The series is an immersive journey that goes beyond hero worship and places the space program in the political and social context of the time. The airing coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing
Comprised entirely of archival footage, the content has been pulled from just about every moving image format that has ever been. From Russian home movies, the first color TV broadcast, film shot by the astronauts themselves and footage pulled from the Library of Congress that has never been seen before.
This is the third project Massive Clouds has color corrected for writer, producer, and director Robert Stone . It is a pleasure to be working together again. Robert’s choice of doing audio-only interviews for the project was a bold one, and it helped keep us in the time period for each of the stages in the film.
Director Robert Stone made great efforts to obtain the best copy of the footage used in the film. Some clips, however, were not captured under ideal conditions or had in-camera issues and many films were faded by time. Even the best version of a particular clip would still need attention.
“One of the biggest challenges in terms of color correction with this project was not simply to make every shot look as good as it could be, but also to make each sequence look as seamless as it could be. Many sequences in the film incorporate footage, shot to shot, from a wide variety of sources – mostly 16mm but of various generations, film stocks and conditions, and in some cases also 35mm.” Mr. Stone continues, “We wanted the film to be a fully immersive experience so finding the right balance between trying to make each shot pristine and making each shot cut well with what’s around it was a very tricky and time-consuming process that involved a lot of trial and error. Chad Smith at Massive Clouds put in many months of dedicated work into bringing this stunning footage back to life. DaVinci Resolve Studio provided all the bells and whistles we needed to do the job.”
Mr. Smith describes the color correction challenges for this project. “Every source presented its unique obstacles. Each shot needed adjustments to color balance contrast and noise to be able to play in relation to the other shots without being distracting. If we were to suddenly cut to footage that was extremely magenta, for instance, the audience would be pulled out of the narrative. I used the curve tools in the color page extensively to make large corrections ” He proceeds, “In addition to the color challenges we also had technical considerations that needed to be addressed such as frame rate conversions, up-scaling, deinterlacing, stabilization, 3:2 pull down, dust removal and de-flickering needed to be considered on a shot by shot basis.”
Mr. Smith comments, “Resolve 15 Studio’s Revival FX were a big part of the image restoration process. De-Flicker, Dust Removal, Dead Pixel Fixer, Deband, Noise Reduction, even Film Grain was used to great effect. Also collaborating with my visual team across shared storage was a great asset. It makes it hard to go back to other tools that do not offer multiple people working on the same timeline at the same time. That workflow has been the dream in post-production and is now a reality. Resolve is a true post powerhouse.”
Mr. Smith concludes, “Working with these iconic images from our history was both challenging and extremely rewarding. I feel honored to be part of this fresh perspective on perhaps one of man’s greatest achievements and to help bring this story to a new generation.”
About Director Robert Stone
Robert Stone is a British-American documentary filmmaker. His work has been screened at dozens of film festivals and televised around the world; notably, seven of his films have appeared on PBS’s American Experience series, and four of his films have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
As part of the additional documentary content, the Series’ Blu-Ray/DVD goes behind the scenes of this fantastic production with Massive Clouds, as we discuss all of the many technical challenges of color correcting and grading the hours of space exploration footage in almost every recorded media in existence. It was an exciting experience to be interviewed and being on the other side of the camera for a change.
The documentary will be air on PBS American Experience July 8 to 10 (all nights at 9 p.m. EDT) on PBS, as a three-part series.
Part 1, “A Place Beyond the Sky,” focuses on the space race the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in during the early years of the space program.
Part 2, “Earth Rise,” covers the human Gemini and Apollo missions that prepared for the moon landing. Finally,
Part 3, “Magnificent Desolation,” examines the moon landing itself and the cultural and scientific legacy of Apollo 11.