Deadpool is already one of 2016’s biggest box office hits. The darkly comic and graphic take on the superhero movie was finished by colorist Tim Stipan on Baselight at Deluxe’s EFilm in Hollywood. “Working on such a complex, effects-heavy project often requires various external matte sequences in addition to multiple image tracks. Multiply that by the large number of VFX vendors, and it meant we had a lot of different layers and mattes,” said Stipan.
While the effects were vital to the story, Deadpool is a live action movie and a key part of Stipan’s job was to work with DP Ken Seng to design the overall look. The two are actually friends from college days, when they both studied cinematography and have since worked together on Disconnect (2012) and The Family Fang (2015).
During Deadpool’s production in Vancouver, they ran camera and lens tests together then devised a set of reference looks on-set, much of which could be created in camera to build a natural look. They also tested different film grains extensively that were used for some of the versions of the movie, with the exception of HDR, Imax and Dolby Vision.
“We were going for a gritty look. We didn’t want a very saturated, bright, warm superhero movie. We wanted it to feel much darker, colder,” Stipan explained. “The director Tim Miller is also an animator and VFX artist and was orchestrating the movie visually and worked closely with us on the color process.”
Part of the grading challenge was to match live footage consistently across the scenes. Much of the film was shot in Vancouver largely on Arri Alexa cameras. One key sequence, a battle on a bridge, took 12 days to shoot, during which time the Vancouver weather went through its full repertoire.
And then there were the characters themselves. Stipan used Baselight to isolate Deadpool’s suit, and give the main character a dark, modern touch, in keeping with the film's theme and influenced by the comic book. The director also wanted a particular vibrancy and substance for the CGI character Colossus, so Stipan had mattes that allowed him to create the right look for his clothes and body using multiple alpha channels.
One particular Baselight feature that Stipan found invaluable on this project was the ability to see and compare multiple versions. “I could put Baselight in stereo mode and see the cinema version and the HDR version at the same time; one eye on the projector and the other on the monitor. This was really useful and helped to make sure I was matching what I did for cinema across all the deliverables. I’ve never seen that in any grading system before – I’ve always dreamt of doing it.”
The movie was delivered in a number of formats, and while most of the VFX was in 2K the movie was finished in 4K, not least because of the need for an Imax version. While all the core grading was done on the Fox lot, for some of the deliverables Stipan moved across town to Company 3. “They have a theatre with a Dolby projector, so we went over there for a couple of days to do the Dolby Vision version,” he said. “Everything else was done at EFilm.”
“It was a challenge to finish the movie in time because there was so much VFX work,” Stipan concluded. “But the director was really impressed with the way Baselight helped to bring it all together and indeed with what we could do with the system itself.”
Deadpool is currently showing in theatres worldwide.