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Spies of Warsaw: Bringing 1930s Warsaw to life in post

Blog
11 January 2013

The BBC's adaptation of Alan Furst's Spies of Warsaw, which aired this week on BBC Four, went to Technicolor for the grade and post production sound.

Spies of Warsaw
, directed by Coky Giedroyc (The Hours, Sherlock), follows French military attaché, Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier (David Tennant) as he is drawn into 1930s Warsaw and a world of abduction, betrayal and intrigue in the diplomatic salons and back alleys.  The screenplay is by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (The Commitments, Porridge, The Likely Lads).

Post production sound for Spies of Warsaw was carried out at Technicolor‘s sound facility in Perivale, London. Supervising sound editor Harry Barnes and effects editor Martin Cantwell handled the sound design and recordist Adam Mendez shot the entire Foley track, working closely with long-time collaborators, Foley artists Jack Stew and Andrea King.

The sound mix was carried out on Technicolor’s main TV stage, Theatre Two, by re-recording mixer Richard Straker. “From speaking to Coky before the mix, it was clear that she was after a bold soundtrack to go with the filmic style grade," says Straker. "Coky allowed us the freedom to try out different ideas during the mix, and we were all very happy with the end result.”

Grading the project was Technicolor’s colourist Dan Coles, whose previous work includes Vera, Veep, Lewis and The Gruffalo.

“This was a fantastic project to grade,” says Coles. “Coky and I wanted to go for a sinister film noir look, as well as maintaining beautiful moments of tenderness with a lighter, warmer and more subtle grade. We embraced the beautiful lighting and introduced lots of contrast, shadow and mood using subtle vignettes to create a real old film noir look that feels perfect for Warsaw in that period.”

Working alongside Dan Coles in the grade, Dolores McGinley and Simon Giblin helped complete approximately 80 VFX shots, to complement the  look and feel of  pre-World War II in Warsaw around 1937/38. This involved multiple green screen train/car scenes, adding tanks/artillery to scenes, crowd duplication, bullet wounds, signage and border enhancement alongside numerous period artifact cleanups.  Giblin says, “It was important to keep the look and feel complimentary to the period; suitable torch light was added to borders, carriage light added to night train shots, etc. All gun shots and muzzle flashes, for example, had to reflect artillery from that era. McGinley adds, ““Coky was great to work with as she had a clear vision at all times as to what she wished to achieve within the shots”.

Spies of Warsaw is a co-production from BBC WW and Apple TV for TV Poland and Arte. It  is scheduled to be released in the UK on DVD on 28th January.

Technicolor Credits
Producer: Lou Stevenson
Colourist: Dan Coles                          
Graphics: Dolores McGinley and Simon Giblin                    
Re-Recording Mixer: Richard Straker
Foley Recordist: Adam Mendez

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