After the success of the look of the season 1, the pressure was on to retain the \u0027Utopia\u0027 look but to propel the grade into something even stronger. Director Marc Mundon and the producers wanted to push the look of season 2 even more. I was very aware that recent programmes and dramas in this genre had looked very similar and I really wanted to create something different. The fictional characters and fantasy elements in Utopia gave me the visual licence that I needed.\n \n\n\n\tVisual references\n \n\n\n\tWhen I graded season 1 roughly 6 months before shooting season 2, I spent time with Marc researching reference books, magazines and film clips etc. for visual references. We came up with a diverse reference list; Gothic and Victorian postcards, Technicolor and Powell and Pressburger (AKA \u0027The Archers\u0027) the 1940\u2019s film-making partnership who created The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus. A decision was also made to draw on \u201ctraditional\u201d in camera and lab effects such as Push and Pull processing, pre-fogging and bleach-bypass. The only problem was that there was no budget to shoot on 35mm and The Red Epic was to be used.\u00a0\n \n\n\n\n\n\tJohn Hinde\n \n\n\n\tOnce again before the filming of season 2\u00a0commenced, we shared many tone and design meetings together. Whilst the work of photographer Martin Parr was always a reference for the look I was inspired by the work of Irish photographer and artist John Hinde who in the seventies photographed landscape and portraits from all corners of Ireland. These pictures were always on display as post-cards with very high saturation and his technique was to print and then paint over the image with high use of colour before been transferred to post-cards. As a young man, I recall being at the various location of where Hinde had photographed\u00a0and was confused at how such a cloudy and overcast grey sea or landscape could be so beautiful in a postcard format. This was to be the benchmark and starting point for the look of\u00a0season 2.\n \n\n\n\tThe objective was to portray the landscapes and climatic conditions of an anonymous location and making it look almost other worldly. But yet retaining a reality, whilst filming in Liverpool in winter! I embraced the natural surroundings, landscapes and light provided by the stunning locations.\u00a0\n \n\n\n\tModern day\n \n\n\n\tFrom the outset of episode 2, we are and stay in the modern day and return to the wide-screen anamorphic screening ratio after the\u00a04:3 ratio introduced in episode one. In every scene, I pushed and stretched the Red rushes to its limits with saturation, very strong hues, and contrast.\n \n\n\n\tThere are many scenes in this series where you feel you can almost reach out and touch the characters and landscapes on the screen. In order to achieve the look, I had to use a huge amount of grading layers, adding sometimes frame by frame to areas of the screen. I worked initially on the whole frame and by using layers draw shapes to enhance specific parts of the picture. I also used vignettes to darken and lighten areas of the frame.\u00a0\n \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\tKeeping the highly stylised consistency of the look was a major challenge and was of utmost importance to keep each scene as visually interesting and evocative as the next. Beauty seldom seen on the small screen!\n \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\tIn many scenes I pulled all the colour out of the original image, giving me a simple black and white canvas then I would commence re-introducing original elements and creating new tones accordingly.\u00a0Added to this, I created various original grain effects in order to give texture where required.\u00a0\n \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\tMy aim was to create a comic book effect to these scenes with very heightened colour and contrast.\u00a0This might sound quite easy to achieve; however, this is an immensely difficult task in keeping the frame looking interesting but keeping the natural quality.\u00a0I feel the series graphically portrays the visual world of this violent and dark comic book thriller.\n \n\n\n\tSeventies tone and mood\n \n\n\n\tThe first episode is set in 1973 to 1979 and that challenged me to create The Utopia look, with a seventies tone and mood. I broke away from the anamorphic framing of season 1 and the whole episode is in the 4:3 ratio with black borders on the sides for effect. I also added various grain levels and textures for authenticity.\u00a0\n \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\tAlmost twenty minutes of the programme was set in Rome in 1973. The issue here was that no scenes took place outside the UK, meaning every Rome scene was green screened. Keeping the period feel and The Utopia look in a green screen keyed set of scenes was a major success in my opinion.\n \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\t \n\n\n\tThe use of graduated filters, flares, glares and light shafts combined with layers of de-focus which enabled the dramatic transformation of many scenes, enriching the drama by shifting the point of focus and adding colour and density to emphasize meaning or simply imply mood, atmosphere and texture.\u00a0In some scenes I got the footage bounced down to Beta S and back to HD in order to degrade the source footage.\n \n\n\n\tI used Digital Vision\u2019s Film Master to grade the entire series from the raw data files produced by the Red Epic camera. It allowed me to use an infinite amount of grading layers, blurs, de-focus, vignettes, keys, and graduated filters. I created camera moves, tracks, zooms and re-sizes to obtain optimum creative framing within shots.\u00a0\n \n\n\n\tI consider the grading processes used for this series, to be the most complex and demanding of my career to date; a truly striking and memorable piece of work.\u00a0\n \n\n\n\t\u00a0\n \n\n\n\tAidan Farrell\n \n\n\n\tAll images and clips copyright \u00a9 2016 Kudos\n \n\n\n\t\u00a0\n
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