Son of Saul
– The Complex Art of a Seemingly Simplistic Grade
Son of Saul – Saul Fia in its original Hungarian – is the feature debut of director László Nemes. It is a raw story, set in the horrors of Auschwitz in 1944. Already the film has won the Grand Prix at Cannes, the Golden Globe and the Oscar for best foreign language feature.
To capture the raw emotions that underpin the story, Nemes set about what seems today like an analogue to digital workflow: he not only shot the movie on film (using Kodak stocks in Arri 235 and LT cameras), he also finished and reviewed the feature on film. That is not to say that the colorist László Kovács and the grading system (Baselight) at Magyar Filmlabor in Budapest (Hungarian Filmlab) did not have work to do.
Despite its accolades, Son of Saul was made on a tight budget of around 1.5 million US dollars. Principal photography was done in 28 days and around 90 minutes of dailies were printed on 35 mm altogether. This was scanned to 4K for security using the Northlight scanner (FilmLight), and a rough grade was performed for editorial.
From the EDL the negative was processed and cut for a traditional, manual color-timed print. Filmlab had the facilities to process, time and print the film, so digital colorist László Kovács and color timer Viola Regeczy could sit in the review sessions with the director and DoP, Mátyás Erdély. In an unusual inversion of the usual practice, the DI sessions were tasked with creating a digital replication of the timed film.