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Will Read: An Integrated Approach to Filmmaking

Editors note: Cinematographer and colorist Will Read is presenting a one hour Ask a Video Pro online seminar this week: Crafting the perfect image: from camera to color grading is on Thursday, February 6 at 10:00am PST.

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“Better tools are allowing films and videos to be finished by fewer people who have greater control, resulting in better programs with a clearer creative voice. 
- Will Read

London-based filmmaker Will Read is part of the new generation of digital artists, and works as a director, cinematographer, editor, and especially, as a colorist. He has completed commercial, broadcast, and long-form content in conventional and 3D formats for a long list of clients, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Bloomberg Television, ITV, Team Angelica, Adidas, Canon, and numerous others.

We spoke with Will about his work, his vision, and his tools.

What made you decide you wanted to be a filmmaker?

As an art student in high-school, I was fascinated with photography, writing and theatre, but it took me a while to connect the dots and put everything together. When I was watching the DVD extras of Sophia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” it hit me. I saw the director and director of photography, Lance Accord, working together and it struck me as the coolest form of art where story, writing, photography, music, theatre and so on, all gelled together.

Where did you study?

I then decided to study media and communications in London and specialised in film on a competitive degree and managed to secure the position of director in my second and third year – having won the department’s screenwriting competition.

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What do you love most about the work you do?

I love beautiful images. I’m dedicated to that, through my work as a DoP, or my work as a colorist. The pictures have to look brilliant. The filming must be impeccable, the post-production too, and the result is amazing images. A good DoP can be terribly let down by bad postproduction. I had this experience once and decided that it should never happen again. So I decided to color one of my short films and that started my passion for grading.

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When did you first discover the Adobe pro video tools?

I have used Adobe tools for most of my life. I’ve played with Photoshop since I was fourteen so I was always aware of the image editing tools. After Effects has been a part of my kit for quite a while. Following the Final Cut debacle I moved to editing solely on Adobe Premiere Pro. It was a pivotal moment, both for me. The Premiere Pro and the Adobe Media Encoder workflow is what I always wanted but what FCP never quite delivered.

You used Premiere Pro, Audition, and SpeedGrade on a big ITV job last year. How did you find the tools?

I was asked last year to demonstrate the possibility of showing how one good editor could cut, dub and grade promos and go straight to air from one desktop computer. I cut on Premiere Pro, dubbed in Audition, and finished in SpeedGrade. The workflow was efficient and I loved working with the tools, without having to transfer my assets from the editing workstation to a sound engineer and then to a colorist’s computer. I could cut the promos, finish the sound mastering, and grade them, all in my suite. It was great for a client-facing project like this.

How did this integrated pipeline help in working with the client?

I could chat my client through the different steps and go, ‘Ok, so, now we’ll take our audio in for some polishing’ and by the time I’d explain our workflow, Audition would be open and ready to mix our soundscape. Similarly, I could say, ‘Ok, now I think our picture could do with some shine’ and send it to SpeedGrade right in our session. There was no need to be moving between different post houses. For the client, this was a totally new experience: they were seeing the programme coming to life before their eyes! Most importantly for me, I could make changes to any part of the programmes during the reviews right there and then. It couldn’t be more efficient.

You talk a lot about having “more control with fewer people,” in film production. Why is that important to you?

Working as both the cinematographer and colorist, gives me the ability to shoot and then develop my own pictures. Instead of palming off my footage to someone else who will add a layer of interpretation, I can get exactly the result I wanted to achieve. Essentially, this gives me a clearer, more truthful realization of my original vision. The better part is that the two processes influence each other and the combination of both is far, far greater than the sum of the two parts.

What are your favourite features in Premiere Pro?

My favourite thing in Premiere Pro is the tilde key, hands down! It’s so helpful to go fullscreen on any panel with a single click. I also love the playback resolution toggle which means I get always have real-time playback.

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What do you like best about Audition?

I love the simplicity of the interface. It’s actually super easy to get started with very little knowledge of audio. Also, big thank you for the ‘Loudness Radar’ plugin that you have introduced with Audition CC. You have made something that was rather obscure, ridiculously easy to monitor.

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… and SpeedGrade?

There is so much I like about SpeedGrade! I really appreciate the clean, uncluttered user interface. It’s a bit unfamiliar to start with, but blissfully simple once you get used to it – which doesn’t take long. I love the lightness of the app: SpeedGrade starts in seconds. I also like the windows that you can control with hue and luma color wheels and dials respectively. It’s awesome, and much faster to use than many other package. The ability to recall grades using the number pad lets me work super fast and real-time crops are another favorite. The color engine is brilliant: the colors really always look great. And I particularly like the point-cloud vectorscope, I don’t think I’ve come across one that is more accurate.

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What advice do you have for filmmakers who are considering moving to Creative Cloud?

Stop wasting time. Do it! I have found the move to the Creative Cloud really smooth. It gives me regular updates and the ability to use my license on two machines, my Mac Pro and my PC laptop. There’s no other package that gives filmmakers anything close to the tools and capabilities that the Creative Cloud offers. You can edit, retouch stills, titles, paint objects out, add 3-D motion graphics, master audio and so much more for a monthly membership. Moving to Creative Cloud is a no brainer for me.

Join Will Read on Thursday, February 6 at 10 am PT for a special one-hour online session: Crafting the perfect image: from camera to color grading

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