December 15, 2018

Alfonso Cuarón Elevates the Art of Storytelling With Roma

Teams from across Technicolor come together in support of the director’s powerful story, released by Netflix.

  • Technicolor was activated across a range of services including dailies, post, and VFX.
  • Stay tuned for video with director Alfonso Cuarón, recalling his experience as a first-time DP working with Technicolor and color scientists on picture finishing.
  • Technicolor MR. X’s Dave Sauro: “The visual effects in the film are seamless so you don't really notice them – and that was exactly the point.”
  • Technicolor MPC Film’s Jonny Vale: “MPC Film was honored to have worked on VFX for this beautiful movie.”

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma has been the talk of the town for the better part of the year – and has lived up to all expectations beginning with its premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, where it won top prize, the Golden Lion. The honor marked the first major European film festival award for Netflix. Bolstered by its strong film festival showings; early awards including New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Film, Director, and Cinematographer; and three Golden Globe nominations – the autobiographical period drama is considered a top Oscar contender.

Cuarón, the Academy Award-winning director of Gravity (2014), turned this time to subject matter more personal and topical – and Technicolor set out to honor his story and his vision throughout their involvement with the project. The action is set in Mexico City during a period of great political upheaval in the early 1970s, told from the point of view of a family – based on his own – and their young housekeeper.

The feature was beautifully shot by the director himself, with frequent collaborator Chivo (Emmanuel Lubezki, A.S.C., A.M.C) as a consultant to the project. It was shot, in color, on the Alexa 65mm camera, and was finished in black and white (HDR). The result is a striking visual experience, with more tonality and contrast than audiences are used to seeing, sure to evoke a heightened emotional response.

Unique to this film is the workflow the Technicolor team set up with Cuarón, to the precise needs of the production. In a sense, it builds on what they did earlier with director Alejandro Iñárritu (and Chivo) on Birdman and The Revenant. Early collaboration with the filmmakers enabled creative input over longer time that enabled the team to shape and refine the film’s stunning results – and deliver on the creative intent of the director in telling his story.

Technicolor's MR. X turns back time in Roma.

From the opening shot, where you see soapy water sloshing over the ground, VFX would play a big role in the making of Roma. A lot of that is de-modernization work, required to bring Mexico City, where the film was shot, to the period when the story takes place circa 1970-1971.

“You can imagine just how much life in the city has changed over the last 50 years,” said VFX Supervisor Aaron Weintraub of Technicolor’s MR. X. “We did a lot of restoring back to the way it used to be, based on Alfonso’s designs with the production designer – the streets, the streetcars, the storefronts – everything down to the very last detail of how he remembered things.”

The biggest shot the team worked on involved two of the characters racing across a busy boulevard.

“Except for a few cars and people in the foreground, everything had to be removed and replaced,” said Weintraub. “Modeled from old pictures and reference material, we did a completely new digital environment, down to the wires on the streetcars and the sparks they gave off. In creating the cinema and all the buildings, we even matched a reference film clip Alfonso found that showed how the lights of a sign moved and changed at night – which illustrates the incredible attention to detail in making Roma.”

See the beauty of Roma, available now on Netflix.

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