Greg Fisher – Company 3/Encore
Credits: Ad Astra; Bohemian Rhapsody; The Hustle; Spectre; Molly; Spiderman: Homecoming; Oasis: Supersonic; Legend; Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
How I’m briefed varies, as each director may have a different methodology. Learning as much as possible about the film as early as I can is important. Ideally hearing the outline of what the director’s vision of their film is first hand along with the DoP’s thoughts as to how they are approaching it. You can then start to think about what you might be able to offer. Visual references, conversations about feel, film references, hearing about sound, music, production design, vfx. How all of these aspects will be utilised helps direct how I can best contribute.
The starting point of any grade? After pondering on the brief, feeling out the material, finding where the exposure and colour naturally sit. Working out an approach to get the most out of the raw/neg and how then, if appropriate, create different interpretations to try with the DoP. I start with the overall look first, then when that can no longer be refined, move on to the broad look of each scene or section, individual shots and finally into the details.
I’m influenced by everything I observe – natural light, weather, artificial light, faces. Also film, photography, painting, any interpretive art form, how a medium can be utilised to create a feeling in the observer.
I listen, try things, make suggestions, repeat. It is always illuminating as everybody has a slightly different interpretation of what they are seeing. DoP’s and directors are sophisticated visually and I learn a lot through these interactions.
I feel strongly that the look of the film has to originate from the core ideas behind the film. This is always interpreted through the director and DoP and I am very respectful of that process. They will have spent a significant amount of time discussing the look before the grade even happens. I will talk to them about what my thoughts are or show them. If I feel strongly about something, I will express it but not forcefully. Most of the time, it is a collaboration, as most aspects of film making are. Our role is important in the production of a film, but they are not ours to simply do what we like with.
HDR is a different tone mapping from the dci version, opening out detail previously rolled off in the highlight and shadow areas, closer to a more accurate view of the world. How you make use of that additional range is very much a part of the grading process, subject to the same interpretive conversations and evaluations.
The higher luminance home video versions of HDR can be more complex. The higher you can go, the more possibility of a potential dissonance between original creative intent and technological possibility. Many film makers feel that it can be too far off their vision and will constrain the luminance, sometimes to the SDR levels. I think you have to feel it out, try to make use of it, but be faithful to the original intent. This results in different approaches from one film to the next.
The essential skills are a strong visual sense, being interested, hard working, determined, collaborative, professional. A technical understanding of what you are looking at is important, the job is not just creative.