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Digging Deeper: The Mill Chicago’s head of color Luke Morrison

A native Londoner, Morrison started his career at The Mill where worked on music videos and commercials. In 2013, he moved across to the Midwest to head up The Mill Chicago’s color department.

Since then, Morrison has worked on campaigns for Beats, Prada, Jeep, Miller, Porsche, State Farm, Wrigley’s Extra Gum and a VR film for Jack Daniel’s.

Let’s find out more about Morrison.

How early on did you know color would be your path?
I started off, like so many at The Mill, as a runner. I initially thought I wanted to get into 3D, and after a month of modeling a photoreal screwdriver I realized that wasn’t the path for me. Luckily, I poked my nose into the color suites and saw them working with neg and lacing up the Spirit telecine. I was immediately drawn to it. It resonated with me and with my love of photography.

You are also a photographer?
Yes, I actually take pictures all the time. I always carry some sort of camera with me. I’m fortunate to have a father who is a keen photographer and he had a darkroom in our house when I was young. I was always fascinated with what he was doing up there, in the “red room.”

Photography for me is all about looking at your surroundings and capturing or documenting life and sharing it with other people. I started a photography club at The Mill, S35, because I wanted to share that part of my passion with people. I find as a ‘creative’ you need to have other outlets to feed into other parts of you. S35 is about inspiring people — friends, colleagues, clients — to go back to the classic, irreplaceable practice of using 35mm film and start to consider photography in a different way than the current trends.

State Farm

In 2013, you moved from London to Chicago. Are the markets different and did anything change?
Yes and no. I personally haven’t changed my style to suit or accommodate the different market. I think it’s one of the things that appeals to my clients. Chicago, however, has quite a different market than in the UK. Here, post production is more agency led and directors aren’t always involved in the process. In that kind of environment, there is a bigger role for the colorist to play in carrying the director’s vision through or setting the tone of the “look.”

I still strive to keep that collaboration with the director and DP in the color session whether it’s a phone call to discuss ahead of the session, doing some grade tests or looping them in with a remote grade session. There is definitely a difference in the suite dynamics, too. I found very quickly I had to communicate and translate the client’s and my creative intent differently here.

What sort of content do you work on?
We work on commercials, music promos, episodics and features, but always have an eye on new ways to tell narratives. That’s where the pioneering work in the emerging technology field comes into play. We’re no longer limited and are constantly looking for creative ways to remain at the forefront of creation for VR, AR, MR and experiential installations. It’s really exciting to watch it develop and to be a part of it. When Jack Daniel’s and DFCB Chicago approached us to create a VR experience taking the viewer to the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Kentucky, we leapt at the chance.

Do you like a variety of projects?
Who doesn’t? It’s always nice to be working on a variety, keeping things fresh and pushing yourself creatively. We’ve moved into grading more feature projects and episodic work recently, which has been an exciting way to be creatively and technically challenged. Most recently, I’ve had a lot of fun grading some comedy specials, one for Jerrod Carmichael and one for Hasan Minhaj. This job is ever-changing, be it thanks to evolving technology, new clients or challenging projects. That’s one of the many things I love about it.

Toronto Maple Leafs

You recently won two AICE awards for best color for your grade on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ spot Wise Man. Can you talk about that?
It was such a special project to collaborate on. I’ve been working with Ian Pons Jewell, who directed it, for many years now. We met way back in the day in London, when I was a color assistant. He would trade me deli meats and cheeses from his travels to do grades for him! That shared history made the AICE awards all the more special. It’s incredible to have continued to build that relationship and see how each of us have grown in our careers. Those kinds of partnerships are what I strive to do with every single client and job that comes through my suite.

When it comes to color grading commercials, what are the main principles?
For me, it’s always important to understand the idea, the creative intent and the tone of the spot. Once you understand that, it influences your decisions, dictates how you’ll approach the grade and what options you’ll offer the client. Then, it’s about crafting the grade appropriately and building on that.

