Baselight helps Donbass meet Cannes deadline

Gritty Ukrainian movie benefits from flexible Baselight pipeline, supporting fast delivery to enable premiere at Cannes Film Festival

Donbass, a new movie by Ukrainian writer/director Sergei Loznitsa, is to be shown as a work-in-progress version at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Post-production was to a tight timescale – shooting only wrapped in March – and Bucharest facility Digital Cube used a Baselight grading suite to ensure delivery while retaining full creative control over the look.

Donbass is a region in eastern Ukraine. The setting of Loznitsa’s movie is a lawless area, with criminal gangs in conflict with each other, with Ukrainian forces and with the Russian army. The inevitable result is violence, death and the collapse of the civilian society.

The movie was shot on locations in Ukraine with concurrent post at Digital Cube in Bucharest. DoP Oleg Mutu RCS, worked with Digital Cube CTO Sebastian Plamadeala and colourist Claudiu Doaga to create a highly efficient colour pipeline that started with the DIT grading on-set. The DIT and Mutu would then spend the evenings grading and exchanging ideas with finishing colourist Doaga. CDL files were sent to Digital Cube, ensuring that not only did Doaga have a strong basis on which to work, but editor Danielus Kokanauskis could also access graded footage in his Avid editing software with no render time.

Director Sergei Loznitsa said, “It’s been an absolute pleasure for me to work with Digital Cube on Donbass. Baselight is superb, and Claudiu Doaga is a brilliant and dedicated professional, always able to anticipate my requests and to contribute his vision and ideas.”

DoP Oleg Mutu added, “I love working with Baselight because of the fast responsiveness and precise toolset. Claudiu and I have worked on many other projects: he understands the direction I want to go, he builds towards that, and we reach a colour decision that is way over our initial expectations. He is the best I have ever worked with!”

Doaga commented on the practicalities of using Baselight for this project. “Because of the very tight schedule for grading, I relied on the amazing speed of the Baselight hardware and software,” he said. “The colour pipeline was straightforward: I took the CDL information from the Avid timeline straight into Baselight.

“I used a film LUT for a cinematic look, combined with a blended layer of scanned film grain. I created a cold metallic look in the blacks combined with a colourful gamma, brightened skin tones for the actors, and added a vignette layer to enhance depth separation.”

Using LogC dailies, the team were able to retain full colour flexibility throughout the edit. Once pictures were locked, Doaga was able to import the CDL files and camera LUTs into Baselight quickly and simply. It then needed just a few minor adjustments to create the final deliverables.

Donbass is the opening title and part of the official selection in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival. Each year this screen shows 20 original and visionary movies, selected by the festival, which seek to tell their stories in non-traditional ways. Typically coming from outside the movie mainstream, these movies benefit from exposure at Cannes to achieve international recognition.

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