14 July 2014

Gary Maddison, Colourist

Garry Maddison is one of our VFX Colourists and spends his time generating different looks for each show working closely with the VFX Supervisor and VFX Sequence Supervisors to produce an in house grade for the 2D artists and a final grade to be delivered to the client. Working across all shows, his recent credits include Godzilla, Hercules and the forthcoming Interstellar.


How did you get into the business?

I did a Performing Arts and Media degree at Manchester and found that I spent most of my time in the editing suites, so the right step to take seemed to be post production. It was not until I was working as a runner for what was then VTR that I got shown the grading equipment. As I had always been a keen photographer I took straight to it! It was mainly film telecine work, which I’m lucky to have worked on really, you can’t beat film…yet.

Is there anything you wish you had done before you joined the industry which would have better prepared you for your career in VFX for Film?

I came into VFX from a broadcast background, so I didn’t have much experience working in VFX when I started on Dark Knight Rises. I think I’d still like to find out more about the origins of VFX and the move over to digital through time, my film knowledge is mainly directors and cinematographers.

Is there any advice you would give to someone coming into the business?

Be patient and ready to work hard. There are new challenges every week, whether it be an artistic problem or a technical one, be prepared to think out the box.

Are there any particular training / courses you’d recommend?

Any of the colour training courses run by Film Light are well worth checking out.

The worst and best thing about your job?

The best thing is watching the film on the big screen, it is great to see the reaction of other people outside the industry to your work. The worst thing would have to be the hours spent in a dark room, especially in the summer!


From Mathias Schulenberg: Hi there, I wonder how much artistic freedom a VFX Colourist has in contrast to other Colourists e.g. Company 3

We have worked with Company 3 on quite a few projects and yes, as they are designing the look of the DI, they do have more creative freedom to play with. I do miss the freedom somewhat but I have found the technical side of grading VFX is still quite the challenge.

From Matthew Knight: Hey Garry, did you feel that you had a substantial amount of time to finish all of the effects shots? Do colourists have more than enough time to get all of the effects shots graded?

It depends on the show really, when you get a show that suddenly needs a sequence ready you have to step up the hours and hit the deadline, but due to my broadcast experience I’m used to the tight deadlines.

From Boyko Stankov: Hello I am graduating my Master course: Digital Post Production from National Film School soon and I am interested in a career in colour grading. I am currently working on some grading projects as part of my course but i would highly appreciate your comments and tips on how to enter the industry and what/where to start from after graduating. Thank you.

You have to enter the industry as a runner, this allows you to see and understand how a post production company works, from workflow pipeline down to kitchen etiquette. I believe the email address you’ll need for Double Negative is recruit@dneg.com

From Joanny Causse: Hi Garry, Whose work inspire you the most? Do you take inspiration from other source than film/video? On the “technical” side, do you happen to have talks with the DP and the director before the shoot to get an idea on the look wanted? If so, do you have input at this stage? Thanks Dneg!

My favourite directors are Stanley Kubrick, Terrance Malick and Chris Nolan, they have very unique approaches to how films should look and be made. The best experience, for me personally, has been working with Chris Nolan and Wally Pfister on The Dark Knight Rises. The attention to detail really made me rethink how films should be made; it was a massive eye opener! Other influences are photographers; I’m a big fan of Saul Leiter, Robert Frank, Joel Meyerwitz and William Klien to name a few.

For the look of the sequence we are involved in, we communicate with the Director or DOP via our VFX Supervisor. It’s generally the VFX Supe and/or the 2D Supe who’ll take part in several grading sessions during the course of the show.

From Scott Laboucan: How often is your artistic ability held back because of time deadlines and how often have you looked at the finished product and thought…(example) “just one more week and that scene would of been perfect”. ???

I’ve had that experience in the past but not while I’ve been working at Double Negative. I think when you work on the type of films we are involved in, part of the parcel that we are delivering is the fact that we never let anything leave without being fully happy with it.

From Walter Buzby: When you balance the color for an overall piece of footage, making sure your color is correct for the deliverable is perfect. Since we all are working more digitally these days, how do you make sure all the monitors used in color editing are calibrated to each other, and calibrated to the final deliverable?

We have a great Tech team at Dneg, they make sure all our monitors and, in the colourists case, the projectors are calibrated individually for each show, using either the Eizo monitor calibration kit or a colour probe.

From Nha Le: What job should I take or what softwares should I learn to become a colorist? Thanks.

Unfortunately, most of the software we use I have only come across in post production houses as they are quite specialised to each house’s needs. I think already knowing Photoshop is a big help as it gets you to start analysing photographs and you can then decide what looks you like and then you can see if can produce the same look on your own photos.

From Devrishi Chatterjee: With so many types of cameras being used simultaneously like Alexa, Phantom, IMAX etc how difficult it is to balance the scans for vfx shots esp when CG elements needs to integrated over the length of the shots across a sequence..what are the points particularly you keep in mind for IMAX formats. Thanks.

When different formats are used it can be extremely tricky to get the right balance, we use a mixture or grading techniques and colour cubes to accommodate for the fluctuations. I’ve found with IMAX that it’s actually getting the correct film out pipeline in place that is the tricky part, not that there are mainly IMAX recorders out there.

From Markus Hagemeier: Hey guys, My first question would be if your DI dept. is involved in every project?

While our colour grading department is involved in some form in the majority of the projects here at Dneg we don’t exactly offer a full DI colour grading service. Instead we help streamline the VFX pipeline by managing most of the colour grading tasks (like balancing sequences of shots or providing match grades to client references) in a single department.

Then I’d like to know if Garry (or the dept. in general) is doing more a creative or a technical job? You wrote he’s producing an inhouse grade – does it mean that he’s providing different LUT formats to each department (Filmlook, Rec709, sRGB, linear, various log formats, Red) or is he working on shot grades to match each plate in the sequence?

We receive colour cube from the client, that has been set up for the DI grade. We will modify these cubes to work with our in house monitors and projectors.

For me it’s hard to find some useful information about the whole DI process and developments – where did he get this/how do you get to know the technical aspects of this job?

Started out working as a telecine/DI assistant in the MCR. By going through this route you gain the technical aspects, work flow and formats – film negative/positive, Tape work flow, different camera and data formates as part of the overall training. After this you can start to progress into grading by working on small projects and short films.

From Tan Chee Kwang: At what stage did you start the grading process? What are the tools you use? What is the workflow to make sure colour is correct for start to finish?

We start the grading process at the beginning of each show to neutrally balance all of the plates using in house designed grading software. We grade and review the sequences with the supervisors of the projects to make sure we have the right look, and create contact sheets for easy and quick referencing on groups of shots.

From Owen Jackson: What’s your favorite colour?

The golden hue of a cold pint of lager!

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