28 Days Later - The Look

6 replies [Last post]
Andrew T
Joined: Apr 10 2002

I'm in the middle of writing a screenplay for shooting sometime in the Autmn - projected running-time, approx an hour and a half. We intend to use a Sony DSR - 250P, in conjunction with all the bells and whistles; pro sound equipment, dollies, jibs, lighting, etc.
The movie will be edited on a Mac G4 running Final Cut Pro, (hopefully V4, but at worst, V2).
What I'd like to know is this. Having recently watched and re-watched Danny Boyle's excellent 28 Days Later, is it possible for me to create a final, post-produced look similar to the movie, using the Mac?
If not, could anyone let me know how the grading etc. was achieved, and how costly a process it would be? I don't really fancy an expensive trip down to a digital post-production house in Soho!
Is there any new software that will do the trick, or anything pending?
Andrew T

Joined: May 17 1999

isn't the 250 just a 150 in a different box?

I would have thought that you'd have less grading problems just by getting a better camera.

Joined: Aug 27 1999

Gosh, thats a useful reply.


AFAIK, they shot 28 Days on an XL-1, which suprised me as I thought by 'DV' they would have meant at least DVCAM-Pro, which will take grading much better than just straight DV.

Video to Film transfer was done at MPC, and this is the crucial difference, because additional grading would have taken place at the neg printing stage, and that will achieve the look you're interested in.

Still, you can achieve a lot: the answer is Test Test Test! Remember, they had a lot of money to spend... but you have the next best thing... time.

One setup is not the solution to the whole film... each scene- or each shot- will ask for a different grade, so you can't just set up a global solution and let it run.

Your three tools are:

Adding colour: adding rich sepia and browns is a fav. Maybe you'll convert to black and white, then add a colour back in (duo-toning)

Removing colour: this happens more often than adding: remove red to get that 'green' look, remove yellow to get blue.

Maipulate blacks: go into the gamma and crush those shadow area.

It's the combination of all these techniques that gets the result.. the outcoming is limitless.

Then its about post-adding filters (tobacco grads against the sky, etc.)

Most of this look has it's origin in 'cross-processing' which was a favoured technique back in the PreHistoric Era when people still used neg and slide film, do a Google search on Cross Processing techniques and adapt them to your project.

Remember: colour work is destructive, do it LAST in the edit process. Test on footage to work out what you want, note the settings, then apply at the end.

There are specialised filters which will help, CineLook is the most well known, but it is not cheap.

Have a look in Photoshop.. there is a 'Variation' filter which displays an image, and around it shows what happens if it's lighter, darker, more blue, less yellow, etc. It will help point you toward the effect you want.

Grading will not fix bad footage: shoot it as well as you can to begin with.

Finally, don't try and mimic this film (please don't try and mimic the script, whatever you do! ) instead, create your own solutions and have other people ask about how you achieved YOUR look.


Andrew T
Joined: Apr 10 2002

Thanks,Richard B.
It would seem, then, that the biggest factor, as you said, is the video - film transfer; an expensive and frankly impossible option for us. We've started talking to some local, independent theatres in the area as regards showing the finished film, and some seem very keen. It's who you know!
The point being that some of these small cinemas have shown DV / DVCAM movies before, (native and un-transferred), and I'm assured that the visuals haven't suffered noticeably on the big screen. You may have an opinion on this!
The obvious solution then is for me to fiddle with colour, filters, etc, having lit and shot the footage in satisfactory fashion,
but I'm still a little concerned that extreme enlarging of digital video on a cinema screen could look, frankly, crap.
Or not?
Anyway, thanks again. Any views on the other point?
Andrew T

PS - I knew that 28 Days Later was shot on an XL-1; I also know, by comparison and experience, that the 250 will give me better visuals. Subjective, I know, but speak as you find! We can't all go down the Arriflex route!

Joined: Aug 27 1999

Dear Andrew

Video - film transfer is only responsible for part of the look, not all of it. You will be amazed at the results you can get without it.

There's no inherent reason why DV footage should look bad when enlarged, there are now any number of DV source films and it's a look people will accept. Whether the projector at your local cinema is up to the job, well, ...

All I can suggest, again, is Test Test Test.

In something like this it's vital to go the 'hands-on' approach, and my suggestion would be to shoot a scene, or a short, as well as you can and then take it to the place that wants to show it and have a look.

It may be worth thinking about what the end result of all this is: if it's commercial, well, not many people would pay money to go and see a feature-length raw DV on a video projector unless it's a specialised subject or part of a festival or convention - a 'one-off'. If you just want to get your film 'out there' then maybe consider DVD as a final format.

In the EXTREMELY unlikely event that someone decides to distribute this nationally (and this is not a slur on you, it's just you can count the number of times this has happened, world-wide, on the fingers of one hand) then the film would be recut, mixed, additional scenes shot and the whole thing transferred without cost to you. But realistically, there's more chance of winning the Lottery.

It's a huge project you're planning on undertaking and my hat's off to you, but, can I strongly, strongly suggest you start my making something short and managable: 10 mins: it will serve as a test for all these techniques, it will give you some hands-on experience, it will show you who you want to work with and who you don't, and it will help you with the longer project because you'll have something to show interested parties.

Richard Loxley
Joined: Jan 9 2001

quote:Originally posted by Andrew T:
The point being that some of these small cinemas have shown DV / DVCAM movies before, (native and un-transferred), and I'm assured that the visuals haven't suffered noticeably on the big screen.
I'm still a little concerned that extreme enlarging of digital video on a cinema screen could look, frankly, crap.

One of our local arts cinemas in Bristol (The Watershed) does a lot of film festivals and often seem to project from DV. It's only a small cinema (probably 250 seats, the screen is probably a quarter of the area of conventional screens) but the quality looks great.

They even occasionally project from the VHS preview copy if a foreign film has got held up at customs! I can tell the difference, but I don't think most people would complain.

Andrew T
Joined: Apr 10 2002

Many thanks to the Two Richards!
Having made umpteen shorts already - some dire, some pretty good - I've decided to really go for it this time, and believe that, over time, the project is achievable. How foolish does that sound?!
I'm fortunate, in that I work in TV, to be able to depend on the kind services of many friends from all aspects of broadcasting, from talent to techies. I'd be foolish not to embark on a bit of ruthless exploitation!
Only kidding.
Anyhow, I'll certainly heed your advice; suck it and see!
Once again, cheers
Andrew T