November 01, 2019

His Dark Materials: Technicolor Provides Picture, Sound and Technicolor PULSE for Time-spanning Fantasy Worlds

The highly anticipated Bad Wolf Productions show for the BBC/HBO adaptation of Phillip Pullmans’ novel premieres in November.

His Dark Materials is an epic fantasy adventure based on the celebrated novel series by Phillip Pullman. Spanning different worlds and eras, this Bad Wolf production based in Cardiff, Wales, provided Technicolor’s Picture, Sound and PULSE teams with the opportunity to help bring the books to life on screen.

“I discovered when I was working on the project how much excitement and expectation surrounds the project,” said Jean-Clément Soret, Technicolor’s Senior Digital Supervising Colorist.

Soret was responsible for helping the various directors and cinematographers on the project to maintain a consistent look throughout the series and was brought on early to consult on the color palette.



“There was no pilot for this series, so episode one defined the leading look for the whole of the first season,” said Soret, who worked closely with cinematographer Justin Brown and director Tom Hooper on the first two episodes.

“We had early discussions on how to replicate 35mm color space, and we had the Technicolor color science team involved in creating look up tables and emulations of print looks with material provided by Justin that were shot on film and digital.”

Technicolor’s sound team, led by Head of Sound Gareth Bull, was also instrumental in finishing the project. Working closely with Re-recording Mixer James Ridgway, Supervising Sound Editor Dillon Bennett, Sound Effects Editor Matt Waites, Supervising Dialogue Editor Gavin Rose, and Dialogue Editor Sebastian Dale, the Technicolor team was responsible for delivering the final audio mix for the series.

“The show looks absolutely stunning,” said Bull. It’s incredible visually and we have to match that. Even with the best CGI in the world, if it doesn’t sound right then you’re taken out of that moment. The purpose of sound is to make that world as alive, involving and believable as possible.”

While the Phillip Pullman trilogy is already well known in the literary world, the TV adaptation offers creative talent the chance to bring their own flavor to the fantasy world envisaged in the books.

“In color grading there is always lots of yourself you put into the work. It’s your own taste, techniques, your own recipes,” said Soret. When asked about his process for defining the color palette for the series, Soret explains that his craft covers more than just the color.

“When we did the test with Justin on 35mm, we tried to decipher how it would look compared to digital. The decision was made to add a bit of subtle film grain throughout the episode. As a colorist you play with sharpness, softness, de-focus whether on the whole image, whether on some parts of the image, and it’s really playing with textures and that’s part of color grading.”

The Technicolor sound team also had creative license to develop the soundscape, by mixing together sound effects, dialogue, ADR, and the original score provided by composer Lorne Balfe. “His Dark Materials has been a very organic, fun and creative process,” said Bull. “We have been allowed to indulge ourselves to shape it and mold it as we like.”

As well as providing picture and sound services, Technicolor’s PULSE team was also on hand to simplify the production workflow by providing remote 24/7 access to VFX pulls, resulting in significant savings in time and administration.

“Pulse was a breeze,” said PJ Harling, the VFX editor on His Dark Materials Episode One. “A simple and effective method of pulling media.”

Each character within His Dark Materials has their own CG animated spirit animal, known as a ‘daemon.’ Automating the process for pulling VFX shots enables the creatives involved in the project to focus more of their time on the artistry. Technicolor PULSE features a growing set of integrated apps to securely fulfil production and post-production needs, with the ambition to support production workflows from Camera to Conform.

His Dark Materials airs on the BBC and HBO this November.


The Technicolor POSTCAST is an all-access pass to post-production. Listen to our two part series on “His Dark Materials” to learn about the color finishing and sound mixing we provided for this exciting new HBO/BBC show!

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