‘The Fortress’ by Jin Young Park
When did you know you wanted to become a colourist and what triggered this interest?
As an Art College student, it was quite common to see friends and colleagues working in the advertising and ﬁlm industries. I also started my career as a compositing artist at an advertising post house.
Meanwhile, I was fascinated by ﬁlm colour grading and how it helped to raise emotions or to create moods using colour and light. I find it more profound than commercial color grading because it focuses more on narrative. From my perspective, film colour grading is another form of storytelling tools that I can use to communicate with the audience.
You are one of the top colourists in South Korea, with an impressive portfolio of films. What is your approach to colour?
It is great to see the diversity of different genres and plots in Korean films as the industry evolves. I have worked on 130 films and each time I have always made a commitment to myself to create something different, unique and better in quality. This commitment has kept me as a colourist without getting weary of it.
A good colourist seeks to create various looks regardless of the genre, and also communicates with the director and DOP to understand their creative intentions. I find inspiration in ads from magazines, photos I take with my phone, and photo books.
Where does the look start for you?
I must have been naturally inﬂuenced by the scriptwriting classes at college. Once I get involved in a new project, I always read the script ﬁrst. Then I usually talk to the director, DOP, production designer and costume designer to build visual concepts for the ﬁlm.
Once we determine the concept or look, we do multiple rounds of tests to decide the right tools for the ﬁlm such as the camera, lenses, etc. I consider this pre-test as my ﬁrst colour grading work.
When grading, I spend a vast amount of time developing the ‘colour theme’ based on the concept discussed during pre-production. Creating this theme is the key element of my approach. It’s a little more complicated than the look itself because it also contains the overall level of contrast, saturation, exposure, sharpness, and so on. It acts as a visual framework and once established, the rest gets much easier as I follow the story to determine the tone for each scene.
Most recently you worked on the stunning imagery of The Fortress together with DOP Ji Yong Kim, who recently won Best Cinematography at Camerimage. What was your collaboration like with him?
I have worked with Ji Yong for his previous eight ﬁlms, and I am also planning to work on his next movie. Because we have worked together for a long time, we both understand each other so well that we produce excellent teamwork.
We discuss many things together such as the lens selection, the ﬁlter selection, the concept, the detailed colour grading plan, as well as the composition and the movement of the camera, and setting the exposure level or the overall contrast.
He always brings me amazing images and, as a colourist, nothing can be more exciting than working with beautiful images.
When Ji Yong Kim was awarded the Golden Frog at Camerimage, I was so happy and excited that I could not believe it at ﬁrst. This award is so special because Ji Yong is the ﬁrst Asian to be awarded at the Camerimage Film Festival.
I see this ﬁlm The Fortress as one of my best works in terms of maturity and achievement. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work on this project.
How was the colour developed together with the filmmakers?
For The Fortress, there were a few fundamental visual elements Ji Yong wanted to accomplish.
Because the story is set in the cold winter mountains, it had to be visually cold, and at the same time, it had to show beautiful scenery. The battle scenes had to look desperate with great intensity. There were many scenes where I needed to convey the main characters’ emotions elaborately.
I was able to create the ﬁnal look by creating a bluish cast with a strong contrast to enhance the sharpness of the image. I experimented with a lot of looks to express cold, snowy mountains. I chose a cool blue as the primary colour, and I added several luma mattes to apply unique shades of blue to create somewhat different shades of the colour for the movie.
For night scenes, Ji Yong used a torch or candlelight instead of using any lighting to capture the reality.
You moved to Baselight recently. Are there any specific tools that you really like?
Overall, I love Baselight’s colour pipeline. It is very accurate and technically precise when handling various types of digital media and displays. I think this is the most crucial function in digital image processing.
My favourite tools in Baselight are Base Grade and Film Grade. I believe well-balanced images are achievable with the simplest tools. I’d be curious to know what other colourists’ favourite tools are!
What is next for you?
If I get a chance, I would like to work overseas and experience different styles of ﬁlm and environment.
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