'Modern Family' Graded with DaVinci Resolve
August 20, 2014

'Modern Family' Graded with DaVinci Resolve

FREMONT, CA  –  Ever since the world was introduced to the Pritchetts and their extended family in 2009, viewers have embraced the unconventional charm of Twentieth Century Fox and ABC’s hit television show “Modern Family.” The dialog is witty, the characters unique, and the overall look spot-on, thanks to the efforts of LA-based Modern VideoFilm, which grades the series using Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve.

“Modern Family” follows the Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker clan, a wonderfully large and blended family. The recipient of four consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series and a Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy Television, the series has been critically lauded for revitalizing the television sitcom.

“Grading at times is more difficult on a show like this because I‘m actually trying to hide complicated tricks, preserving the authenticity of the documentary look. Luckily, DaVinci Resolve has all the tools I need to achieve this. In general, footage is given a very subtle, low-contrast grade, trying to achieve very readable blacks and shadows on air. We really want the show to feel as filmic as possible, but still give things a nice treatment when needed,” says Aidan Stanford, colorist at Modern VideoFilm.

“Modern Family” is meant to look and feel like a documentary, with candid and organic moments. To enhance moments like an uncomfortable glance at the camera in an undetectable way, Stanford often adds a soft window on a character’s face and eyes and uses dynamic keyframes to complete the grade.

“I’ll use the mid-dark luma custom curve adjustment. I really like those curves, and they are such a timesaver,” notes Stanford. “Another great timesaver is DaVinci Resolve’s interactive tracker, which came in handy for the recent ‘Australia’ episode, as well as the two-part finale wedding episodes. Some scenes take place during the afternoon and into the evening. DP James Bagdonas wanted the footage to look really specific to the time of day, ending in a really beautiful sunset finale.”

“Every detail is so important to creating the mood, so things like magic hour or sunsets have to match, and DaVinci Resolve’s interactive tracker is the perfect tool. I was able to isolate foregrounds from horizons seamlessly,” he continues. “DaVinci Resolve took care of a lot of complicated tracking, as well as dynamic grades in windows that were being graded and tracked completely separate from the backgrounds.”

“Some shots had windows on every actor’s face in order to keep the skin and sky balanced, correcting for the changes in natural light during shooting. Since DaVinci Resolve allows you to use as many nodes as needed, I was able to keep adding nodes and pulling keys on whatever aspect of the shot was needed, such as warmth or density,” Stanford says.

Stanford notes that even during review with the show’s creative team, if a scene needs to be made warmer or darker, he can isolate shots or even whole scenes with the track grade, and with one quick grade, the change is made in real time.

“I love being able to toggle a grade on and off as a whole, or mark it individually. Also, I’m able to turn a LUT on or off as needed in a node, either in the tracker or the clip mode, which is very helpful and most importantly quick for the client. As a colorist, I never feel stuck with DaVinci Resolve, and I know I can achieve what the DP is asking me to do, and everyone is happy with the results,” concludes Stanford.