Fremont, CA, USA - Thursday, January 12, 2023 - Colorist Tashi Trieu has worked with James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment for a number of years as a DI editor, including the remaster of “Terminator 2” as well as “Alita: Battle Angel.” For “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Trieu moved up to colorist, working closely with Director Cameron.
We sat down with Trieu to discuss his work on “Avatar: The Way of Water” and his grading process in DaVinci Resolve Studio.
I assume you worked closely with Director James Cameron developing looks even prior to production. Can you talk about that process?
I was loosely involved in pre production after we finished “Alita: Battle Angel” in early 2019. I looked at early stereo tests with Director of Photography Russell Carpenter. I was blown away by the level of precision and specificity of those tests. Polarized reflections are a real challenge in stereo as they result in different brightness levels and textures between the eyes that can degrade the stereo effect. I remember them testing multiple swatches of black paint to find the one that retained the least amount of polarization. I had never been a part of such detailed camera tests before.
The look development was majorly done at WetaFX. Jim has a close relationship with them and as the principal visual effects vendor on the project, their artistry is thoroughly ingrained in everything from live action capture through fully CGI shots. Their approach left a lot of creative latitude for us in the DI and our show LUT is an elegantly simple S curve with a straightforward gamut mapping from SGamut3.Cine to P3D65. This left plenty of flexibility to push moments of the film more pastel or into an absolutely photorealistic rendition.
Naturally, a lot of this movie takes place underwater. One of our priorities was maintaining photorealism through huge volumes of water. That means grading volume density to convey a sense of scale. Closeups can be clear, contrasty, and vividly saturated, but as you increase distance from a subject, even in the clearest water, the spectrum fades away to blue. This was something we could dial in quickly and interactively in the DI. Anytime we needed to convey depth, we'd add more blue and subtract red and green.