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Creating George Miller's graphic prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga


Colourist Eric Whipp discusses the challenges of creating the look for George Millers epic blockbuster

By Contributor

Published: June 11, 2024 Updated: June 13, 2024

Colourist Eric Whipp discusses the challenges of creating the look for George Miller's epic blockbuster

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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a 2024 post-apocalyptic film directed by George Miller and shot by cinematographer Simon Duggan. It is the fifth instalment in the Mad Max series and a prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

Responsible for the colour on the latest instalment was Eric Whipp of alter ego, who worked on Baselight 6.0 across three locations: alter ego in LA and Toronto as well as Spectrum Films in Sydney, who handled the workflow supervision, conform, home entertainment mastering and delivery in Baselight.

Whipp, Miller and the Spectrum team worked together previously on Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022) and brought a similar workflow to Furiosa. Whipp and Miller also collaborated on Fury Road, but the director-colourist duo has worked together for nearly two decades.

It's been almost 20 years since the first film I did with George, which was Happy Feet, back in 2005, says Whipp. Since then, we've done five films together, and created a kind of shorthand. I have learned what type of image and style he likes, and at the same time, he's challenged me further and further in the grade, knowing that I can most probably achieve whatever he's looking for. Together, we've pushed the boundaries of what Baselight can do and embraced every little toolset we can find to help tell stories.

Developing a workflow: Sydney The work on the film was spread across three different facilities and cities - starting with Spectrum Films, a family-owned and operated business in Sydney, Australia, who handled the conforming in Baselight in the same space as the editorial department.

Left to right: Dan Glass (VFX supervisor for DNEG), Genna McAuliffe (senior producer for alter ego), Eric Whipp and George Miller We started on the workflow for Furiosa while we were completing Three Thousand Years of Longing, comments Michael Messih, technical operations manager at Spectrum. The same on-set VFX supervisor worked on both films, so we were able to bring a lot of what we had developed in Baselight directly over to the Furiosa pipeline.

The Rebel Fleet managed the dailies and all the VFX pulls, and because there were so few shots which didn't require visual effects we decided to do everything via EXR sequences, explains Catherine Armstrong, general manager and head of post-production at Spectrum. At no point did we actually see any of the original camera raw files.

Andrew Cuc , colourist and finishing editor at Spectrum, commented: The best feature we had was Baselight's shot versioning tool. We would typically get up to 100 shots a day, so having the version refresh feature made things so much quicker. Also being able to switch back and compare versions during VFX reviews was amazing.

Spectrum helped to develop a workflow for colour-critical 4K graded streams between LA and Sydney, and maintained a rigorous calibration check procedure - including colour comparisons and render tests - to ensure that everyone was seeing the same images.

George likes to refer to the term rolling DI', implying a tight integration between departments which means that the grading process happens alongside all the VFX work, explains Messih. Having the remote working ability between Spectrum and alter ego meant that Eric didn't have to spend weeks over in Sydney - and George could review everything from the 4K DI theatre at Spectrum.

The Spectrum team worked entirely in ACES and made good use of Baselight's ability to quickly switch between colour spaces to compare colour in different viewing conditions. It also supported quick switching of formats, which they were doing all the time to compare 4K, HD and UHD against the various references.

Supported by a team of additional finishing editors (Affrica Handley and James Cowie) and production experts (Basia A'hern and Sofia Costa), the Spectrum team utilised the Baselight reporting tool, which allowed them to provide daily data reports and enable the VFX supervisor to cross-check versions.

This was essential in Furiosa, as we were doing most of the VFX changes in Baselight rather than waiting for an updated EDL, comments Armstrong. DI was effectively leading the edit in the end, so this reporting tool was critical.

Due to the nature of Eric's stacks, I ended up doing quite a lot of the editorial changes manually in the timeline, adds Cuc . The new Baselight 6.0 timeline editing tools will make this much easier - the addition of tracks and the ability to compress large stacks means managing a complex timeline will be a lot simpler for future projects like this.

Colour: LA and Canada alter ego opened its LA office in September 2023 and knew one of the first projects would be Furiosa.

We ensured we had everything we needed to grade the film while building out the new office, says Whipp. A big part of this was to ensure that our six Baselight suites in Toronto could easily sync with the two new Baselight suites in LA.

We also needed to find a way to sync up the Baselight suites at Spectrum, so we set up a project server here at alter ego in LA, which everyone was connected to, says Whipp. This way, once a reel was conformed in Sydney, it was as easy as opening it in LA and everything was linked up.
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