Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

Honouring colourists


Wolfgang Lempp, CEO of FilmLight, explains the driving force and inspiration behind the launch of the new FilmLight Colour Awards 2021

At FilmLight, we have been serving colourists for close to 20 years, and our success is totally dependent upon their creative skills. They drive our developments, make us strive for better, faster, more responsive technology, and delight us with the results of our work.

Despite all that, the role of the colourist is still perhaps less recognised than it should be. This role has moved far beyond the colour timer of the film era, responsible primarily for matching and balancing shots with the limited tools they had available.

Today the colourist has a powerful, creative role. When things go right, the colourist, the cinematographer and the director work together to create the look of the production. Subtly, subliminally, this look creates the atmosphere of every shot. Done well, the colour grading underlines the plot and positively contributes to the storytelling.

I mentioned collaboration, and that is a really important part of what we are trying to recognise through the Colour Awards. It is all too easy to create a mythical war between the DP and the colourist, with one fighting to undo the work of the other. Such situations rarely if ever exist, and every director, cinematographer and colourist will tell you that the happiest of projects and most successful outcomes are the result of everyone sharing ideas and vision.

The lack of recognition, and the power of the collaboration, are the reasons we have chosen to create a new set of awards. The FilmLight Colour Awards will recognise and celebrate the best work, wherever it is done and whatever technology is used.

This is certainly not a competition between technologies. At FilmLight we freely acknowledge that there are other systems in the market. Those systems, too, have their powerful advocates and highly successful outcomes. So, whatever lies underneath your grading panel, if the work is good then we want to see it.

These awards are about people. They are about building recognition and offering accolades within the grading community, within the post-production community, and within the wider world of all those who love movies and premium productions.

We also want these awards to be truly global. The latest work in London or Hollywood may be grabbing the headlines, but that does not mean that ground-breaking, creative work is not being done in any of the thousands of facilities across the world. If our awards can shine a light on a previously neglected market, so much the better.

Why is today the right time to launch these awards? My view is that the role of the colourist is evolving and growing ever faster, and there has never been a better time to honour them. The days where a colourist would see the material for a commercial at the start of a one-day grade, or would have a locked edit for a movie grade, have long gone.

Today, a central part of that collaboration sees the colourist involved from the very beginning to the very end of a project. Their voice will be heard in camera and lens tests, and will have an opinion on shooting and lighting, without of course getting in the way of the cinematographer's skills.

They might need to work with the CGI team on an effects-heavy project, ensuring that everything sits together smoothly. They may take responsibility for compositing. With today's trend for shooting live pixels in LED volumes, with virtual reality appearing in real time, then the colourist has to ensure foreground and background sit seamlessly together, while masking the technical problems that the LED screens may present.

And when the material is shot and the master grade is complete, the colourist has yet one more task: to create all the different deliverables now expected. There will be high dynamic range and standard theatrical releases - and maybe even film prints for some markets - plus HDR and standard video formats, and many more. The colourist is one of the few that can be involved from the first task to the last.

Our aim is that the FilmLight Colour Awards will become a highly anticipated annual event, and we foresee organic growth in the programme and its scope. For the first year, there are awards in four categories:

theatrical features

non-theatrical and television series

commercials and music videos

most innovative use of technology

Our plan is to have a jury of noted cinematographers and other industry creatives to judge the colourist's work. They will bring their understanding of how an image is made, and how its light and shade creates a mood and a dynamic.

We are working with leading organisations of cinematographers and existing and highly prestigious festivals on the Colour Awards programme and we plan to announce the winners at EnergaCAMERIMAGE in Poland in November 2021.

Finally, I wanted to address what has driven us, FilmLight - a developer and vendor of grading and colour management technology - to create and sustain a programme of awards. Especially as it is a fundamental tenet of the awards that we welcome entries prepared on our rivals' technology.

We see every day the incredible work that colourists are creating around the world. We want more people to see what they do, and how they contribute to the process, whether it is a blockbuster movie or a 30 second television spot.

Winners - and all entrants - will receive the recognition they deserve, for their highly skilled and imaginative work. We hope that will promote their careers, ensuring they have a continual round of new challenges and new collaborations.

I am delighted to invite colourists the world over - seasoned professionals or those newly developing their skills - to submit their best work. Good luck to all that enter the awards!

Entries open on 16 June 2021, and will b
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