The romantic musical drama “Cyrano” tells the classic story of an ill-fated love triangle with the main characters entangled in misdirected feelings, unrequited yearnings, and lies of severe consequences. Besides stunning shooting locations around Sicily and an Oscar-nominated costume design, color became an essential element to support the narrative. We sat down with Sandro Magliano, the responsible DIT and workflow supervisor on set, for some exclusive insights.
While Sandro also works on commercial projects and series, he doesn’t hesitate when asked about his favorite kind of gigs: “If I can decide, I prefer working on movie projects!” With “Cyrano”, he got involved in a spectacular production requiring elaborate data distribution and implementing an ACES color pipeline with Livegrade Pro and Silverstack Lab. Having started his DIT career in 1997, Sandro experienced the shift towards digital cinematography first-hand and can therefore draw from tons of expertise.
“I think it’s much better to prep everything tailor-made for each project specifically. That’s my philosophy.”
A central pillar of his work is always thorough preparation. This was also the case for “Cyrano” given the project’s complexity, challenging shooting locations, and distinct production requirements: “For this project, there were a lot of things to consider, so it was important to prep comprehensively. Because otherwise, on set, it all becomes a “gioco” (gamble). I think it’s much better to prep everything tailor-made for each project; that’s my philosophy.”
Overall, Sandro’s responsibilities stretched across several locations and processes: He had to oversee a DIT station on set, a complementary offloading station, and a near-set dailies lab. In addition, a close-by screening room and editing suite also required Sandro’s attention. So, naturally, he couldn’t do all of it by himself: “I brought three assistants with me – one assistant DIT on set, one data manager, and one dailies operator.”
To enable smooth collaboration between all involved people and workflow steps, Sandro and his dailies operator created an exceptional environment: “With Simone Marzolino (dailies colorist and dailies operator), we prepared a LAN connection between the near-set lab and the close-by editing suite. First, we would give the original footage to the data manager. The data manager then prepared two copies – one copy was directly sent to the near-set lab for transcoding twice daily. From the near-set lab, we immediately send all files in DNxHD to the editorial department in the nearby room.” Silverstack Lab was crucial to the whole dailies process. Simone imported all the CDLs coming from Sandro’s Livegrade Pro instance used for on-set color grading. He also created useful reports, managed the metadata for editorial, and exported CSV files for Davinci Resolve, including clip metadata and ASC-CDL color metadata. “Also, he did a first QC through the dedicated tool embedded in Silverstack Lab.”, Sandro adds.
After each shooting day, director Joe Wright would join Sandro in the close-by screening room to review the footage and adjust colors. Another data management station running Silverstack Lab was set up to do so. After that, the workflow seamlessly moved on: “As soon as we adjusted the color or fixed something, we immediately sent the CDL from the screening room via LAN to the near-set lab. The near-set lab would then prepare the dailies and send them immediately to the editing room.” DP Seamus McGarvey often joined Simone and Sandro in the near-set lab to check the footage and relative grading. So there was a very tight-knit connection across departments pushing ahead with the project: “Because we all worked so close and spent so much time together, we really became like family.”
“I always want to find the best workflow solution for the project.”
As mentioned before, prep was important not only because of the workflow complexity but also because of the unique shooting locations. A particularly striking one: Sicily’s famous landmark, the volcano Etna.
“There’s an important battle scene on a mountain, and the first plan was to prep that scene in ‘day-for-night’. So DP Seamus McGarvey and director Joe Wright called me for a two-day test on Etna. I remember when they called me and said ‘Sandro, you and the first AC, we need you to come to Sicily and prep for the setup’, I was a little bit scared. Because up there on those paths, it’s so complicated to move a big DIT cart.”
