Blackmagic - DaVinci Resolve - Sealed Off

Aaron Peak, colourist on ‘Sealed Off’, one of the Tribeca Film Festival’s short films, has chosen DaVinci Resolve (Blackmagic) to tackle the remains of this work directed by John Jiang.

Sealed Off, set in Shanghai in the late 1930s, portrays the “moment of humanity” of two people in the midst of the Japanese government’s invasion and control of the region during World War II.

Sealed Off was shot over four days at the Shanghai Chedun Film Park. The film was largely shot on a tight budget, which was inevitably reflected in the post-production room. In Jiang’s words: “The most significant challenge was dealing with the continuity of the environment, the constantly changing weather, and the orientation of the sun. We ended up with footage that was very inconsistent. Luckily we had planned a lot of black and white sequences, and we knew that the color sequences set inside a trolley car would be less challenging.”

Knowing that the colour grading phase would be crucial to the film’s outcome, Jiang contacted colourist Aaron Peak, with whom he worked closely to balance the shots filmed under different lighting conditions: “The hope was we could balance things in post. Aaron’s understanding of DaVinci Resolve really made the difference,” said the film’s director.

Blackmagic - DaVinci Resolve - Sealed Off

Working with DaVinci Resolve

One key feature of Sealed Off is the transitions from black and white to colour. Peak explains how he worked on them: “I love the velvety black and white sequences. We worked the transitions into color multiple times in multiple ways, aiming at different shots to start and finish the transitions based on the emotion of the storyline. In the end, the transitions happen across a series of shots, and colors were individually controlled throughout.”

Processes like this were easy for Peak given his extensive knowledge of DaVinci Resolve Studio, which includes the application of visual effects processes: “I’ve happily used Resolve for 10 to 12 years now. I know that Fusion is powerful, but I was able to accomplish most of what we needed within the color page in Resolve. For example, the overhead shots of an intersection are composites to direct the crowd action in and out. I used glow, selective keying, grain and stabilization throughout. We replaced the colors outside the train windows, and the cross shot animations to color transition were all done in Resolve.”

Looking back, Jiang is very satisfied with all the work executed by Peak on Sealed Off: “With the first transition from black and white to color, while the interior is colored, the exterior is still monochrome. This is a perfect transitional moment as the story unfolds. For me, some of the iconic shots of the film are when colors are the most vibrant, coinciding with the rising tension between the two characters. Then later, as the connection slowly fades between them, some colors fade away with it too. Taking the story into context, this shot looks even more beautiful with less color. Finally, the moment when we return to black and white from color, implying the eventual closure of their humanity, feels like paint fading away on an oil painting.”

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By • 29 May, 2023
• Section: Postpro