Category Archives: Color Grading

Veteran colorist Walter Volpatto joins Efilm

Walter Volpatto, a colorist with 15 years under his belt, has joined LA’s Efilm. His long list of credits includes Dunkirk, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and, most recently, Amazon Studios’ series Homecoming.

As a colorist, Volpatto’s style gravitates toward an aesthetic of realism, though his projects span genres from drama and action to comedy and documentary, such as just-released Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly; Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight; Independence Day: Resurgence, directed by Roland Emmerich; and Bad Moms, directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

He joins Efilm from Fotokem, where he started in digital intermediate before progressively shifting toward fully digital workflows while navigating emerging technologies such as HDR. (Watch our interview with him about his work on The Last Jedi.)

Volpatto found his way into color finishing by way of visual effects, a career he initially pursued as an outlet for his passion for photography. He began working as a digital intermediate artist at Cinecitta in Rome in 2002, before relocating to Los Angeles the following year. Since then, he’s continued honing his skillset for both film and digital, while also expanding his knowledge of color science.

While known for his feature film work, Volpatto periodically works in episodic television. Based at Efilm’s Hollywood facility, will be working at many of Deluxe’s color grading suites, including the newly opened Stage One. He will be working on Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve.

Technicolor welcomes colorists Trent Johnson and Andrew Francis

Technicolor in Los Angeles will be beefing up its color department in January with the addition of colorists Andrew Francis and Trent Johnson.

Francis joins Technicolor after spending the last three years building the digital intermediate department of Sixteen19 in New York. With recent credits that include Second Act, Night School, Hereditary and Girls Trip. Francis is a trained fine artist who has established a strong reputation of integrating the bleeding edge of technology in support of the craft of color.

Johnson, a Technicolor alumnus, returns after stints as a digital colorist at MTI, Deluxe and Sony Colorworks. His recent credits include horror hits Slender Man and The Possession of Hannah Grace, as well as comedies Overboard and Ted 2.

Johnson will be using FilmLight and Resolve for his work, while Francis will toggle between Resolve, BaseLight and Lustre, depending on the project.

Francis and Johnson join Technicolor LA’s roster, which includes Pankaj Bajpai, Tony Dustin, Doug Delaney, Jason Fabbro, recent HPA award-winner Maxine Gervais, Michael Hatzer, Roy Vasich, Tim Vincent, Sparkle and others.

Main Image: Trent Johnson and Andrew Francis

DigitalGlue 12.3

Post house Cinematic Media opens in Mexico City, targets film, TV

Mexico City is now home to Cinematic Media, a full-service post production finishing facility focused on television and cinema content   Located on the lot at Estudios GGM, the facility offers dailies, look development, editorial finishing, color grading and other services, and aims to capitalize on entertainment media production in Mexico and throughout Central and South America.

Scot Evans

In its first project, Cinematic Media provided finishing services for the second season of the Netflix series Ingobernable.

CEO Scot Evans brings more than 25 years of post experience and has managed large-scale post production operations in the United States, Mexico and Canada. His recent posts include executive VP at Technicolor PostWorks in New York, managing director of Technicolor in Vancouver and managing director of Moving Picture Company (MPC) in Mexico City.

“We’re excited about the future for entertainment production in Mexico,” says Evans. “Netflix opened the door and now Amazon is in Mexico. We expect film production to also grow. Through its geographic location, strong infrastructure and cinematic history, Mexico is well-positioned to become a strong producer of content for the world market.”

Cinematic Media has been built from the ground up with a workflow modeled after top-tier facilities in Hollywood and geared toward television and cinema finishing. Engineering design was supervised by John Stevens, whose four decades of post experience includes stints at Cinesite, Efilm, The Post Group, Encore Hollywood, MTI Film and, currently, the Foundation.

Resources include a DI theater with DaVinci Resolve, 4K projection and 7.1 surround sound, four color suites supporting 2K, 4K and HDR, multiple editorial finishing suites, and a Colorfront On-Set Dailies system. The facility also offers look development services to assist productions in creating end-to-end color pipelines, as well as quality control and deliverable services for streaming, broadcast and cinema. Plans to add visual effects services are in the works.

“We can handle six or seven series simultaneously,” says Evans. “There is a lot of redundancy built into our pipeline, making it incredibly efficient and virtually eliminating downtime. A lot of facilities in Hollywood would be envious of what we have here.”

