Adam Nazarenko changed things up a bit from the blockbusters he’s colored of late to grade a feature shot almost exclusively on iPhones and GoPros. The title of the timely and dark Spree, directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko, has a double meaning: Spree is the name of the ride share company that lead character Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery of Stranger Things) drives for but it takes on a more gruesome meaning when Kunkle’s attempts to create a viral livestream take shape.
Virtually the entire film was shot in a vertical 1080:1920 format and presented within the normal rectangular screen format – sometimes two and three vertical images at once – along with elaborate amounts of running text of exchanges between Kunkle and others. These multiple elements were all combined during the conform process.
An unusual challenge on the post end involved Nazarenko being able to isolate all the different elements – various video streams and scrolling text – so he could apply corrections independently and gauge the results on the combined results interactively. The project, he says, had to be conformed in Resolve so that he could have the flexibility necessary to work with all the elements on the timeline and see results in real time. A conform workflow that involved publishing finished shots, then re-rendering and re-publishing following color adjustments would simply have been prohibitively time consuming.
As to the look, Nazarenko explains that the filmmakers were well aware that were technical limitations to the original material. Lost detail, especially in the highlights, wasn’t retrievable. If something clips from one of these cameras, he explains, “you can’t bring it down the way you could if you’re working in log. If you try, you just make the highlights a shade of gray instead of white and that doesn’t look any better.”
While this was the perfect aesthetic for Spree, Nazarenko admits it was a bit of a challenge sometimes to let the film have something of an “unpolished” look. “It’s rare when a filmmaker says, ‘oh, that looks too good.’ Of course, it added authenticity that the images really look the way they would it also helps create a feel of how the [lead character] sees the world, but it was something I had to get used to.”
Spree is available to rent or buy on Amazon, Google Play and other streaming platforms.