Film and TV drama
Also known as: Grader, Post digital imaging technician
Colourists contribute to the mood and look of a film by defining its colours. They work with the director and director of photography to decide the palette; whether it’s restrained or hyper-coloured, whether it uses milky colours or primary ones. Colourists are able to contribute to these looks by changing the luminance levels (brightness) and chroma (colour).
Film and TV dramas are usually shot on digital cameras in a raw format, which means the information about the colour is captured in the data but can’t be seen until the colour is applied. If shooting on film, the rushes are taken to the lab where they are processed and then scanned into a digital workflow. It’s the job of the colourist to perfect the way in which the colour is put into the picture. This is known as grading.
When colourists receive the files in the edit, they stylise the colour in line with the vision of the director and director of photography. They match the shots, balancing colour saturation and luminance so no one shot stands out in the sequence. They also offer creative solutions to picture-related problems. They might know what to do with under or over exposed images, or provide day for night corrections, for example.
Colourists are also responsible for ensuring the film complies with the law around luminance levels and chroma.
Most colourists start out as post-production edit or tech assistants or runners and get to know the post-production process well over several years. Go to our runner job profile for details of how to get in.
At school or college:
If you want to go to university, A-levels or Highers in art and design, photography, graphic design, graphic communication, physics, psychology or computing science are useful. Or you might want to take the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:
Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training, so they’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. You might find studios offering the following apprenticeships:
Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will be giving you the skills you want. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.
Build a portfolio. This is essential for impressing admissions tutors and people in the film industry. Just as important, it’s the best way to learn about editing, seeing what works and what doesn’t.
Look for post-production companies:
Most are in London, but not all. Contact them and ask if you can do work experience. Go to how to approach employers to learn how.
Get a degree:
It’s not essential, but have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses in film and TV. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the film and TV industries. Choose one which gives you access to post-production facilities.
Go to ScreenSkills events, especially Open Doors, where you can meet people who work in the industry. Give people in post-production your details and ask if you can do work experience.
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there’s a Facebook page or other social media group for people making films or videos in your area. Join it. Create a ScreenSkills profile.
Become a trainee:
Apply for ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme as a post-production trainee.
Being a production designer in film and TV drama.
Involves making sequences on a computer that can't be created on set, like enormous crowds and fire-breathing dragons
Combines art with programming as well as production, design and testing - the UK’s fastest growing entertainment industry
Creates the illusion of movement, includes computer-generated, stop-motion and hand-drawn animation
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