OKAY STUDIO Head of Colour on his route to grading, the importance of HDR tech and the biggest challenges he faces in his job
OKAY STUDIO and Ludovic Roussaux have worked together for a number of years now and in 2017 the colourist joined the Dalston studio full time as Head of Colour. He’s graded films for brands including Nike, Vans and Johnnie Walker.
We managed to sit him down to discuss the feeling he gets when he’s doing what he does best in his suite, his favourite recent pieces of work for a variety of brands and artists and his visual and creative inspirations.
Read below to discover Ludovic’s thoughts on grading, filmmaking and life.
Q> How did you find yourself working as a colourist and in the film industry in general?
Ludovic> At 18 I started studying management in the hospitality industry but quickly got bored of it. Despite being a film fanatic from an early age I was not considering a career in it, and then I saw an advertisement for a local film school and I realised it was actually a real thing, a real job. I haven’t left the industry since.
I started as a camera operator and cinematographer, and witnessed the transformation from analog to digital. Early on I was grading projects on Media Composer or Final Cut Color while still working in camera departments. And then I gradually and kind of naturally moved on to be a full time colourist.
Q> What is it specifically that drew you to colour grading?
Ludovic> There’s this cathartic feeling while working on pictures and spending time on details. You can change the mood of a scene, draw the eyes of the viewers to specific details. It’s incredible what a change of hue, contrast and power windows can do to help tell a story. When you step back and see the before and after - that’s an amazing feeling.
Q> How do you feel on the rise in HDR and technologies related to post production?
Ludovic> I think high dynamic range should have been a thing before the chase for higher resolutions like 4k, 6k etc… that was really just pushing quantity over quality. We’ve been locked into the same narrow colour spaces for too long and HDR is a step in the right direction. Most of the popular cameras in the industry are “HDR ready” and screens are catching up. I hope to see more HDR projects coming in to OKAY STUDIO - we’ve got a brand new 4k HDR suite, so we’re ready from a technical point of view and I’m really excited to see what we can do.
Q> Who or what are your inspirations?
Ludovic> As a kid I was heavily influenced by ‘80s and ‘90s films. It’s an era where filmmakers were coming from classical backgrounds but then creating really original stuff: Alien, Blade Runner, Terminator, Jurassic Park. Incredibly entertaining but the cinematic vocabulary is still very much present. Subtle yet powerful. And then that inspired the whole visual industry, commercials, music videos.
Back in the day I often worked alongside stills retouchers as a photographer’s assistant. Watching those guys work really made me realise what could be done with pixel and colour manipulation, and they drew from such a massive variety of influences. So today I find really anything visual can trigger something. At the moment I love looking at paintings (galleries are the best place to reset your mind, I think) but you can find inspiration in, say, an old Belgian comic book; there are so many amazing things to draw on and it’s one of the things that keeps this job (if you can call it a ‘job’) so exciting.
Q> What jobs have you been working on recently that you’ve enjoyed?
Ludovic> We just finished Louis Vuitton’s complete F/W18 accessories campaign
at OKAY STUDIO. We were involved in offline, colour, VFX and onlining the whole process, with footage beautifully shot by Daniel Landin - a BSC cinematographer. It's always nice to be part of a job on that scale as you can really immerse yourself in the material.
The Nike NSW SportsWear campaign
we just finished alongside TRAUM Inc is another great example of work that really pushes the boundaries of classical advertising. And I really enjoyed working with Casper Leonard on his music video “Son of the Morning”. It took him and his VFX/co-director more than a year to finish and it’s a superb piece that relies on full 3D and live action.
Q> What do you find is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Ludovic> Many projects we work on are shot on number of different cameras, in all different kinds of locations - often all over the globe. Putting all that together into one look and then pushing it further, to really bring out the story, the soul of the project, is often like one big puzzle. I love solving that puzzle and working with good creatives to find the best in something.
A well told story needs some sort of continuity and as colourists it is often up to us to help with that. That doesn’t mean forcing the same boring look on everything but finding a tonality that can fit both, a particular scene as well as the film as a whole.
Communication with the client is key. You need to catch up on weeks, months of production, all the people involved are intimate with the project so you need to immerse yourself quickly into that bubble. I like to find references that they love - film, paintings whatever; sometimes just one reference that we can both relate to is enough to understand the vibe of the film. Then you are ready to give it that something special.
Q> Who is you favourite film director?
Ludovic> Stanley Kubrick, every genre he tackled was mastered. 2001: A Space Odyssey is number one on my list, every viewing is different from the last. You start catching edit details, sound cues. I saw it at the iMax here in London the other week and it’s always a new experience.
Q> What is the most creative ad you’ve seen in 2018?
Ludovic> The one video that comes to mind is an awareness campaign for stopping abuse. “The Hand” by Folk Finland for the city of Helsinki. Heavy on VFX, with a strong script.
Q> What’s the best thing you’ve been asked by a client / colleague in the suite?
Ludovic> Can you make this dog’s balls less red?