For 300, Director Zack Snyder epic re-telling of a battle between ancient Greeks and Persians, Company 3 helped to bring an old world to spectacular, if often bloody, life?‚àö√ë‚àö√Üit also helped to spearhead a radically new approach toward making movies. Company 3, which has helped to pioneer the Digital Intermediate (DI) process through its work on such films as PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’sS CHEST and MAN ON FIRE, pushed the envelope with 300, raising DI to new heights in terms of how it can be used to shape and refine a film look.
300 will long be remembered, not only for its incredible box office success, but also for the highly stylized, almost otherworldly, look that Snyder used to bring Frank Miller graphic novel to the screen. That look is the result of the novel way Snyder made his film?‚àö√ë‚àö√Üit was shot almost entirely on green screen stages with minimal sets and moody lighting that makes everything seem as though it were shot at magic hour. Background environments were added during post production in the form of digital set extensions, matte paintings and sky replacements. Virtually every shot in the film involves, to some extent, digital fabrication.
The exotic look was honed and finalized in post production, with each scene undergoing several passes of color treatment in a DI theater at Company 3. Colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld performed the color work under Snyder close guidance, with the end result being a highly contrasted look rendered in muted hues and which emits a kind of silvery sheen. It similar to the look achieved by the photo-chemical process known as ‘bleach by-pass.’
According to Sonnenfeld, credit rests squarely with Snyder for having the vision and the courage to create a film that truly looks like no other. “That Zack’s style,” Sonnenfeld said. ‘It not only the digital effects, it also the way he stages the fight sequences and directs the actors, it the silhouetted compositions and the striking cinematography and lighting.’
Before Sonnenfeld could work his magic, Company 3 had to first prepare a conformed master. That was a logistically daunting task as the effects work was split between ten vendors located in three countries. Company 3 had to boost its internal storage resources merely to hold all of the assets for the film more than 1500 visual effects shots.
‘This was not a normal conform,’ explained Company 3 DI Producer Des Carey. ‘We didn’st have the luxury of key-code as everything we received was a composite. As a result, we often had to eye-match from the off-line cut.’
Even after an initial conform of the film was completed and final color grading had begun, further refinement of the visual effects was still on-going. As a result, new versions of scenes were constantly arriving at Company 3 doorstep. They had to be worked into the film master and then be sent back to the DI theater for further color grading.
‘Every shot was re-delivered three or four times as the composites were improved and each new rendition required a new pass by Stefan,’ Carey noted. ‘The new composite might have extra smoke or shadow and Stefan had to take that into account while updating the look and feel of the shot.’
Keeping track of all the revisions and color passes was a challenge, but it was not unexpected. Company 3 had a strong team in place to manage the details. ‘We drew on everyone strength and our collective experience to tackle a feature as labor-intensive as 300,’ Sonnenfeld said. ‘I think we have a crew that is second to none, and we needed all hands on deck for this one.’
The logistical and technical challenge extended through the end of the project. In addition to the standard film master, Company 3 delivered masters for D-Cinema and 70mm Imax releases.
Given the complexity of the post production work, it is hard to imagine 300 without DI. It is hard to imagine how the numerous revisions and color passes could have been accommodated using traditional film methods. At the very least, the look of 300 would have been very different. ‘This is a film that people will look back on and say ?‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§that movie really embraced the DI process and showed what it could do,’s’ observed Sonnenfeld. ‘Zack nailed it. He hit it out of the park, and we were proud to be a part of it.’
About Company 3
Company 3 Santa Monica, is located at 1661 Lincoln Blvd. Ste. 400 Santa Monica, California 90404. For more information, visit www.company3.com