Though he began Seabiscuit's post work without strong expectations,
Schwartzmann says he was pleasantly surprised by the hands-on involvement
the DI required. "In a traditional color-timing scenario,
the cinematographer makes comments, and the timer goes away and
does his version of what you said," he explains. "When
you're working with film, there's always the issue of how many
times you want to put the negative up on the printer. But when
the information is stored as data, you can do as many versions
of the scene as you can think of, and you're not putting wear and
tear on anything. You can look at five or six versions of what
you might want to do and see them immediately."
The ability to change highlights, midtones and shadows independently
was a huge boon, he adds. "Seabiscuit has a lot of
day exteriors, and I had to match scenes that were shot at different
times of day," he says. At Technique, he was able to warm
up the highlights without affecting the midtones or shadows. "I
couldn't have done that in a photochemical lab - it would have
warmed up the entire scene. In the DI suite, you have more refined
tools." Nakamura points out that with secondary color control
- power windows - he could isolate certain areas to make the skies
match from scene to scene quite easily. "If they had timed
this traditionally, the grass on the infield would have been changing
from green to lime green to yellow to orange, based on the massive
color correction they would've had to do to match scenes shot at
noon and 5 p.m.," says Nakamura. "But because we did
it electronically, we were able to latch onto an individual color
vector and make it match from shot to shot to shot." He adds
that even if shadow details change, the fact that the hue stays
consistent tricks the eye into thinking the scenes match.
In one scene, Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) is in a Mexican brothel
filled with candles. Schwartzman defocused the highlights, making
all the little candles glow and flicker. "The image is still
sharp; only the highlights are soft," he says. Nakamura defocused
the scene based on color channels: "It gives the candlelight
an ethereal feel, but it's not like [putting] a diffusion filter
over the whole thing. It only affects certain colors in the shot
and creates a romantic feel."
Early on in the movie, there's a scene in which Seabiscuit's owner
(Jeff Bridges) had to look 10 years younger. "I suggested
we soften up his highlights, because it's the brighter spots on
the faces where you see all the wrinkles," says Nakamura. "I
did a luminance key on the face, took the key channel and defocused
it, blending it with the rest of the image, so only that part of
his face was defocused. It succeeded in making him look younger."
Nakamura also used color-correction tools to enhance color in
scenes that needed to stand out for dramatic reasons. "For
beauty shots when Pollard and Seabiscuit are taking off in the
field, we added saturation," he says. "That way, the
colors pop up vibrantly with increased contrast."
Many of the film's horse races were filmed in overcast conditions,
which made the light flat. "Inside the suite, we could really
stretch the whites out and crush the blacks to get contrast," says
Nakamura. "That would have been very difficult to do photochemically.
Also, when you increase contrast, it increases the saturation of
the colors, which would have made everyone's faces go red [in a
photochemical world]. But by latching onto that area, we could
keep the faces from becoming too saturated."
Schwartzman says his experience with shooting commercials had
given him familiarity with telecine tools, making it an easy switch
to the tools found in the DI suite. One minor challenge, however,
was adjusting to the characteristics of the digital projector: "Your
film will have more contrast than the digitally projected image.
The digital projectors can't create a very rich black. But obviously,
that's going to change. Film projectors aren't getting any better,
and digital projectors are as bad as they're going to be. With
digital projectors, every iteration is a step forward in terms
of image quality.
"The DI process put me in the driver's seat, and that was
fantastic," he concludes. "It surpassed my expectations,
and when we went out to film, we were always blown away."