Meet the Team – Denny Cooper

What was your first experience with the world of colour grading – and when did you decide that being a colourist was a role that you wanted to pursue?

My first experience of colour grading was when I started as a runner at Rushes Post Production (RIP!!). I had little to no knowledge of grading at the time back in 1999. I knew straight away that this was the career path for me! Changing colours on pictures; what’s not to love!

What was the project that you felt really changed your career?

I wouldn’t say one particular project changed my career. 
There have been so many and hopefully i’ve grown and learnt from all of them – good or bad!

How/where did you hone your craft and did you have any particular mentors?

Back when I started out learning on Spirit – C Reality on da Vinci 2k it was pretty much film based. I got to pick the brains of amazing colourists like Adrian Seery and Mark Gethin, but colourists at that time didn’t really like to share too much knowledge. Luckily the one guy who I actually did sit with and train was Matt Turner; he taught me some great lessons !

Tell us more about your creative process – (e.g.when you get a project, how do you go about developing a look?)

I truly believe that grading is quite an organic process, each grade develops as the job goes on and very rarely does the initial grade set end up being the final grade. 

When you’re out of the studio, what inspires you?

The world around us is a constant source of inspiration. Be it a walk in the countryside with the dogs or just out and about in London town, I’m always taking in the ever changing colours throughout the day and how light and shade affects the world we see. 
Aside from this I love to check out other artists from my profession and other mediums within the art world!

When working in commercials, what role can colour and a grade play in enhancing a brand’s assets and what sort of conversations do you have with creatives and clients about that (e.g. is there often a strategic/consistent ‘look’ for a brand? Can these be too heavy handed?)

I tend to find out what sort of look and feel they want for the piece? What emotion do they want to convey? Does the brand have specific guidelines (many do). Work out how you’re going to achieve this; find a balance between all parties involved and your own creative input. Don’t be afraid to voice your own opinion but listening to others is also very important!

How do you ensure that each colourist-director partnership is a success?

Listen to the director; they have a vision for the piece and make it a collaborative affair. Also have a banging playlist!

What advice would you give to budding colourists?

Get your head down and train hard, don’t be afraid to experiment. But the most important thing for me would be to make sure you get a good starting point on each grade. Balance out the picture and then go from there, don’t go straight into it with all the bells and whistles that are available to graders nowadays. Starting out, I only had 4 available channels, which really taught me how to actually grade and not just bang a LUT on it. Not a massive fan of LUTS, I much prefer to grade it myself !

In your opinion, what’s the difference between a good grade and a great grade?

Grading is such a subjective thing and is up to the individual viewing it. Obviously it needs to be technically correct and aesthetically pleasing. A lot depends on how well the DOP has shot the piece!

How is the craft and trade of colour grading changing?

Grading is constantly evolving as technology changes and more and more tools become available to the colourist. But the basics pretty much stay the same!

You’ve been at UNIT for the best part of 4 years, what would you say is your favourite thing about working at UNIT?

The first thing I noticed about Unit when I joined 4 years ago was the family atmosphere / vibe it had. Since then we’ve moved into an amazing building in Fitzrovia that’s been transformed into a stunning building to work in. During my career I have predominantly worked on short form, commercials, fashion films and music videos but now I’m in the process of grading my first episodic drama and I’m loving it. With the scope to be able to grade short and long form I’m really excited about the future at UNIT.