ASK THE EXPERTS: Andrew Shulkind & Rohan Chitrakar

ASK THE EXPERTS: Andrew Shulkind & Rohan Chitrakar

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 17:15

Award winning Cinematographer Andrew Shulkind and DIT Rohan Chitrakar talk ACES for commercials.

Q: On what projects have you used ACES?
A. (Andrew) I use ACES as often as possible.  Recently that has been a variety of commercials, two independent films and even a 360˚VR narrative series I shot for Samsung. 

Q: How does ACES impact your work?
A. (Andrew) Before ACES, I would feel compelled to lock things into the camera.  ACES creates a throughline from on-set through editorial to color, with an ASC-CDL that everyone instantly understands and works everywhere.  Because I’m always shooting with different cameras in a variety of locations, often with work being posted in different countries, ACES adds an important layer of consistency.  I don’t have to worry about someone along the line misinterpreting how a shot is supposed look or matching issues if I can’t be there for the grading session - shots cut together in the way that we had planned. Shots don’t have to be stretched so far to retain highlight detail that we worked so hard to preserve, especially with the clipping common to digital sensors.  Creatively and technically, it means that everyone is speaking the same language.  
Q: What is your on-set process?
A. (Andrew) I use on-set color correction. I give my DIT (Rohan Chitrakar) the broad strokes, but I often don't have time discuss color as much as I would like, so knowing that we’re protected with the wider gamut really helps and allows me more flexibility to dial it in during the final color session. We start with a conversation about where to set the blacks, whites, skin tones, color palette, general color profile, how we want the sun to look, etc. I shoot a lot overseas, and my DIT packs it up, creates the deliverables, encodes the metadata and files and sends them off to post.
A. (Rohan) We’ve used a number of different configurations.  On one project we were shooting with the blossom VR rig for “The Strain”. and we did live onset color with the Live Grade color correction system.  On another we weren’t able to do live viewing because of the ‘run and gun’ nature of the project,  so I colored and transcoded the media using the appropriate IDT for the Arri Raw files captured on the Alexa XT,  so that the dailies and material that went to the final grade had the benefit of the consistency that ACES provides.  We’ve used ACES using multiple cameras (Alexa, Red Dragon, Canon C500/C300, Sony F65/F55, Digital Bolex BMD) and various on-set color correctors (Resolve, Daylight) so it’s a system that can be used in many configurations.

Q: Why use ACES for commercials specifically?  
A. (Andrew) I’m not sure that ACES was designed with commercials in mind, but it is a significant advantage given how quickly we have to move, how many different folks are involved, and how often I can’t attend a grading session because it’s in a different city.  The DI colorist ends up setting the final look and is often someone I’ve never had a conversation with, and is only seeing the footage for the first time that morning and building a look then and there, irrespective of what we had planned on the shoot day.  In the worst of these cases, the colorist may be adding noise by fighting a look that we pushed while shooting (with filtration or lighting, etc), or by revealing some compression introduced during the VFX process.  If I’m not available to identify these issues, the colorist is starting from scratch and flying blind .  All in all, ACES helps everyone in the chain maintain a clear thread of communication from beginning to end, along with a broader color gamut; its such a no-brainer that I push for it whenever possible.  
Q: What other benefits do you see in ACES?
A. (Andrew) For me, personally, ACES’ greatest benefit is not in getting better colors, but in improving the transition in and out of editorial. I like how ACES unifies what the editor and
colorist see, and improves the range of what the agency and clients can expect to get during the process.
A. (Rohan) ACES helps me give my DPs what they need.  Andrew appreciates the consistency it provides the editorial and coloring pipeline.  Other DPs I’ve worked with have commented that ACES gives them more accurate color consistency.  Working in ACES doesn’t overly complicate my life yet it improves the workflow for everyone else.  On certain projects I’m the DIT and final colorist too, so in those cases my dailies work serves as an invaluable starting point as it reflects the DP's color grade intention - this is extremely useful when the DP is unable to be present at during the final color session.

Andrew Shulkind is an award-winning cinematographer of commercials, film, television, and lately, a pioneer of 360˚ spherical capture for virtual reality.  In the commercial sphere, he shoots around the globe for a range of well-known brands (Apple, AT&T, Budweiser, Chevrolet, McDonalds, Nike, Old Spice, Samsung, etc.).  In 2014 he was recognized by his peers as one of the industry's top emerging cinematographers and recently became the first individual awarded the Studio Prime Award, a distinction reserved for manufacturers leading technological innovation in the world of film and visual effects. Often building purpose-built rigs to get the shot, Andrew designed a professional grade capture device for cinematic 360˚ virtual reality,  for HeadcaseVR.  With a list of splashy projects under his belt in this burgeoning field with HeadcaseVR, WEVR, MatterVR and others, he has found himself at the forefront of high-end 360˚ virtual reality capture technology, building camera arrays and consulting with studios, manufacturers, and the military.  
Andrew began as a Kodak/Panavision PreView System technician liaising between top cinematographers and film labs to align color expectations, and moved up quickly as a camera operator for such luminaries as Darius Khondji, Janusz Kaminski, Don Burgess, and others on some of the top movies in Hollywood.  Andrew and his work have been profiled in American Cinematographer Magazine, British Cinematographer Magazine, Shoot Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Studio/Daily and ICG Magazine. His work has also screened at festivals including the Cannes Lions, Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Camerimage, Los Angeles Film Festival and many others. 
Rohan Chitrakar is a premiere digital imaging technician and member of ICG Local 600.  He has worked with dozens of top cinematographers including Andrew Shulkind, Claudio Miranda, ASC, Maryse Alberti, Steven Poster, ASC, Chris Bottoms and others on projects ranging from feature films to commercials to virtual reality.  He also works as an on-set colorist and colorist for final grading.  Born in Nepal, he lives in Los Angeles.