Tilva Roš

Nikola Stefanović

Tilva Roš Wins Big at Sarajevo Film Festival with a Little Blackmagic Help

Tilva Roš translates to “red hill.” A perfect name for the award-winning film that captures the down to earth life of two skateboarders living in a poverty stricken, old copper mining town in Serbia. For the filmmakers, capturing the gritty reality of their situation, while still giving the audience a feeling of hope, meant focusing as much on the look and feel of each frame as much as on the acting.

Luckily, the filmmakers, Nikola Stefanović and DoP, Miloš Jaćimović, had MediaPlus’ Nikola Stefanović and the Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve. MediaPlus, one of the largest production companies in Serbia, was commissioned to add the DaVinci Resolve touch to the skateboarding drama.

Tilva Roš is set in what was once the largest copper mine in Serbia. It is now the biggest hole in Europe. And to achieve the best of the red clay dirt, crisp blue skies and the warm natural look of summer that would set the mood of the film, Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve color correction system as the tool of choice for MediaPlus’ Lead Colorist, Nikola Stefanović.

Nikola‘s post production experience came in handy on this particular job, since he was working under tight deadlines. He has more than 10 years of experience in editing, compositing and color grading. Along with Tilva Roš, Nikola has graded feature films, music videos, and Serbian TV Drama Vratiće se Rode along with international commercials for Coca Cola, T-mobile, Orbit, Telekom Serbia, Schweppes and MTV.

The film follows the trials and tribulations of two teens that spend their summer after high school skateboarding, performing daredevil stunts and pulling hilarious pranks—and capturing it all on film—in a deserted mining town. But their friendship sours when they both fall in love with the same girl. This rift can only last for so long, as they later find they must overcome their differences when a small union protest develops into a life-changing riot.

“I’ve had many roles in the post production industry, but color grading is my favourite part of the job. I enjoy it because it’s a job that demands artistic and technical knowledge in every decision you make. The combination of these skills is what I have worked very hard to achieve and this was definitely needed to achieve the look and feel of Tilva Roš, and meet the demands of the director and creative production team.”

At MediaPlus, Nikola works alongside a number of 3D animators, producers, editors, sound and design technicians. Currently MediaPlus has developed an intensive Blackmagic Design workflow, using a number of Blackmagic Design products throughout their studio, including the Decklink HD Extreme and Multibridge capture and playback cards, Videohub router, SDI to Analogue Mini Converters, the DaVinci Revival restoration system, the DaVinci Resolve and UltraScope waveform monitoring solution. In late 2010 they will also install a DaVinci Resolve on Mac with Blackmagic’s Decklink HD Extreme 3D+ to their workflow as an assisting station and a DaVinci Revival pro for 35mm and 16mm restoration work.

“We use quite a few Blackmagic Design products in our workflow, which has really worked out for us. The products are of good quality, great price and does what it says on the box – no fancy features that I’ll never use or complicated set-up or installation. I like things that are simple, easy to use and doesn’t require too much messing around, which is what you need when you have tight deadlines.”

For the DaVinci Resolve work for Tilva Roš, MediaPlus chose the system because they knew it had the power, real-time performance and correction and grading features that would give their clients complete freedom to create their art.

“With Tilva Roš, the goal was to get soft shadows and highlights with as much information as we could pull from R3D files and create a very natural look for the shots. The natural look had to be incorporated into everything from correcting grey skies to bring back the blue and teal colors, to freshening skin tones.” Nikola continued, “there are about 400 shots in the movie and some are long steady-cam shots, so I needed to deal with a lot of key-framing, lighting and atmosphere changes. I think we succeeded in creating the right mood and tone for the film.”

“The only special requirement was to minimize the ‘RED-like’ look to achieve a more organic feel, and to not see or notice even the slightest sign of color manipulation. There was no need for any heavy or dramatic changes, but we did use some relighting techniques to add depth to a number of shots. All of the shots turned out beautifully and DaVinci was a key part in helping us reach the desired results – everyone is really happy with the output and I’m happy with how quickly I was able to learn and use it!”

Shot using a RED camera equipped with Cooke S4 lenses, Nikola received the raw RED files with offline editing done in Final Cut Pro. With the help of XML2RCX tool, Nikola exported XML files from FCP and managed the import into RED CineX, where a full resolution de-bayering via REDRocket into 2048x2048 anamorphic DPX files was completed.

He used REDlog color space to get low-contrast files for grading. And because RedLog is not within standard LogToLin conversion, he built custom LUTs for REC 709 monitoring and made 2048x1716 24 fps anamorphic project with 2.39:1 aspect ratio with six reels in DaVinci Resolve.

Though Nikola had only been working with Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve for a few months when he graded Tilva Roš, he couldn’t have hoped for better results. The feature film later went on to win the coveted Heart of Sarajevo for best film at the end of the nine-day festival, out of a variety of feature and short films from around the world.

“I had to get to grips with the software quite quickly to meet the deadline for Tilva Roš. Since I have worked with other grading software systems and understand how they work, after spending a couple of weeks on the system it was really easy to use,” said Nikola.

Nikola explains, “Resolve is such a well respected product in the post production industry. The output is always of superior quality and once I got the hang of it, working with it was almost intuitive. I would trust DaVinci Resolve for my grading each and every time.”