Fremont, CA – December 21, 2022 – With any holiday season, we’ve come to expect variations of the age old stories of Santa, but in “Violent Night,” director Tommy Wirkola brings us a new vision of Saint Nick, one that might haunt us like those infamous lumps of coal. The unique holiday film was shot by Matthew Weston and graded by David Hussey at Company 3 using DaVinci Resolve Studio.
In the film, a team of elite mercenaries break into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage. But the team isn’t prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus is on the grounds, and he’s about to show why this Nick is no saint. “Violent Night” was produced by Guy Danella, David Leitch and Kelly McCormick of 87North and distributed by Universal Pictures. Hussey had met the producing team while working on “Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw” and subsequently collaborated with them on the summer action film “Bullet Train.”
Hussey discussed the look Weston and Wirkola were going for prior to the commencement of principal photography so communication could be well underway by the time the color grading began. “I basically tried to enhance via the grade what Tommy and Matthew had designed on set,” Hussey recalled. “They had made a plan during the production to make the downstairs interiors warm and rich while keeping the exteriors, where many of the action scenes take place, cooler with some edge. There’s also a barn and an attic where action occurs, and we made sure that area was a very moody and cool color temperature.”
Once ready to grade, Hussey worked closely with Weston on a first pass of the film with an eye toward showing Wirkola an entire piece to review. “Matthew had given me colored references from the dailies he was particularly happy with in order to give me an idea of where we should take it,” continued Hussey. “After Tommy watched the initial pass, we spent a week together polishing the look.”
A portion of the work was done through virtual sessions during which the adjustments Hussey made in DaVinci Resolve Studio at Company 3’s Santa Monica location could be seen concurrently by the post production supervisor in Vancouver, Wirkola and Weston in Oslo, and Leitch and McCormick in Australia where they were shooting another film. “We had several time zones covered,” Hussey said of the sessions.
In general, Hussey keeps his grading process simple, with straightforward node structures. “I like to be able to glance at my node structure and know exactly what is being done,” he explained.
He also appreciates the speed that DaVinci Resolve Studio provides to help him accomplish certain tasks. “Grouping in DaVinci Resolve has made creative color grading so much faster. To be able to warm up or brighten a whole scene and show it to the director in seconds is so satisfying. When I’m tracking objects on the screen, clients are often still blown away by how quickly that can be done,” he added.
Though keeping things simple, Hussey still values the availability of more specialized tools for specific applications. “I used Open FX for its grain package on this film,” he said. “Matthew wanted to give the film a little more texture, and the grain we added looked great. Also, we did a lot of window tracking, separating the warm fire lit skin tones from the cooler exterior backgrounds. And we used secondary color correction, to isolate and refine portions of the frame, an enormous amount because who doesn’t like a rich red blood splatter!?”
This riveting action film with Santa Claus as the main character has plenty of scenes for Hussey to love, but, he admits, one stands out. “If it’s a Leitch/McCormick produced film, you know it’s going to have some exciting action scenes, and so one of my favorites is a fight scene with Santa, the bad guys and a woodchipper,” he noted. “Matthew gave the scene a lot of mood using bright exterior highlights coming through wood slats of a barn. Our challenge was to keep the mood but see the action and balance all the highlights to make it all feel cohesive. I’m very pleased with the results.”
Hussey concluded, “I’ve used DaVinci Resolve most of my career, and it was the perfect system for the windowed highlight balancing and tracking that I needed for all of these action scenes.”
About Blackmagic Design
Blackmagic Design creates the world’s highest quality video editing products, digital film cameras, color correctors, video converters, video monitoring, routers, live production switchers, disk recorders, waveform monitors and real time film scanners for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries. Blackmagic Design’s DeckLink capture cards launched a revolution in quality and affordability in post production, while the company’s Emmy™ award winning DaVinci color correction products have dominated the television and film industry since 1984. Blackmagic Design continues ground breaking innovations including 6G-SDI and 12G-SDI products and stereoscopic 3D and Ultra HD workflows. Founded by world leading post production editors and engineers, Blackmagic Design has offices in the USA, UK, Japan, Singapore and Australia. For more information, please go to www.blackmagicdesign.com