16 Mar BEHIND THE LOOK: Bel-Air ‘S1’
Picture Shop’s Senior Colorist Doug Delaney collaborates with Morgan Cooper, the mastermind behind the Fresh Prince reboot, Bel-Air, and cinematographer Jim Hawkinson, to bring a warm and continuous color grade to the series.
The Fresh Prince is back, but this time it’s serious. The iconic ‘90s series has been reworked into a drama, portraying the struggle of character Will, who moves in with family in Bel Air, California, after getting into trouble in his hometown of Philadelphia. In 2019, Morgan Cooper wrote, directed, and released a short film based on the 1990s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but his version had a dramatic, darker edge. The short went viral, even drawing the attention of the original ‘Will’, Will Smith. In August 2020, it was announced that Peacock had picked up a two-season order of a television series based on the short, with Cooper and Smith serving as executive producers (IndieWire).
The series was shot in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles, with dailies processed in Burbank by Picture Shop Dailies Colorist Brandon Lippard. Senior Colorist Doug Delaney provided the grade and worked closely with Cooper, primary cinematographer Jim Hawkinson, and post producer Jason Harkins to come up with a way to visually identify the two locales. Delaney explains how they developed the look, which after some experimentation, became warmer and more continuous than first imagined. “Originally, we played with the idea of Philadelphia being a grittier, harsher environment, and the plan with Bel Air was always to be pretty, but not stereotypically glossy. We wanted to make it warm and idyllic, but more cinematic. For Philadelphia, going gritty and desaturated felt too on-the-nose. Will always says that he’s going to represent Philly — his mom is there, his friends are there, and he left against his will, so we felt that it should still feel like home because that’s where his heart is.”
Delaney continues, “We went back and made Philadelphia not as warm and pretty as Los Angeles, so we could still have some juxtaposition, but we dialed back the idea a little bit and made Philly still Philly. The warmth helps add a bit of continuity between the two cities.”
Cooper, Hawkinson, and Harkins were able to join Delaney in-facility for review sessions, with TecStream used to facilitate simultaneous remote sessions for the showrunners and producers. Delaney’s grade was supported by his team including colorist Santiago Padilla, assistant colorist Randy Rigg, and editor Michael Kaidbey.
He adds, “People have a strong connection with this show, spanning a generation from its initial incarnation to its current form. And it’s been amazing to be a part of that.”
Bel-Air is now streaming on Peacock.