Meet The Colourist
Lead Colourist, Framestore, Los Angeles
Beau Leon joined Framestore in October 2015 as Lead Colourist. His appointment marked the opening of the LA colour studio, adding further creative firepower to Framestore’s West Coast operation.
How did you make your start in colour?
I got my start doing dailies and working at Heart Video in the valley. We worked for Warner Bros.’s and Columbia Pictures doing shows like Duke of Hazzard, TJ Hooker and Fantasy Island and movies like Karate Kid and Blade Runner. That was when MTV started and I began to do small movies on the side. Then someone called and said that they heard I was a good young colourist. I didn’t really know what that meant but it was how I started at 525 and my life changed very quickly after grading “Losing My Religion” by REM.
Over the last decade, you have created an expansive portfolio of work, from commercials, music videos to independent films. What draws you to these projects?
What really draws me to certain jobs is how much people care about what they are doing. Even if it’s something that differs from my aesthetic, I am still inspired by their passion.
Most recently, you graded Rihanna's "Needed Me" and Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, "No Love Like Yours", by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. What was your experience like creating the look of these different projects with Baselight?
It started with both of the DPs, Reed Morano and Matty Libatique: they shot really great images to work with. We had a conversation prior to both jobs about what they were looking for.
Once the footage was back at Framestore, we normalised all of it so that it would fit into a single colour gamut. That allowed us to treat Phantom cam and RED footage exactly the same way - we could treat everything as log encoded data, which allowed us to grade as if it was all coming off of the same camera.
The great thing about Baselight is that we never have to worry about what kind of camera is being used. We have a workflow here that can take any kind of camera media and put it into the right colour space for us to work with.
What about ‘Orange Sunshine’ that you finished this year? How was the look developed with the filmmakers? How did the material inspire you?
With Orange Sunshine, they shot a lot of “re-enactments”. Some of it was on film, Super 8, and some on high speed Phantom. We really wanted to push the colour and to make it look like found footage shot in the 60’s and 70’s, especially the Phantom footage.
How would you define your personal style of grading?
I look at a shot and then I find the best part of it, the part that represents a photograph, and I go from there. I love print film and photography so I try to see it as a picture instead of a moving image. A lot of my style and taste comes from photographs prior to 1979.
It may vary from project to project, but how early do you get involved in a production?
Sometimes, not early enough. It does change project to project. With films and documentaries, I get involved much earlier and I wish most commercials were done that way.When I started at Framestore, my first job with the team was Rihanna #ANTIdiaRY. I was able to sit in on creative meetings with the team early on which told me a lot about the workflow and the project. For me, being involved from the outset helps my understanding of the project but it also makes it feel more collaborative.
Can you tell us more about your collaborative process with VFX and CG artists at Framestore? Is Baselight for NUKE involved in your workflow?
We are still tinkering with Baselight for NUKE. Since we opened our colour suite in LA eight months ago, we have been slowly implementing Baselight Editions across our departments. We’ve really taken advantage of the new conform tool, too, which gives us an additional fully operational assist station and that allows for a much more efficient workflow.
What do you like most about Baselight?
I like that it’s built specifically for colour grading and all of the tools are created with the artist in mind. Beyond that, it has all of the technical capabilities that no other software has.
What is it about Baselight that helps your creative process?
Baselight feels more organic to me. I think it’s more intuitive and I like the way it handles a variety of files with ease.
Any particular colour ideas you are experimenting with or wanting to see more of?
A lot of images are starting to look the same: blue shadows, warm highlights and warm skin tones so it doesn’t look like real photography to me. Personally, I like softer highlights, contrast through mid-tones and creating texture, which we don’t see enough of.
Young filmmakers and people who really believe in what they are doing.
Who is your favourite actor, and why?
Philip Seymour Hoffman. Everything he did, he was so talented.
What is your favourite TV series and/or films?
I don’t think I could ever narrow it down to just one! If I had to choose, I would go for ‘Courtship of Eddie’s Father’ because I made a video with my son to the title song so it’s special to me.
What do you like to do outside the colour suite?
Hiking with my dogs, painting, swimming, eating good food, Pilates.
We have a really strong start to our office in LA and I am excited to be working at Framestore. I am looking forward to adding a theatre here to facilitate doing more long-form work.
If you want to participate in our MTC programme, we'd love to hear from you. Contact:
e: [email protected]
“I look at a shot and then I find the best part of it, the part that represents a photograph, and I go from there.”
Colourist: Beau Leon
Role: Lead Colourist