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01 March 2012

For the third year in succession, Televisual reveals its exclusive list of the most admired grading artists in the country. Jake Bickerton runs through the list of the UK’s top 20 colourists, working in commercials, TV and film

The UK’s best colourists are in heavy demand, not just at home but abroad, with clients regularly travelling from all over the world to the UK to benefit from the proven creativity of our well respected, high-profile grading artists.

The third annual Televisual profile of the best colourists in the UK lists the 10 most highly rated commercials colourists as well as the 10 most admired TV/film colourists. While many of the colourists featured here don’t exclusively work in one genre or the other, the majority of their grading experience is either in ads or in TV and film.

Colourists are rated here on a number of criteria – firstly, we asked commercials and TV producers to name the colourists they rate the highest. Next, we awarded points for colourists nominated for and the winners of awards that specifically honour colourists (the RTS Craft awards, the British Arrows and the UK Music Video Awards).

On top of this, we asked a large number of UK-based colourists to name the colourists they most admire, and the productions they think stood out for their grade in 2011. Thanks to everyone taking part in this year’s survey and congratulations to the 20 colourists profiled in this feature.

For the third year in a row, MPC’s über grader Soret tops the list of the UK’s most admired commercials colourists – and by some margin. He received votes from commercials producers and peer votes aplenty and was nominated for the British Arrows 2011 for Volkswagen Roof. He also graded two of his fellow colourists’ favourite spots of the year – Volkswagen Roof and John Lewis The Long Wait. “He has always been extremely talented and things haven’t changed this year,” says The Mill’s James Bamford, while Framestore’s Steffan Perry adds: “He has an amazing ability to constantly get unique beautiful pictures.” Ben Rogers at Glassworks sums up by saying simply, Soret is “a great innovator of creative grading”.

Another of MPC’s roster, Harrison received a mix of votes from commercials producers and his peers and he was also nominated for the British Arrows 2011 for Stella Artois 4% Train, which was also one of the colourists’ top spots of the year.
“The grade [on Train] simply makes the spot what it is – Paul captures the era perfectly; it’s visually stunning,” says The Mill’s Luke Morrison. The spot has a “very believable 60s replicated look with the right amount of faded print,” says Jean-Clement Soret.
MPC colleague James Tillett says, “Paul has an impressive client base and is never far from a major advertising campaign. His capacity for bold and original grades ensures he’s in constant demand at the highest level.”
Harrison says: “I love grading and the creative process of making beautiful images.”

A mixture of votes from commercials producers and award wins and nominations put Scott in the top three. He won the British Arrows 2011 colourist award for his work on the Guy Ritchie directed Dior Homme La Rencontre spot (which was also one of the colourists’ spots of the year) and was also nominated for the same awards for Heineken The Entrance. Jean-Clement Soret says La Rencontre was “just beautifully well done, with the right contrast and saturation – the grade enhances the photography,” while Scott’s colleague at The Mill Mick Vincent believes the spot was “totally beautiful, grading at its most pure.”
Asked why he thinks his work is so highly regarded, Scott says: “It’s about consistently getting the best out of the material I am given, technically and creatively, listening to clients ideas and translating them onto the images.

O’Kane, whose work over the last year includes the atmospheric Phillips LED Lights and Audi A1 Oomph, received votes from a large number of commercials producers as well as his colleagues at The Mill. Aubrey Woodiwiss says he’s “highly innovative and creative. I have the upmost respect for him and his approach.” Mick Vincent adds: “He has an amazing sleight of hand, amazing detail, and makes amazingly crafted work.” O’Kane explains his route into the industry wasn’t through any formal training: “A degree in Geography had to lead somewhere,” he laughs, before adding, “The business of turning filmed images into video images has always been seen as a slightly ‘dark art’ and the development of this into a creatively appreciated ‘art’ has been interesting.”

Bourne was nominated for a UK Music Video award for his grade on the Plan B The Recluse promo, and ended up winning the award for another Plan B promo, Love Goes Down. He also graded one of the colourists’ spots of the year – San Miguel A Life Well Lived – described by Framestore’s Dave Ludlam as “a little grading masterpiece of a journey” and by The Mill’s Aubrey Woodiwiss as “a stunning blend of mixed formats”. His colleague Steffan Perry believes: “Simon’s work over the last year has projected him into the top graders in Soho.”
Bourne explains he got into the industry “by mistake. I took on a summer job as a runner before going to college and ended up taking it on full time, which led to MCR then to a telecine assistant and so on. So I never went to college in the end. Maybe one day.”