You use FilmLight Baselight, what do your clients like most about what you can provide with that system?
Clients are always impressed with the speed at which I’m able to address their comments and react to things almost before they’ve said them. The tracker always gets a few “ooooooh’s” or “ahhhh’s.” It’s like they’re watching fireworks or something!

How do you keep current with emerging technologies?
That’s the amazing thing about working at The Mill: we’re makers and creators for all media. Our Emerging Technologies team is constantly looking for new ways to tell stories and collaborate with our clients, whether it’s branded content or passion projects, using all technologies at our disposal: anything is at our fingertips, even a Pop Llama.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
Well, I’ve got to have my Contax T2, an alarm clock, otherwise I’d never be anywhere on time, and my bicycle.

Would you say you are a “technical” colorist or would you rather prioritize instincts?
It’s all about instincts! I’m into the technical side, but I’m mostly driven by my instincts. It’s all about feeling and that comes from creating the correct environment in the suite, having a good kick off chat with clients, banging on the tunes and spinning the balls.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find a lot of inspiration from just being outside. It might sound like a cliché but travel is massive for me, and that goes hand in hand with my photography. I think it’s important to change your surroundings, be it traveling to Japan or just taking a different route to the studio. The change keeps me engaged in my surroundings, asking questions and stimulating my imagination.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Riding my bike is my main thing. I usually do a 30-mile ride a few mornings a week and then 50 to 100 miles at the weekend. Riding keeps you constantly focused on that one thing, so it’s a great way to de-stress and clear your mind.

What’s next for you?
I’ve got some great projects coming up that I’m excited about. But outside of the suite, I’ll be riding in this year’s 10th Annual Fireflies West ride. For the past 10 years, Fireflies West participants have embarked on a journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles in support of City of Hope. This year’s ride has the added challenge of an extra day tacked onto it making the ride 650 miles in total over seven days, so…I best get training! (See postPerspectives’ recent coverage on the ride.)

The Mill’s color team adds long-form work to offerings

The Mill, known for its work on spots, games and music videos, is broadening its offerings to include creative digital intermediate work for feature-length indie projects. This new initiative is being led by Mill colorist and director of DI, Damien Van Der Cruyssen at The Mill’s New York studio. Van Der Cruyssen has worked on features Clown (directed by Jon Watts), Blue Caprice (directed by Alexandre Moors) and the Mick Rock documentary Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock (directed by Barney Clay).

“Our passion is for the artistic side of the DI process,” says Van Der Cruyssen. “Being able to work on both commercials and movies is wonderful for a colorist. The variety helps you approach all different kinds of work, with each one giving you new creative skills that you can apply to the other.”

And how does the work differ from spots to long-form? “In commercials, I finesse every shot and push the boundaries to create the desired emotion and have an impact,” says Van Der Cruyssen. “For features, it’s more about letting the grade develop over time and building it around the arc of the story.”

L-R: Damien Van Der Cruyssen and Dee Allen.

Dee Allen, who was promoted to global color director back in July, calls this expansion of services a natural progression. “Our team collaborates with world class directors and DPs, and this allows us to extend the collaboration into features. In New York, we are also supported by our relationship with Technicolor PostWorks, providing an end-to-end solution to clients across all aspects of DI workflow and final deliverables. Of course, we’ll continue to grow our commercial and music video work, finding creative opportunities across all media.”

DI color work will be also available at other Mill studios in the moviemaking hubs of London and Los Angeles, as well as the burgeoning industry in Chicago. Additionally, filmmakers can work from any Technicolor location across the globe, either using The Mill’s remote network or by flying the talent into, for example, Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver.

Mill Color’s latest feature work can be seen in Barry (our main image), a biopic of outgoing US President Barack Obama set during his time as a college student in New York City. Released mid-December on Netflix, the film was directed by Vikram Gandhi and colored by Van Der Cruyssen.

