Work by: Ross Baker
This was one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever done. The production team gave me a clear brief; very simple and very clear – “it needs to look amazing”.
Sir David Attenborough was returning the to the Great Barrier Reef fifty years on from his first visit – the 1965 visit was shot on 16mm black & white film and clips of the original shows were to be used in the 2015 shows. To underline the passage of time and progress in technology the production team wanted to capture this 50th anniversary return with the latest cutting-edge cameras, bringing The Reef to life in 4k. Using Red Dragon and Sony F55 to capture the aerial and underwater footage allowed us to bring out all the amazing colour and detail of the reef and it’s surroundings without losing quality.
The series utilised a wide-range of source footage – from 8k time-lapse sequences to SD archive and conforming the footage in the Nucoda allowed us to use its up-res feature for all non-4k material and adjust all the RAW settings ahead of the grade. This pre-grading made the grade seamless and allowed it to flow – a much more creative and pleasant way to work. We used the Nucoda to output both 4k and HD deliveries and applied one set of scaling settings to each of the sources to output a full 4k (backup), UHD and HD version with a minimum of time and effort.
The greatest challenge was the underwater footage… this is because the deeper underwater you go the greater the loss of red light. The lack of red was taking so much of the magic away from the Reef and the wealth of colour was being seriously compromised. Using a three-layered system in the grade meant we were able to adjust the grade dramatically pre and post LUT which allowed us to push a lot of red back into the footage – thereby making the reef pop back into life. Magic!
Sound Design / Mix
Work by: John Rogerson, Richard Addis and Ryan Twyman
The sound for The Great Reef was always going to be a challenge – Sir David Attenborough’s last ‘on screen’ series ever, no pressure! After lengthy discussions with the production team we decided to go for a ‘hightened reality’ feel, especially for the underwater scenes. The reef is a magical environment, almost space-like and we set about designing atmospheres and textures that were both ethereal and beautiful. We got very abstract and impressionistic in place, especially around the movement of creatures and underwater craft. It was important to maintain a strong link to reality in amongst this heightened reality soundscape so we used Foley heavily to give a sense of reality and emphasise the constant movement and vitality of the reef.
Detail and space was the mantra throughout. We had to sonically create every scene from scratch so whilst it was a huge amount of work it gave us total control over the ‘orchestration’ of the sound elements. The end result was a rich, detailed and beautiful soundscape to accompany the sensational pictures.