Woodiwiss received votes from producers and his peers at The Mill and elsewhere, and was nominated for a UK Music Video award for Liam Bailey’s It’s Not The Same promo. Other highlights from 2011 include Sainsbury’s Bare Necessities and Audi Hummingbird. “He’s continued to work on some of the best projects, delivering unique and diverse looks that stand out from the rest,” says colleague Luke Morrison.
“From a young age I was obsessed with moving pictures – all I wanted to do was make or work in films/adverts/music videos,” explains Woodiwiss. “So as soon as I was old enough, I got a job as a runner with the idea to learn and progress.” When asked for his carreer highlights so far, Woodiwiss jokes: “Highlights are warm/orange, lowlights are cyan – opposite colours work well with each other!”

Grattarola graded Kylie Minogue’s Get Outta My Way, which was nominated for a UK Music Video award. “Simone has consistently delivered some beautiful grades and has a real finger on the pulse for what works creatively,” says Halo’s Katherine Jamieson, while his colleague Jack McGinity describes him as “a massive talent.” Grattarola inherited his interest in grading from his photographer and DP father: “As an errant son I listened to nothing and learnt by getting most things wrong for a few years, until I realised he was right!”

Rogers received a significant number of votes from commercials producers to win himself a place in the top 10. His work in 2011 included Audi A6 Manipulatio, Heineken Rugby World Cup The Code, and the short film Walzer. Rogers says he’s admired by clients, “hopefully, because I do a great job” and adds that becoming head of department at Glassworks has been the highlight of his career so far. His advice for those wanting to become colourists is to “get involved, go to screenings, help out on film projects and use domestic grading systems such as Apple Color, and even Photoshop.”

One of London’s most experienced colourists, Vincent receives votes from commercials producers, his colleagues at The Mill and colourists based elsewhere. “Mick has shown an outstanding talent in being able to transport you through time with the style – his grades are always consistent and a pleasure to watch,” says Halo’s Ross Baker. Unit’s Simon Astbury’s adds: “His work this year on the John Lewis ads was really well judged and really helped sell the story of the commercial.” Vincent says: “After all the years I’ve been grading, I guess clients feel a certain comfort in my abilities.”

Prime Focus’ Kubaisi received votes from quite a number of commercials producers and a number of his colleagues at Prime Focus. “He has a great eye for finding the right grade for any material,” sums up Rich Fearon. Kubaisi believes his success is “possibly because I listen and am prepared to experiment.”
Highlights of his career include “winning a few awards”, while the lowlight is “working with a certain Dutch director who was without doubt the most colossal ******* I have ever had the misfortune to meet, also too many all nighters that had a toll on my health.”

Turner received votes from a number of commercials producers and his peers at Rushes, and received praise for being “an amazing talent in the industry,” from his colleague Marty McMullan. Denny Copper, another colleague at Rushes adds that Turner has the “ability to make everything look beautiful”.
Turner says his highlights of being a colourist so far include doing “feature DI during my time at Company 3 in LA”, while his lowlights include “clients smoking crack during a particularly low end music video.”
He believes the main threat to the colourist’s craft at present is the fact “any numpty can get their hands on some grading kit and call themselves a colourist”, however he says, “There will still be a need for the top end creative colourist who brings something special to the party.”

Spensley’s much-lauded grade on last year’s multiple Oscar winner The King’s Speech has put him in the superleague, and he’s built on this success with a string of top-end productions over the last 12 months. He received a great deal of votes from fellow colourists in our poll and was nominated for a RTS Craft Award for his work on The Hour, which was also one of the top productions of 2011 as chosen by UK colourists. “Gareth did a beautiful job – the grade really helps to legitimise the period while having the style of a film noir classic,” believes Halo’s Katherine Jamieson. Molinare colleague Asa Shoul says it had a “perfect period look and was an unbelievably consistent grade. It was digitally shot but felt like film.”   

Horsewood’s votes came from TV producers and a wide range of fellow colourists. He also graded one of the best looking productions of 2011 – Sherlock – as chosen by his peers. “[Sherlock had] a perfect tone and atmosphere, exactly what a colourist should give to a film,” says The Mill’s Mick Vincent. Unit’s Simon Astbury adds: “The grading was epic and at the same time retained an edge, it perfectly matched the tone of the films.” Meanwhile, his Prime Focus colleague Duncan Russell says: “Sherlock just looks the business, like proper expensive telly.”
More generally, Deluxe 142’s Paul Staples says Horsewood has “a consistently good body of work.“
“I think I have the ability to listen to what is being said, get everyone involved in the grade and get the best out of the source material, which then takes the job onto another level,” says Horsewood.

