Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Essential to Look & Feel of Terrence Malick Feature, Knight of Cups

by Karin GottschalkLeave a Comment

Love or hate his poetic, philosophical, often anti-dialog, feature films, however the great American movie director Terrence Malick chooses to make them is a great free lesson to all moviemakers in every genre.

And the lessons Malick and his crew and collaborators have to teach us with ‘Knight of Cups’? One is that Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve is an excellent color grading tool to unify and color match all the footage shot on a myriad of different cameras and lenses over Malick’s usual lengthy production and post-production periods.

That is a problem common to another type of moviemaking, one that Malick has practiced only once to my knowledge, the documentary genre, in an IMAX movie for titled ‘Voyage of Time', slated for release in 2016.

As Michael Moore reminded his keynote audience at the sixth annual Doc Conference in Toronto, “We are not documentarians, we are filmmakers”. Then he went on to tell his largely documentary-moviemaking listeners that, in essence, they should not be working according to some iron-clad formula of what a documentary is supposed to be.

Great documentary movies and the people who make them cannot be bound by formulas, rules and regulations. Michael Moore has proven to be one such natural-born rule-breaker and so have other great moviemakers in the documentary form – Ken Burns, Errol Morris, Alex Gibney, Michael Apted, Lauren Greenfield, the Maysles, D. A. Pennebaker and Frederick Wiseman amongst them.

They are not documentarians, they are filmmakers. As an aspiring maker of good movies, or films, though I have no ambition to shoot analog film, I know I can learn as much from the likes of Terrence Malick as I can from the directors and producers in a list I found at Wikipedia.

Some of the movies I want to make will delve into the inner worlds of creative people and some of the methods used by Terrence Malick and his collaborators may be a perfect fit, especially camerawork and color.

As a sometime stills photographer who developed and printed her own work during the analog, and who has embraced the possibilities of the digital age with enthusiasm, especially shooting and processing raw, grading my movies’ color is as natural as wielding my own movie camera.

If DaVinci Resolve is good enough for Terrence Malick, then it is more than good enough for me. [bctt tweet=”Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve essential to look & feel of Terrence Malick feature, Knight of Cups.”]  

DaVinci Resolve Used to Grade Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight of Cups’ by Modern VideoFilm

Via Blackmagic Design Press:

Fremont, CA – March 12, 2015 – Blackmagic Design today announced that DaVinci Resolve was used by Modern VideoFilm colorist Bryan McMahan to grade Director Terrence Malick’s new film, “Knight of Cups.” The film premiered at the 2015 Berlin Film Festival in February and is the fourth collaboration between McMahan and Malick.
Starring Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett, the film follows Bale’s character Rick, a screenwriter living in Los Angeles, as he tries to make sense of the strange events happening around him. For “Knight of Cups,” McMahan was tasked with color from dailies to the final DI.
“With the dailies, we wanted to set the look early on, which was then finessed during the final DI,” said McMahan. “Terrence wanted a ‘no look’ look, so nothing processed and nothing warm or cold. He wanted it really natural, like looking through a window. Creating a natural look is often harder to do than creating a specific look, which can be more forgiving.”
McMahan used DaVinci Resolve’s Custom Curves and soft clipping to help deliver a natural look and balance exposure.
“There were a lot of exposure changes throughout scenes, such as shots into the sun or scenes that followed the characters as they walked outside and back inside again,” explained McMahan. “DaVinci Resolve helped me balance out exposure between interior and exterior shots, as well as between the DP’s exposure changes versus the ones I was making. The Custom Curves allowed me to change the slope on dynamics, which made it easier to adjust the curve of the changes within a shot to match closer to what the camera was doing and the way it was shot.”

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 11 Used on New Terrence Malick Feature image 1

Blackmagic Design Press Continued

In addition to unifying exposure, McMahan also found DaVinci Resolve helpful when it came to unifying the different camera formats used to shoot the film. “The film was shot with all different mediums and cameras, so I used DaVinci Resolve to go into the EDL in clip mode and batch the different camera formats together. It was very helpful to jump to DaVinci Resolve’s edit page and be able to group the same type of footage together and give each a size and color.
McMahan concluded, “I love DaVinci Resolve’s node based functions and its multitude of tools. I can separate the RGB channels, focus on enhancements and even get as specific as tweaking certain areas of certain colors. I always look forward to learning new features and ways to do things with DaVinci Resolve.”
About Blackmagic Design
Blackmagic Design creates the world’s highest quality video editing products, digital film cameras, color correctors, video converters, video monitoring, routers, live production switchers, disk recorders, waveform monitors and real time film scanners for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries. Blackmagic Design’s DeckLink capture cards launched a revolution in quality and affordability in post production, while the company’s Emmy™ award winning DaVinci color correction products have dominated the television and film industry since 1984. Blackmagic Design continues ground breaking innovations including 6G-SDI and 12G-SDI products and stereoscopic 3D and Ultra HD workflows. Founded by world leading post production editors and engineers, Blackmagic Design has offices in the USA, UK, Japan, Singapore and Australia. For more information, please go to

Knight of Cups Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Christian Bale, Natalie Portman Movie HD

(cover photo credit: snap from Blackmagic Design)

Leave a Comment