“The toughest color grading work isn’t getting the right tinge around an actor battling giant insects on a meteor hurtling to Mars look real, it’s the simple things, like making bacon and cheese look good on a burger.”
Colorist Mark Todd Osborne had to color correct Big Boy’s recent television commercials. The Big Boy burger is as iconic as the logo of the actual Big Boy in red and white checkered pants. When people see a Big Boy television commercial, there is an expectation of seeing a perfect meal. But perfection cannot come at the price of looking unrealistic. So Mark had to walk a fine line.
Warming up the Eggs, Bacon and Burgers
“Clients in the food arena are so incredibly particular about every piece of food. It is not just about looking appetizing; the food has to also look beautiful and stunning. It is tough, exacting work, but once you have food on your reel, people know you can handle the tough assignments,” said Mark.
Working freelance for Lightborne Post out of Cincinnati, which handled the production and post production for the spots, Mark used Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve for all of the color correction. He was tasked with color correcting three national commercial spots for Big Boy, including 15 and 30 second spots for breakfast and a 30 second spot for dinner. This included color correcting images of the Big Boy double burger and all of its condiments, eggs, bacon and the kitchens they were being cooked in.
“I spent a lot of time on the eggs really highlighting them. It’s all about the food. We don’t want the viewer focusing on the stainless steel knife or coffee cup. With Resolve’s tracker, I could easily track every part of the eggs and the items around them. With a couple of clicks, I got right to work on getting the color just right on the eggs,” explained Mark.
Resolve’s powerful 3D tracker locks Power Windows to objects and reduces the need for extensive key generation. With this, Mark was able to track any object in a frame and create grades and effects around it. No matter how the eggs were moved during the spot, Resolve’s Power Window kept a tight lock around them.
“I threw a Power Window around the eggs and was able to focus on finding the right shading and lighting without having to worry about constantly recreating anything. Resolve allows my grades to follow the action, so I can focus on grading and not reinventing the grade with every new shot,” Mark said.
The Big Boy Burger
A Big Boy is a double patty burger on a sesame seed bun with all the fixings. Changing how it looks or using color correction to make it something other than what it is would not work. The problem was that no matter how amazing a burger is in real life, food is not uniform. No grill or fry pan cooks every single inch of a burger to exactly the same color. Plus the lights, heat and other factors a piece of food suffers by being on a commercial production set cannot be seen in the final TV product.
“With one burger, just a tiny piece of meat was slightly red. On a plate, it was perfect, but for a TV spot it had to be fixed. I used Resolve’s tracker to quickly brown up that one spot on the burger. The great thing is that I did this right in front of the head of the advertising agency, who had come in to approve the look of the spots. I am sure that when she suggested touching up that small brown spot, she thought she would not get to see her vision until the next day. With Resolve, I work in real time, and I made the change right in front of her,” Mark said.
Beyond the burger, Mark faced the real challenges of the Big Boy spot: the lettuce and bacon. “With the bacon, some of the slices looked a bit rare for television. In reality, they were fine, but in a food spot it has to be uniform. The client wanted a nice warm tone that looked pleasing on every part of the bacon. The challenge was doing that and keeping the look of crisp bacon intact.”
This had to be done while at the same time making the lettuce stand out. And both had to remain distinct from the sharp, clean metallic look of the kitchen. “I use Resolve to create extra flair for lighting around the food. With this spot, I created special lighting specifically around the lettuce. I drew Power Windows around each item and threw on a blur or other effect quickly. I then jumped in and started to fine tune the shots,” he continued. “Resolve’s blur tool was especially useful here, since I easily created a slight blur around the Power Windows and sharpened them up, while toning down the very strong stainless steel look around them. Using keyer, I was able to isolate certain colors in any point in the shot. With Resolve’s node structure, I reused and keyed those grades in with only a couple of clicks.”
With food shots, finesse and meeting tight deadlines are what is needed. And Resolve allowed Mark to get into the very fine areas quickly. It’s powerful and has a ton of little tricks that make it easy to focus on the art and not the technology.