Son of Saul, László Nemes’ Oscar-nominated film about the horrors of Auschwitz in 1944, got its subtle grading atmosphere from one of the FilmLight Baselight suites at Budapest facility Magyar Filmlabor (Hungarian Filmlab). The mood is underlined by a stark and understated look, thanks to being shot on 35mm film.
To capture the emotions that underpin the movie, Nemes set up a unique analog-to-digital workflow. He not only shot the feature on film, but he finished and reviewed it on film, too. Having achieved the visual style that Nemes and the movie’s DP Mátyás Erdély wanted in the film print, colorist László Kovács set about recreating this in Baselight.
“We never wanted to make a pretty film,” said Erdély. “We were aiming for something very raw and very simple. It was treated with the utmost care by László, and I was very impressed by what we were able to accomplish.”
Son of Saul was made on a tight budget and shot using Kodak stocks in ARRI cameras. Post at Magyar Filmlabor saw a combination of traditional color timing and digital grading to achieve the required look. “Even in the DI we mainly used primary color correction,” said Erdély. “We wanted to limit ourselves to the most essential tools.
“The look itself may be very simple, but the way it was achieved was very sophisticated,” he added. “We did not want audiences to even realize it had been graded, which required a really subtle approach. There was a lot of creativity and talent involved – but the outcome looks like there wasn’t.”
For the post, the 35mm negatives were digitized at 4K on a FilmLight Northlight scanner, allowing the film’s producers to create a 4K digital master from which both 35mm release prints and 2K DCP files were derived. Close liaison between Magyar Filmlabor’s colorists and color timers ensured the two deliverables were a perfect match.
One of Hungary’s leading post houses, Magyar Filmlabor has long relied on FilmLight’s postproduction tools. Its first Baselight ONE system is serial number 4. The company also has a Baselight FOUR for major projects such as Son of Saul.