Technicolor PostWorks New York recently completed editorial finishing and color grading for the first season of the new FX comedy Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. Slated to premiere July 16, the show stars Denis Leary (who also wrote and directed) as Johnny Rock, an aging singer trying to reform his old band and make good on the unfulfilled dreams of his youth.
Although the show is a comedy, it doesn’t have a classic comedy look. Cinematographer William R. Nielsen Jr., whose credits include an earlier Leary series, Sirens (also posted at Technicolor PostWorks), captured the gritty atmosphere of the cramped apartments, dingy clubs and dungeon-like recording studios that make up Rock’s world. “The whole look of the show is dark and moody,” said colorist Bobbie Thomas. “It has the feel of a music video from the ’90s. It’s a more sophisticated look than most TV comedies.”
The rich, urban underground imagery that Nielson recorded on the set went through further refinement and detailing during intensive grading sessions in Da Vinci Resolve at Technicolor PostWorks. There, the challenge was often to tease details out of monochromatic settings. “The actors spend a lot of time in recording studios that are by their nature dark places with lots of black soundproofing material and dark wood,” Thomas explained. “The characters, too, often wear black or silver clothing, including black leather pants.”
He noted that Nielson made subtle use of accent lighting to illuminate backgrounds and bounce off walls. “That gave us a lot to play off,” Thomas said. “The finished look has a lot of depth and richness.”
Thomas and Nielson paid particular attention to the actors. “We wanted to be sure to see their faces… the nuances of their reactions,” said Thomas. “This isn’t a murder mystery.”
The show features frequent flashback scenes, revealing Rock as the 25-year-old front-man of the punk band The Heathens. “We made those scenes feel like vintage film by muting the colors and using VFX to add grain and scanlines,” explained Thomas. “It’s more washed out than the present day footage. We wanted viewers to immediately know we’ve moved back in time.”
Editorial conforming was performed by Pat Kelleher in Autodesk Flame. The Flame system allowed Kelleher to share ProRes 4:4:4 files with Thomas, and apply last-minute visual effects. “We’ve developed a great workflow that allowed us to deliver ahead of schedule,” said Kelleher. “It went flawlessly.”