InCinematographer - Issue 2 - September 2017 - 6
www.incinematographer.com | Issue 2 | September 2017
Live Grading a
DIT Francesco Sauta On the Production
of Spider-Man: Homecoming ...
ith Spider-Man: Homecoming being the second
reboot of one of the most popular superhero
stories of all times, expectations for the movie were
certainly high. Director Jon Watts managed to meet
these expectations by giving the film a unique touch
of its own - making it a colorful, fresh and delightful
story about Peter Parker's attempts to balance highschool life with his new superhero job.
Francesco Sauta worked as a DIT on the main
unit of the movie. In a recent interview with us he
shared some of his insights into the production. He
talked about his relationship with Homecoming
cinematographer Salvatore Totino, the influence
of ACES on his handling of on-set color, and the
challenges of combining different camera types
to create a young, at times "improvised" and yet
Francesco, you are a Los Angeles based DIT,
but we always think of Salvatore Totino as being
a very east coast DP. How did you two start
Francesco Sauta: Sal is definitely from Brooklyn.
The story begins 13 years ago when I was attending
a class through UCLA extension called "Arriflex
Certificate for Camera Assistants." It was at Clairmont
camera, a great longstanding LA rental house, going
over how to use film cameras. When I was there, in
one of the prep areas I met Salvatore's first AC. We
started talking and became friends. Meanwhile,
Salvatore was a co-owner in a restaurant in Santa
Monica (that no longer exists today), where a friend
of mine I knew from boxing was the manager.
The two factors together, the Clairmont meeting
and the boxing, meant I was lucky that I got to know
Sal. That was back right before he started shooting
Frost/Nixon. That's how I got started, first as Camera
Intern, then Camera PA, Film Loader, Second AC, and
then the DIT.
When did he first bring up Spider-Man:
Francesco: He was just about to leave for scouting
in Atlanta. The picture started shooting in May/June,
so around February 2016.
That's nice amount of lead time, and
presumably there was some test work going on
in there because this was a Dolby Vision HDR
Francesco: It's final delivery was DolbyVision
HDR, but in prep we ran our tests for the ACES
workflow. With ACES, the goal of the platform was
Mobile Cameras presented monitoring challenges
that the technology should do it all, should match
all the cameras and monitors together. But it would
be mystifying if I told you that ACES has completely
resolved the problem of matching various devices to
Even with ACES you still need to know what you
are working with, what the monitoring format will be
and what each camera can do. On Homecoming we
monitored in Rec. 709 throughout. We focused on set
on keeping the curve open enough to where there
was flexibility to stay in 709 or open it up to HDR, but
overall we didn't focus on Dolby or HDR. Not on set.
What software did you test or consider during
prep, or did you walk into set with a workflow
that you'd already honed over several movies?
Francesco: I had to implement my DIT kit with
a couple of additional pieces of software and
hardware. The dailies lab (EC3) was using ColorFront,
whereas I was using LiveGrade so we did some tests
there to make sure color handover looked correct on
both systems. All of us were using ACES version 1.0.
Me on set, after all the tests that I did, I stuck with
what I had that I knew worked, which was Pomfort
Silverstack and LiveGrade. At times I used Resolve
full version that I have in my kit, and we used ACES
in terms of color science to keep all the platforms
consistent with each other. Unfortunately we
experienced a little bit of a problem with ACES.
Can you tell us a little bit about the problem?
We're aware that they've tried to fix some things
with the CC and the CCT revisions.
Francesco: On ACES 1, there weren't many other
DITs I could ask for help. That was the very first
Spidey Hangs Around
time that we used ACES on a narrative project, at
least for Sal and I. The problem showed up in high
contrast scenes, for instance in a dark scene where
we're shooting night exterior, shooting a car with the
headlights pointed towards the camera.
We were experiencing purple fringing in the
highlights, an artifact of the ACES color transform. It
wasn't noticeable in our tests during prep, but on set
there was like a halo around high contrast highlights,
which sometimes created a halo around characters
of the story. We had to change the LUT, and create a
curve that fixed the fringing for on set preview.
I'm on the ACES central site constantly, it's a great
community, and I spoke with the people at ACES, and
they're trying to fix the problem with version two. I
haven't had the chance to use it recently, but that
was our ACES problem. Purple fringing artifacts in
situations with heavy highlight contrast. It might look
like a lens artifact, but it was actually from the color
So you tried to bend the highlight curve that
you'd get less blooming in the cool colors?
Francesco: We tried to kind of take out the purple
with curves as much as we can. Of course, it was a
considerable problem, and Sal was unhappy to see
that kind of artifacting on set.
You were doing your fix in LiveGrade? You were
taking a LUT you'd built at prep, re-tweaking it
in LiveGrade and reapplying it to the monitors to
deal with the fringing?
Francesco: We kind of were doing everything
live, and we had two or three LUTs that we created
before doing the test, but then everything else was
So you recognized that you had to clean up the
purple fringing, and you did that using LiveGrade
to control COLR LUT boxes from Teradek.
Francesco: We went with the COLR since it offered
full 33 point LUT support, so they're big enough
to support ACES color science. What I don't like of
the Teradek COLR, although I use them, is when
they're on camera they depend on Wifi. Wifi range
can be kind of flimsy, and that can create problems,
but when they were attached to my station via
Ethernet I was really happy with their response. The
combination of those with LiveGrade was great.
How many LUT boxes did you have going? Did
you have the one at your station, and then all
monitors were getting the same look?
Francesco: Pretty much, yes. I mean, we were
shooting three/four cameras a day, and it was a
mini, and there was an XT, plus we were using 4:3,
so probably like seven or eight of those color boxes.
I have 10, but I was giving a couple of those also to
VTR, to the video engineer on set.
Then all the signal path was wireless, as well?
Francesco: Yeah, it was all Paralinx Tomahawk,
and it was passing through to me clean, and then
I was sending out to VTR with a look. The great
advantage, of course, of the COLR box is you can
store two or three LUTs inside, which, because of the
purple fringing, we would store a lot of LUT options
on board the COLR. There would be one for VTR,