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Behind the Title: Carbon’s head of color grading, Maria Carretero

NAME: Maria Carretero

COMPANY: Carbon (@carbonvfx)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Carbon, which has locations in New York, Chicago and LA, is a boutique design and visual effects company that focuses on art, ideas, and talent. I am based in Chicago.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Head of color grading

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I work with clients to find color palettes and looks that best tell their story.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I’m still surprised with how much creativity is involved in the grading process. I especially love coming to solutions through mixing art and technique.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Sometimes I’m involved in projects from very early on, which usually entails creating tone and color palettes to be used during filming. I’ve also contributed reference images that help the creative team settle on an overall look or color, and have been present at camera tests to check light and exposure. I love being able to use my artistic background in painting and the fine arts to give projects their maximum creative potential.

Jeep “Two Words”

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
There are moments when I’m grading a piece and I have a strange connection with it as if I’m seeing it clearly for the first time. It’s like I suddenly know it’s going to be a wonderful grade. Moments like that are magical.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Sunset, when all the lights in the city start turning on.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Painting.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
Color grading chose me. Before I had officially started grading, I spent a lot of my time focusing on my painting, and while grading was something I could technically excel at, my art was the priority at the time. Then digital grading started gaining momentum in Spain and I gradually realized that color grading opportunities were more and more important to me. I feel extremely lucky. I’m self-taught and relied on my incredible network of supporters to give me chances to go further and further.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I worked on the last five Jeep commercials with a talented group of people from DDB Chicago and the great director Tobias Granström. Some other projects included a huge campaign for Panama Tourism out of VML, the hilarious Liquid Plumbr spot from FBC Chicago and the newest Machine Gun Kelly music video, directed by Steven Caple Jr., which has more than four million views on YouTube.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I’m proud of a lot of my recent work, but Recalculating for Jeep was an incredibly challenging and fulfilling project. We did a lot of research around the idea of sunsets, focusing on the sophistication of light and keeping it as natural feeling as possible.

Jeep “Recalculating”

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
Art, life, reading and my previous experiences.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My cell, my Dolby monitor and Spotify.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I have Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Movidiam and Instagram, where I recently started @carretero.color to feature my color work.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
I always listen to music when I work. Music is great support — it can make you happy in a second! I listen to a lot of different bands, but Band of Horses, Tame Impala, Neil Young, Flaming Lips, Eels, Devendra, The Kills and Spanish music, like Niña Vintage, are some of my favorites!

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I never let stress control me. Sometimes the challenges of the job are huge, but that’s our work and our industry — we know how to get it done. Challenges are wonderful because they point directly at our creativity. Being uncomfortable sometimes is a good thing. It makes you break down your limitations. Working with a great group of people helps a lot, too, so you can always have fun, even on the hardest days.

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