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Crash+Sues opens CS Films

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CS Films recently handled post for Matt Osterman’s <em>Phasma Ex Machina</em>
CS Films recently handled post for Matt Osterman’s Phasma Ex Machina

Award-wining commercial production company Crash+Sues recently opened CS Films – a Minneapolis-based post house dedicated to the independent filmmakers. For its first project, the company provided color correction, online editing and finishing for writer/director Matt Osterman’s debut feature, the supernatural thriller Phasma Ex Machina.

“This project was a great opportunity for CS Films to work on a high-end film with an innovative, top-notch director,” says CS Films producer Amanda Burgland. “Our goal was to create a filmmaker-friendly creative environment that would provide feature-length projects with a seamless workflow and surpass our clients’ expectations, and this job allowed us to do just that.”

Phasma Ex Machina explores the gray area between life and death and how science may bridge the two. The main character, Cody, is dealing with the challenge of raising his younger brother James after the death of their mother and father. Obsessed with reuniting with his parents, he plunges into the murky science of the supernatural when he invents a machine intended to be a conduit to the other side. As the plot unfolds, Cody’s machine attains an unforeseen level of success. However, it becomes clear that it poses a threat as he learns that both the supernatural and human nature have a dark side.

Colorist SUE used her da Vinci 2K+ system to color correct the film, which DP Adam Honzl shot on Panasonic P2 digital media. The director and DP had pursued a rather unconventional look for a ghost story, opting for a warm color palette instead of more traditional chilly blue and gray tones.

“They wanted all the ghost scenes to be to have a very specific look, so it was a matter of establishing it and staying with their formula,” says SUE. “Since Matt wasn’t sure he’d have the budget for color correction, he and Adam strived to get as close as possible to the palette they were going for in-camera,”

“With their color treatment estabilishing the look I could go back and take things further by adjusting the contrast levels and amount of saturation.” The result was a soft de-saturated look for the flashbacks, contrasted by a more colorful and realistic look during the balance of the film.”

“We created a specific and distinct look for Phasma,” notes Osterman. “SUE was able to bring that look to life and add a level of consistency that was pretty hard to accomplish.”

Osterman knew that getting his film accepted into New York’s IFP Narrative Lab program, which offers an invaluable five days of mentorship, technical advice and support from industry experts to a select group of filmmakers, would be a great asset to the project. CS Film’s color correction helped him create a polished, rich look that made Phasma Ex Machina an impressive candidate and choosen as one of handful of films to become an Official Selection of IFP Filmmakers Labs 2009.

After returning from New York, Osterman continued to implement feedback from his lab mentors, which helped him, as editor of the film, improve its flow. Once he completed cutting the feature, he handed it off to CS Films’ online editor Mark Anderson for finishing.

Anderson re-conformed the footage, working from the original P2 files using Autodesk’s Discreet Smoke as his platform of choice. He laid off a textless version for SUE to re-color correct to HDCAM SR, and then added the opening title sequence.

“Matt had everything very buttoned down,” Anderson notes. “His team had all the graphics and titles in production when we were working on the transfer and finishing. So when the final master was ready to go, the titles were waiting for us. It was a seamless assembly.”

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