Cinematic Media features high-speed connectivity via the private network Sohonet. It will be employed to share media with studios, producers and distributors around the globe securely and efficiently. It will also be used to facilitate remote collaboration with directors, cinematographers, editors, colorists and other production partners.

Evans cites as a further plus Cinematic Media’s location within Estudios GGM, which has six sound stages, production and editorial office space, grip and lighting resources and more. Producers can take projects from concept to the screen from within the confines of the site. “We can literally walk down a flight of stairs to support a project shooting on one of the stages,” he says. “Proximity is important. We expect many productions to locate their offices and editorial teams here.”

Managing director Arturo Sedano will oversee day-to-day operations. He has supervised post for thousands of hours of television and cinema content on behalf of studios and producers from around the globe, including Netflix, Telemundo, Sony Pictures, Viacom, Lionsgate, HBO, TV Azteca, Grupo Imagen and Fox.

Other key staff includes senior colorist Ana Montaño whose experience as a digital colorist spans facilities in Mexico City, Barcelona, London, Dublin and Rome; producer and post supervisor Cyntia Navarro, previously with Lejana Films and Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía (IMCINE). Her credits span episodic television, feature film and documentaries, and include projects for IFC Films, Canal Once, UPI, Discovery Channel, Netflix and Amazon.

Additional staff includes chief technology officer Oliver De Gante, previously with Ollin VFX, where his credits included the hit films Chappie, Her, Tron: Legacy and The Social Network, as well as the Netflix series House of Cards; technical director Gabriel Kerlegand, a workflow specialist and digital imaging technologist with 18 years of experience in cinema and television; and coordinator and senior conform editor Humberto Flores, formerly senior editor at Zenith Adventure Media.


Behind the Title: Picture Shop workflow specialist Alex Martin

NAME: Alex Martin

COMPANY: Picture Shop Post

TITLE: Workflow Specialist

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
While Picture Shop is two years old, our team has decades of experience. A majority of our employees here know each other through some previous career venture. We are a hand-picked team that meshes really well together.

We’re led by four individuals who live and breathe post production and have for decades: president Bill Romeo, EVP of sales and marketing Robert Glass, EVP of VFX Tom Kendall and EVP and CTO Jay Bodnar.

Our projects — from superhero shows to Netflix and Hulu’s top HDR projects (oh yeah, and zombies) — we’re constantly expanding.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT A WORKFLOW SPECIALIST DOES?
Technology is always advancing, and so are our shows and their workflows. Keeping up to speed with the new gear and new specs is a large majority of what makes up my day-to-day.

You have to be quick on your feet and one step ahead of the industry at all times in order to grasp success. The biggest challenge for me is always having to think outside the box; looking for new and improved ways to make what already works even better. We are often stumbling upon new advancements, constantly producing and testing new ideas into fruition.

WHAT SYSTEMS DOES PICTURE SHOP HAVE FOR COLOR?
We’re fortunate enough to have three major color correctors: Digital Vision’s Nucoda, Filmlight’s Baselight and Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve. We also use Colorfront’s software, Express Dailies and Transkoder.

For our online systems we use Avid Media Composer, Autodesk Flame and, recently, Resolve.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST SET UP PROJECTS/ DESIGN WORKFLOWS?
All the time. One moment, I’m figuring out why the text over picture is more transparent than it should be, and the next, I’m creating LUTs for a new show on-set. My day-to-day job is always about workflow, but my minute-to-minute lies in the fine details. The main focus is to help get the show out the door on time and ensure that our clients keep coming back for more.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Probably that no two days are the same. I have a great mentor, senior systems workflow engineer Todd Korody, who we consider the brains of the building. Working alongside him for the past two years has been the most rewarding. Most of the conversations that we have are about a show’s color pipeline, and how we can get to the final delivery stage seamlessly while keeping in mind that each new show brings a different element to the table.

Whether we’re designing the workflow on a regular HD finish for a network show or evolving the HDR processes for Netflix and Hulu, figuring out the pass off from one platform to the next (dailies to online, online to color, or VFX to color) makes each day unique.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My least favorite is probably my own tendency to be a perfectionist. I always want to make sure that everything goes according to plan — as most of us do. I’m then reminded of the brilliant team that I am surrounded by, and though seeking a more collaborative effort, the “best way” to fix any issue makes itself known.

