motion-capture job, a David Fincher – Netflix untitled short.

For details on the history of the Heavy Metal anthology project and his development (hell):

Details and Artwork From Tim Miller’s Unmade ‘Heavy Metal’ Reboot

Christopher Marc
December 10, 2016
Omega Underground

Tim Miller Hints ‘Terminator’ Shoots In 2018; ‘Goon’ and ‘Heavy Metal’ Announcements Soon?

Christopher Marc
July 26, 2017
Omega Underground

MINDHUNTER: ATAS/Netflix FYSEE panel highlights

Ted Sarandos (Netflix Chief Content Officer), David Fincher (Director/Executive Producer), Anna Torv, Jennifer Starzyk (Costume Designer), Steve Arnold (Production Designer), Erik Messerschmidt (Director of Photography), Cameron Britton, Laray Mayfield (Casting Director), Holt McCallany, Jonathan Groff. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)

‘Mindhunter’: David Fincher Shot a 9-Minute Take 75 Times and Didn’t Let Cameron Britton Talk to Anyone on Set

The notoriously fastidious director discussed his process for the Netflix original series during a panel discussion Friday night.

Ben Travers
June 2, 2018
IndieWire

Netflix FYSEE MINDHUNTER Panel, Los Angeles, CA, USA - 1 June 2018
“Why 75 takes? Cos I’m motherf***ing David Fincher, that’s why” (Eric Charbonneau, REX/Shutterstock/IndieWire)

Jonathan Groff And David Fincher Revisit ‘Mindhunter’ As Emmy Beckons

Gregory Ellwood
June 2, 2018
The Playlist

Netflix FYSEE MINDHUNTER Panel, Los Angeles, CA, USA - 1 June 2018
Fincher being “Rorschached” at the MINDHUNTER Netflix FYSee space (Eric Charbonneau, REX/Shutterstock/IndieWire)

MINDHUNTER at NetflixFYSEE

Panel tweets and photos from 6/1/18 event

Diane Gordon (Twitter)
June 2, 2018
Wakelet

Netflix FYSEE MINDHUNTER Panel, Los Angeles, CA, USA - 1 June 2018
Fincher surrenders to the cuddly, adorable, and “hot” bear Cameron Britton (Eric Charbonneau, REX/Shutterstock/IndieWire)

MINDHUNTER panel at Netflix FYSEE

Composite of original photos by Annie Mack (Instagram)

David Fincher (Director & Executive Producer), Laray Mayfield (Casting Director), Jennifer Starzyk (Costume Designer), Erik Messerschmidt (Director of Photography), Steve Arnold (Production Designer), Cameron Britton, Anna Torv, Holt McCallany, Jonathan Groff.

Exclusive event. Creating the unique HDR look for Netflix’s Mindhunter

FilmLight

Colorist Eric Weidt shares creative insights on using Dolby Vision and Baselight to shape the look of the gripping Netflix original series.

Join us for an exclusive presentation by colorist Eric Weidt, who will demonstrate how he collaborated with producer and director David Fincher to create the look of the masterful psychological thriller Mindhunter.

Don’t miss this opportunity to explore how Eric developed the HDR color grade, which drew inspiration from films of the ’70s – demonstrated live on BaseLight.

The presentation will be followed by a technical discussion where Eric will be joined by Peter Postma, FilmLight‘s Managing Director of the Americas, Thomas Graham, Dolby‘s Sr. Manager of Imaging Content Solutions and Chris Clark, Manager – Imaging Science Technologies at Netflix who will share insights from their work with the latest tools and solutions for creating amazing HDR content.

March 28, 2018
Dolby Cinema Vine Theatre
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Full details of the event:

FilmLight – Creating the unique HDR look for Mindhunter
Eventbrite – Creating the unique HDR look for Mindhunter

2018-03-17 Eventbrite - Exclusive event. Creating the unique HDR look for Netflix's Mindhunter (Mindhunter Logos)

Exclusive event: Creating the unique HDR look for Netflix’s Mindhunter
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A Q&A with producer Peter Mavromates and colourist Eric Weidt
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