Senior Colorist Yvan Lucas (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman) brings his love of classical filmmaking to his work on the lush period drama Chevalier. Set in the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the film concerns the little-known true story of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), the son of an enslaved person and a plantation owner, who took France’s high society by storm as a virtuoso violinist and highly talented composer.
Cinematographer Jess Hall (The Consultant, WandaVision) and director Stephen Williams (Watchmen, Westworld) share Lucas’s admiration for traditional film-shot period pieces, particularly John Alcott’s work on Stanley Kubrick 1975 epic Barry Lyndon, which famously broke ground with its use of real candlelight to illuminate scenes.
While Chevalier was shot with Sony Venice 2 cameras on sensors which are significantly faster than the film stocks available to Alcott and Kubrick, it was still a tricky matter for the colorist to work with scenes shot by Hall under real candlelight and to retain detail both in the shadows and the candle flames.
Lucas, who spent a significant portion of his career as a film timer in the photochemical realm, generally strives to apply a timer’s sensibility to his work, despite the power of digital color correction to isolate a large number of portions of the frame and adjust them individually. He began the color grading process for Chevalier by creating a LUT that emulated the film’s response to light while also being able to hold necessary detail in the low and high portion of the curve.
His next step was to work underneath the LUT with the digital equivalent of printer lights – the parameters of which are confined entirely to global adjustments to red, green, blue, and density – to take the work almost to completion. Then, he’ll dive into the grade with keys or windows to selectively fine-tune the work. The approach, he notes, is particularly important for projects by filmmakers who specifically want a “film look” because it steers clear of pushing the image in ways that real film finishing can’t.
“I’m very proud of my work on Chevalier,” Lucas declares, adding, “and I think Jess and Stephen did a wonderful job. The film was beautifully shot and transports you to that time”
Commenting on the film’s day interiors where rooms drop off into semi-darkness, “So many times you look at a scene in a movie set hundreds of years ago and wonder, ‘where is all this light supposed to be coming from?’ In this film, those scenes look like they really would if you were there.”
Chevalier is now playing in theaters.