It’s amazing to know that I’m surrounded by people that care about our company to the same degree, and we all work together to ensure the best possible success.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would be a sound engineer for live concerts. What’s better than being behind the controls, mixing for a great band?

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I kind of fell into it. I wanted to go to recording school for music. Not that I couldn’t have, but a four-year university was needed. I ended up finding film schools had classes in mixing for movies. This turned into an editing and VFX emphasis so I could take mixing classes.

One of the classes offered in the area I was studying was color correction. I loved that class, which opened a very wide door for me to pursue in post. I knew I would end up in the entertainment business in some way around 17. My friends and I would cut together videos on Windows Movie Maker. Always enjoyed the art and still do today.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON OR PLAN TO WORK ON?
On the technology side, we’ve been working a lot with Resolve and Baselight in terms of HDR. Also making sure we are familiar with the Dolby Vision toolsets, color management workflows and making sure our pipeline is smooth for everyone.

We have a few projects coming out which I’m exciting to be a part of, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Unbelievable and Huge in France, all for Netflix. There is also Future Man for Hulu. There’s a lot more HDR work on the horizon, but these are a few currently underway.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF WORK WISE?
Our HDR pipeline. We’ve developed some great tools and strategies along the way to handle very large camera files, ways we bring media in and out of the color correctors, and tools to help us with final delivery.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
Camera tests through to final picture. Before each show starts filming, the DP usually directs a camera test. When they do the camera and lens-package comparisons, I love seeing the subtle differences. Once the show’s colorist has a chance to collaborate with the DP’s vision, the best part is seeing the final colored image through their eyes. In my opinion, this finishing touch is what brings the picture to life.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?
My phone, my laptop and Resolve… I also have to mention my car.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I use LinkedIn – I follow all the studios, production companies, software companies, different operators and artists; really anything that keeps me up to speed with the post production world.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I guess I always go back to what brought me to this business in the first place, and that’s music. I play the drums, and that helps me decompress and have a good time.


DP Chat: Polly Morgan, ASC, BSC

Cinematographer Polly Morgan, who became an active member of the ASC in July, had always been fascinated with films, but she got the bug for filmmaking as a teenager growing up in Great Britain. A film crew shot at her family’s farmhouse.

“I was fixated by the camera and cranes that were being used, and my journey toward becoming a cinematographer began.”

We reached out to Morgan recently to talk about her process and about working on the FX show Legion.

What inspires you artistically? And how do you simultaneously stay on top of advancing technology that serves your vision?
I am inspired by the world around me. As a cinematographer you learn to look at life in a unique way, noticing elements that you might not have been aware of before. Reflections, bouncing light, colors, atmosphere and so many more. When I have time off, I love to travel and experience different cultures and environments.

I spend my free time reading various periodicals to stay of top of the latest developments in technology. Various publications, such as the ASC’s magazine, help to not only highlight new tools but also people’s experiences with them. The filmmaking community is united by this exploration, and there are many events where we are able to get together and share our thoughts on a new piece of equipment. I also try to visit different vendors to see demos of new advances in technology.

Has any recent or new technology changed the way you work?
Live on-set grading has given me more control over the final image when I am not available for the final DI. Over the last two years, I have worked more on episodic television, and I am often unable to go and sit with the colorist to do the final grade, as I am working on another project. Live grading enables me to get specific with adjustments on the set, and I feel confident that with good communication, these adjustments will be part of the final look of the project.

How do you go about choosing the right camera and lenses to achieve the right look for a story?
I like to vary my choice of camera and lenses depending on what story I am telling.
When it comes to cameras, resolution is an important factor depending on how the project is going to be broadcast and if there are specific requirements to be met from the distributor, or if we are planning to do any unique framing that might require a crop into the sensor.

Also, ergonomics play a part. Am I doing a handheld show, or mainly one in studio mode? Or are there any specifications that make the camera unique that will be useful for that particular project? For example, I used the Panasonic VariCam when I needed an extremely sensitive sensor for night driving around downtown Los Angeles. Lenses are chosen for contrast and resolution and speed. Also, sometimes size and weight play a part, especially if we are working in tight locations or doing lots of handheld.

What are some best practices, or rules, you try to follow on each job?
Every job is different, but I always try to root my work in naturalism to keep it grounded. I feel like a relatable story can have the most impact on its viewer, so I want to make images that the audience can connect with and be drawn into emotionally. As a cinematographer, we want our work to be invisible but yet always support and enhance the narrative.

