Company 3 Vancouver senior colorist Jimmy Hsu wasn’t sure what to expect when he started work on Amazon Prime animated series Invincible. He’d colored plenty of live-action shows but what kinds of corrections would the creatives want to see for a series where every frame had already been worked on by animators?
He quickly realized as he interacted with series director Jeff Allen (Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man) that there actually was quite a bit of fine tuning color work to be done in the grade, both to refine the way images flow together and to finalize specific looks once an episode is cut together.
Based on the Skybound/Image comic about a teenager whose father is a powerful superhero, the series, voiced by such talented actors as Sandra Oh, J.K. Simmons and Steven Yuen, was animated by artists based in several different countries including South Korea, Canada and Japan. “There would be some very slight corrections necessary sometimes to bring everything into the same space,” Hsu recalls, noting that this type of work is always part of the grading process for live-action work by even the most exacting and precise DP.
Allen would communicate ideas to Hsu using references from live action, rather than animated shows. “He sent me stills from Everest and No Country for Old Men and a lot of others,” Hsu recalls. He would then bring those images into resolve and analyze them on the scopes — another process that many of Hsu’s clients have used for live action projects. “It’s obviously not an exact reference,” the colorist says of these jpegs, “but it’s a very good way to communicate ideas to a colorist.”
In addition, Allen would make use of the sessions to allow for alterations to the imagery that he determined necessary once he had time to reflect on the particular episode being finished. “We had a scene where the sky was bright blue,” recalls Hsu, “but Jeff felt it would be better for the story if the sky was gray.” He opened a Power Window around the sky area as a garbage matte and then used Resolve curves to desaturate the blue. For another portion, for shots involving hot lava, he keyed into the lava itself and gave it more of a feeling of heat by increasing the level of reddish yellow in the viscous mass.
“It wasn’t what I expected,” he says, “It was more challenging. But to me challenging is rewarding and I’m very happy with the results.”