Grading In The Future

Ever since discovering colour grading I have thoroughly enjoyed it professional and casually. The ability to manipulate an image so far and distort its original representation is amazing, seeing how far modern technology have developed to enable this. I have seen the role vital in building my understanding of colour; as a technical scientific measure and a creative stylistic tool. This understanding and love of colour is something I pride myself in, and think the blend of understanding is something unique that can happily find its way into the industry.

However despite all this development my role as a Colourist has really shifted. I really do love the process but I don’t think I’d ever really want to take it on as a career. I see it more of a hobby, potential freelance projects, but not sitting in a grading suites for days on end in places such as Films @59 or Evolutions. Due to this opinion I have changed my perspective and am now viewing it as a secondary role, the primary revolving around lighting. Never the less it is still an important skill to know and I feel it continues to develop my understanding of light and colour. I will continue to look into grading and colour space, but I can’t see myself wanting to walk out of university into a grading job.

Craft Pitching – Colour Grading

JWakley Crafts

I am really pleased with how my craft skill went to industry professionals, I think I managed to embody my entire process over the past 8 years of where I started as a Media Ambassador at Nailsea School/North Somerset Council, right up to the projects I’m currently working on and where I want to take my skills next.

Reflecting upon the colour grading element I feel this is purely an avid interest that helps accompany my true desire to work as a lighting designer. It is something I love doing and I can spend hours working on images to make the composition perfect, but I really can’t see myself enjoying doing this as a full time job, only keeping it as a freelance interest on the side.

Colour grading enables me to further my interest and understanding into the art of colour. I can already reflect back on the work I’ve done so far and see the progression and knowledge I have gained. It’s a skill I can continue to work on that keeps building upon my knowledge of light and colour, and I think it’s an extremely useful tool to have in my skill set when applying for lighting jobs in the future.

I have a wide portfolio from this year that can help attribute to my career path. My colour grading roles are in-depth and highly stylistic, keeping me on top of the art and science of colour. I feel I can use the final products to highlight my understanding and stylistic decisions to solidify my mindset of lighting, as opposed to the physical execution of the technical grading process using DaVinci Resolve. I will keep this in mind when going into production, making lighting my foremost craft skill and using grading to compliment this.

Exploring Colour Relationships

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at

Adobe Colour CC (formerly Kuler) is a great site for exploring the relationships of colours. Using an interactive wheel you can compare a variety of relationship types (i.e. complementary) and build standard 5 hue palettes based upon this.

It is an internet application designed specifically for exploring colour space all allowing users to download palettes directly into Adobe applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. The fully manipulable palette also provides RGB codes that can be taken into other design applications.

The great thing I found about using this is I can locate a precise hue I want to use and this can calculate complementing hues in relation to whatever style of palette I decide to construct. This tool supports the idea of the ‘Hollywood Look’ as if you locate skin tones with a complementary palette it will choose to contrast and mix the palette with teal and blue hues.


Hollywood Movie Colour Coding

I was linked to this article from –

I know Cracked is primarily a humour source, however the information on this article does raise interesting ideas about colour grading techniques. The points from this article “5 Annoying Trends That Make Every Movie Look The Same” look at how films are graded according to genre, also the typical ‘Teal & Orange’ look of the hollywood blockbuster. Neither of these grading techniques is a set rule of hollywood, however it is interesting seeing how socially these colours have become associated with specific genres.

Colour-Coded Genres

The article highlights the following genre colours:

  • Horror – Blue
  • Apocalyptic – Grey/Washed Out
  • Broken Reality – Green

Digital colour correction has enabled quicker and easier tools to manipulate films. The Coen Brothers first demonstrated and pioneered this technique with ‘Oh Brother, Where Art Thou’ in 2000, digitally converting and colouring each frame of the film into a sepia colour temperature/tone.

The three examples provided can be broken down as to why the associations are made when you consider each hues cultural associations. Blue is a very cold and dark colour, reflecting the fear in the characters. Grey and washed out colours also work to create a colder feel to the world, the lack of vibrance and colour make the frame feel very depressing to mimic something apocalyptic. Finally as green lies as an intermediate between blue and yellow hues you often find its character and expression changes, thus reflecting the idea of reality constantly changing and being unstable. This are only basic analogies of the colours presented, but demonstrates that even in their simplest form they truly conform and strengthen the characteristics of their designated film genres.