On set, I always ensure a calm and pleasant working environment. We work long and bizarre hours, and the work is demanding so I always strive to make it an enjoyable and safe experience for everyone,

Explain your ideal collaboration with the director when setting the look of a project.
It is always my aim to get a clear idea of what the director is imagining when they describe a certain approach. As we are all so different, it is really about establishing a language that can be a shorthand on set and help me to deliver exactly what they want. It is invaluable to look at references together, whether that is art, movies, photography or whatever.

As well as the “look,” I feel it is important to talk about pace and rhythm and how we will choose to represent that visually. The ebb and flow of the narrative needs to be photographed, and sometimes directors want to do that in the edit, or sometimes we express it through camera movement and length of shots. Ideally, I will always aim to have a strong collaboration with a director during prep and build a solid relationship before production begins.

How do you typically work with a colorist?
This really varies from project to project, depending if I am available to sit in during the final DI. Ideally, I would work with the colorist from pre-production to establish and build the look of the show. I would take my camera tests to the post house and work on building a LUT together that would be the base look that we work off while shooting.

I like to have an open dialogue with them during the production stage so they are aware and involved in the evolution of the images.

During post, this dialogue continues as VFX work starts to come in and we start to bounce the work between the colorist and the VFX house. Then in the final grade, I would ideally be in the room with both the colorist and the director so we can implement and adjust the look we have established from the start of the show.

Tell us about FX’s Legion. How would you describe the general look of the show?
Legion is a love letter to art. It is inspired by anything from modernist pop art to old Renaissance masters. The material is very cerebral, and there are many mental planes or periods of time to express visually, so it is a very imaginative show. It is a true exploration of color and light and is a very exciting show to be a part of.

How early did you get involved in the production?
I got involved with Legion starting in Season 2. I work alongside Dana Gonzales, ASC, who established the look of the show in Season one with creator Noah Hawley. My work begins during the production stage when I worked with various directors both prepping and shooting their individual episodes.

Any challenging scenes that you are particularly proud of how it turned out?
Most of the scenes in Legion take a lot of thought to figure out… contextually as well as practically. In Season 2, Episode 2, a lot of the action takes place out in the desert. After a full day, we still had a night shoot to complete with very little time. Instead of taking time to try to light the whole desert, I used one big soft overhead and then lit the scene with flashlights on the character’s guns and headlights of the trucks. I added blue streak filters to create multiple horizontal blue flares from each on-camera source (headlights and flashlights) that provided a very striking lighting approach.

FX’s Legion, Season 2, Episode 2

With the limited hours available, we didn’t have enough time to complete all the coverage we had planned so, instead, we created one very dynamic camera move that started overhead looking down at the trucks and then swooped down as the characters ran out to approach the mysterious object in the scene. We followed the characters in the one move, ending in a wide group shot. With this one master, we only ended up needing a quick reverse POV to complete the scene. The finished product was an inventive and exciting scene that was a product of limitations.

What’s your go-to gear (camera, lens, mount/accessories you can’t live without)?
I don’t really have any go-to gear except a light meter. I vary the equipment I use depending on what story I am telling. LED lights are becoming more and more useful, especially when they are color- and intensity-controllable and battery-operated. When you need just a little more light, these lights are quick to throw in and often save the day!


Industry vets launch hybrid studio, Olio Creative

Colorist Marshall Plante, producer Natalie Westerfield and director/creative director Justin Purser founded hybrid studio Olio Creative, which has opened its doors in Venice, California.

Olio features vintage-style décor and an open floor plan and the space is adaptable for freelancers, mobile artists and traveling talent, with two color suites and a suite set up to toggle between editorial and Flame work.

Marshall Plante is a well-known colorist who has built his career at shops such as Digital Magic, Riot, Syndicate and, most recently, at Ntropic where he headed up the color department. His commercial credits include Samsung, Audi, Olay, Nike, Honda, Budweiser, and direct-to-brand projects for Apple and Riot Games. Recently, the Nick Jr. Girls in Charge: Girl Power campaign he graded won an Emmy for Outstanding Daytime Promo Announcement Brand Image Campaign, and the Uber campaign he graded, Rolling With the Champion with Lebron James, won a bronze Cannes Lion.

Marshall’s long-time producer, Natalie Westerfield, has over 10 years of experience producing at companies including The Mill and Ntropic. As executive producer, Westerfield will provide oversight to guide all projects that come through Olio’s pipeline.

