Creating movie star looks for HBO’s 'Big Little Lies'

Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley on the set of Big Little Lies
Photo credit: Jennifer Clasen/HBO
Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley on the set of Big Little Lies Photo credit: Jennifer Clasen/HBO

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The second season of HBO’s runaway hit drama Big Little Lies was completed at Technicolor in Los Angeles. Finishing artist and VP of business development - Pankaj Bajpai, famed for grading the HBO series Sex in the City, True Detective and Nat Geo’s Genius seasons for both Einstein and Picasso, used Baselight to enhance the distinctly Californian look of the show.

“To keep an image pure and retain the integrity of the photography, I took an intuitive approach to control the highlights and tonality,” said Bajpai. “I found Baselight’s Base Grade effective on this production because of its organic and natural approach. In fact, it was a combination of Base Grade and Film Grade which gave me the colour and contrast control I needed,” he added.

The creative team were also keen to juxtapose the hard-hitting nature of the story with the softness and beauty of the imagery itself. “There is a visual grammar to this show that carries through the scenes whether it is near the ocean, day or night, inside the school, etc. This grammar helps the story flow without being distracting. The performers are incredible and look absolutely fantastic, even when the story is very dark.,” explained Bajpai.

Technicolor ingested 170 terabytes of footage, which was kept in its original format to avoid the otherwise inevitable transcoding bottleneck. VFX were completed remotely in London, Montreal, and LA, using BLG for Flame and Baselight for NUKE.

Using the FilmLight BLG ecosystem in VFX for the first time on such a scale allowed for the technical aspects of the project to be streamlined and efficient, so that more time could be devoted to the creative process. “VFX and final grading can coexist simultaneously, and the producers can approve shots with final grades as opposed to CDLs from early dailies grades. This helped tremendously with the time constraints," concluded Bajpai.

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