The Hollywood Look

I have come across the Teal and Orange look before, its popularity has definitely increased over the past 10 years and it has become a key symbol of the blockbuster movie. The reason why the colour palette is popular comes down to basic colour theory of the two working as complementary colours due to opposite positions on the colour spectrum.

Orange is similar to a human’s skin tone, so the natural opposite colour to contrast this is blue (or teal). This has always been a desirable aesthetic look and the digital era of colour correction has enabled this to be easily achievable. This look can be explored furthermore in the following grading tutorial:

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is one of the most widely used personality instruments in the world. The 70 questions help to define your personality type, obviously it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. The test is based upon the books of Dr.David Keirsey – Please Understand Me, and Please Understand Me II. By taking this test I can better understand the type of person I am, understanding my strengths and trying to improve upon my weaknesses. This is relevant for any role I undertake in the media sector, and worth identifying as I continue to work towards a variety of UWE projects and start locating professional work following graduation. I have come across a variety of personality tests, and this is one that is constantly recommended and referred to.

My combination score was ESFJ – “Provider”. The full explanation of the score:

Providers hold the following traits:

  • Insure welfare of those in their care
  • Sociable
  • Friendly social service is a key to their nature
  • Give time and energy to make sure the needs of others are met
  • Highly cooperative and maintaining teamwork
  • Attention to detail
  • Organisers
  • Love to entertain
  • Become restless when isolated from people
  • Friendships matter a great deal
  • Extremely sensitive to the feelings of others
  • Self-conscious
  • Loving and affectionate, needing it in return
  • Crushed by personal criticism

Having noted the traits of Providers I can see how I match this personality type to the majority of its definition. I definitely see myself as an organiser and perfectionist, this is why I feel I am well suited for a Producer role along with my ability to work as part of a team. This carries across to my specialism in lighting and grading as I am forever chasing the ideal aesthetically perfect image.

I am a person who is driven by emotion, no matter how much logic I apply to a situation I will still be considerate of others feelings and expect the same in return. I know to survive in this industry I will need to grow thicker skin, otherwise I’ll find myself obsessing over the most minor details. I think this is the main point to highlight once productions have gotten into full swing, I need to work logically and focus on the job at hand, if something isn’t working I need to be straighter with colleagues and avoid being over cautious.

David Orr

David Orr is commonly credited as ‘Colour Timer’, having compiled a credit list of over 200 feature films including – The Dark Knight (2008), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Matrix (1999) and Inception (2010). A colour timer is a grader who often works within the traditional photochemical process, in the case of Orr he performs this at his photographic laboratory and often follows through into the digital enhancement of colour. He is an expert in traditional film and modern digital grading techniques making him one of the most famous current graders in Hollywood.

Colour graders are often unsung heroes in filmmaking as a lot of credit for the visual style goes straight to the Director of Photography. The best colour grades go unnoticed as they blend in seamlessly, enhancing the vision of the DP and Director. Colour grading can vary from enhancement to completely changing the mood and style of a film. In terms of ‘The Big Lebowski’ (1998) Orr was presented with perfectly exposed film negatives allowing smooth, indistinguishable visual transitions that was achieved purely in the photochemical lab. ‘The Social Network’ (2010) is another credit in which Orr timed the 2K-answer print in Technicolor. The intention was a dark and moody print, so the combination of mellow light whilst filming and dialling down the image in the grade created the mise-en-scene David Fincher was after.

It is difficult to assess the success of a colour grader as they are often forgotten about and tracking down precise information of industry professionals is a difficult feat. It seems to be the type of job that you work your way up the ranks, it is an inherited job rather than something you can study to perfect. This is very much like the process of colour grader itself, there is no right or wrong formula, it purely comes down to the eye of the beholder.

David Orr is a hugely successful colourist; his credit list stands out from the crowd and shows that his competence results in continually being one of the first names when grading a film. He has adapted to the digital age as domestic level colour grading software becomes widely available. However there is no substitute for the trained eye of a coloruist that grades everyday using state of the art digital grading systems and theatres. Orr has great range in his portfolio and this is what makes him stand out as one of the best, he can create a completely manipulated visual masterpiece or can simply correct the errors in a film.

Films @59

Films @59 is a pre and post production house for film and television, I had previous had the opportunity of gaining a weeks work experience here in 2009 and I loved the chance to get a tour of the facility seeing how they’ve changed and developed alongside technology. The house is definitely bigger than before, having spoken to a few employees they explained how they expanded, including buying out ‘Little Pink House’ next door as both companies needed to invest in backup technology.