The third member of the team is director/creative director Justin Purser. As a director, Purser has worked at production companies A Band Apart and Anonymous Content. He was one of the original creators and directors behind Maker Studios (acquired by Walt Disney Corp.) that pioneered the multi-channel YouTube-centric companies of today.

The three partners will bring an element of experimentation and collaboration to the post production field. “The ability to be chameleons within the industry keeps us open to fresh ideas,” says Pursur. “Our motto is, ‘Try it. If it doesn’t work, pivot.’ And if we thrive in a new way of working, we’re going to share that with everyone. We want to not only make noise for ourselves, but for others in the same business.”


Senior colorist Nicholas Hasson joins Light Iron’s LA team

Post house Light Iron has added senior colorist Nicholas Hasson to its roster. He will be based in the company’s Los Angeles studio.

Hasson colored the upcoming Tiffany Haddish feature Nobody’s Fool and Season 2 of HBO’s Room 104. Additional past credits include Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, Masterminds, All About Nina and commercial campaigns for Apple, Samsung and Google. He worked most recently at Technicolor, but his long career has included time at ILM, Company 3 and Modern VideoFilm.

“Nicholas has a wealth of experience that makes him a great fit with our team,” says Light Iron GM Peter Cioni. “His background in color, online and VFX ensures success in meeting clients’ creative objectives and enables flexibility in working across both episodic and feature projects.”

Like Lightiron’s other LA-based colorists, led by Ian Vertovec, Hasson is able to support cinematographers working in other regions through virtual DI sessions in Panavision’s network of connected facilities. (Light Iron is a Panavision company.)

Hasson joins Light Iron during a time of high-profile streaming releases including Netflix’s Maniac and Facebook’s Sorry For Your Loss, as well as feature releases garnering awards buzz, such as Can You Ever Forgive Me? and What They Had.

“This is a significant time of growth for Panavision’s post production creative services,” concludes Cioni. “We are thrilled to have Nicholas with us as we enter this next chapter of expansion.”


Digital Domain Shanghai’s Simon Astbury talks color, projects

England-born Simon Astbury’s path to color grading wasn’t a straight one. He earned a degree in music and had vague ambitions about working in A&R. “I started working in this industry briefly in the early ‘90s and pretty much hated it,” he shares.

One day, Astbury went to sound sync and dialogue edit in a small facility in Twickenham Film Studios where they had two MkIII Rank Cintel telecines. “It was love at first sight,” he says. “The ‘Heath Robinson’ craziness of these systems, with their very limited color tools in those days, PEC master control (operated with a tweaker) and primaries.

Simon Astbury

“There was no machine control or editing, so no stopping once you’d started. It was a great way to learn the craft, to hone an instinctive reaction to an image that still serves me well today. The green radioactive glow from the tube, the smell of film all went to make grading a much more visceral experience! The early ‘90s was a period of huge change in post. Avid was this new thing that the editors mistrusted, most of them were using Steenbecks at that time.”

Astbury’s path was officially changed and he went on to work on many films, including Shakespeare in Love, Sense and Sensibility and Notting Hill. “I also worked with a bunch of film legends including Roger Pratt, Jack Cardiff, Richard Attenborough, Alan Parker, Franco Zeferelli… and The Spice Girls!”

Astbury has worked in a wide range of genres, from Oscar-winning films to iconic ad campaigns and pop promos. He has collaborated with people like Jack Cardiff, Roger Pratt, Tony Kaye, Paul WS Anderson and many more. Today, he is the head of color at Digital Domain in Shanghai.

Let’s find out more…

You’ve recently moved to Shanghai. Why the move, and are your clients’ requests or expectations there different than in London?
I felt it was time to leave my Soho comfort zone. I’d always intended to travel with the job, but the right opportunity never came up. Then when the offer to relocate came somewhat out of the blue, I consulted my family and we decided to go for it.

Digital Domain has an incredible body of work and a global presence. It was also an opportunity to develop and grow a grading department worldwide in a company that is primarily focused on VFX.

Managing client expectations is always very important, but in China the client really is king or queen. Making sure that the work remains good and not diluted by overthinking and over-tweaking is sometimes a very delicate negotiation.