Long-standing colourist Farrell was nominated by producers and a number of his peers, both at The Farm and elsewhere, after having graded one of the colourists’ most admired productions of the year, Downton Abbey. “Aidan’s meticulous approach combined with the ability to break away from the conventional allows him to smash through boundaries, with outstanding results every time,” says colleague Colin Peters. “Aidan is a true artist who continues to innovate as a top UK colourist,” adds Sonny Sheridan. “He changed the art of telecine grading, taking his pop promo style and using it to bring documentaries and dramas to life.” Deluxe 142’s Jet Omoshebi admires his “versatility of work across documentaries and drama – he approaches his work in a very creative way and produces interesting and innovative work.”

Another The Farm Group colourist shares joint third place with Farrell. His work in 2011 included the first series of Mad Dogs, and his highlight of the year was winning the RTS craft award for his work on BBC2’s Eric and Ernie. “Sonny’s consistent originality combined with a huge and varied creative output led him to winning his first RTS award last year,” says colleague Aidan Farrell. “His grade was outstanding and proves his excellence as a top UK colourist.”
Reflecting back on his career so far, Sheridan says his first opening came about through his choice of hat: “I was lucky enough to wear my West Indies Cricket cap to my first interview at Molinare (all those years ago) and got the job as a runner. I worked my way up from there and I was then very fortunate that Aidan Farrell took me under his wing and I became his assistant.”

Baker was nominated for an RTS craft award last year for Armstrong And Miller. “Ross consistently grades with style, flair and technical expertise,” says Narduzzo Too’s Vince Narduzzo, while colleague Katherine Jamieson says: “Whether its drama, comedy or documentary, Ross always adapts to bring his magic touch to the programme, transporting you to a time period or a mood through this artful grading.”
“I’m my own worst critic and I think that really helps,” says Baker. “I genuinely love my job and take pride in everything I work on. It’s that little buzz I get at the end of a great days grade. It’s hard to explain but it’s an adrenaline rush.” Despite this, Baker’s first career choice wasn’t to be a colourist: “I had a love for Formula 1 and cars, so trained as a car mechanic. After two years I realised the love of F1 was not the same as fixing someone’s family saloon.”

Gibbs’ work last year included some great looking TV productions, such as Misfits, Planet Dinosaur and Back on the Frontline. He received votes from both his colleagues and his TV producer clients: “He’s done fantastic work for us on Misfits, helping to create a unique and visually arresting style,” says Clerkenwell Films’ Murray Ferguson.
“Perry’s technical abilities stand him ahead of anyone else – he’s like a scientist; extremely efficient and a master of his work,” says Sonny Sherridan. “Before he starts a job he conducts significant amounts of research into the project to create a unique look for each programme that he works with.”
“I would like to think my passion for grading shows through in the work I do,” says Gibbs. “After realising that ‘colourists’ existed I spent a year of nights grading miles of film rushes which gave me very good grounding.”

Omoshebi receives plaudits from her peers and also graded one of the colourists’ productions of the year, Great Expectations.
“Great Expectations looked beautiful,” says Company 3’s Rob Pizzey, while Deluxe 142’s Paul Staples says it was “a bold grading choice.” Omoshebi says it was “an extraordinary collaboration of DP and colourist getting together at the beginning of a project to design something daring and different, subtle but strong.”
She says her career highlights so far have largely centred on being nominated for and winning an assortment of awards: “I didn’t think awards were important before I won some! It’s a tremendous honour to win an RTS and the Women in Film Craft award. Seeing your name on the credits of a feature film is also a great buzz.”

Kick Ass colourist Shoul’s credits over the last year include Strike Back, Attack the Block – “Black kids in hoodies at night fighting aliens that absorb light…hmmmm, had to create a whole new way of grading to make that one work,” he says – and Stolen, which won the BSC Award for best cinematography in a TV drama. He received votes from his peers at Molinare and elsewhere.

Glasman graded an assortment of high-profile features in 2011, including Arthur Christmas, One Day and The Eagle. He received votes in this poll from his peers, both at Deluxe 142/Company 3 and elsewhere. “We call him The Midwife because he always delivers,” jokes colleague Rob Pizzey. “I’ve been lucky to work on lots of beautifully shot and designed features over the years,” says Glasman. “Half the battle is won when you’re presented with a perfectly lit and composed image. The credit really belongs to the long list of talented cinematographers,” he adds modestly.

A long list of colourists fight it out for the last spot. These include The Farm Group’s Colin Peters, who wins praise for being “vastly experienced and has worked on every type of medium - he stands out in creating bold cinematic looks in all of his work,” says Aidan Farrell. Company 3’s Rob Pizzi is another admired by his colleagues, with Jet Omoshebi saying he “consistently produces high quality and sympathetic work. I especially thought Wuthering Heights was outstanding.” Molinare’s Tim Waller similarly gains the respect of colleague Asa Shoul for his “consistently top standard and resourceful grading on shows such as Silent Witness.”


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