Meet The Colourist
Raúl Lavado Verdú
Freelance Colourist, Spain
Raúl Lavado Verdú is a freelance colourist based in Madrid, Spain. He works on a variety of content, including film, TV and commercials. He ’s graded endless video clips from new urban music artists but is best known for his work on The Vast of Night (2019), Cuéntame (2021), the first original Disney + series from Spain, La Última (2022), and Chronicles Of A Wandering Saint (2023).
Tell us about your journey to become a successful colourist.
My journey to become a colourist has been a long and winding road. I learned what a pixel is through playing videogames as a child in the 80’s, and this world instantly fascinated me. Combined with my study of painting and the arts, it was clear to me from a young age that I wanted to dedicate my career to the arts and technology.
I have always liked urban art and photography and my family is very fond of the cinema, which has had a big influence – I still have colour palettes and images recorded in my retinas from a very young age.
Professionally, I started out as a video editor, doing simple motion graphics and VFX work, but what I really enjoyed was helping to tell stories and for my work to have a narrative context. The click in my head was when I realised that I could change the colour of the scenes and create atmospheres and environments. Even though I did not know at this point that the role of a colourist even existed, it was clear to me that this is what I wanted to do.
What type of content do you usually work on?
I normally work on feature films and TV series, which is what I enjoy the most, because of the creative capacity that can be proposed. I also work on commercials, with my favourite being fashion ads.
What’s your career highlight to-date?
It's difficult to say as there are many projects that I'm very fond of, but I'm very happy with the result of the first original Disney + series from Spain, La Última, as well as La Espera, the latest film by director Francisco Javier Gutierrez, (Rings, 2017 and Before the Fall (3 dias), 2008) and DoP Miguel Ángel Mora, which will premiere this year.
How long have you been grading on Baselight?
I’ve been working on a complete Baselight system since 2018, but I have been following FilmLight very closely for a long time, with great interest in Daylight, Baselight Editions and Baselight STUDENT (now Baselight LOOK).
What is your favourite thing about Baselight?
What I like most about Baselight is its flexibility. It allows me to be incredibly creative and it can be used in various ways, adapting the workspace to the different stages of the conform process, colour, QC, deliveries, etc. Colour management is unbeatable and the respect with which it treats the media and the finesse of the tools is on another level – you can make subtle colour changes to the most complex looks with great sincerity.
The design of the interface and the integration with Blackboard is also something that I love. For me, it is an extension of myself.
How did you get involved in the series La Ultima and at what stage in the process?
Luckily I was there from the beginning, something that is becoming more and more common and is highly appreciated. With Ricardo De Gracia, the DoP, we had the opportunity to test a few cameras and various sets of lenses for testing in Baselight – to see what different types of textures and features were closest to Ricardo's creative intent for the series.
Ricardo and Eduard Cortes, the director, let me work independently and when I had an episode ready, we had a review and adjustment session. Everything worked very well, and it is one of the most pleasant projects I have ever worked on. I think this is the advantage of being close to the DoP and director from the beginning – you are very clear about what they are looking for, so there is little margin for error.
What was the desired ‘look’ for the series and how did you achieve this in Baselight?
The main premise of Ricardo and Eduard was that everything should be very natural, vibrant and organic, but above all that it be an image with volume – as three-dimensional as possible. This was very much the goal for the look of the series.
My favourite Baselight feature is Base Grade. For me, it is a tool that changes everything and is my main tool. Sometimes I combine it with Film Grade, to get some nuance with more character and I almost always make fine adjustments with Hue Shift.
I am a technical and methodical colourist, but I also like to tap into my creative side when grading. I like to lean on my artistic expression and create emotions with colour, to help tell the story. I let the images speak and spontaneously my instinct guides me to the tools I need to develop looks that emotionally match the scene.
Can you tell us a little more about your work on La Espera?
La Espera has been a very rewarding challenge. I worked with Miguel Angel Mora, the DoP, on Cuentame and he put my name forward for the film. The director, F. Javier Gutiérrez, and I always had very fluid communication, too.
The movie occurs in a desolate location in deep Andalusia, in the middle of summer and with a dry and suffocating climate at more than 40 degrees. The objective was to achieve that sensation of dryness and desolation of the villages of rural Spain. And as the movie progresses, it gets darker and more dramatic.
Tell us more about the desired look for the film?
Speaking more technically of the objectives of the look, it was to try to ‘kill’ the green tones of the foliage of the plants and any colour that could convey any feeling of ‘hope’.
The main aim was to achieve a desert and suffocating atmosphere, but never fall into sepia tones. To do this, I set Baselight's Mastering white point to D55, which gave us a warm creative starting point closer to our goal. La Espera was also done under the T-CAM Pipeline with VFX management in ACES.
How do you like to collaborate with the director and DoP on a project?
It depends a lot on the project. In the case of La Espera, Miguel and Javier, who I have worked with in the past, let me propose the look. They really liked it and then we just made adjustments per scene – using mask and paint to enhance or hide certain elements.
There are other cases where the DoP will always want to be present. And others might only come in to review so that I can do the matching work on my own.
I don't have a particular preference, I enjoy all the processes, but being given freedom of proposal and creativity is very gratifying.
What’s it like being a freelance colourist? Do you enjoy the variety of projects? What are the challenges?
The truth is that I am really enjoying this new stage as a freelancer. I have always been a very corporate colourist, working in large companies, but I think it is very nice to be able to manage your time and your clients yourself. It is true that now I work more than ever before, but when your work is your passion and way of life, like it is for me, that doesn’t matter. I think in colour 24 hours a day.
What’s the market like in Spain at the moment?
Personally, I see Spain at its best when it comes to the level of post-production.
Spain is becoming a European content hub without a doubt. There are more and more prepared people and initiatives like the Netflix summit a few months ago, which was a resounding success – allowing professionals to learn, grow and network.
I firmly believe in a collaborative industry, which is why I think Netflix should be congratulated for this great initiative – and it also says a lot about its intentions for the Spanish market.
On the other hand, I teach Baselight in the Colour Master at the ECAM (School of Cinematography and Audiovisual of the Community of Madrid) and I see younger people eager to learn, with a lot of interest and a lot of talent.
What do you like to do outside the grading room?
Eating and cooking is my other passion. I really enjoy gastronomy, a good wine and meeting with friends around a table. I am also passionate about live music and concerts, and I haven’t lost my love for videogames, either – although I have less time to play. And, of course, the cinema.
MISTERIO! Watch this space…
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“It is true that now I work more than ever before, but when your work is your passion and way of life, that doesn’t matter. I think in colour 24 hours a day.”
Colourist: Raúl Lavado Verdú
Role: Freelance Colourist
La Última: Graded and mastered in Dolby Vision on Baselight