Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

Neil Anderson’s Colourful Point of View

Production Company
Dallas, USA
Colourist at Lucky Post discusses the technical and philosophical points of grading moving images
Lucky Post colourist Neil Anderson’s study of cameras and cinematography led to a career in colour. Merging his technical acumen and emotive style, his work spans projects for brands such as Canada Dry, Costa, TGI Friday’s, The Salvation Army and YETI. His latest feature work premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival for Augustine Frizzell’s comedy ‘Never Goin’ Back’. We interviewed Neil on the art and craft of colour and where he finds inspiration. 

Q> What’s your favourite part of colouring a project?

NA> It’s that initial “a-ha” moment of seeing the initial pass make a huge difference in a cut. Whether by setting a look, correcting issues they had on set, or just driving out inconsistencies that distract from the story. That first pass kind of gives real visual life to a cut for the first time.

Q> What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?

NA> Probably that there is an element of DIT-ness to it. A lot of the job is figuring out a colour managed workflow that accounts for the camera it was shot with, the displays we will be viewing for grading, to the delivery specs that it will eventually be screened to. This managed workflow is critical for an accurate reproduction of what the intended image is supposed to be. If you don’t have this, it can all become a wild goose chase.

Q> Are you sometimes asked to do more than just colour on projects? 

NA> Mostly I’ll just do colour, however, I do consult about camera setups and how best to achieve a particular look on set. I also like discussing borderline theory on camera colour science in order to make the best judgements while shooting.

Q> What’s one of your favourite projects, and why?

NA> I love anytime I can work on actual film. One of the few times I’ve gotten to is on an American Express project. The reason I like it is because film works in a fundamentally different way than we’re used to in our modern RGB digital imaging age. Things like colour spaces or colour primaries don’t apply or aren’t relevant in the same way as something that was shot with a digital camera. So the translation of film into a colour-managed workflow is a bit of an exercise. It just becomes another puzzle to solve and reminds you of the history of film, and how you can pull techniques from then and try to apply them now.

Q> If you could re-colour and any classic film or ad what would it be and why? 

NA> Honestly probably something like In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai. It’s not that I would colour it any differently; it’s wonderful and amazingly rich with colours. It’d be a great examination of the power of colour design during production. Plus it was shot on film! I’d truly get an “a-ha” moment when I do an initial pass on the beautiful images manifested there.

Q> Where do you find inspiration? Art? Photography? 

NA> Some of my inspiration comes from other colourists I’ve looked up to for a while. Judging yourself against others keeps you honest and motivates you to branch out. A lot of my inspiration I’m realizing comes from within. I definitely have my particular taste of what I think looks good for a given scene. It’s probably 90% gut feeling, 10% inspiration. 

Q> You recently moved into a new colour suite. How do you feel it helps the client experience? Technically or otherwise. 

NA> The space is inviting and comfortable. It has a bit more of a theatre setting while still being a productive workspace. And now with me piloting in the back of the room, there is less distraction upfront; just the monitor for clients to keep tabs on.

Neil's suite in all its mustard-y glory.
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