MTI Film is providing final color grading and other postproduction services to Shephard/Robin Company and Warner Bros. Television for the inaugural season of the new prime-time drama Major Crimes. MTI Film first teamed with Shephard/Robin ten months ago, midway through the final season of The Closer, when that show made the switch from 35mm to digital acquisition.
Major Crimes, a spinoff to The Closer centering on the same Los Angeles police department unit, has gone digital from the start with cinematographers Kenneth Zunder, ASC and David Harp using ARRI Alexa cameras to capture principal imagery as ProRes 4:4:4 data (Log C). MTI Film processes the dailies and prepares editorial, review and back-up media at its facility in Hollywood. Following editorial, the show returns to MTI Film for final grading and conforming prior to air.
Like The Closer, Major Crimes focuses on a high-profile crime unit in a realistic and visceral manner, and it does so, in part, through fluid camerawork and organic imagery. Zunder explained that much of the show is shot handheld. “They’re not Hollywood cops. We try to make them real detectives,” he explained. “It’s active. Whether in the office or on the street, we want to be in the mix, in the fray, and handheld gives it that feel.”
Zunder noted that he does not use LUTs to apply color treatments on the set, but rather lights the set the way he wants it to look and relies on MTI Film dailies colorist Mauricio Tassara to expand upon the look based on his instructions and the rapport they developed while working on The Closer. “We don’t always have ideal conditions to view a monitor on the set and I don’t want to impose a look that might not be the best possible,” he explained. “Mauricio knows what I like and I want to give him a chance to make it better. That’s what we always strive for – to improve the show.”
The MTI dailies workflow allows ASC CDL metadata to pass through to final grading. As a result, MTI Film senior colorist Jeremy Sawyer can focus on refinement and nuance. Shephard/Robin’s Sheelin Choksey, a producer and director of the show, explained that the final grade can become highly detailed. “This is television, so we want to see into people’s eyes,” he observed. “The show has a lot of great cinematography, but in the end it comes down to the close ups, and we want our people to look good.”
MTI Film’s software-based color grading system offers tools for perfecting such details. “With all the windows that they can apply, we have much more control over the look than we had when we were shooting on film,” said Choksey.
“MTI Film maintains a family atmosphere and that makes it a fun place to work, but they are very professional. They thread that needle very well,” Choksey added. “If I need something at the last minute, it always shows up. They find a way to do it.”