Postcard from Nosy Be – Kevin Sempé

Kevin Sempé – Fox Road Films

Kevin Sempé

“I started working in the world of the image fairly young, at the age of about 15 years, assisting an experienced photographer on some of his assignments, during few years. I quickly left the photo camera for the camcorder and created my own company at 19 years old. I specialized in scuba diving and started working for various production companies, then for hyperbaric work contracts in sometimes extreme situations, diving into underwater caves, under the ice, in coral reefs, in the oceans and in the Mediterranean.”

“For ‘Postcard from Nose Be’ I organized the trip at the last minute, packed my RED and its underwater housing and left with my girlfriend Emilie, who is also a diver and who was the model for this shoot. The shooting took place in about 7 days, with long hours of daily navigation in search of the whale shark.”

“My main feature is using FilmConvert on my underwater images. This often has a very unexpected effect concerning the color tones and levels and the using is different than on surface footage. Underwater, red tones start to be lost from under 5 meters. It’s always a challenge to keep the right tones, by pushing the color temperature and adjust with the wheels, staying away from a milky green image. With the RED it’s even more satisfying than before with the Canon 1DC due to the RAW files. I get an excellent color rendering and FilmConvert gives a very special feeling in color tone and texture to my production. Each time I work on a special production like this one, FilmConvert is the tool I use to reach my goal.”

“With the RED, the right lenses, and the right framing it’s more easier, even if the Canon 1DC gives me a similar look. But it also reinforced by shooting 24p, finding right colors, and using film grain simulation to finalize this organic look. I try to stay between something modern and not too far from the documentary style, while remaining faithful to the RED cinematographic feeling.”

FilmConvert Settings

“Generally I do not use too many effects. I go through the RAW settings of the RED WEAPON via the dedicated FCPX plug-in, then add “Luma Blend” from “Lawn Road Color Precision” to adjust the sharpness. Then everything goes through FilmConvert with which I chose my preset (here DRAGON REDGAMMA 4 for the external images) then I calibrate exposure, colors and apply the films stocks and grain.”

“Things are different for underwater images. The large areas of blues reveal the noise and artifacts. So I go through NeatVideo first to clean up this space of blue color, then I work directly on FilmConvert using the REDLOGFILM preset. I add 20-30% of grain that gives me this natural noise aspect, which allows an excellent rendering on the RED and uniformize the image, and sometimes it is useful to hide the compression banding that appears, depending of the ISO levels.”

“I usually place the STOCK FJ 4553 ET and push the saturation according to the footage. This also gives coherence between each shots because underwater exposures and tones of colors vary greatly and are difficult to process. In this film, there are segments where Emilie is completely alone in the blue of the ocean. I must strengthen this deep blue and clean the image abundantly to be faithful to the reality trying to keep the dynamic range between the surface and the deep. For other parts of the film, I need beautiful colors to represent these stunning underwater depths found in Nosy Be.”