American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 54

Details in the Dark

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G

iven projects' often overlapping
schedules, a successful collaboration is sometimes more about having
faith in your colleagues than working
with them side-by-side. Such was the
case for The Accountant cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, ASC, BSC
and ASC associate and Technicolor
digital-intermediate colorist Mike
Sowa. Due to his commitments on
Pan, McGarvey came in before the
official start of The Accountant's DI
and worked alongside ASC associate
and Technicolor supervising finishing
artist Steve Scott - with whom he
had collaborated on The Avengers,
Godzilla (2014) and Fifty Shades of
Grey - to set looks for various frames
across several reels. "I wanted to get in
the ballpark in some areas I was
concerned about," McGarvey says.
"Steve set the look and Mike followed
through."
Sowa began the grade a week
later. "Since Seamus couldn't sit with me
through the entire DI, I was thankful
for the roadmap," he says. "Director
Gavin O'Connor was available, but he
also had to spend time on the mix and
visual effects, and editor Rick Pearson
was even still cutting. So I went through
the movie by myself and pulled it all to
the reference frames."
When McGarvey returned to
Los Angeles, he came in to screen
Sowa's first pass. "He wanted to make
sure I was true to what they did on set,"
Sowa says. "It's one thing to come in
and set a frame, and another to apply
that look over a whole scene. So I did
some tweaks and ran them by him; he
asked for some others, and then Gavin
came in and asked for a bunch. It's
collaborative. You hope to have everybody in the room on the same day, but
often that can't happen so you just
prepare for the ride."
McGarvey reports that they
played significantly with contrast and
color and applied a look, albeit a largely

54

November 2016

Technicolor DI colorist and ASC associate Mike Sowa.

unobtrusive one. "We were aiming for a
naturalistic look, but to achieve that,
Mike did a lot of work," the cinematographer says. "He really got into it and
applied many windows."
The colorist is at the mercy of the
footage, especially when it's film-originated - and even more so when there
are bold low-light choices, as in the
darkened house interior for the movie's
reel-long shootout and fight scene.
Sowa credits McGarvey for his full
control on set. "The whole interior is
one big shadow except where ambient
moonlight would come through a
window," the colorist explains. "That
calls for selective windowing on my
part, which could look sketchy if the
footage isn't properly exposed.
Fortunately, Seamus gave us a fat negative with all kinds of room. I was able to
set levels that were dark but still
comfortable."
As it turned out, however, the
show's studio execs were not quite
comfortable enough, so McGarvey
made sure to be on hand to work on the
night scene. "They were worried," he

American Cinematographer

acknowledges. "I had to assuage their
fears. They wanted detail, and for the
audience to see the actors. But at the
same time, we wanted to create a sense
of obscurity and atmosphere."
Sowa adds, "They didn't want
the low-light areas so heavy black, so I
gave it a little lift and made sure it
worked throughout the scene without
hurting the storytelling. It kept the
dark interior but relieved it a little.
Seamus, Gavin and the studio were
happy. There's no noise, no grain,
because we're not lifting it beyond the
negative's exposure level."
The filmmakers also rode a fine
line between what to reveal and what
to keep hidden in a scene in which
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck)
approaches an apartment building as a
familiar-looking man walks out. Wolff
then follows him. "A massive light
engulfs the front of the building, and
when the character exits he's bathed in
this light," Sowa explains. "But we don't
want to identify that character - it was
a main storyline. So, in the DI, I was
able to put a window on that and adjust
the light, bringing it down to a silhouette. Until we got into the DI, they
didn't know how it was going to
appear."
Sowa and O'Connor pushed
forward on the DI in McGarvey's
absence, reviewing the footage as the
editing was refined and visual effects
were incorporated.
McGarvey and Sowa agree that
the heaviest looks applied in the DI
were for Wolff 's childhood flashbacks.
"We created a kind of halation on the
highlights - a slight diffusion of the
blacks and a slight amount of desaturation," the cinematographer says. "For
some of the earlier flashbacks we also
added some grain, even though we
were shooting 5219 and sometimes
pushing the stock. We went a bit
further - and we had fun doing that."
-Mark Dillon

Photo courtesy of Technicolor.

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American Cinematographer - November 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - November 2016

Contents
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - Intro
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 1
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 2
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - Contents
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 4
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 5
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 6
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 7
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 8
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 9
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 10
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 11
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 12
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 13
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 14
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 15
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 16
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 17
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 18
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 19
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 20
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 21
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 22
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 23
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 24
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 25
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 26
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 27
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 28
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 29
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 30
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 31
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 32
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 33
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 34
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 35
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 36
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 37
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 38
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 39
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 40
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 41
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 42
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 43
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 44
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 45
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 46
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 47
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 48
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 49
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 50
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 51
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 52
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 53
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 54
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 55
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 56
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 57
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 58
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 59
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 60
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 61
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 62
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 63
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 64
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 65
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 66
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 67
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 68
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 69
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 70
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 71
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 72
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 73
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 74
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 75
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 76
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 77
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 78
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 79
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 80
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 81
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 82
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 83
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 84
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 85
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 86
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 87
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 88
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