July 25, 2014

Get On Up: recreating the legendary James Brown

Technicolor create a film-going experience with the same level of authenticity that Brown brought to the world through his consummate artistry and passion.

James Brown, the “godfather of soul,” was one of the most influential performers of the 1960s and ‘70s. Brown’s celebrated career is now a major motion picture, directed by Tate Taylor (The Help) who has fashioned an authentic depiction of the legendary performer, starring Chadwick Boseman (42), Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis, and Dan Aykroyd. Brown’s fame underscored some very definite challenges faced by the filmmakers who were served by multiple Technicolor divisions in Los Angeles – all of whom were faced with the daunting task of creating a film-going experience with the same level of authenticity that Brown brought to the world through his consummate artistry and passion.
Technicolor’s multiple Oscar-winning sound re-recording Mixer Scott Millan summed up the challenges as thus, “James Brown lived a very public life, one that was very well-documented, especially his most legendary performances. We were all tasked with building a kind of verisimilitude for both the audio or visual presentations.” In support of the film’s stunning central performance of Chadwick Boseman, and the rest of the stellar cast, Technicolor’s many creative divisions came together in support of the modestly budgeted production. 
Technicolor’s senior supervising digital colorist, Steve Scott, worked early-on with cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt, ASC, BSC to define the film’s look – a palette of warm, earthy hues (gold and yellows) to convey the various periods of the film’s narrative, while the musical performances were off-set with a more vibrant look that took into consideration the various lighting challenges for those well-documented performances and venues. Colorist Tom Forletta joined the digital intermediate team (which included producer Bruce Lomet and editor Mark Sahagun) to complete the DI and mastering chores. Much of the final color-grading required the company’s TPN production network, allowing Goldblatt to work remotely from New York, in real time with the company’s Hollywood imaging hub. Technicolor’s Hollywood-based VFX team handled much of the film’s visual effects needs, along with Mr. X – the Toronto-based VFX studio recently acquired by Technicolor. The film’s digital cinema deliverables were created between Technicolor Hollywood and Burbank.
The Get On Up soundtrack was mixed by Millan and his mixing partner Greg P. Russell on Stage 1, at Technicolor’s Paramount facility. Millan previously worked with Tate Taylor on The Help. “On-set” music supervisor/supervising music editor Curt Sobel also had a monumental responsibility in the sound direction of the film. Fortunately, the production had the huge benefit of access to the original music masters of many of Brown’s most celebrated performances. “But, of course, those recordings were hardly pristine according to contemporary recording standards,” Millan elaborated. “We were committed to creating a sound-scape that was true to the film’s time period and style of the storytelling. It was critical that the audience experience the musical performances as if they were there.” Stated Millan, “Tate is very specific about his priorities and yet is a fantastic collaborator – it’s always about the story. His instructions to us were quite clear: ‘make the music and soundscape organic.’ We’re all quite pleased with the results.”

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