“Drive My Car,” an award winning feature film directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, was graded using DaVinci Resolve Studio editing, color grading, visual effects (VFX) and audio post production software. The grading was done by Yumeto Kitayama, colorist at IMAGICA Entertainment Media Services, Inc.
“Drive My Car” is based on Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same title and was adapted to film with a screenplay written by Hamaguchi with Cowriter Takamasa Oe. In the film, Kafuku, an actor and director who has lost his wife, faces his feelings and takes a new step forward through an encounter with Misaki, a taciturn personal driver he met at a film festival. This film, which tells of the loss and hope of people who have lost their loved ones, has won numerous awards at film festivals in Japan and abroad, including the Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won Best International Feature Film.
“Before shooting, I created LUTs in DaVinci Resolve with the Cinematographer Hidetoshi Shinomiya, which we used for on set monitoring,” said Kitayama. “The filmmakers requested a bluish tone that had the feel of European films rather than conventional Japanese films. We tried not to go too extreme with the visuals, but instead create a natural look with a subtle hint of that blue tone.”
He continued, “Since the film was more than three hours long, it was expected to take some time for grading. However, the LUTs created in advance matched the mood of the work quite well, so there was little need to make major color changes from there. When I saw the rushes, I thought they basically had a nice tone. It was not that I had to fix something, but rather, I could make it a touch or two better with grading.”
Kafuku’s car, a red Saab, plays a symbolic role in the film. The bright red color of the car appearing in various scenes throughout the film was particularly striking. “The overall tone of the film is more toward blue, and I wanted the Saab’s red color to contrast with that blue,” said Kitayama.
The film is set in various locations, including Tokyo, Hiroshima and Hokkaido. Kitayama focused on creating a sense of temperature and atmosphere in the three different locations.
“For example, Tokyo and Hokkaido have a cold feeling, with more blue and cyan tones. Hiroshima, on the other hand, has a slightly warmer tone,” explained Kitayama. “It is very important to convey the ‘smell’ and ‘temperature’ of the footage. I believe that a good DP and director can produce good images but conveying a sense of smell and temperature is a major part of process that grading can contribute. The footage the director Hamaguchi and Shinomiya shot was fantastic, and I tried to convey those sensory aspects in the grading so that I could make a good picture look even better.”
Kitayama explained the challenge he faced in grading this film. “In the bar scene, there were two tones of lighting, blue and tungsten, so it was a little difficult to balance the intensity of lighting. Also, in the scene where actors read the script in the rehearsal room, the color and brightness of the background wall were slightly different depending on where the camera was aimed. I adjusted the color of each shot so that it would not make audiences feel uncomfortable watching the scene,” he added. “DaVinci Resolve allows me to adjust the opacity of layer node, which is very handy if you want to make subtle adjustment of your grade. I used it a lot.”
Kitayama concluded, “The important thing for better grading is communicating with my client as much as possible. It is essential to understand what they aim for and why. If I want to spend more time communicating with my client, it is important to eliminate any stress in the actual grading process. DaVinci Resolve allowed me to grade without any stress and let me focus on the creative work to get the best quality possible.”
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