Playing with colours: Germany’s Andreas Brueckl on his colour grading experience for ‘Tumhari Sulu’

Whilst Vidya Balan’s latest outing Tumhari Sulu continues to garner rave reviews, back at the FutureWorks office, colorist Andreas Brueckl tries to stomach it all in. The German international was at the credits for the colour grading of the Suresh Triveni directorial, his only second outing in Bollywod since the comedic heist Bank Chor. However, with over 15 years of experience under his belt, Brueckl has also plied his trade in Malaysia and Turkey as a senior colorist and has graded more than 800 commercials. He elucidates his method of working when he says, “My approach is that I spend at least a day looking at the footages; in every direction, how far can we go, what fits for a footage, for the story, talk to the DOP and the director. Then we had a lot of tests done a month before the shooting.” But Tumhari Sulu was unlike anything for him, as Brueckl feels it was special. “It was indeed a special project. DOP Saurabh Goswami and me did a few tests before the shooting and had discussions about the lighting and the feeling. He wanted a classic film look with natural density, but also a warm and glossy feeling, whilst the tests absolutely helped.” However, it did come with its own perks. “There was one challenge. Saurabh used a black frost filter on the set which softens the blacks and hence I had to find a way to stretch the signal in the lower blacks again. We tested a few combinations and once we found the the right angle for the footage, we got a beautiful film print look.” Before Tumhari Sulu, Brueckl weaved his grading magic for the Ritesh Deshmukh-starrer Bank Chor that released in June this year. The former explains the differences he saw while working with the colours for the two – “The two projects were totally different. Bank Chor had a different colour space. The colour shades were more on the cooler side whereas Sulu was warmer and more contrasty.”
DOP Saurabh Goswami with Vidya Balan
And how did you achieve this look in D.I? “We at FutureWorks work on baselights. We have two baselights of the newest generation. Also, use ACES for grading approach. I generally grade all my features on baselight in an ACES pipeline, which is a development by the Academy of Motion Pictures. By working in this pipeline, I preserve all my shadow and highlight details and have full control over the density levels. Theoretically, ACES can take unto 32 stops of dynamic range if the camera is capable of it. The other benefit is that ACES is designed to look like film. So my normal approach is to test the footage and combine ACES with my own tools to get the perfect density in certain parts of the luminance curve.” “Usually I try to grade the footage in a film style, but for Tumhari Sulu, Saurabh shot it already with a very filmic approach and a nice density. It would have been film density on film density so I had to change the colour pipeline a bit. I used aces, but designed a special LMT (ACES LUT) which stretches the lower shadows and lifts the upper midtowns slightly. The result is that we get nice shadows and a soft glow on the skin,” he further added. “To be honest, we were trying for two days to get the right combination and once we had it, the grading went absolutely smooth. We finished the grade in 10 days including all promos and songs.” Two projects in, Brueckl shares his wonderment of working in India and Indian movies. One of the main benefits, he feels, is that the ease of work and the fun that it brings. “Although the grading or D.I process is the same everywhere, what is different here is the craft itself. India has a long history and outstanding cinematographers. It actually makes it easier and its also more fun to work here. I do feel that the DOPs, the D.I, and the colourists are highly appreciated in India.” For all the acknowledgements and appreciations, Brueckl now has his plates full with short films and commercials for the coming months. He reveals, “I’m currently finishing Hope and Hum by director Sudip Bandyopadhyay and shot by DoP Ravi K. Chandran. Between the films, I’m also currently working on ad films. Come January, I’ll start working on the D.I of Drive. I’m really looking forward to working with Vishal Sinha.”