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Legends in Living Color

Light Iron colorist Katie Jordan shares her perspective on the journey of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe from YA novel to live-action feature.

The story of the friendship between Aristotle Mendoza and Dante Quintana has captured the hearts of teenaged readers and the adults who care for them since Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was released in 2012. Set in El Paso, Texas and featuring Mexican American characters, the story offers a parable about how a single friendship can be special enough to transcend any divide it encounters.

Aristotle and Dante continue to convey their message in motion-picture form under the guidance of writer-director Aitch Alberto, whose key collaborators included cinematographer Akis Konstantakopoulos. To help see their vision across the finish line, the filmmakers partnered with Light Iron colorist Katie Jordan.

“I met director Aitch Alberto and producer Valerie Stadler pretty early, before filming began, and I found their passion for this film contagious,” Jordan recalls. “The script was wonderful, and we started talking about the look they and DP Akis Konstantakopoulos had in mind.

“The movie is set in the ’80s in Texas, and though they were shooting on Alexa, they wanted it to feel like film,” Jordan continues. “We developed a film-emulation dailies LUT with additional desaturation, lowered contrast, and a warm highlight, and we used this LUT all the way through final color.”

Principal photography took place around Los Angeles, which is where Jordan was based when she first met the filmmakers. However, by the time the movie was ready for final color, Jordan had relocated from Light Iron’s West Coast headquarters to work out of the company’s New York City facility. “Luckily we were still able to work together on the final DI using Light Iron’s remote grading services,” the colorist explains. “We used color and saturation to highlight the love story at the core of this film. We skewed the lonely, sad parts to be less colorful and then punched-up more color in the joyous parts. 

“I'm really proud of the final grade,” she concludes. “We were able to find that delicate balance, get that nostalgic filmic feeling, and echo the plot while feeling natural and not being too heavy-handed.”

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