However, Sandro took on the challenge: “I think it’s so exciting to try to understand every problem. I don’t want to step on anyone’s feet, that’s not my character, but when a production involves me, I always want to find the best workflow solution for the project.” This also means speaking up and proposing different ways of doing things, as Sandro continues: “For example, I remember with the situation on the mountain, Seamus told me ‘No worries Sandro, we can start the download when we come down from the mountain, and then prepare the day-for-night footage’. And I was like ‘Yes, sure Seamus I can do that’, but I wasn’t really happy with that solution.” Hence he proposed an alternative approach:
“I chose a setup with Livegrade Pro, so we could simply prepare the ‘day-for-night’ look right on set. Without Livegrade Pro, it would have been quite a complicated and slow process to take the files, download them, send all files to the lab, and then wait for the lab to prepare the ‘day-for-night’ previews and send them back to us.” Using Livegrade Pro didn’t just convince Sandro, but proved perfect, as he laughingly recalls a conversation with DP Seamus McGarvey when they moved on to prep looks for a different scene: “So when I got to the pre-shoot, Seamus immediately asked me ‘Did you bring the same software that we used on the mountain?’ And I was like ‘Which one?’, ’The software that lets us control the color on set!’”
As already mentioned before, the use of color was an essential element of the narrative, so let’s look at the color workflow in a bit more detail.
“Actually, most parts of the movie are pink, like in the first part, the love story with Cyrano, Christian, and Roxanne the color is completely magic.”
Sandro set up an ACES workflow with colorist Peter Doyle starting from the first prep day. Establishing a dedicated color pipeline took them about three meetings plus some time for testing and pre-shoots.
“During our pre-shoot, we prepped the color palette with Peter, Seamus, the whole costume, set dressing, and the art department. And it was important to talk about the color palette because color is very crucial in the movie – especially the color pink. The color is completely magic in the first part, covering the love story with Cyrano, Christian, and Roxanne. Only in the last part, when the story shifts and the battle begins, does the color change and become monochromatic.”
Enhancing the tone and timbre of the Sicilian light with DP Seamus McGarvey, Sandro relied on a combination of Livegrade Pro and Silverstack Lab to achieve the intended looks and transfer them from set to post.
“We used ACES with an LMT applied on all the dailies of the main cameras. In that case, we used Silverstack to produce stills for Seamus on a daily basis, with burned-in metadata. ACES setup in Silverstack has never been so easy. ACES allowed us to work with multiple cameras without worrying about altering our color pipeline.”
On set, Sandro used three looks prepared by Peter Doyle, the colorist, as a starting point for live grading with Seasmus: One look was for exterior shots, one for interior, and one for “day-for-night.”
“I realized that I, together with all my tools, was important for these people on set. Livegrade Pro, Silverstack Lab, and the whole hardware helped me to help everybody.”
He also recalls shooting for a whole month at the same location in the small city of Noto, providing the perfect scenery of a late Baroque town structure and architecture. About 210 shots with ever-changing lighting conditions were recorded. Supporting DP Seamus McGarvey by matching the luminance and colors with Livegrade Pro for an overall consistent look was a great work experience.
Sandro was in close contact with his assistants, the DP, the director, the production studio MGM, and the editorial department at all times – really having an eye and optimizing to facilitate smooth workflows: “I realized that I, together with all my tools, was important for these people and their work on set. Livegrade Pro, Silverstack Lab, and the whole hardware helped me to help everybody.” His help usually doesn’t stop at the classic DIT work but stretches across the whole production, which Sandro sees as a real benefit:
“I remember past projects, back when I was just working as a DIT, production and the editorial department would call me all the time – without extra money. They needed to know about the camera, the files, about everything. And I get it, it’s important to have someone available to answer all these questions. So now, that’s my job. I don’t want to do the DIT work on set only, and that’s it. I am both – DIT and supervisor – so I take care of the whole workflow from start to finish.”
“I answer the phone all the time. Not my mother, not any girlfriends or friends. But the production, I answer.”
And that’s, in fact, important because also on “Cyrano” Sandro experienced once again that production requirements and creative decisions can change anytime: “One month before everything was due to be sent to the final color grading, the editor called me saying ‘Sandro, we need to remove the day-for-night.’ That was six months after we finished on set. So then I recreated the dailies and re-sent the DNxHD files to the editorial department. And that was a bit hard as I was already on another project. On the other hand, their request also made me happy, showing that they trusted me and that my work was important. They can count on me as I answer the phone all the time. Not my mother, not any girlfriends or friends. But the production, I answer.”
Thank you to Sandro for sharing these exclusive insights with us!
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