How have you gone about building or enhancing the grading department at Digital Domain China?
So far I’ve introduced some enhanced workflows and defined training for the juniors and assistants. I’m also attempting to make remote grading available to any of our other offices around the world. Additionally, I’m promoting increased co-operation between our Shanghai and Beijing offices.

You’ve worked on all sorts of projects, from documentaries to features to commercials. Is there a genre you enjoy grading the most?
If it doesn’t sound trite, I would say that good, well-executed work is the most enjoyable to grade. I love commercials because they afford the opportunity to go into detail and occasionally push things creatively.

I love documentaries because the grade can enhance the story in so many different ways. I love dramas because the story arc and mood can be helped immensely by a good grade. I love movies because in my heart I’m a film nut and the opportunity to have your work in a cinema is an incredible buzz that will never ever get old.

What work are you most proud of?
There are a few things that stand out for me, most recently a grade for the wonderful director Nieto at Stink for Wu Fang Zhai. It was great fun to throw away the rulebook and do some crazy stuff.

There are a bunch of things that I’ve done over the years that I remember fondly, a travelogue for BBC4 called Travels With a Tangerine, which was amazingly well shot on SD DVCAM. Also some beautiful films for Volvo directed by Martin Swift, and some epic stuff for Audi directed by Paul WS Anderson. There is also the amazing multi-screen art installation “Mother’s Day” for artist Smadar Dreyfuss about dispossessed stateless children in Israel.

Working with younger directors like Stella Scott has been a great experience for me. Passing on knowledge and at the same time learning new visual languages helps to keep everything fresh. At the other end of the spectrum is The Human Centipede trilogy — it’s not often that you get to be involved in a cultural phenomenon.

Wu Fang Zha

Can you describe a recent project and what tools were particularly beneficial?
The Wu Fang Zhai project was shot on greenscreen with matte-painted backgrounds and sometimes with complicated comps. It was really easy to assemble rough comps in my FilmLight Baselight to ensure the grade looked correct. Layer mode composite settings were particularly useful.

Baselight Editions is also a brilliant tool for VFX-heavy jobs. We have a top-secret project on at the moment and the ability to have a renderless workflow between Baselight and Nuke is invaluable.

As a colorist what are your biggest strengths?
I’ve been doing it for a long time and can come up with creative solutions for most eventualities. Sometimes the client wants you to drive the session and come up with all the ideas, sometimes they want you to do as you are told, and sometimes they want it to be a collaboration. I’m comfortable with any of these scenarios, but the client is paying for my eyes and my interpretation, so sometimes you have to be the guide, even when the client has very definite ideas.

You also have to be the arbiter of taste. So on occasion you have to be firm, particularly when bad decisions are being made. I try to separate my ego from the work and create a calm-but-creative atmosphere in the grade suite. Music is hugely important, as well as a fully stocked drink trolley!

The wonderful colorist Bob Festa has said that he asks people what they want their films to say, rather than how they want them to look, and that’s pretty much my approach. I’ve been compared to an airline pilot or cruise ship captain more than once….I’ll take that (he smiles).

You’ve been a colorist for over 20 years and witnessed the time when color correction was processed in film labs. What are your thoughts today about film versus digital?
I worked exclusively in film for about half my career and I love it. It is tactile, it smells great, it feels good in your hands and, of course, many of the most memorable images in cinema were shot on it. The soft detail, intensity and richness of color, the roll off into the whites and blacks is something that digital still finds hard to replicate.

Gucci commercial

Also, the recent resurgence in Europe and the USA of film in shorts, commercials and promos is great to see. However, I find myself thinking about all those things I don’t miss about film, such as weave, cell scratches, grain, wet gate TK and that buttock-clenching moment when the lab manager tells you the reel had broken in the bath and 300 feet of neg had been destroyed. X-ray fogging! Oh my goodness, I have so many film horror stories.

Modern cameras produce amazingly clear images with great color and response to light with far less in the way of insurmountable problems, and I don’t see either as particularly better. Actually, I think decent glass and proper lighting are just as important as what camera or format you shoot on.

What are the biggest challenges you face today as a colorist?
There are a few, but I don’t think they’re specific to colorists. Content is becoming continually more disposable. It’s more important than ever that respect for the craft — not only of color grading but the whole production and post process — becomes central to every production. The proliferation of display devices is also a big subject, making sure that the grade looks good on phones, tablets, laptops and TVs is an issue that will only get more challenging.