Mill colorists already have experience working on features. Recently, head of color in NYC Fergus McCall graded The Greasy Strangler (directed by Jim Hosking) and colorist Mikey Rossiter completed work on Burn Country (directed by Ian Olds). In Chicago, head of color Luke Morrison graded Among Wolves (directed by Shawn Convey). In London, colorist Mick Vincent has done work for leading long-form TV shows including Dr. Who and Merlin. The team also has a successful history working with feature directors and DPs on commercials, including Guy Ritchie, Rupert Sanders, Tom Hopper, Peter Berg and Wally Pfister.

 

Technicolor buys VFX house The Mill

Technicolor has purchased London-based The Mill, a large visual effects and content creation studio for the advertising industry, for €259 million ($292 million) on a debt-free basis.

Founded in 1990, The Mill has been providing high-end visual effects for both advertising agencies and brands, and has earned in excess of 1,000 industry awards. It has operations in the key markets of London, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

According to Technicolor, this acquisition accomplishes many objectives set out in Technicolor’s Drive 2020 strategic roadmap:
·     It establishes visual effects and digital creation across all segments of high-end content, including cinema, TV and advertising.
·     It reinforces Technicolor’s portfolio of brands, including MPC, Mr. X and Mikros Image servicing a broad range of customers across 10 global locations.
·     It brings talent and expertise around emerging technologies such as virtual reality content that will enable Technicolor’s to enhance its technology platform across the entire industry.
·    It adds significant financial contribution with a business that has grown revenues at a 16% CAGR since 2009 to reach €135 million in 2014 while delivering EBITDA margins of approximately 20 percent.
·     It allows Production Services to better balance its portfolio through increased exposure to advertising and strengthens the financial profile of the Entertainment Services segment. With this acquisition, Production Services accounts for approximately 40 percent of Entertainment Services revenues.

Tim Sarnoff, president of production services and deputy CEO at Technicolor, wrote this about the acquisition in his blog:

“For a company like Technicolor, this phenomenon is a terrific opportunity to focus on our established strengths as a creative technology company and to invest further in the talent and resources that will help drive this evolving definition of artistic and persuasive storytelling.  Today’s acquisition of The Mill is aligned to the growing demand for premium content and creation of new consumer experiences.

Tim Sarnoff

Tim Sarnoff

The Mill is a leading provider of VFX content creation for the advertising, gaming and music industries. The Mill’s leading position in the global advertising VFX/post-production market aligns to our desire for immediate scale. Their investment in developing and producing content in emerging spaces (they partnered with Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group on a five-minute live-action virtual reality short film) also complements our company-wide efforts in these technologies. The Mill and their passionate talent are constantly pushing the frontiers of visual narrative, which means they will avidly leverage the technical chops of Technicolor to create new solutions for their clients.

“Equally, The Mill’s push into the content creation space, working closely with agencies to develop and realize their more technically complex ideas and stories, provides Technicolor visibility further upstream in the content creation value chain. 

“With this acquisition Technicolor will extend its current position and technology know-how in VFX to rapidly capture further market share within the advertising and branded experience sector.”

To read Sarnoff’s entire blog click here.

2015 AICE Awards: Cut + Run’s Sam Ostrove wins Best in Show

At the 2015 AICE Awards, held May 14 at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, the four-minute Volvo Vintersaga (pictured below) film from the Swedish ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors, edited by Sam Ostrove of Cut + Run, was named Best in Show. The film also won Ostrove the AICE Award in the Automotive category.

