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Turning Hawaii into the Old West

Andrew RiceGrading

…Green to brown in a few easy steps

***Before & After movie at the bottom of this post!***

Our latest project, a short film called The Roundup, posed some interesting hurdles for us to jump over in the world of Post.  I was lucky enough to work on this project with Stefan Schaefer of Cicala Filmworks.  Stefan and I have worked on a few projects together now and have developed a productive and fun, yes…we do surf together a few times a week, working relationship. This project was destined for The Short List, a compilation of 5 shorts produced by Talk Story Productions, and premiering at the HIFF.

So The Roundup was an interesting one.  The genre is Western and it was shot on Oahu’s north shore, and as you might have guessed it is pretty green up there!  The DP chose to shoot it with a Technicolor LUT which gave us an image with a high dynamic range, allowing us a lot of latitude for adjustment.

This is from the Technicolor site: “The Technicolor CineStyle provides better dynamic range of the captured content. This allows for greater artistic freedom during shooting (as the look does not have to locked in during shooting) as well as during the color correction process in postproduction.”

The Grade

I first set about balancing from shot to shot, using Magic Bullets Colorista 2 in FCP. Yup, I was still using FCP on this one…FCP7 that is.  In any case, Colorista is a very powerful tool with primary and secondary correction capabilities from with your NLE.


I got a lot of mileage form the Secondaries to pull the blood from the image in certain scenes and make it pop, after we applied the Look we had lost some of that nice red that really says “ouch”!  Colorista’s masks helped me to qualify the areas of the frame that were bloody, and track them, albeit manually, so we could enhance the “ouch” factor.

The Look

I used Red Giant’s Looks 2 to create the look for this film, trying to get away from the Hawaii feel as much as possible.  I mean, you look at some of those peaks, and some of the foliage and it screams Hawaii, but if its not green…maybe nobody will notice!  Right?

So I added a few layers of filters here, and I really love the flexibility of this plugin.  There are just so many tools at your fingertips.  The big players as far as getting the appropriate Look were the 2-Strip Process, Bleach Bypass, and the Curves.  The 2-Strip in particular allowed us to go after the greens and pull them way way back. The Bleach Bypass gave us a classic antiquated feel, and the Curves gave us the film look wanted by crushing the blacks a bit and boosting the Midtones.  As you can see there are a lot of layers to this look. We also made use of the Vignette to pull your attention into a certain area of action, and again to add an antiquated, western feel to the film.


All in all we were pretty happy, and it was fun to have the opportunity to push to the extremes with the image.  Often Color Grading is more of a subtle art, at-least to the person sitting in the audience, but with The Roundup, it clobbers you over the head and says this one is going to be as “Hot as a whorehouse on nickel night”!