Steve Beganyi Takes Viewers on a Trip Around the World
Colorist on "Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown" uses DaVinci Resolve
Even from the comfort of your own couch thanks to CNN's "Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown." The television series, kicking off its third season in spring 2014, follows host Anthony Bourdain as he travels around the world and brings viewers a glimpse of how people eat and live as far away as Congo and as close as Detroit.
Because viewers cannot jump through their televisions to smell the exotic spices in Tangier or taste the fresh seafood in Sicily, they rely mainly on sight to help transport them from their couches into a world completely different from their own for 60 minutes each week. As such, the show must be visually stunning.
Enter Steve Beganyi, a freelance colorist based in New York City. From locked cut to network delivery, Steve has just two to three days to color grade an entire episode. And that doesn't mean throwing one main grade onto the footage and calling it a day. It means creating a completely unique look for each episode that captures and enhances the feeling and theme of the specific location and trip. Steve's tool of choice that helps him deliver - DaVinci Resolve.
Deadlines Don't Wait for Creativity
Born and raised in Cleveland, OH, Steve moved to New York to study film and quickly landed a job as an assistant colorist shortly after graduation. It wasn't long before he realized it was something he was naturally good at, and he quickly turned it into his full time job, coloring a variety of projects for a variety of productions. In 2005, he happened to work on a project executive produced by Chris Collins and Lydia Tenaglia of Zero Point Zero Productions and hosted by none other than Anthony Bourdain. Fast forward eight years, three series, 12 seasons and 111 episodes later, and the quartet are still making television together.
When the team began ramping up for "Parts Unknown," Steve was traveling frequently between New York City and Los Angeles. The team was shooting SLog tests, and Steve required a grading system powerful enough to handle all the challenges that come with grading Log footage, while still being portable and cost effective.
"I was traveling in between New York and Los Angeles and around Los Angeles a lot and needed something I could easily break down and set up in different locations that had all the professional features to help me deliver creatively," said Steve. "Hands down, DaVinci Resolve was the way to go. If I was working away from Zero Point Zero's New York office, I had a dedicated mobile system to work on. I could easily send sequences back to the New York office for final approval, and because of the toolset, I didn't have to worry about struggling to meet deadlines."
Creating a Unique Look
"We work on extremely tight deadlines, often just two to three days from locked cut to network delivery. Having the ability in DaVinci Resolve to create multiple nodes and versions in real time is crucial to being able to come up with multiple looks, make creative decisions and deliver on them in a short period of time," said Steve.
Steve works closely with one of the show's DPs, Zach Zamboni, to come up with new ideas and different looks to compliment the feeling of each episode. Before an episode is shot, Steve has a conversation with Zach regarding what they are trying to achieve as far as the look and feel of that specific episode. Zach also sends Steve some visual references of what he has in mind. Once footage starts coming in, Steve creates different looks and ideas, and the team experiments from there.
"The ability within Resolve to handle multiple nodes and versions in real time really helps me throughout this process. I can quickly come up with multiple looks and have them all ready to go in one timeline," said Steve. "A majority of the footage is also shot handheld, and DaVinci Resolve's tracking feature allows me to isolate and track objects throughout a handheld shot with ease."
While Anthony Bourdain might rely on his chef's knives and sauté pans in the kitchen to make a meal come to life, Steve relies on DaVinci Resolve in post production. With food such an integral part of the show, it's essential for Steve to make the food look not only appetizing, but down right delicious.
"Coloring the food can be challenging when applying a certain look to an episode," said Steve. "Something that looks good for the overall image often won't do the food any justice. Using DaVinci Resolve's qualifiers and Power Windows to isolate and enhance certain colors and aspects of the food make a world of difference. The fact that DaVinci Resolve does this in real time makes it easier for me to try a variety of options without wasting any time."
Location, Location, Location
The tight timelines, a busy travel schedule and creating delicious looking food are not Steve's only challenges when it comes to coloring the series. According to Steve, the majority of the show is shot in natural light, and sunlight reacts differently depending on where the episode is shot. "You're going to get a lot of direct sunlight and harsh shadows near the equator and a more diffused, flat light in other parts of the world. Sometimes we will exaggerate or hide these nuances depending on the tone of the episode," he said.
Steve relies on DaVinci Resolve's powerful qualifiers and Power Windows for an amazing amount of control when breaking down an image in post. He is able to easily isolate and adjust different areas of the image in real time, creating subtle changes in isolated areas of the image, which allows him to give the footage a very unique look. "This would be extremely hard to do with a less advanced toolset," he noted.
"As camera technology continues to get better, I think the role of the colorist will become more important from pre production through to post. A lot of our footage is shot with natural light in ever changing and uncontrollable lighting situations. We shoot a lot of SLog to preserve as much highlight and shadow detail as possible," Steve continued. "Because of this, the images coming back to post are very flat with all that information squeezed into a waveform that resembles a pancake.
"We shoot a lot of camera tests, which help us prepare and give us a good idea of how the image is going to react in different situations and where the DP should be exposing to get the best possible image," he concluded. "It's important to be prepared and know how the image is going to react when the waveform is opened back up in post. Sometimes you're going to get that preparation beforehand, and sometimes you're not. Regardless, I have DaVinci Resolve, so I'm always prepared."