AICE Best in Show Vintersaga from VolvoAICE_BestInShow_Vintersaga_Volvo3main

Editors Graham Chisholm of Married to Giants, Chris Franklin of Big Sky Editorial, Joe Guest of Final Cut, Nadav Kurtz of Cutters and Adam Pertofsky of Rock Paper Scissors each won two AICE Awards. Chisholm won in the Public Service category for work for Cundari’s CIBC Run for the Cure and in Best of Toronto for the Toronto Raptors. Franklin won in the Dialogue/Monologue/ Spoken Word category for American Express and in National Campaign for E*Trade. Guest won in the Montage category for Lurpak and in Storytelling for John Lewis. Kurtz won in the Online Campaign category (which he shared with Cutters editor Cameron Yergler) for CVS and in Under 50K for Wingmate. Pertofsky won in the Fashion/Beauty and Best of Los Angeles categories for his work for Levi’s.

Rock Paper Scissors editor Damion Clayton won for a Beats by Dre spot in the Alternative Media – Over :90 category while editor Biff Butler won in the Best of New York category for work for Adidas.

Beast editors took home three AICE Awards: Blake Bogosian won in the Alternative Media Category — :90 and Under category for Johnny Random; Karen Kourtessis won in Comedy for Hayden 5’s Hello Flo; and Jai Shukla won in Spec Spot for New Balance. Cutters editors were recognized with three AICE Awards; in addition to the winners for Kurtz and Yergler, editor Louis Lyne won in the Best of Detroit category for Ford.

The Mill editor Adam Scott won in the Color Grading category for Axe White Label, while the company’s Lisha Tan and Andrew Proctor won in the Design category for work for the Texas Lottery. Winning the Visual Effects award were Phil Crowe, Chris Bayol, Robert Sethi, Becky Porter, and Jacob Bergman for their work for DirecTV.

The full list of winners is available online at http://www.aice.org/?section=events/aice_awards_show/winners/&view_by=year:::2

Paul Marangos brings his Flame expertise to Hooligan in NYC

Paul Marangos has joined New York editing and VFX boutique Hooligan as senior visual effects Flame artist. He has over 20 years of post experience, with an eight year tenure at The Mill and stops at London’s Cell, LA’s The Finish Line, Johannesburg’s Blade and Scarlet in NYC.

He has already wrapped up several projects with Hooligan, including commercials for Citi and Match.com, and Indrani’s short film Crescendo, curated by Pepsi in conjunction with the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Match

“I’ve always enjoyed working with editors, and Hooligan provides me the opportunity to step out of traditional facilities and work directly with them in order to continue doing what I do best,” says the South African born Marangos.

“Paul always seems to be way ahead of me,” adds Kane Platt, president/senior editor at Hooligan. “He always knows what I’m working on and what the creative challenges are, and will call me into to his room to look at wonderful visual ideas before I’ve even started cutting. It’s an enthusiasm that one rarely finds — and it usually leads to great things.”

Over the years Marangos has contributed to commercials for brands such as Nike, BMW, Taco Bell, Lexus, Honda, Guinness, Cadburys, Samsung and Pepsi. His advertising reel is highlighted by Nando’s Cannes Lion-honored “Dictator” campaign and FNB’s 2010 World Cup ad in which he seamlessly composited a full stadium using only 150 people.

Marangos has also worked on graphics packages for major networks and TV shows, including the Sucker TV, and the 2001 feature film “Hannibal. His special effects work can be found in music videos for Oasis (Right Here, Right Now) and Mariah Carey (My All), as well as Björk, Madonna, Goldfrapp, Kyle Minogue, Radiohead and Elton John.

Meet The Artist: Sandra Dow

Behind the Title…

The 20-year vet of The Mill couldn’t live without a kettle, DVR and an encoder… oh, and she likes sleep!

Sandra

NAME: Sandra Dow

COMPANY: The Mill (@millvfx) in Los Angeles

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
The Mill in Los Angeles has been producing visual effects content and imagery for commercials and films since 2007

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE? 
Head of MCR  (Master Control Room)

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
The Machine Room is responsible for everything that enters or leaves The Mill. I would like to think we are the heart of The Mill, without us, the building couldn’t run. It might not be the most glamorous job, but we make sure that all the months/day/hours of creative hard work actually reach your TV/computer screen looking the best they possibly can and on time.

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