Highly Caffeinated and Obsessed with Colour: Stef Colosi

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OKAY STUDIO colourist Stef Colosi reveals why collaborative workflows and HDR are the future the industry’s been waiting for…
Highly Caffeinated and Obsessed with Colour: Stef Colosi

For colourist Stef Colosi, it was 1970s counter-Hollywood directors Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola who sparked his love for filmmaking. The rich celluloid-film tones and textured finish spoke to Stef’s obsession and would be the guiding forces behind developing his sought-after signature style. Having kept himself busy this year working for big names like Dior, Calvin Klein, Mulberry, creatives from Superimpose and director Billy Boyd Cape, Stef has a portfolio rich in high-fashion and craft. Recently signed to OKAY STUDIO in Dalston, we sat down with Stef to find out what’s exciting him in the industry, the work he’s most proud of, and why the “thick, sticky, burnt thing” his dad used to make is now his greatest passion… 

Q> How did you get into the craft of colour grading? 

Stef Colosi> As a kid I was completely obsessed with filmmaking; photography, cinematography and visual effects - I would even try to make films on VHS with my friends. As I got older, I worked in production companies and was able to try out a few different areas like editing and on-set; colour was the one thing that totally grabbed me. It was the perfect balance between a technical and creative discipline - the technical wizardry of the digital effects and the visual art of cinematography. 

Q> Do you have a signature style or approach to your work?

Stef> As a colourist, you never want to do a set look on everything but there is instinctive gravitation towards what you personally like in an image. My childhood was spent watching films, so I always end up going towards a deeper, filmic, rich look that’s often very textured. Even with digital footage, I tend to make it look more like the celluloid film and grain, which was imprinted on my brain from childhood.

Colour grading is the final bit of touch and polish; refining the film’s colour palette can just help to subconsciously communicate the narrative; it’s essential. Even if you’re not fully aware of it - the grade should always take the story one step further. 

Kojey Radical - Sugar from OKAY STUDIO on Vimeo.

Q> What’s been your standout project this year?

Stef> It has to be the Kojey Radical project, directed by Otis Dominique for Warner Music. I met Otis about 8 years ago when he was a young runner and I was spending hours trying to learn colour on Davinci Resolve. He would sit and watch over my shoulder as I coloured films that he’d done. It’s so cool that 8 years later, we’re still working together and this is the culmination of all those hours spent learning. It was such a rewarding job because the director Otis, the DOP Joe Douglas and I all got to do exactly what we wanted in terms of the creative. 

Q> You being a rather recent addition to the family, what’s it like to work at OKAY STUDIO? 

Stef> It’s a huge benefit for me and my creative approach. Before OKAY STUDIO, I was freelancing and there used to be jobs where I was managing the workflow which included the offline and online editors, VFX studios and moving edits into and out of colour. Here, at OKAY STUDIO, I can work solely on the colour and the rest of the brilliant team manages the workflow whilst I’m grading. It’s a much more seamless operation and means I can be fully focussed on what I do best.

We achieve a hell of a lot more this way, too. Creative conversations between me and the editor or me and the flame op can happen much more quickly in person rather than over email - thoughts are just easier to brainstorm in one building where everyone’s next door. It speeds everything up and keeps the focus on what’s on-screen.

DIOR DIORIVIERA dir by Belle Smith from OKAY STUDIO on Vimeo.

Q> Collaborations between directors and colourists can lead to some fantastic, creative results. What’s been your experience with these key relationships? 

Stef> It varies depending on the job. Some directors will have a very specific idea of what they want and provide colour references - from there you do your best interpretation to achieve what they’re after. But other directors have a less distinctive approach. They might have also come to you for the specific looks you create and have identified that that’s what they want for their project. Those directors tend to trust you to go your own way with the footage and you often meet in the same place at the end. The relationship between colourist and director is an important one, for sure. But, a dedicated colourist and dedicated director, no matter the nuances of their relationship or the form it takes, will elevate a project exponentially. 

Q> What’s exciting you in the industry at the moment?

Stef> Technically speaking, it’s got to be HDR. It’s one of the first new things we’ve had for a while that really makes a difference. Even when we went from HD to 4K, it was only about the addition of pixels, whereas with HDR there’s more dynamic range and a much bigger colour palette - it’s a proper addition to the toolset that when given to the best artists they can create really stunning imagery The colour range has been limited for so long that this new palette development allows us to be far more nuanced with what we can do. It’s exciting that we are ready for HDR at OKAY STUDIO and I hope to have the chance to jump on some more HDR projects in the near future.

LandRover from OKAY STUDIO on Vimeo.

Q> Outside of the grading suite, do you have any obsessions?

Stef> With my Italian heritage, coffee was always around when I was growing up but I never liked it - it was this thick, bitter, burnt, black thing my dad would make, that would stick espresso cups to saucers! But as I got older and more speciality coffee started appearing in the UK, I fell in love with it and it became my obsession. My kitchen is now overrun by my espresso machine and all of the paraphernalia that comes with it - fortunately, I converted my wife pretty early on so she’s on board! I just love the ritual of it; weighing out the beans every morning and dialling in and tasting different coffees. On a good day, I'll even nail a bit of latte art!

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OKAY STUDIO, 8 months ago