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Celebrating the art of colour grading: Colour Awards 2022

May 27, 2022

With the second FilmLight Colour Awards now underway, Wolfgang Lempp, CEO of FilmLight, looks at the success of the first year’s campaign and the prospects for the future.

Why a colourists’ award?

Since the dawn of colour cinema, there has always been a demand for a skilled and sympathetic person to guide colour throughout a production. Back then, the colour timer worked to the instructions of the cinematographer, looking essentially to achieve consistency: dramatic colour shifts using irreversible wet chemistry were rarely undertaken.

Today, in the digital era, the colourist has a powerful, creative role, working in partnership alongside the director and the cinematographer to create a distinctive and evocative look. Subtly, subliminally, they work together to use colour and light to create the atmosphere of every shot. The manipulation of colour has become a key part of the mood-building and storytelling.

But while the director and cinematographer may be household names, the colourist may still go unheralded outside a small community. To correct this neglect of a vital talent in the overall creative team, last year we created the FilmLight Colour Awards.

Importantly, although we as a company have been providing tools for colourists for two decades, the awards are open to users of any grading platform. We put our name and our administration to them, but we are determined that they recognise the work of the best of the best, whatever technology they use.

The 2021 awards were presented at the EnergaCAMERIMAGE festival in Toruń, Poland, in November, with each winner taking the chance to showcase their projects and talk about their work before a very knowledgeable and appreciative audience. The 2022 FilmLight Colour Awards will also culminate in presentations at this year’s EnergaCAMERIMAGE, the 30th year of this prestigious festival.

Lisey’s Story

A glimpse at the 2021 winners

Last year our ambition was born out in the remarkable number and quality of nominations, and in the calibre of the winners.

Indeed, in one category – television series or episodics – the standard was so high that the jury chose joint winners. Tony D’Amore of Picture Shop in LA graded Fargo for FX, and won for the highly stylised look of episode 409, East/West. He took the prize jointly with Damien Vandercruyssen for the Apple+ series Lisey’s Story, based on the Stephen King novel.

Perhaps surprisingly for a colour award, East/West was entirely monochrome: D’Amore created unique LUTs in pre-production to convert the raw colour files to a deep, gritty black and white, using the retained colour information to drive the detail of the monochrome output. 

Joint winner, TV Series/Episodic: Tony D’Amore, Picture Shop, for Fargo S4 ‘East/West’

For Lisey’s Story, Vandercruyssen had the creative challenge to give the audience a clear steer between ‘reality’ – very colourful, with warm, golden highlights – and the more surreal scenes in the scavenger hunt, which are foggy, mysterious and dark.

The winner of the best grading for a theatrical feature, too, was a black and white project: Mank, the Netflix film from David Fincher. The director wanted to create a highly stylised setting of Hollywood in 1941, and winning colourist Eric Weidt contributed cues to the time like focus fall-off, grain, black blooming as well as highlight blooming, and an exaggerated optical dissolve effect which blew out the gamma and left the highlights to linger.

Winner for best colour grading in Theatrical Feature 2021: Eric Weidt with ‘Mank’

The evocation of a classic style was also behind the winner of the award for best grade on a commercial, which went to Tim Masick of Company 3 New York for his work on the Dior Spring Summer 2021 Collection. A visually lush exercise in chiaroscuro, the look emulates an oil painting in the sensation of light bouncing off the surface, of the texture of the paint as well as ensuring that it is the skin tone of the models that draws the eye.

The final award in 2021 was the exception to the open rule: it honoured the most innovative use of the Baselight grading platform. It went to Le Labo in Paris for a number of developments in shaders and gamut manipulation. The results were seen in the Zazi Films production Miss, graded by Gilles Granier and Fabien Napoli with strong support from technical lead Arnaud Caréo.

Winner for best colour grading in Innovative Use of Baselight 2021: Le Labo Paris with ‘Miss’

New in 2022

In response to comments from participants and judges, we have made some changes to the programme, expanding the number of awards on offer. 

The programme has now separated music videos and commercials, and there is a new category: the Spotlight award. This seeks to find the new and unsung talents in the industry who can demonstrate their contribution to the creative impact of a low budget feature film or television movie.

At FilmLight we are proud to have instigated the Colour Awards, but they are very much part of the industry as a whole. As well as EnergaCAMERIMAGE, the awards are actively supported by prominent international groups such as the ASC, BSC, AFC, Imago (the International Federation of Cinematographers) and CSI (Colorist Society International). As in 2021, this year’s programme will be independently judged by renowned directors, DoPs and colourists.

If you know of a colourist whose creative and technical work deserves recognition beyond the wider circle of the industry, this is your chance. Nominations are now being actively sought: you can find out more at www.filmlightcolourawards.com

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