‘It’s like having a dress tailored for you’

DIGIPOST’s music composer and sound designer Lucia Violino talks about the role of music composition in films and commercial videos.

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Lucia Violino working at DIGIPOST’s audio suit

Can you tell me something about yourself?

I first learned playing violin and piano, when I was 9 years old. From playing music, I gradually moved to composition. I held two degrees in violin and composition at the High Conservatory of Music of Málaga. Later I studied piano and electro-acoustic composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts of Vienna.

After graduation, I started freelancing as an orchestra violinist, a music teacher, a music composer and a sound designer for short films, TV series, video games and web series.

As both a music composer and sound designer, what do you think is the difference between the two jobs?

I don’t think there are many differences between them. Music is an international language allowing people all over the world to communicate. And, sound, in a sense, is also music.

However, when it comes to films, music composition is more about storytelling, reflecting the mood of a specific scene. So, it’s more abstract and freer. Meanwhile, sound reflects a specific action in a specific scene such as opening a door, raining and hitting.

In your opinion, why do we need music composition for commercials?

Although it is common that people use copyrighted music libraries for commercials, I think that practice may compromise the identity of their works.

If you want the best for your works, you have to ask professionals to compose music specific for them. It’s like having a dress tailored for you – you are the one and only person who can wear it beautifully.

However, in order to create a perfect music score for a commercial, it is not easy. Music composers need a good reference and understanding about the product and commercial in question. They also need to bond with everyone involved in the process, including clients and directors, to understand what they want. Open and good communication may help a lot.

Once they know what people are expecting from them, music composers will find slots in the expectations to fit their ideas in. It may sound time-consuming but it’s the best way to find the best solution in post-production industry.

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Meet DIGIPOST’s newest colorist

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Please tell me something about you.

My name is Laura F. Knieling. I’m from Spain, where I finished my study in Audiovisual Media. I came to work in Vietnam about one month ago.

Why Vietnam?

I first visited the country on a vacation five years before and loved it so much. So, I decided to come her to start the adventure of working far away from my hometown.

It’s nice to work at DIGIPOST, where people are very open and helpful like a family. I think that homey feeling is very important in such a demanding environment as a post house.

Do you remember the moment you decided to become a colorist?

I always love painting and colors, so when I watch films, I often found myself wondering how that scene could have such a specific look. I was especially intrigued by the cheeky grade of “Drive” by Nicolas Winding Refn, and the elegant, discreet and effective grade of “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master,” both by Paul Thomas Anderson.

I assumed the impressive looks were created by the Director of Photography until one day I realized that they were the creation of colorists. I also realized that I wanted to and could become a colorist.

Is there a gap between your imagination about the job and its reality?

It is more difficult than I thought at the beginning. Once I started doing the job, I realized how many techniques and work are involved. I also realized that there are many ways to do things in color grading. In other words, it is much more complicated, but also more exciting.

It is also different when you are a professional colorist. My first-ever project was a short movie. As a freelancer, I had total control over the work and schedule.

Now, as a professional colorist, I have to meet the expectations of all people involved in my project, including directors and clients. But, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t nice. In fact, it is more challenging and demanding. It helps shape my grading skills and ideas about colors. When people feel happy with the results I deliver, I do too.

I want to keep running and running, improving and improving my skills. I want to make the best.

So, to you, what is color grading and colorist?

As a kid I used to paint, but for different reasons I stopped it and for many years I didn’t took a pencil again. Now, years later I see the color grading as a second opportunity that was given to me to get in touch again with the world of color, accompanying another passion: the audiovisual world.

To me, color grading is a craftsmanship. It’s like molding wax or carving wood. You get the “raw” (in a color meaning) product and you polish it with discretion and care.

You can watch Laura’s showreel here:

3 things CG artists wish people knew about the job

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A CG artist working at DIGIPOST

As CG (computer graphics) is practically everywhere these days, there comes a question: are we taking it for granted?

Therefore, we sat down with Sophon Seangkaew, a senior 3D and VFX artist at DIGIPOST, asking him to share what he thinks people are likely missing about CG.

Timing can make it or break it.

Creativity and techniques aside, timing is very critical in CG.

Depending on effects and techniques, the whole process – modeling and texturing, animation and rendering – can take you some time between a few days and a few months.

For instance, rendering a CG that is three seconds long, the shortest possible length to show the effect, can take up to six days.

Without giving a careful consideration to timing, you may find yourself waiting for years before your dream project can be finished.

Good references are a key.

Unlike other artists who thrive on spontaneity, CG artists cannot go into creation without a proper plan for execution.

Starting a CG job headfirst is a recipe for disaster.

Sooner or later, you will find yourself working on something without having a clear idea what it is going to be or when it is going to end. Even if you can finish it, what you get in the end will hardly justify all the time and efforts you have spent.

That’s why a good CG artist will spend time finding a good reference before starting anything. References can give you ideas about what you want to achieve and how long it should take.

CG is a fun job.

Unlike many other jobs, CG artists watch cartoons and films to do their job. It is one of the most fun jobs in the world.

Unfortunately, many artists are suffering from it, because due to unclear reasons, people mistakenly think CG as a tool not an art. They think CG people are there to create what they want, instead of discussing about what is possible and what is not in a given schedule.

When artists are not allowed to have a say in what they are creating, especially what they have expertise on, it kills their creativity and energy.

‘O Color, Why Should I Bother?’

Here’s the reason why you need to hire a professional colorist to grade your works

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A screenshot from Bobby Nguyen – The photographer, a short film produced by RICE and color graded by DIGIPOST

Since “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” was released in 2000 and became the first feature film to get fully digital color grading, color grading techniques have gone through a huge evolution.

Nowadays anyone can color grade their works quickly and effectively like a pro with the assistance of advanced software. Or, so the software marketers have been telling you.

That has raised a critical question: if color grading sounds that easy, do you still need to pay high prices to hire a professional colorist to do your works?

Definitely yes. Here’s why.

In order to add the emotional engagement to your works, and big one at that, you do not need someone who masters grading techniques only.

You need someone who is also an artist, or a painter in particular. Someone who has a taste and an eye for colors. Someone who knows how to choose the right color to provoke desired emotions from audience.

And, that taste is something natural. Either you have it or you do not. Just like in arts, it’s one thing that you can paint, but whether you are a talented painter is another thing.

“Color grading is about shaping the emotional effects of a scene, rather than just fixing technical errors happening during filming such as lighting,” Laura, a colorist at DIGIPOST, said.

“It’s like sculpting,” she said.

In an old interview on the breakthrough color grading of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Randy Starr, VFX producer at Cinesite, which did the film’s VFX, once said color was like a character in a movie.

“As a character, it let you feel the period of time. It let you feel the heat in the air. It let you feel the sweats on the body. And that’s something a filmmaker couldn’t capture on a camera.”

In other words, without a professional colorist who plays as a good director to bring out the best of that character, your works are never complete, emotionally.