HBO's Reality scene with actress Sydney Sweeney standing in a neighborhood

Senior Colorist Marcy Robinson Grades HBO Max’s Reality with DaVinci Resolve Studio

Blackmagic Design today announced that HBO Films’ docudrama “Reality” was graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio by Marcy Robinson, senior colorist at Nice Shoes, a New York City based film and episodic post production facility. With a large part of the film taking place in one room, Robinson was tasked with maintaining consistency while creating subtle nuances, an engaging challenge for the colorist.

Image Courtesy of HBO

With a breakout world premiere at the 2023 Berlin International Film Festival, “Reality” chronicles the true story of the FBI’s interrogation of Reality Winner (Sydney Sweeney), a former member of the United States Air Force and NSA translator turned whistleblower. With Director Tina Satter having transformed the actual interrogation transcript into the successful play “Is This a Room,” she then adapted it into the riveting chamber film “Reality,” once again using dialogue verbatim from the FBI’s audio recording of the interrogation.

According to DP Paul Yee, “Reality” is intentionally narrow in scope. “It takes place in one house, mostly in one bare room, over the course of a few hours,” he said. “We wanted to limit the visual stimulus at the start of the movie so that any camera or character movement or lighting cue would feel deliberate and purposeful. As ‘Reality’s’ story unfolds, the visual language slowly shifts from procedural and objective to subjective and visceral.”

Robinson’s focus during color grading involved considerable nuanced work, drawing the characters out somewhat from the starkness of the room, and adding exclamation marks through color, sometimes subtly and sometimes more obviously. Additionally, Robinson spent much of the grading process maintaining consistency.

Image Courtesy of HBO

“Even though the film takes place mainly in this one room, there were a lot of subtle continuity concerns to keep us on our toes,” noted Robinson. “The room was quite bare and lit with fluorescent lights. We wanted that to feel authentic in its harshness but also visually appealing, so we walked a fine line with that throughout the grade. We wanted the room to have a beautiful normalcy, but the space itself wasn’t very pretty, so that was part of the challenge.”

“Paul achieved some amazing in camera effects, and we had to match some of those in the grade,” she added. “In terms of Resolve, we used some OFX glow and tilt shift tools quite heavily at times. I also often used keying tools to keep windows and fluorescent lights in check and balanced.”

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“Initially, I thought that the limited locations would make the grade faster than usual, but in the end, it actually made color continuity much more critical,” said Yee. “For instance, an overall luminance shift in one shot could affect the work for minutes in both directions on the timeline.

“I think that the greatest strength of Marcy and my working relationship is that we can discuss the grade in the abstract as opposed to the strictly technical. Her understanding of color theory in tandem with her prowess with Resolve allows her to synthesize the thoughts and feelings in the room and project them onto the screen.”

Image Courtesy of HBO

“‘Reality’ is an outstanding film and a project that feels very dear to me. I really loved working with Tina and Paul. They are ridiculously talented and such fantastic collaborators,” concluded Robinson.

“Reality” is now airing on HBO and streaming on Max.

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