Colour grading is one of adland’s most interesting professions. There are no right or wrongs in the grading suite, more so matters of opinion and perception. And, according to Coffee & TV senior colourist Dan Moran, in the age of Instagram and people having more opinion than ever before on colour, the professional eye of a savvy colourist is more important than ever. We spoke with him to find out more.
LBB> Why did you want to be a colourist?
DM> I decided if I couldn’t be a rockstar then I would be creative for a living and do something that didn’t feel like work. Grading is that for me.I got into grading because I took up photography as my dad and grandad are keen photographers and were even part of a photographic society. I ended up doing all of their re-touching. Some of my photographs were in an exhibition and an owner of a post house in Ireland saw my work and suggested I work in her post house’s grading team. I didn’t even know it was a job, but I was keen. I started at 19, so I kind of started grading like it was an apprenticeship.
LBB> Who do you most admire in the industry?
DM> Dave Hussy - not only is he a really nice guy he’s a bit of a pioneer in grading. When most people were sticking to more natural techniques, Dave has always thought outside the box. He made me realise there are rules but you can break them if you have the confidence and passion behind your creative.
LBB> What should clients say to you when they come into the grade?
DM> Simply, “what can we do?”. It’s up for me to help guide their vision. We have a responsibility to create a grade to suit the job. I can of course create anything for them, but it’s also up to me to keep it relevant to subject on screen. In the modern day of Instagram, where everything is filtered and everyone has an opinion about what something looks like, it’s up to colourists to provide inspiration and guidance.
The edit tells the story but the grade sets the mood, feel and tone of the visuals.We have the power to make the same scene feel happier by grading it brighter, more colourful and warmer or feel more serious by darkening down the scenes, desaturating and cooling it down.Obviously that's a massive simplification on the process but it gives people a good idea of what is possible.
I find the most fascinating part of the grade is that there is no right or wrong choices. We literally watch it over and over again and trust how we feel when we watch it and make adjustments.
LBB> Do you agree that things should be shot how a director wants it to appear?
The more you can do in camera the better. Even though grading is infinitely adjustable, you still can’t beat lighting and shaping in camera. When you get into the grade it’s about finessing the look that a huge team of passionate people have helped to create. This is a far better approach than rescuing it and forcing a look on top.
LBB> What’s the best grade/project you’ve ever worked on?
H&M Summer 2017. The grade’s all about hazy sunshine, inspired by vintage tones.
LBB> Why should people come to Coffee & TV?
The culture; we’ve got the best in town. Clients come and camp out here because they love being part of the team and just hanging out in the studio. When you’re not a colourist you’re a…Huge music fan, I have way too many guitars. I’m a bit of a bedroom film composer - there’s nothing like pretending to be Hanz Zimmer to de-stress after a hard day of grading.