Senior Colourist Dave Hussey
Dave Hussey is one of Company 3’s founders and a multi-award-winning colourist. Recent work includes Paramount feature The Lost City, Bullet Train for Sony Pictures, Netflix’s Slumberland and Universal Studios’ Violent Night. He also brought his eye for colour to Insecure and Barry, both HBO series, and the Hulu limited series Welcome to Chippendales (Season 2) and The Dropout.
Dave also has an impressive list of short-form credits including a number of memorable music videos and major campaigns for top brands. Recent examples include Lexus, Acura, Mazda, Beats by Dre, Taco Bell and Google, and a favourite Hyundai spot featuring Jason Bateman that premiered during the 2019 Super Bowl.
He recently received an AICP Award for Diet Coke spot ‘Drink What Your Mama Gave Ya’. He was nominated by the HPA for his arresting colour grade on the thriller ‘Red Sparrow’, and he worked on the Sports Emmy Award-winning ‘Daytona 500 – Daytona Day’ promotional spot for Fox.
Dave is also a judge for the 2023 FilmLight Colour Awards, for which judging is now in progress. “I joined the jury because I was curious about how the level of colour grading has evolved internationally in recent years and I also wanted to see how grades vary by region, if they do at all,” he said. “So far I’ve been impressed with the general consistency of colour grading quality all over the world. Even on jobs that don’t have Hollywood type budgets, the quality in colour creativity has been elevating the projects.”
Spotlight on Colourists
He believes the Awards have put the spotlight on colourists, bringing together a top list of judges that he has long admired. “In the industry itself we have always had the respect of DoPs, directors, VFX and the like, but the FilmLight Colour Awards have helped to bring us out of the shadows and deservedly into the forefront of our business.
“It’s been nice to see colourists get their stories out there and hopefully inspire the next generation of colourists as well. The technology of grading has been evolving at lightning speed in recent years and now is our time to shine.”
He also feels it’s important that the Awards are open to colourists working on any grading platform. “An award for outstanding colour grading should be based on what the artist does with their colour correction tools of choice. If selection of projects was limited to work done in a particular tool, the award really wouldn't have much meaning. By being technology agnostic, the FilmLight Colour Awards can function as a true celebration of artistry.”
Seen but not Seen
He definitely feels that colour influences the way an audience perceives a TV episode or a film, but he is also aware that much of his work needs to remain well behind the scenes. “For most of my career, when I was asked what I did, I responded with ‘I am a colourist’ and would be met with a blank stare. It’s only been in recent years that some of the general public has started to understand a bit more about colouring, thanks to YouTube and similar platforms,” he said.
“I think when colour grading affects the subconscious side of how the audience feels in terms of mood, that’s when it is the most effective. Along with creative lighting, the colourist's ability to adjust attributes like colour temperature and contrast are key aspects in directing an audience to where we want them to focus, and to help establish the mood we want them to feel.”
The characteristics defining a good colourist are in evidence from the very beginning of a project. “When we get started on a commercial project, for example, a colourist will often get a lot of information thrown at him/her all at once,” said Dave. “This includes agency colour references, the director and DoP’s visions and sometimes what the actual client is looking to achieve. A colourist needs to assimilate all these ideas and, after spending some time with the footage, achieve a look that brings all these thoughts and concerns into a cohesive grade – hopefully making all the creatives happy.
“Occasionally, the main client may want things to look a little brighter than what the creatives are hoping for. In cases like this, we can use colour balance and windowing to hopefully bring everyone together. It’s the job of the colourist to bring their own take to the project and build on the ideas of the creatives.”
No matter what type of project he or she is involved with, the colourist should be a problem solver and idea person. Dave noted, “Since often we have not experienced the trials and tribulations of the shoot, we can be a good sounding board and a good arbiter of what is an issue and what is not.”
When considering recent changes in his industry over the last several years, interestingly, he commented that one of the biggest to emerge has been the many talented female colourists that have made grading their career. “It’s been a refreshing change,” he said “The same has happened in cinematography. It’s been amazing and was obviously long overdue.
“Beyond that, on the technical side, HDR has been another major change. The newest digital cameras to come from ARRI and Sony are remarkable with exposure capabilities that are off the charts. The colour platforms that we work on have all advanced significantly, as well, and window tracking, secondary controls and HDR tools have greatly improved. Here at Company 3, being able to work with our own colour scientists has been an important advancement when we are creating LUTs and designing workflows for projects.”
But, going back the FilmLight Colour Awards – what practical advice would he give to future entrants? “What I would advise entrants to the commercial and music video categories, is to find projects that have a variety of looks that work cohesively together,” he considered. “One good look for a film can be fine, but as a judge I want to see what you can do. Pick a project with several different looking scenes with different kinds of light where you can show off your talent.” www.filmlight.ltd.uk