InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 18
www.incinematographer.com | Issue 3
Murderously Good Dailies
Digital Orchard DIT Sam Spurgeons discusses dailies production on Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express...
enneth Branagh has brought celebrated
detective Hercule Poirot back to the big screen
in a new adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on
the Orient Express. With an all-star cast, intricate plot
and stunning cinematography, the blockbuster takes
the audience straight into the opulence of luxury rail
travel of days gone by.
This period detail is complemented perfectly by
DoP Haris Zambarloukos' preferred 65mm wide
angle film format, which immediately creates an
authentic and rich filmic look. Working with Goldcrest
Post, Zambarloukos developed the film's color
science and LUTs in DaVinci Resolve, which handled
the color workflow from dailies through to final
Sam Spurgeon of Digital Orchard was the DIT on
set, collaborating with Goldcrest to ensure the color
pipeline was not only able to handle the volume of
dailies produced on set, but that they reflected the
final look as closely as possible.
InCinematographer: How did Digital Orchard
come to be involved in Murder on the Orient
Sam Spurgeons: We'd previously delivered dailies
services on set for Denial, another of Haris' projects.
During that production, Haris and our founder,
Callum Just, started to discuss how to develop a
workflow for Murder on the Orient Express.
Essentially we needed to build a digital process that
would get the most out of the authentic 65mm wide
format negative for principal photography. As well as
setting up a mini DI suite on set, we installed a new
65mm photochemical processor, specifically built for
this feature, and deployed a 65mm scanner to deliver
dailies in 4K.
InCine: How closely did you work with the team
at Goldcrest Post London during pre-production
SS: We collaborated very closely with Haris, Rob
and Laurent Treherne at Goldcrest to create bespoke
LUTs that formed the base for our dailies color
pipeline. This built on our previous collaborations
with both parties starting from Locke through to
Cinderella and Denial. We eventually arrived at a LUT
that would give us an authentic look, with a warm
white point that really helped to retain the original
color and contrast from the scanned film negative.
The film footage has an incredibly rich atmosphere,
particularly the shots in the train carriages. The
colors and the opulence really stand out, and we
really didn't want to pull back on anything.
Princess Dragamiroff (Dame Judy Dench)
Hercule Poirot played
by Sir Kenneth Branagh,
who directed the film
InCine: What codecs and formats were you
working with during production?
SS: The primary format was 2K DPX sequences
produced by the 65mm film scanner. In terms of
volume, we were averaging between 100GB and
300GB per lab roll, with between 10 and 20 lab rolls
per unit per day.
Additionally, there were elements such as aerial or
VFX shoots that were shot on Arri Alexas of various
flavors in the ArriRaw format. Exports were made for
different departments in MXF Avid files, OpenEXR for
VFX, Quicktime wrapped ProRes and H.264 as well as
HapQ for the train projections.
Color values, lab roll, camera roll, keycode and
timecode were all vital to the conform, and it was
essential that we communicated that information
throughout the entire pipeline. We added key
metadata into Resolve easily, and included any
additional notes required.
InCine: How did Resolve help you in your daily
DIT duties on set?
SS: I managed a dailies color pipeline that included
both simple CDL color work for compatibility with
VFX and a framework for Goldcrest to be able to
import a base grade that reflected Haris' desired
look. A more polished set of selects was screened to
Kenneth, Haris and also sent to Fox in LA.
For this, one of the staple tools was Resolve's
extremely fast power window auto tracking, which
I used to balance train windows and draw attention
to actors. The advanced curves - specifically hue vs
hue - allowed me to tweak certain tones such as the
train's interior to help realize the luxury of the Orient
Being able to base the polished selects' grade on
the initial CDL values was extremely simple, thanks
to Resolve's Colortrace feature. Some scenes were
filmed sporadically, sometimes weeks apart, so it was
useful to be able to Colortrace from outside of the
current Resolve project and ensure everything was
Miss Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley)
InCine: As well as working with such a volume
of footage each day, what were the main
challenges you faced?
SS: Image analysis for quality control was a vital
part of our workflow, as we had to make sure the neg
dev and scan stages were performing as they should
be. Some issues with film can manifest themselves in
specific color channels, so being able to isolate these
channels in Resolve and view in black and white
really helped with diagnosis.
Goldcrest's final grade was in the DCI-P3 color
space, whereas the various dailies formats we
generated were primarily rendered and viewed in
REC709. So, to cope with the multiple color spaces,
we were able to use the multiple viewing LUT feature
of Resolve. This allowed us to do our primary grade
in the wider DCI-P3 gamut, whilst still keeping an
eye on the REC709 image, allowing us to achieve
something that worked in both.
InCine: What's next up for you and Digital
Orchard project wise?
SS: We'll continue supporting 65mm and 35mm
film productions, as well as servicing digital labs both
on and off set. We hope that the two formats will
continue to complement each other and as such, it'll
be our aim to make the choice to shoot film or digital
a purely artistic one, by taking away financial and