Jim Bracher, Colour Assist at The Mill in London, shares his recent work on Jamie XX’s moving music promo ‘Sleep Sound’, the dramatic short film ‘The Birthday Gift', and 'LUX' a vivid neon promo for lingerie brand eLai London. Jim tells us more about his recent projects, and what it is about colour that inspired him to pursue this elusive and niche career:
What initially interested me in colour was the fact that most people outside of our industry have no idea that the grading process even takes place. They may watch a car transform into a robot and they know they are watching visual effects, they look at cosmetics advertising or a magazine cover and they are aware that the image has been retouched, but few stop to consider colour, despite it's obvious importance, because it's effect is almost subconscious.
Many people I meet are surprised when they first hear about colour grading, having thought previously that what they see on screen is "just what it looked like". Colour is such an essential tool in conveying narrative and mood, yet it's perceived as background detail, a mysterious and elusive but nonetheless vital component. It appeals to my intellectual vanity I suppose if I'm honest. You get a little ego boost when you tell people about your work. It makes you feel clever.
Last project completed: Tony & Guy promo film
Inspiration: Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi, Krzysztof Kieślowski's Three Colours Trilogy, Graffiti, James Brown, Dim Sum, his colleagues and his daughter
Current favourite film: Jonathan Glazer's 'Under the Skin'
Would love to work with: Michel Gondry, Lukas Moodyson, Michael Mann or Stanley Kubrick
Jamie XX ‘Sleep Sound’
I was asked to work on the Jamie XX promo by Cherise Payne, a music video director with whom I had worked previously. She briefed me on the concept - Sofia Mattioli; the director and main performer, danced with 13 members of the Manchester Deaf Centre during the course of one day, who responded to her movements and the vibrations in the air given off by the song.
I was interested straight off the bat and once I had seen some of the footage I was very eager to be involved. It was Sofia's directorial debut, but she had a very definite idea of what she wanted. We kept the grade very subtle, allowing the natural variations in light in the room and the performances speak for themselves.
The result - a very honest look with lots of atmosphere without being forced, allowing the viewer to feel intimately involved, almost in the room with the dancers.
Short films differ to grading promos as so many scenes are distinctly different in look and feel. Each needs to flow on from one another and must help convey the story so the grade had to be sympathetic to the narrative, making these projects great fun to work on.
Max Myers (director), Dan Stafford-Clark (DOP) and myself spent a few hours perfecting a look for each scene, which I then pulled together over a couple of sessions. The look is a fairly polished one, reflecting the high production values and the subject matter. It needed a richness of tone and a slick presentation, reflecting a very upper–middle class family with a few skeletons in the closet. The aim was to give each scene a distinct look whilst maintaining the colour palette throughout the film.
When Josh and Mitch of Jam Flicks first showed me the final cut of 'Lux' I was a real fan of all the vivid neon and tungsten eager to get involved. I hadn't had that many opportunities to work on material which is so colourful and high in contrast, so it made a nice change and allowed space for a lot of interpretation and manipulation of colour.
This grade was all about the direction of light and of course the colour of the neon signs. I played with the hues and used a lot of shapes to pick out details and express heat of the light on the actors' skin. There is also a lot of strong vignetting in there which is a little out of fashion but in this case works perfectly. The aim with the end result was to create something edgy, and sexy in a sensual way without being crass or lewd.