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Making the Grade: How Clinton Homuth Made the Jump Into the Colourist's Seat



Senior colourist at Artjail on his early years at Notch and Alter Ego and why young colourists should stop leaning on blue and cyan to solve all their problems

Making the Grade: How Clinton Homuth Made the Jump Into the Colourist's Seat

The third of six boys from the farm town of Exeter, Ontario, Clinton Homuth’s love affair with all things artistic began with an intense interest in storytelling which quickly expanded into the realm of film.

After finishing a post graduate diploma in post-production at Humber College, he entered the post-production world. Colour was a perfect match with its technical inclination and ability to influence storytelling, and within just five years of assisting and grading, Homuth made the jump into the colourist’s seat. 

Clinton is now senior colourist at Artjail, primarily based at its Toronto facility.

LBB> What was your first experience with the world of colour grading – and when did you decide that being a colourist was a role that you wanted to pursue?

Clinton> I’ve always been more interested in image manipulation then image creation. I got my start like a lot of millennial’s did through photoshop and filter based applications like Instagram. I did a lot of design work for different bands when I was in high school so a lot of my first encounters with image manipulation were design oriented. In college I was on a tour of Technicolour and they showed us a dailies colourist. Watching him fly through footage making big changes to the footage struck me and from that point forward it’s been my craft of choice.

LBB> What was the project that you felt really changed your career?

Clinton> It felt like I started to carve my own path early in my career when I was collaborating with Scott Cudmore and Michael Leblanc on all their music video work. We did lots of experimenting and every video had a slightly different approach on the more experimental end. This really broadened my horizons and showed me what was possible.

LBB> How/where did you hone your craft and did you have any particular mentors?

Clinton> I worked for two years under Bill Ferwerda at what was then Notch and two years at Alter Ego Post under Eric Whipp. Seeing both of them work in very different ways was my largest takeaway. I came into both facilities after mentors were already in the process of being trained so mentorship was not really in the cards at that time so I decided I would do it on my own instead of waiting. So I worked away on anything and everything working my way up at Alter Ego until it was time to move on to a studio that gave me a leading role.

LBB> Tell us more about your creative process

Clinton> There are generally some stylistic things I’ve always been interested in, and those specific things that change as time goes on. It’s part of a larger stylistic conversation between the Canadian aesthetic, and a broader North American aesthetic. The DP, director and myself usually all have our own thoughts on where things need to go. I quite like exploring options before anyone is in the room just so I can plan a road map and take note of any detours we might need to take. It’s all about being malleable in the situation, but not letting yourself go the safe route just because it’s the easiest. Sometimes the scenic route pays off. But you don’t know if you don’t explore a bit and give yourself the freedom to fail. A good grade is one that pushes you in a new creative direction.

LBB> From experience, we’ve found that colourists often love art and photography - when you’re out of the studio, what inspires you?

Clinton> I’m an avid classical art history fan and have been since I was a child. One of my hobbies is collecting high resolution versions of artwork, usually from the Romantic or Nationalist periods of a countries history. I find myself drawn to the schools of Scandinavia, Northern Slavic, Southern Germany, and Basque. My collection has about 2000 images at this point and it continues to inform my work.

LBB> Colour grading is largely a digital affair, but there’s also been a resurgence of film over the past few years in commercials and music videos. What are your thoughts about working on film versus digital formats like 4K? And what are your favourite techniques for capturing a vintage or tactile feel?

Clinton> I love working on film. To this day it continues to surprise me that as a culture we seemed to have abandoned an imaging technique with 100 years of development. Seeing the resurgence is great, I think the more options a creator has the better. My favourite technique is using Halation / Texturing the highlights in combination with low value saturation and grain. I’ve been collecting grain for years and try to introduce it where I think it’s necessary. Nothing gets me more than a grain that feels like a veil between you and the image, it should feel emergent.

LBB> When working in commercials, what role can colour and a grade play in enhancing a brand’s assets and what sort of conversations do you have with creatives and clients about that? 

Clinton> Coming into a fresh campaign and establishing the look with the creatives is always a treat. That being said, finding engaging elements inside of any look is the best part of working in an already established world. The broad strokes being already established allows one to focus on the details which can be refreshing. Playing by somebody else’s rules can teach you a lot about yours.

LBB> How do you ensure that each colourist-director partnership is a success?

Clinton> You either have chemistry or you don’t. That doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything, you just have to speak the same language. All the successful director / colourist relationships I have are founded on mutual respect and taking the work, not yourself, seriously. Giving each other the floor to be honest is the foundation to any successful partnership.

LBB> What advice would you give to budding colourist?

Clinton> Work on the most challenging material you can find. The worse the footage the greater the challenge. Failure is a gift, and you will fail sometimes. Opportunity lies where responsibility has been ignored. Don’t be afraid to start from scratch on a grade. Stop leaning on blue and cyan to solve all your problems.

LBB> In your opinion, what’s the difference between a good grade and a great grade?

Clinton> A great grade pushes your framework. Not doing what is expected can sometimes give the best results. Battle sharpens the sword, so fight for your direction if it’s worth it. New stylistic directions are not set by the cowardly.

LBB> How is the craft and trade of colour grading changing?

Clinton> The past 10 years has been the maturing of digital imaging and the audience’s aesthetic sensibilities. The revival of analog image capture has seen an influx of new young talent trying to do things different and that’s exciting as it represents not only a broadening of the general public's aesthetic sensibilities but a wider selection of creative possibilities for the colourist. In a world where everyone knows what a filter is, and knows that manipulation occurs can lead us to interesting places. What was once the realm of highly specialized people is now a conversation with everyone. That means now more than ever the way in which you do things matters more than the fact that you are doing them. In that framework it’s important to remember that the resonance of any artistic practise is a temporal phenomena. The successful colourists of the future will speak to the now, not to what’s technically correct or safe. The contemporary image of feeling reigns over the timeless image of rationality. 

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Artjail, Wed, 24 Mar 2021 16:40:46 GMT