Films @59 is definitely a company I would happily work for in the future. They have always had a firm and dominant presence in the Bristol media landscape, with strong connections with the BBC. With my keen interest in Colour Grading I would relish in the opportunity to work with this company. Their ‘Career’ page appears to be open to hearing from newcomers, along with informing and advertising in publications such as Bristol Media, Creative England and The Guardian.

There are currently 8 colourists employed by the company – James Cawte, Tony Osborne, Chris Short, Alex Moffatt, Simon Bland, Adrian Rigby, Franz Ketterer, and Lynne Hailey. Chris Short was actually the colourist I was able to shadow during my work experience in 2009, unfortunately then I didn’t have my eyes set on grading as a potential job, now if I got the same opportunity I would keep building upon my knowledge and make myself an employable opportunity for the company.


It was interesting to tour around the building and see the range of post-production suites they had available. There is a general blend of all the editing packages (Adobe, Final Cut & Avid), but Avid is the preferred cutting tool. However for self-contained projects, or where you might need to edit the picture or sound in edit Final Cut Pro & Adobe prove stronger. In terms of codecs they had this to say:

  • XDCam – Recommended for HD export workflow. Common for daytime and low budget programs, measuring approximately 23Gb per hour).
  • MXF – Preferred format.
  • Quicktime – Not great as it seems to edit the colour space. It’s designed around an RGB space whereas you film and work with clips in video colour space, this can cause unnecessary clipping of levels.
  • DXP/Tiff/JPEG/Etc – Anything that’s not too compressed and can allow time coding and unique file names.

On the topic of unique file names, they cannot stress the importance of unique names and logging everything you file (even if it looks no good). By creating an in-depth library it makes things much easier when you are looking for clips, or if someone else comes to the project. They’ve had cases where people have wanted to remaster projects from 5 years ago, by that point there are different editors, but thankfully due to logging it means the team know exactly where to look before even leaving the comfort of their desks.

The other important thing about unique file names is relinking media. If you have duplicate names or something too vague (could be the same across different projects – i.e. ‘voiceover001’) it can causes issues where you copy across the wrong media or if the program crashes it could salvage the wrong files. Once again this makes it easier when other people work on the project, not requiring prior knowledge of the content.

In terms of grading the website states they have three suites, two are Nucoda Film Masters whilst the other is Final Cut Pro Colour, also being able to offer Symphony and DS Nitris grading. The way they approach software is allow everyone to work in the package they know best, this way you have people with in depth of each application rather than a handful of people who know the basics of each software. They mentioned using Smoke and Flame when blurring the lines between grading and compositing. I did query about DaVinci Resolve and by the sounds of it they do feature it, however it is more of a pre-grade tool as it is great for conform and prepping for grading in other applications.


I feel I can use my working knowledge of DaVinci Resolve to get my foot in at a company like this, however I need to make sure I have collected a huge database of knowledge. To have simple knowledge of the application will not suffice. By the sounds of it I need to sharpen up on Nucoda and Smoke/Flame to better my chances in the professional industry. Currently the problem is purely financial so I will continue to pursue DaVinci Resolve, but I can still research and gain some knowledge in other professional grading packages.

Further Reading

Dilesh Korya – Freelance

Dilesh Koray is a freelance editor who took the time to speak to a small group of us about working in the industry and why work freelance. This interested me on two levels, firstly the benefits of working freelance vs company work, also what it is like in the industry being involved in post-production (in my case colour grading). This almost expanded upon previous industry speakers who represented the group of media practitioners who work freelance in the current media landscape in Bristol.

Smaller companies tend of allow more creative freedom than bigger productions where various executives will take control. As a freelancer you can select which projects you want to work on (dependent on cash flow), meaning you can opt for projects where you can truly express yourself and your skills. As an editor you can edit away independently, as a result you need to be willing to step back as it moves onto the next stage of post production. If you want to have your freedom and creative control without an executive sat over your shoulder you should respect that with every other department. As long as you are happy with your contribution it is up to the other departments to build upon it with their creative mindset, whether you agree with those decisions or not.

