Creative Work

Netflix Uses ColorEdge for the World's First 4K HDR Hand-Drawn Animation Project

NETFLIX, PRODUCTION IG
 

Netflix Original Animated Film Sol Levante Making-Of Video:


Netflix announced a joint project with Production I.G, which has been at the forefront of the Japanese animation production industry. The project is the world's first 4K HDR hand-drawn animated film and is titled Sol Levante. The Netflix original animated film began streaming on Netflix in 190 countries in April of 2020.

Netflix used the ColorEdge PROMINENCE CG3145 HDR reference monitor for color grading, which is the final color checking stage in the video editing process. We asked the team behind the project what their impressions were of the product.
 


Netflix Japan


Haruka Miyagawa
Creative Technology Engineer

Can you tell us briefly about the background behind the project?

To provide our viewers with the best possible experience, we took advantage of some of the most up-to-date innovative technologies out there, including 4K, HDR, and Dolby Atmos. Over the years, we have come to appreciate just how much Japanese animation, or “anime”, appeals to viewers across the globe. So, realizing this project was a great opportunity.

In the case of live action 4K HDR, the cameras used for filming are already equipped with sensors that support higher than 4K resolution capture, and post-production equipment is 4K HDR ready, so it is not as great a challenge. However, in animation, especially for anime in Japan, the confines of resolution and color space, as well as an overall lower awareness of HDR, provides some hurdles. So, we first had to think how a 4K HDR anime production would be received by the market, and how we needed to modify our current pipeline to support it.

Looking at the final production, how does 4K HDR compare to SDR in this case?

First, I think anyone can feel the overwhelming difference that 4K makes compared to a lower resolution. I think that Production I.G’s Director/Editor Akira Saito’s intentions to “astonish the viewer with intense detail” really come through in the final film.

With live action, you typically just focus on what you want the viewer to see most in a scene, but in this case, we didn’t want to leave anything out. No matter how many times I watch it, there is always a new detail to be discovered that I hadn’t noticed before. It really goes to show how far 4K can take you.
 

We knew that this would probably become the first anime to be created in HDR from its conception. Other anime productions that we distribute have been updated to support HDR, but they were all originally made in SDR. The first scene in the film begins in a forest at the dark before dawn. It gradually becomes brighter as we make our way out of the forest and then finally we see the sunrise. We were planning for HDR from the very first storyboard of this scene. 

In an interview with Production I.G, they mentioned how great it is to be able to put color to bright areas, instead of just saturate them in white, because it allows you to express subtleties that were not really possible before. In closeups of the main character, you can the highlights in the lips and it gives them so much dimension. Even the subtlest highlights in the large eyes characteristic of Japanese anime characters have such an impact that I believe can only be achieved with HDR in animation.

What are your impressions of the ColorEdge PROMINENCE CG3145 for color grading?

I heard from Production I.G that they initially were planning to use a standard monitor, but once they compared the look of the highlights with the CG3145, they completely changed their mind. The CG3145 became a necessary part of the workflow to check the final colors. Using the CG3145 as a reference monitor provided absolute confidence that what they were looking at during production would be consistent. This anime in particular has a lot of bright scenes that make the dark areas pop, so without a reference monitor that could achieve 1000 nits brightness, I think would have resulted in a very different look and feel.


Checking color on the CG3145 at Production I.G


Netflix QC Room with CG3145 for color grading

 

Comment from Netflix Colorist, Kevin Kang:
Throughout my career, EIZO monitors have been considered some of the most reliable monitors in quality and color accuracy. Despite this fact, EIZO monitors have not been the first choice of tool for many colorists when it comes to grading, including myself.

After many long years, I recently had an opportunity to get my eyes on EIZO CG3145 for an interesting DI project. The grading session was for an HDR anime show [Sol Levante], which was originally created in the DCI-P3 color space with a broad spectrum of colors and lots of bright elements, nearly hitting 10,000 nits. My job was to create a 1,000 nits Dolby Vision master from the 10,000 nits master source while retaining most of the details and colors. This session required a monitor capable of reproducing a full gamut of DCI-P3 and, most importantly, a consistent brightness across the screen.

Some shots are digitally painted with very saturated colors and extreme brightness, and I had to make sure the colors and details that I see on the EIZO can be seen accurately on other display devices. As a proof of concept, I'd set up an HDR capable consumer TV and another grade A reference monitor for quality check. Both the TV and the reference monitor were showing the colors at their expected levels. I was very satisfied with the result, and it allowed me to focus on my grading with confidence.


 Colorist Kevin Kang during the color grading process

Does Netflix plan to release more 4K HDR content going forward?

I think viewers are very accepting of both 4K and HDR. 2K HDR content is already enjoyed by more people every day, even if they are just watching it on their iPhone. I think 4K content will continue to favor TVs and monitors for some time, but either way it is becoming more commonplace for households. So, I think that as content creators, we need to continue to provide this format going forward. I think that we will find most of our original content will continue to be in 4K HDR, and now that we have achieved that for anime, I’d like to see more of it.

What standards do you set for yourself when creating 4K HDR content?

I belong to the Creative Technologies team. We provide technical support for video and audio for Netflix original works. Just as we have with this project, we research new technologies and efficient means to create high quality video and audio experiences. One of my roles is also to share ideas that I learn from conferences with the team and figure out how to apply that knowledge to our original productions.

Understanding how long something will retain its value is a huge focal point. We need to ask ourselves what value there is in incorporating new technologies now, even if they are not commonplace for many households yet. But Netflix is a service that offers content to our subscribers for many years. It’s important that what we create is something that can be enjoyed by viewers even 10 years or more from now. In that sense, I believe we are creating something unique.

What is your vision for the future?

We realize that 4K HDR is becoming more and more the norm every day. It isn’t a matter of just prioritizing the latest technology trends – as a creator I want to use new technology to support bringing an amazing experience to life for our viewers.


Netflix and I.G Production teams who worked on Sol Levante
 

 

Special thanks to Netflix and Production I.G for their cooperation.

Netflix
Production I.G
 

Deployed Product

ColorEdge PROMINENCE CG3145

 

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