If someone were to tell me they had a feature film and wanted to know how many days of colour correction it would require, my stock answer would be “a minimum of five days”. When you factor-in balancing different light sources, compensating for low light conditions, smoothing the transition between edits (just for starters), that 90 minute film of yours starts to move very, very slowly.
So, when I heard there were only a few hours in the budget for colour grading Keyhole, I was shock-amused. However, to understand how this can be, we have to take a look at how it was shot. Historically, Guy shoots in a very low-fi style: Super-8, 16mm, with flourishes of 35mm film. This time around, the production shot using a digital SLR camera - yes, digital. This is a new technique that can (pending many factors) bypass many of the traditional stages of post while providing a very clear hi-resolution image. Because of this innovation, the picture editor was able to import a hi-res copy of the dailies. This also allowed him to do most of the colour correction locally on his HD edit system - it should be noted that not everyone has an eye for colour correction (hell, I’m happy if their monitors are calibrated properly half the time), so it should not be assumed that anybody other than an experienced eye could have pulled off this procedure.
Now, Keyhole is a black-and-white film. So, you may ask “How do you colour correct a black-and-white film?”. Well, the lack of colour certainly makes your palette of options smaller, yet you still have flexibility: brightness and contrast.
For example, take this photo:
It’s fairly neutral. There’s a lot of mid-range (that is, lots of grey “colour” space between black and white). So, what if we wanted to add some severity to it, to make it more dramatic? Here:
As you can see, the latitude between white and black (the grey “colour space” or mid-range) has been compressed: as a result, the whites are hotter and the blacks are deep and inky. This is an example of how you can colour correct black-and-white.
In the end, Guy and I spent all of two hours tweaking shots, accentuating electric sparks, and making sure nighttime shots looked like they took place at night. An unqualified success, thanks in large part to colourist Jim Fleming at Technicolor.