May 24, 2019

Efilm’s Skip Kimball Accentuates Noir Vibes For ‘Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’

Legendary’s “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” features Ryan Reynolds as the wise-cracking voice of adorable sleuth Pikachu, who joins forces with Tim (Justice Smith), the only human he can communicate with, in an effort to unravel the mystery of why Tim’s father went mysteriously missing. Despite one of the film’s main characters being fully CG, Director Rob Letterman and Cinematographer John Mathieson shot “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” on film, and enlisted EFILM Senior Colorist Skip Kimball, who cut his teeth on the medium, to help find the perfect color finish that was both playful and cinematic.

“The film is a moody mystery in the old film-noir style but with deep and saturated colors. Ryme City, where most of the film is set, is a vibrant mashup between modern day London, New York, and Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. It was important that our color decisions maintained the colorful production design and John’s lighting, while seamlessly integrating a world of familiar Pokémon characters,” Kimball notes.

Kimball graded the film in 2D and 3D for multiple light levels of traditional digital cinema as well as Dolby Vision and home video. Deluxe’s Stage One in Hollywood, where Kimball and Letterman worked on the film, made for a smooth post process. The space is equipped with several projectors for multiple exhibition formats, enabling Kimball to switch formats for different trim passes with the click of a button.

“I wanted the film to have a throwback film look – an Eastman-Kodak look– and Skip made that happen. Color is an art form and he’s a real artist,” Letterman said, “And working at Deluxe’s Stage One – it’s the best color theater I’ve ever worked in. It’s got everything.”

Kimball describes their process at Stage One, “This was my ninth collaboration with the DP, John Mathieson, so we’ve developed a shorthand over the years; working with him is very easy and enjoyable. John was shooting another film in London while we were in post, but we were able to run sessions remotely, with John at Deluxe’s London facility, and Rob and me at Stage One in Los Angeles.”

The film features over 1,400 visual effects shots that were created by multiple vendors. Not only was continuity between shots and scenes paramount for Kimball in completing the color finish, but he was also mindful to keep the characters recognizable for their enthusiastic fanbase. The VFX vendors provided character-specific mattes for each of the Pokémon so Kimball could quickly isolate them and make specific color adjustments without unnecessary time spent rotoscoping. This equated to hundreds of mattes, sometimes up to 15 layers of mattes, each containing three channels – 45 functional mattes in a single shot.

“My editor, Tashi Trieu, accelerated the matte process using DaVinci Resolve’s Python API and some custom wizardry to turn what used to be hours of work into just minutes. This meant that we could receive new shots and mattes and perform live updates in the room while the clients were supervising,” Kimball explained. “On a massive project like this, time saved means more value on screen. Our DI Producers, Hershel Cohen, Loan Phan, and Emma Escamilla, were instrumental in coordinating between clients, VFX vendors, and various elements in the digital cinema mastering process – and of course, keeping us sane.”

For more information, showtimes, and tickets please visit: http://detectivepikachumovie.com


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