Today, most of the shorts films have stunning visuals and special effects. Certain movies have a unique contrast or saturation level which gives the film a unique feel. This in turn enables the movie-makers to get the desired reactions from the viewers. To achieve this, cinematographers turn towards colorists. These colorists use the Digital Intermediate process to enhance the visuals. Although there have been rare instances of colorists using the conventional photochemical methods to grade a film, the DI has been the go-to method for a vast majority. Colorists are a major factor in film-making but are often overshadowed by other aspects such as cinematography, direction etc. So turning our focus towards colorists and their works, we came across Suresh Ravi. A final year student of Anna University, his talents as a colorist is clearly seen in many of the films he has worked upon. Some of the movies he has worked with include “Karumayam”, which was showcased in our previous issue, “Puzhu” and “A Tribute to Namma Chennai Chancey Illa”. In all of his works, we are in for awe-struck enhanced visuals and much more. He has the ability to vividly understand what a cinematographer expects and has the capability to give him the same. To know more about him and his method of work, we fixed an interview with him.
1. Suresh Ravi, please tell us a bit about you.
I am currently pursuing my final year Master’s degree in Electronic Media, Anna University. I did my schooling in Velammal.
2. Share with us, how did you get interested in colour grading?
Basically I liked photography from school. After schooling, I was interested more towards visual effects and motion graphics and learnt a lot about VFX industry making. But later, during my final year in college, as a part of our college curriculum, we were required to be in any industry as Interns.
So I thought of exploring Digital intermediate which always fascinated me from my first year of college.
I joined Gemini Color lab and did my internship for six months and learnt the industry workflow. That’s how I got involved in colour grading.
3. You have been involved in films of varied genre. As a colourist, do you feel that you are merely a tool in the hands of the cinematographer or would you say, a colourist is an artist in himself?
I would say colourist is an artist in himself because every cinematographer comes into the DI process to beautify or elevate their work and we show them various tones based on the story and scene and satisfy them .But sometimes we need to be a tool to cinematographers without losing artististic sense.
4. About the approach for grading, was it decided before shoot or just before the grading?
Only few cinematographers ask suggestion before going to shoot, while many tend to set the tone only in the post production.
5. You have done a commendable job in Karumayam and Puzhu. How were you able to differentiate, taking into account both films were shot in the same location?
“Karumayam” is an abstract kind of movie which needed different set of tone to elevate the story line whereas the “Puzhu” needed straight approach with just the dialogues and the actions needing audience attraction. So we went for black and white to just concentre only on actors.
6. There was one particular shot in Puzhu, where the rays come from a cloud opening. As a colourist, did you add anything to the shot?
Actually, we didn’t add anything but just made a selection around the rays and highlighted it to enhance the beauty of the shot.
7. Coming to the tribute to “Namma Chennai Chancey Illa” video, was the approach decided before or after the original video?
Namma Chennai video was fully preplanned as we didn’t have time to experiment and work out. We did the entire video and graded it in 8 hours.
8. Suresh, do you do any sort of homework before you go for a shoot?
Yes I do, but it depends on the project. I used to watch previous movies of the same genre and try to play different from these movies.
9. How do you view colours? Your perception has to be different from that of a common man.
I see colours as magic and the software as the magic wand.
10. Share with us, the tools and the software you use
I generally use Tangent element TK and sometimes Wacom as control surface.
I started learning Colour grading using Assimilate Scratch but currently I am using Davinci Resolve though sometimes I use Scratch.
11. Suresh, how do you see the scope for colorists in India?
This is a typical question. According to me there is a good scope for colorists in terms of short films, telefilms and ads. But when it comes to feature films, production houses are afraid to give it to small groups, since there are chances of the movie getting leaked.
12. Do tell us about your future course of action.
I am yet to sign my first feature film as a colorist and have a few ad films lined up for future.