The 3rd Dimension
Friday, 08 March 2013 17:36

An Update on Color Timing, DNR and Top Gun 3D

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There’s a lot of film enthusiasts out there who have issues whenever a filmmaker makes changes to his films years after the fact.  Whether it’s a new director’s cut (Amadeus comes to mind) or revised color timing (Fellowship of the Ring, Terminator, Alien), some fans/purists don’t want any part of it.  But for all except the hardest of the hardcore, they’re mostly worried about intent behind the changes.  The latest such “scandal” involves Top Gun.

Complaints of the color timing being “too orange” on the new BD (and also having DNR applied or artificial grain added) have been rampant over Internet forums.  I personally believe that some of the color issues come from people viewing unprocessed/filtered 3D screenshots (3D glasses change the color and intensity of the image, as does the TV, so what finally ends up hitting your peepers is the intended look).  Still, I talked with Stefan Sonnenfeld, the film’s colorist and a frequent Tony Scott collaborator, about the new restoration.  I also checked in with Legend3D’s Barry Sandrew again to see if any specific processing was done for the 3D.

Mr. Sonnenfeld has worked with Tony Scott for a very long time (so long that they actually did cigarette ads together), on virtually all of his movies.  He spoke with me at length about the shorthand the two shared and Mr. Scott’s style when it came to his desired film look.  Bottom line: Tony Scott was an analog guy.  He liked grain, he liked the feel, the “smell” and “taste” of film, and there’s nothing that he would do to compromise that.  In fact, he was quite engaged in making sure that any noise reduction in the remaster was in the therapeutic and not destructive range.  What you see on the screen is what is on the negative – I was specifically told by both Sonnenfeld and Sandrew that absolutely no artificial grain was added in post, and that for the 3D QC check a huge amount of time was spent on the blue channel to make sure that there was no freezing grain present in the image resulting from their processing.

Top Gun 3D
As far as the color timing goes, the answer to that is simpler.  Many colorists, especially when mastering for video have been trained to hate the color red because of the bleeding issues with NTSC televisions.  As such, they instinctively avoided it, which is one of the reasons why “the film has never looked this way before.”  The last master for Top Gun was run at least 7 years ago, and in that time we’ve jumped several generations of technology in terms of digital color timing tools.  In 1986, everything was chemical – you did the best you could to get the colors you wanted.  Today, you can turn everything any color of the rainbow you desire.  So when people like Peter Jackson (Fellowship), or in this case Mr. Scott, are given the chance to dial in the picture exactly how they’ve always wanted it (and didn’t have the tools to do previously), they usually take it.  You may not prefer their updated choices (and I have no claim to say otherwise – everyone is entitled to their opinion), but it must be noted that both Sonnenfeld and Sandrew told me in no uncertain terms that the new Top Gun master was 100% hands-on Tony Scott approved.

So like it or not, Top Gun’s newest master is without a doubt “a Tony Scott” film.  Adjust (or preferably not) your televisions accordingly.

- Jeff Kleist

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