Last month I was fortunate enough to be involved with one of the most innovative music videos of 2016 - "All Nite" ft Vince Staples by Clams Casino, directed by Ryan Staake for Pomp & Clout. If you haven't seen the video, it takes the concept of timeslices and applies it to video. The effect is incredible and illustrates a performance evolving within the same scene as the day and night flash across the scene. It really needs to be seen to be appreciated:
As you can imagine, the process for creating this final effect meant a colossal amount of work for Ryan and his crew. Every moment was carefully planned out and required extreme coordination from prepro, to production to post. The shoot involved dozens of tripods carefully locked down all over the docks. The crew sprinted from scene to scene to catch Vince's performances in as many scenes as possible during as many times of the day. This created an unbelievable amount of media (enormous raw files) that needed to be matched up and then manually aligned before the animation could even take place. In the end, the After Effects project file where most of this work was completed had almost one thousand layers (not including precomps) for an approximately three minute long video.
Here's a breakdown from Ryan explaining a little more about the process:
The huge amount of layers that needed to transition to different parts of the day seamlessly were a daunting challenge for color. Initially, we weren't even sure what the best way to get this project into Resolve was. The problems with just getting the project ready for color were numerous: the animated masks varied from simple wipes to complex shapes and designs which means simply simulating them with Resolves basic animation tools would be effectively impossible, generating enough masks to apply grades only where needed would double our layers and create an unbelievably unwieldy Resolve project filled with places for errors to enter, animating manually keyframed power windows would be a similarly enormous undertaking and extremely time intensive on what was turning into a short deadline, but most pressing was the fact that the design of the masks themselves (the shapes, quantities, speed, etc) was changing up until the very final moments before delivery. In short, there was no easy way to prep this project for Resolve quickly.
From there, a couple of less desirable options were available. First was grading all the raw source material and swapping them out within After Effects (where the comp and edit was being performed). The amount of layers and time alotted for color, however, made this impractical. We also considered rendering all the layers from AE with transparency and coloring those individual files in Resolve, but because of the need to be flexible with the mattes and adjust the animation, this too would be impossible.
Ultimately we were faced with the fact that the project would need to be graded within After Effects to maintain flexibility and a quick turn around. Unfortunately, Speedgrade does not seem to integrate with AE with the same ease that it does with Premiere (and it's only getting worse as Adobe abandons what was once a great coloring suite when it belonged to Iridas). I played around with the available curve tools and extra color correction plugin that AE ships with but I missed features like my HSL qualifier and three wheels which are faster than curves at times (and if there is an easy way to HSL qualify in AE I'd love to know - I have to admit I'm not tremendously knowledgeable about the program). In the end we settled on the old stand by that is Magic Bullet Colorista:
I'm not a tremendous fan of a lot of Red Giant's products - especially their Magic Bullet suite which I think does more harm than good, but I was very impressed with Colorista considering the limitations of being a plugin. The three wheels and other color controls feel much more nuanced and subtle than all the default color correction tools you find in other NLE's and this makes all the difference in the world when grading. I was able to quickly work through the project, get a grade on all the layers, and maintain flexibility for the animators to adjust the transitions between those layers (be remaining just an effect applied to each layer). The final result was flexibility and speed which was exactly what we needed.
While I definitely wouldn't recommend the plugin as a replacement for even Resolve Lite, I was definitely impressed by the tool for those moments when you need to tweak color and stay within AE.