Building on What’s Reserved
Created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, the FX comedy series Reservation Dogs centers around four teenagers figuring out life as they grow up on a Native American reservation in Oklahoma. Following Christian Sprenger, ASC’s work on the pilot episode, cinematographer Mark Schwartzbard took the reins for Season 1 and again for Season 2, working with Panavision Woodland Hills to assemble a package built around Panavised Alexa Mini LF cameras and large-format VA spherical primes, and with Light Iron for both dailies and final color.
Light Iron supervising colorist Corinne Bogdanowicz collaborated with Schwartzbard on both seasons, helping to ensure the series’ visual language reflects the vibrance, excitement and colloquialisms of its main characters. “The look of Reservation Dogs is fairly natural but with a bit more character,” Bogdanowicz describes. “The lighting and skin tones mostly fall into a very realistic look, but we add a lot of strong filmic qualities, with rich colors in the low end and strong contrast and saturation to build interesting color separation.”
The colorist’s work on the show began in advance of principal photography for Season 1, when she and Schwartzbard “worked together to create a LUT that would keep the aesthetic of the pilot but would work for many different setups,” Bogdanowicz recalls. Heading into Season 2, they made some adjustments to that LUT, incorporating more of the look that was solidified in Season 1’s final grade. “We used Baselight's color management to create a look that could be made into our SDR on-set LUT and then be used as a correction in final color that is still totally flexible and changeable for HDR,” the colorist adds.
For the final grade, Bogdanowicz details, “we graded in Dolby Vision HDR, so we were also monitoring and creating the SDR simultaneously. We used a lot of shaping and vignettes to create a richness while also keeping characters bright enough for the audience to really connect with them. We added some textural qualities with grain, and we got a strong contrast and color separation by exaggerating the warm and cool tones between the shadow and highlights — we have some very strong cool colors that separate nicely from the skin tones, which creates beautiful saturation without a poppy video look.
“Working with Mark Schwartzbard and executive producer Sterlin Harjo has been an absolute pleasure,” Bogdanowicz concludes. “We created a beautiful, vibrant look that’s just slightly 'off.' Sometimes a slight color twist makes a location more interesting without detracting from the characters.”