Co-created by Pendleton Ward and Duncan Trussell, the Netflix adult animation series The Midnight Gospel centers on a “spacecaster” named Clancy who uses a malfunctioning “multiverse simulator” to conduct philosophic interviews with creatures on dying worlds. Called by Entertainment Weekly “a heartfelt cosmic masterpiece,” the series takes viewers on a hallucinatory journey through time and space while tackling issues ranging from spirituality and loneliness to enlightenment and death.
Post-production for the series was done at Dolby Laboratories in Burbank. Master colorist Greg Hamlin, CSI used FilmLight’s Baselight to apply the final color grade in Dolby Vision HDR. Hamlin explains that Dolby had been working with Netflix to develop budgets and workflows for finishing animated content in Dolby Vision. With its kaleidoscopic imagery and vibrant color palette, The Midnight Gospel offered an ideal subject to test the process.
“The show has lots of rich primary red, greens and blues,” says Hamlin. “It’s also filled with all kinds of secondary hues: chartreuse, magenta, pink, orange, sienna and ochre. We wanted to stay true to the colors established by the animators, while introducing a greater dynamic range. One of the great advantages of Dolby Vision is you can take highlights brighter, while holding onto the saturation. It was great fun to work in high dynamic range with those deep, rich colors.”
Hamlin has been a colorist for more than 25 years. Since joining Dolby in 2015, he has performed Dolby Vision HDR remastering for numerous features including The Accountant, The Legend of Tarzan, I Am Legend, Fifty Shades of Grey and Argo. He has also mastered short films and marketing media for OTT streaming, 4K UHD Blu-ray and other screening outlets.
The Midnight Gospel has been an especially enjoyable challenge for Hamlin due its mind-bending aesthetic and out-of-this-world plot twists. “It’s a unique show, not just in terms of color, but in the animation style, the characters and the story,” he says, adding that series co-creator Pendleton Ward attended all of the grading review sessions. “He was very excited about the HDR version. He was also very interested in the derived Rec 709 version to be sure it accurately represented the original artwork and color palette.”
In terms of preserving artistic intent, Dolby Vision is a welcome development, not only for animators, but all content creators, Hamlin says. “So long as you are looking at a Dolby Vision-capable display, you can be sure that you are seeing the best possible image,” he notes, “one that is as close as possible to the original intent.”