Do you have a routine when grading?
Yes, definitely. Although color is incredibly subjective, I personally think that your process shouldn’t be. I strongly believe there’s a right and wrong way of going about a grade. Every colorist has a different process but there are definitely ways that work and ways that don’t.

The longer I do the job, the more important the psychological aspect of it becomes — how your choices in the grade affect the thoughts and emotions of the viewer… what really matters and what doesn’t. I’m always on a quest to distil the essence of a grade. A lot of the content I see now, in my opinion, is over-graded. We have such comprehensive tools now, so you don’t have to throw the kitchen sink at every shot. “Keep it simple” is a mantra I try to impress upon my juniors.

Baselight is your main tool?
I’ve been working on Baselight for just shy of a decade. My favorite thing about Baselight is what I call “redundancy of process,” by which I mean there are multiple ways of doing most grading operations — hue angle not working? Then try Dkey. Dkey no good? Then try RGB key or curves, etc, etc.

What advice would you give to a junior colorist starting out today?
Be patient, there are no shortcuts, although I think it takes less time nowadays than it did due to the absence of telecines. Be a geek about your industry, cameras, lighting and lenses. Watch movies, ads and everything that’s good. Study art and artists, if only to have common points of reference. Remember that the grading part is only a portion of what makes a good colorist. You’re the host, therapist, barman and ringmaster.

You have to be someone people don’t mind spending 12 hours in a dark room with or they’ll never use you again. With difficult client requests try to say yes and then work out how you’re going to do it; if you can’t do it, suggest an alternative rather than saying no. Social media, especially Instagram is a brilliant medium for colorists, but be careful not to post things just for the sake of it.

Main Image Caption: Wu Fang Zhai 


Deluxe opens 4,000-square-foot color grading theater

Deluxe has opened a new color grading theater called Stage One. It is equipped with a large Stewart and RealDs screens and Barco projectors, as well as advanced color grading, audio and editorial systems. Located in Deluxe Audio Seward at Hollywood’s Glen Glenn Sound building, the 4,000-square-foot space features plush seating and “perfect” black levels.

“I’ve been dreaming of a space like Stage One since I started color finishing,” says senior colorist Skip Kimball, whose recent credits include Deadpool 2 at Efilm. “We’re set up to handle any format and have a fleet of projectors so I can grade on a screen that’s comparable to exhibition; it’s much easier to evaluate the picture and address any issues when you can see it on a 60-foot screen. And the size of Stage One is incredible; it can comfortably accommodate 120 people, so we can handle conform, color and VFX all in one space, with the director and cinematographer for a more streamlined process.”

Deluxe’s Stage One features a RealD Ultimate Screen with a 45’x21’7” maximum image and a Stewart Filmscreen SnoMatte 100 screen with 41’3”x22’4” maximum image, and can accommodate the latest display monitors, allowing production to view content in whatever format is needed throughout production.

The space is also equipped with two Christie Dolby Vision Eclipse laser projectors, capable of providing 108-nit brightness, as well as high frame rate projection and 4K resolution; a Barco DP4K-P reference projector for theatrical grading at 48 nits in 4K resolution; and a Barco DP4K-32B projector for RealD stereo theatrical grading at up to 48 nits in 4K resolution. Available color grading and editorial systems include Blackmagic Resolve, Autodesk Lustre and Flame, and Filmlight Baselight.


Company 3 adds television colorist Jeremy Sawyer 

Company 3 in Santa Monica has beefed up its team of colorists with Jeremy Sawyer (Hulu’s The First, Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here). He will be working on the studio’s expanding slate of TV projects — they currently have more than 20 series in the facility, including Lost in Space (Netflix), Insecure (HBO) and Jack Ryan (Amazon).

For Sawyer, who has also worked on The Walking Dead (AMC), this move brings him back to Company 3, where he had worked as an assistant and then colorist and where he learned a great deal about his craft from CEO/founder Stefan Sonnenfeld.

He returns to the company following a tenure at Light Iron, and was at MTI before that. Prior to his initial stint at Company 3, Sawyer worked at the now-defunct Syndicate. He started his career at Finish Post in his native Boston.

“We’re very excited to welcome Jeremy back,” Sonnenfeld says. “He is an excellent artist and he has a keen understanding of the unique challenges involved in coloring episodic programming. He’s a perfect addition to our team, especially as demand for top-notch TV post continues to explode.”

Sawyer will continue his work on the third season of Netflix series Easy, for which he’s colored every episode to date.