Sean R. Smith leads a three-month post-production effort to finish the acclaimed six-part series.
NEW YORK—Andrew Jarecki’s engrossing documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst explores the murky world of a real estate magnate suspected of three murders. Post-production finishing for the series, airing in six parts on HBO, was completed at Technicolor PostWorks New York. Sean R. Smith served as finishing editor and colorist, working in collaboration with Jarecki, writer/producer/director of photography Marc Smerling and post-production supervisor Susan Lazarus to bring the series to its final form and look.
This complicated tale of an enigmatic man is the product of an equally complex production that included interviews with Durst and others connected to his life, meticulously researched reenactments, crime scene photos, news footage and other new and archival material. The myriad of source materials presented a significant challenge for the post team. The interviews with Durst spanned ten years and were captured with a variety of high definition cameras. Reenactments were recorded at HD with the Canon C300, and 2K with Arri Alexa cameras. Archival media ranged from standard definition news footage to 35mm black & white crime scene photos.
Jarecki’s editorial team delivered a picture-locked timeline and source material to Technicolor PostWorks organized by media type and frame rate. Smith and his assistants converted the source material to HD resolution using a variety of hardware and software, including Digital Vision Nucoda, Teranex and Autodesk Flame.
“The organization of the source media into tracks by type allowed us to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach,” Smith explains. “Instead, we used different conversion methods for each format and frame rate to achieve optimal results.”
The Jinx’s final look was refined through a series of grading sessions in Digital Vision’s Nucoda. Smith notes that the aim was to achieve consistency among material shot over a long period of time with different cameras and to establish a mood. “Andrew didn’t want it to look like a typical crime show,” Smith says. Smith applied a Log-C to Rec. 709 LUT to the Alexa footage and a C-Log to Rec. 709 LUT to the C300 footage.
Working under Smerling’s direction, Smith enhanced several different looks to create a sense of place and help the audience follow the progress of the story. “The journey of Robert Durst took him from Texas to Los Angeles, Northern California and New York,” says Smerling. “We needed the audience to see these different places so we devised looks to reflect the climates. Texas is bright and hot. New York is darker, more gray. Los Angeles is colorful, almost playful. Northern California is cooler. More blue.”
Crime scene reenactments were given their own look. “It was important that the audience never confuse reenactments with reality,” explains Smerling. “We shot them in a cinematic fashion that Sean helped to perfect in the color correct. The reenactments are a special place for the storytelling, a place of insight and elegance.”
Smith used Autodesk Flame to apply image enhancements and other fine-tuning effects. In all, he spent nearly three months preparing finished masters of the six 1-hour episodes. “Very few facilities have the depth of experience and capabilities of Technicolor PostWorks,” states Smerling. “Sean took on a massive job and had the skill and patience to see it to completion.”
Since its debut on HBO, The Jinx has earned critical praise for its innovative storytelling and sophistication. “This series has redefined documentaries,” concludes Smerling. “Its use of narrative editing techniques and exciting visual storytelling has brought new interest to the genre. Words like ‘groundbreaking’ have been used to describe it. We tried to make a series to compete with Homeland and House of Cards.”
About Technicolor PostWorks New York
Technicolor PostWorks New York is the East Coast’s most comprehensive digital motion picture and post-production facility, employing an exceptional team of artists, engineers and project managers to serve our clients through the film and TV finishing process.
Technicolor PostWorks New York offers one complete source for every post requirement, including data workflows, telecine/scanning, non-linear editorial and HD picture finishing, digital intermediate and film recording, high-volume encoding and high-speed data transmission, as well as comprehensive film and TV sound services on nine mix stages.
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