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Stefan Sonnenfeld on Coloring Kirsten Dunst’s Anime Adventure

Kirsten Dunst made big news in the blogosphere last year when she was photographed dancing on the streets of Tokyo’s Akihabara shopping district while dolled up as a blue-haired anime princess. Turned out she was performing for a video collaboration between director McG and artist Takashi Murakami titled “Akihabara Majokko Princess.” The video, in which Dunst sings “Turning Japanese,” debuted last year as part of an exhibit at the Tate Modern, Pop Life: Art in a Material World. It has finally appeared online, thanks to the folks at Company 3, which handled the production’s post workflow plus color correction, VFX and digital delivery. Click the image below to watch the video at Company 3, then read our brief Q&A with Company 3 co-founder Stefan Sonnenfeld, chief colorist on the project. (Video may be NSFW, depending on your office policy regarding brief flashes of cartoon nudity.)
Stefan Sonnenfeld STUDIODAILY: Describe the collaborative process in post. Did you work with both McG and Murakami? STEFAN SONNENFELD: They were both here on the day and we discussed what both of them would like. McG talked about his interpretation and then Murakami spoke about his. It was an interactive, collaborative process — we did what everybody wanted to do. SD: As an artist, was Murakami’s sensibility different from a cinematographer’s? SS: It’s similar. He wanted me to be in the same vein as his work — hence the peppiness, and the colorful aspect of everything. It’s not as easy for them to art-direct the live-action shoot of Kirsten Dunst running around Tokyo. In that sense we had to key on specific things to make it more like what he would do. “Hey, this scene looks bland. Can you try and make it look more poppy and colorful? Accentuate the saturation.” We would key on a group of colors that were already in the shot and make them more vibrant. The references I saw were very strong and colorful. I’d say McG has the same sensibility, so it was nice that they were both on the same page. Sometimes it’s very difficult when people have opposing viewpoints on the same project. In this instance, everything jelled nicely, everyone got along well, the ideas, tasks, and goals were consistent. It was a pleasant and creative experience that was fun to work on. And they’re really nice guys. SD: Did the imaging characteristics of the Red camera affect your work? SS: No. For them, it’s just a more flexible way to shoot. The Red camera is nice. It gave us what we needed to do our job, and it was a good, mobile, versatile piece of equipment for them. SD: What format was the footage shot in? SS: It was captured at 4K, and we delivered in HD. SD: Were there any unusual challenges in this project? SS: Nothing unusual. We’re very familiar with digital capture, and we’re all file-based here. We’re very knowledgeable and, hopefully, have a leadership role in this area. It was pretty much business as usual for us.

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