Call for PhD studentship: Image processing methods for cinema postproduction

The aim of the research work in this PhD Thesis is to translate motion picture know-how into image processing algorithms for cinema postproduction, by studying the craft of artists.

Cinematographers are becoming increasingly frustrated by some artistic limitations that the digital medium imposes,  and that current movie production trends promote. Since the beginning of cinema and for many decades, there was a  wide variety of cameras, film stocks and film developing options that allowed cinematographers to experiment, find and test new possibilities for creative expression, often carefully thought out in advance, while the limitations of film in terms of dynamic range required a mastering of the craft of lighting the scenes which also fostered artistic creativity; cinematographers performed the bulk of their work at pre-production and during the film shoot, with relevant but usually minor adjustments during post-production. Currently, virtually all professional productions resort to the same digital  cinema camera model, causing the default ‘look’ to be quite homogeneous to begin with. And these cameras have ever increasing dynamic range capabilities, so there is less and less need to light the scenes. Consequently, producers are pressing directors of photography to complete more and more shots per day, just ensuring that the image quality is good in the barest possible sense (detail visibility, focus, and so on), but as much as possible leaving artistic decisions regarding contrast and color for the color-grading stage in post-production.

As a result, cinematographers have increasingly less opportunities to properly exercise their craft: on the set there is pressure not to devote too much time for lighting and just make sure everything is properly visible, while in post-production the cinematographer must communicate the artistic intent to the colorist, who must be able to translate it into operations performed on the color grading suite (and the time devoted for this is also being progressively reduced). The net result is that more and more movies tend to have a similar look, with directors of photography growing dissatisfied with the diminishing role their craft seems to be taking.

This thesis will explore the possibilities for developing digital tools that allow the cinematographer the level of artistic freedom that film photography granted. The main goal is not to create digital methods that emulate film characteristics, like stock response curves or film grain, but rather to study the requirements for digital techniques that directors of photography can intuitively employ on set to creatively play with contrast and color rendition, giving them back control over the look of the picture, fostering creativity and the advance of their craft.

Additional Information

Candidates should hold an M.Sc. with a solid background in mathematics and be proficient in spoken and written English. Experience in image processing and visual perception would be highly valuable.

Contact: please send application with CV, contact information of three references, and a summary of research accomplishments to marcelo DOT bertalmio AT upf DOT edu.

REMUNERATION: Gross salary is 1,500 EUR per month.

Comment/web site for additional job details: Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF, is a public university located in Barcelona. It is the best Spanish university according to the London Times higher education index, 2011, and it's the number one Spanish university in number of ERC grants. The Department of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT, is the best in Computer Science in Spain, according to the Shanghai index 2009. The accreditation Units of Excellence Maria de Maeztu 2016-19 recognizes the units in Spain that perform cutting-edge research and are among the world's best in their respective areas: only 3 university departments are accredited as such in Spain, and ICT-UPF is the only one among technology and engineering.