Visualizing the Show-me State: Tim Stipan on Ozark

April 16, 2020 Apr. 16, 2020

Netflix’s award-winning series, Ozark has returned for a thrilling third season to some of its best reviews yet! From the get-go, creators Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams set in motion a taut story of Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) that has taken viewers on a dark path since the couple relocated from Chicago’s suburbs to the Missouri Ozarks where they fall progressively deeper into a dangerous world of drug dealing, money laundering and double- and triple-crosses.

Colorist Tim Stipan has been with the show since its inception and is also a major fan. Stipan, who has worked on projects Bateman has both starred in and directed, works on the show with the cinematographers, show runner Chris Mundy, and Bateman, who takes a strong interest in the audio and other post facets of the shows he works on. Stipan explains that the show initially (early episodes lensed by Ben Kutchins) defined the series’ look as Marty and Wendy relocate from their life in Chicago, with visuals that evoke a happy, optimistic environment, to be to the new title location, which significantly more of a cold, dark place. “The color palette,” Stipan notes, “accentuates that concept.”

This third season, he adds, was the first to make use of the Sony Venice camera, bringing a new sensor response and resolution to the footage, which results in a subtly different look that Stipan and the creatives feel quite positive about. “It has softer blacks,” he says of the imagery, “and we have a more information in the mid tones to work with. People watching the third season may not perceive the change. It really has the same vibe we’ve had all along, but some scenes will appear subtly less dark than they would have previously.”

At the start of the season, Stipan created a new LUT for the filmmakers to use on-set which he designed to get the most out of the new sensor. The LUT, which pushes colors and saturation in the overall direction they will end up in after the grade, allows crew to see their lighting, production design, costumes, etc. more as they will be seen to home viewers than they would otherwise. And this helps them finetune their contributions accordingly. Season 3’s cinematographers — Armando Salas, Ben Kutchins, Manuel Billeter — Stipan notes, also made some specific tweaks to the LUT to accommodate specific shooting circumstances and their own taste.

The Venice’s 8K file size [converted to 4K post-grade for delivery] also allows Stipan a bit more flexibility. “It has a wonderful dynamic range, smooth highlight handling, and beautiful skin tones,” the colorist explains. “It has a softer tone curve that feels easy to work with and produces gorgeous images.”

Like any fan, Stipan looked forward throughout the post process to getting a new episode and finding out what the characters are up to and what strange new directions the story will take. “I color with the sound on,” he says. “I get to watch the show as I work on it and hearing the audio helps with the work,” he adds. “The more I know about the story the more I’m invested in it, the more I can bring ideas to the table. Maybe go a little warmer or cooler based on some aspect of the mood of the scene.”

Stipan colors Ozark at Company 3’s Hollywood location, where conform artist Mike DeLegal also works in Resolve. “He’s great to work with,” Stipan enthuses, “and it’s been very efficient to have us both working in Resolve, where we can share a single timeline. If I need him to do some kind of effect, I can just leave a marker on the clip and then he can leave me a marker to tell me the revised version of the shot is there.

“It’s a very rewarding show to work on,” Stipan sums up, “and it’s very exciting to see how well-received this new season has been!”