Opening tonight, Sept. 12, Proud American tells the true stories of four Americans, immigrants and long-time citizens people, highlighting America as a land of opportunity and tolerance. Intertwined with the stories are images of the nation’s spectacular landmarks, engineering marvels, historical sites and natural wonders. Poster for

Director Fred Ashman wanted to tell an uplifting story about America, and worked on the film for eight years before all the pieces fell together. Cinematographer Mark Eberle shot the film in a combination of 70mm and 35mm. The landscapes, fly-bys and even much of the stories were shot in 70mm whereas stories that required a closer focus were shot in 35mm.

Grading this mix of formats fell to John Scheer, the new head of Digital Intermediates at Hollywood post house Digital Jungle.

Coloring it was a real challenge, Scheer says. “We’re coloring a movie meant for three different destinations: 35mm version, IMAX version and the Digital Cinema version. The 35mm and 70mm are for different film stocks and the aspect ratios. The center of the screen in 35mm is actually a little south in IMAX. We’re making adjustments completely foreign to what most DIs normally do because we’re going with the IMAX footage.”John Scheer at Digital Jungle

The 35mm film was scanned at Modern Video Film and the 70mm film was scanned at FotoKem, each at an oversampled 8K resolution. Scheer did create three different versions, and each version had its unique challenges.

“The biggest challenge with the IMAX version was making sure the different formats flowed well together,” he says. “Incorporating 70mm and 35mm footage deals with issues of color, grain and aspect ratio. To make sure that from the audience’s point of view the transitions were seamless was a big challenge.”

The 35mm version had its own challenges. “What part of a beautiful IMAX picture do you throw out?” he says. “The director gave me a rough cut with his ideas and left a lot of it to me. What I did was, for lack of a better word, a pan and scan. It looks like a camera move and, for the most part, the director thought it was great, sometimes he reined me in. I did a really, slow move, while I was color-correcting.

The third version, for Digital Cinema, was based off the 35mm print. “Digital Cinema always looks so pretty,” he says, “But one thing I battled with was that anytime they convert to digital files, there’s a little bit of color loss. I kept going back and making minor changes. Now they love it.”

Overall, time was Scheer’s biggest obstacle. “To have all three of those having to be at the theatre on the same date was dificult,” he says. “Of all the films I’ve worked on, it ranks as the hardest in terms of deadlines, but also one of the most fun. What I really enjoyed was coloring something that had to look absolutely real, and the director was very picky about that. There are so many times as colorists that we get to do cool, hip, edgy color. But the hardest thing to color is to make the rocks, clouds, sky, ocean absolutely real and natural.”

The solution to the time crunch was the Quantel Pablo. “I love the tools,” says Scheer. “I’ve colored on several systems and this is as good as it gets. A lot of color systems are old; Quantel Pablo is so modern and up-to-date with its toolset. I can track a portion of someone’s face and have a perfect skin tone and no one will know the difference. Yes, you could have done it in the old days, but it was a much longer process. It involed rotoscoping and days and days of work. Now, I’m doing it the same time the director is sitting with me. He doesn’t have to come back and see it. And, a week later when he coomes in a changes his mind, all the set-ups and windows are still there. We just go back, open up history and change it and it’s done.”

“The best part about the system is that it renders the color while I’m working,” he adds. “If we’re three hours into a session, the director can look at everything we’ve colored except the last scene. It saves so much time you have no idea. Background rendering is fairly new. Two years ago, we’d set the looks of a movie. Directors would say they could hardly wait to see it. I’d hit render, and they’d have to come back hours later, or even the next day. I joke that I do n’t get my coffee break anymore. And this is happening all at 4K resolution. It amazes me that this workflow is even happening.”