Dilesh provided an insight into the current post-production scene in Bristol. Ever since Final Cut 7 turned into Final Cut X the editing scene has been all over the place, some moving to Avid, some to Adobe, some to the new Final Cut and others keeping to FCP7. Currently Avid is becoming a dominant post-production power again, with Premier gaining a following. Avid is primarily a cutting room tool, meaning it isn’t desirable as a full editing package (i.e. isn’t easy or fluid for compositing images or effects).

Despite this don’t get caught up with the hype of Adobe Premier. Life Stories and Natural World started editing on it but pulled out during post as they faced stability issues. Editors like Premier due to its flexibility, but industry doesn’t as it still needs more time to work out all its technical issues. At the same time Final Cut Pro X is slowly getting better, but it is likely to be a very slowly process, only if it keeps developing in the correct directions.

In terms of colour grading DaVinci Resolve is gaining traction, there is a whole generation of graders becoming competent with the software as Black Magic Design are able to offer a free version persuading editors to utilise the tool and flood the market with the application. DaVinci works well with Final Cut Pro and Premier, but it isn’t as fluid with Avid. In Dilesh’s personal opinion it is worth continuing to train with the software and not worry about other grading softwares, I could definitely walk into a post-production house with Resolve knowledge and land myself a job.

One final note on editing from Dilseh is “back up your footage!”. It is recommended to have a minimum of 3 backups, with a fully virtual storage system you need to make sure you always have copies or you could potentially lose an entire production in an instant.

Colour Harmonies

Colours are fully subjective, but professionally we have defined a variety of relationships across the colour wheel. These are some of the basic techniques for outlining and combining colours. At the same time they are also probably the most commercially featured relationships.



Opposite colours on the wheel creating high contrast. The opposing colours work create for highlighting particular objects in scenes, but when used in large doses the effect can become difficult to maintain.



Colours located directly next to one another on the colour wheel. The similar hues create comfortable palettes that are pleasing to the audience. Typically one will dominate, a second to support and a third to accent. With this style you risk having very low contrast in the frame.



Using three colours evenly spaced across the wheel, establishing vibrant palettes with higher contrast. The colours need to be carefully balanced to make this relationship work effectively, if unbalanced the frame can appear cluttered. The recommendation is one as the dominant and the two two as accents.



A combination of complementary and merging of triad/analogous schemes it sees one colour mixed with the two colours adjacent to its complement. It creates strong contrast like the complementary scheme, but lowers the sense of tension between the hues.

Rectangle (Tetradic)


A combination of complementary colours established in pairs that run adjacent to one another. The diverse colour scheme offers more creative possibilities, but at the same time complicates executing its use successfully. Once again allowing one colour to be dominant helps aid the use of the relationship.



Finally the square scheme is similar to the rectangle scheme, but spaces all hues evenly from one another. This creates higher contrast between all three colours. Once again having such a variety of hues makes it difficult to balance, especially in terms of colour temperature. The recommendation is to have one dominant colour and the others act as accents.

Mixing Relationships

These are all tried and tested colour relations, helping to deem an acceptable use when dealing with multiple colours. Just because these are the established practices with colour doesn’t mean they need to be strictly adhered to. I see them more of a method of identifying relationships, not as standards to abide by. Colour comes down to the eye of the beholder so there is plenty of opportunity to experiment. Being socially aware of these palette combinations I anticipate will make me more self-aware of how they feature in industry professional work, and throughout media and our society.

Colour Matching Game

Earlier this year when I first focused on colour grading as a career craft choice I was introduced to the Colour Matching Game. This is no hard evidence on the skill of a colour grader, but it is a useful tool in quickly recognising various hues and saturations whilst referencing the colour wheel. Seeing as grading centralises around the colour wheel the concept of quickly recognising hues and having to replicate them demonstrates a good understanding of colour as you instantly know the levels of each primary to make the desired colour.

Last time around I scored 8.7 (Spring 2014):
Spring 2014

A general all round strong performance, as colours became grouped and more complex that’s where I found myself falling short. I decided to take the test again as I feel I have vastly improved my knowledge of the colour spectrum which reflect in the speed of my lighting craft and colour grading ability.

This time around I scored 9.2 (November 2014):

Admittedly this is to be taken with a pinch of salt as it is only a game, but I feel this reflects my knowledge of identifying colours has advanced. I know my ability to grade has become quicker and quicker, and I definitely feel confident with my knowledge of colour theory and how to apply this. It is a nice source of reassurance to see the change reflected in statistics.