AlphaDogs Cruise the Sunset Strip | November 19, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Burbank, CA—Hollywood’s infamous Sunset Strip has a heart and soul of its very own. Just a mile-and-a-half long, the strip started as just a humble dirt road that connected Hollywood studios to a new development called Beverly Hills. This was only the beginning of what would later become one of the most recognized boulevards in the world. In the feature documentary Sunset Strip, written and directed by Hans Fjellestad, audiences are taken on a journey through time with gangsters, musicians, movie celebrities and dreamers from all walks of life that have made Sunset Strip what it is today. Recently finishing post services with Burbank based AlphaDogs, the film is now available On Demand and DVD.
Documentary films are often more complex in the finishing process than features. Although creativity still plays a vital role in color grading when polishing the final look of any film, the documentary structure is unique in that the story is told by using all types of source material. This is an added challenge for the colorist in that it requires the color to match and balance with both recent and archival footage. In Sunset Strip, interviews were shot at various venues with a change in production crew at each location. This gave every interview a very different look and style due to the changes in lighting and camera setups. In order to give the film its overall intended look, AlphaDogs Editor and Colorist, Sean Stack was careful to keep the detail in the foreground and without oversaturating, added brightness and balance to the skin tones of the interviewees, making them the primary focus as they tell the story of Sunset Strip in their own words. One very iconic interview setup that underlines the storytelling method includes two people being interviewed parked outside a nightclub sitting on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles. “Another brilliant creative choice made by Director Fjellestad,” said Stack. “When it came to the interviews, the idea of having more than one participant in the interview sessions made for lively and spontaneous exchanges that otherwise might not have happened.”
There’s no better way to immerse the viewer into the scene of an intimate venue than handheld camera work. The Sunset Strip concert and club footage features plenty of tasty camera work revealing “wild footage” shot guerrilla style. Color grading challenges are often prevalent in these type low lighting conditions. Stack took direction from Director Fjellestad in maintaining the detail in the shadows as much as possible, while working together in scrutinizing specific scenes preventing nuances of the performances from becoming lost in the darker parts of the image. The color grading focused on producing a seamless club experience within a venue by enhancing the emotion of the performances along with reactions from the fans. Although a time-consuming process, Stack used external video scopes to monitor the adjustments in order to accurately add detail to the shadow areas, increase brightness where needed, and keep color saturation within legal broadcast range. Stack comments, “This underscores importance of allowing ample time for color grading and basic corrections as well. For example, there was archival footage that Director Fjellestad wanted very little work done other than legalize for broadcast.” Stack continues, "It’s imperative that you don’t rush through and miss the crucial details. Despite the tight deadline, it's often worth the effort for a good-looking film that also passes QC.”
Post-audio on documentaries can also bring distinctive demands because they are not shot in a traditional Hollywood production environment. Sound space can differ dramatically between scenes, and the slightest background ambiance can make smooth sound transitions nothing short of difficult. In Sunset Strip, extensive amounts of interview footage that was cut to 15 seconds or less proved particularly challenging. AlphaDogs Audio Mixer Curtis Fritsch began by removing distracting background noises using plug-ins specifically designed to isolate and remove troublesome noise. Quick fades and room tones were then added to smooth out the sound quality. “This was a tricky thing to do with so many people being interviewed,” said Fritsch. “In some cases I had to steal syllables from another word to make the dialogue sound better.”
The 5.1 surround sound mix needed was required to be close as possible to the original stereo mix. Fritsch worked diligently on redesigning a total of 10 isolated tracks from some of the concert footage. Fritsch comments, “Sunset Strip was a fun opportunity in designing the placement and volume of instruments along with the vocals. A stereo mix in 5.1 is pretty straight forward, but when you have 10 tracks to mix, it becomes more of a creative process in enhancing the sound without making it sound like a different recording.”
Under the demanding deadline of less than one week, Sunset Strip was delivered on time and within budget. “This was an ambitious project on so many levels and when it came time to deliver, Sean and Curtis really helped us pull it all together in a crazy short period of time,” said Fjellestad. “But even under the gun, they never lost focus on the creative aspects of the film.”
Sunset Strip is written and directed by Hans Fjellestad and Produced by Joe Mundo, Tommy Alastra, and Donovan Leitch with 13th Sign Pictures. To learn more visit sunsetstripthemovie.com.
About AlphaDogs: Founded in 2002 by acclaimed editor and colorist Terence Curren, AlphaDogs is an independently owned post-production facility located in the center of Burbank's Media District. AlphaDogs' skilled team brings a dynamic combination of creative talent and technical expertise to clients' projects. Paying extra attention to detail, AlphaDogs prides itself on delivering the quality of a large post-production facility with the personal attention of a small boutique. State-of-the-art editing bays, color correction, audio mixing, motion graphics, visual effects, production offices and equipment rentals are available. Since 2003, AlphaDogs has been giving back to the post-production community through its Editors' Lounge series of discussion panels and product demonstrations. To learn more visit alphadogs.tv and editorslounge.com.