“Less is more” and “personal art sacrificed for the greater whole (the film)” are the two catchphrases that Barry Ackroyd often quotes when describing his own artistic style. ‘Captain Phillips’, Paul Greengrass-directed dramatisation of real-life hijacking of the Maersk Alabama ship by the Somali pirates in 2009 is full of urgent hand-held camera work which is a cinematic trademark refined and perfected by Ackroyd. It lends an air of pseudo-documentary authenticity to carefully staged reconstructions, putting us right there in the huddle of the action.

Growing up in the 1960s’ industrial North of England, Barry was part of the disillusioned post WWII generation that wanted to challenge the status quo and change their surroundings. He attended art school studying sculpture but was drawn to cinema through films, such as Ken Loach’s Kes, the cinematography of Chris Menges, British Free Cinema and French New Wave – these were films ‘made about people that he could relate to.’ He started working with the influential documentary film makers Chris Menges and Nick Broomfield in an attempt to create a new type of documentary which is more than just a factual account and could be used as a platform from which to reflect and discuss the views with the audience.

It was Barry’s work in documentary cinema that got the attention of the social realism director Ken Loach in the early 1990’s. This encounter established a celebrated partnership which led to over a dozen films being made over the next two decades, including Raining Stones, My Name is Joe and The Wind that Shakes the Barley, and most recently Looking for Eric. Ackroyd’s camera style helped refine Loach’s naturalistic yet pictorial, semi-factual/semi-fictional, unassuming, anti-melodramatic style of storytelling. In return, Ackroyd perfected his very British style of standing back and quietly listening while remaining close to the face and inside of the subject, and applying it to feature length fictional narrative cinema.

Ackroyd states that the limitations of his own equipment helped him create a very different look. He did not have enough money for the full kit of lenses, so he bought a second-hand AATON camera and three stills-camera lenses, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. Without the standard required kit of wide-angle lenses, I had lenses that were more varied. He hand held the long lenses, creating a more dynamic kinetic that provided more choice for the editor and director. It was this more dangerous approach that helped him form his distinctive style, and led to his understanding that the best visual effects are focus, exposure and choice of lens.

With a modest £11m budget for The Hurt Locker, Ackroyd chose S16mm Aaton XTRs, cameras, four in total, supplied by ICE Films in London. “It’s a documentary-style camera that I am very familiar with. The great thing about S16 mm is you can put a fantastic range oflenses on the camera. My main lens of choice was a Canon 11.5-165 mm T2.7 zoom that let me crash into huge close-ups or go wide, whilst doing handheld work.”

For Green Zone, which had a much larger budget and was shot on 35mm, he selected ARRICAM Lite (LT)s and ARRIFLEX 2Cs, as part of a camera and lighting package from ARRI. In keeping with the notion of continuum, he opted for the equivalent zoom for 35mm, an Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm. “It’s a phenomenal lens, but it’s 11 kilos in weight. The approach was the same as with the S16mm on The Hurt Locker, but then the challenge is to give the camera the same freedom.”


From the News Cameraman in the early eighties, covering events ranging from the Lebanon War to The Troubles, narrowly escaping death on several occasions, to multi-award nominated cinematographer for 12 Years a Slave, Sean Bobbitt’s journey was anything but unadventurous and a classic story of luck and opportunity seizing.

Now 55, Bobbitt left the world of hard news reportage for the US TV networks in the 1980’s for a less dangerous career in documentaries, but soon received a phone call from Michael Winterbottom who was looking for a documentary-influenced cinematographer for his new feature Wonderland. Bobbitt has never looked back since. After seeing it, British video artist Steve McQueen felt prompted to track down Bobbitt and ask him to collaborate. Bobbitt’s first collaboration with McQueen was Western Deep (2002), which brought the two men to the bottom of one of the world’s deepest gold mines: Tau Tona in South Africa. Bobbitt would go on to shoot the majority of McQueen’s installation works, including Charlotte (2004), Gravesend (2007), Static, and Giardini (both from 2009). He also acted as the cinematographer on all three of McQueen’s feature films to date, including Hunger (2008), Shame (2011), and 12 Years a Slave (2013). Bobbitt has remained busy since first breaking into dramatic filmmaking, working with directors such as Derek Cianfrance (most recently in 2012 on The Place Beyond the Pines), Neil Jordan, Spike Lee, and Barry Levinson. In 2012, he won a European Film Award for Best Technical Achievement in Cinematography for Shame. He received an Emmy nomination for his work on the miniseries Sense and Sensibility (2008) and three nominations from BAFTA, most recently for 12 Years a Slave.

In Shame and Hunger Bobbitt famously employed single long fixed-camera position takes in medium or long shot: the scene of “verbal tennis match” between a defiant Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and a perplexed priest in Hunger is 17-minute long. Bobbitt’s philosophy behind the approach was that we had reached a point where most film-makers have lost trust in the audience and if they did not keep cutting and changing the point of view the audience will get bored and disengage from the film. Also, he had always felt that the art of filmmaking was all about focus.

The work on 12 Years a Slave was altogether a different game. It involved a painstaking exploration of various Southern locations and recreation of believable period sets, as well as shooting scenes in different light over a number of different hours in a day and finding rendering a non-Caucasian skin tone on film a huge challenge. Sean Bobbitt says he tends to light for areas, as opposed to for a specific face, as he has always felt that the camera is there to observe, and not to enforce.

Nowadays Bobbitt’s best work has an almost dreamy intimacy, as he is gradually perfecting his art of “blending into the background”. By putting the actors at ease and letting them forget about the cameraman’s presence they are able to open up and act themselves.

Ackroyd states that the limitations of his own equipment helped him create a very different look. He did not have enough money for the full kit of lenses, so he bought a second-hand AATON camera and three stills-camera lenses, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. Without the standard required kit of wide-angle lenses, I had lenses that were more varied. He hand held the long lenses, creating a more dynamic kinetic that provided more choice for the editor and director. It was this more dangerous approach that helped him form his distinctive style, and led to his understanding that the best visual effects are focus, exposure and choice of lens.

With a modest £11m budget for The Hurt Locker, Ackroyd chose S16mm Aaton XTRs, cameras, four in total, supplied by ICE Films in London. “It’s a documentary-style camera that I am very familiar with. The great thing about S16 mm is you can put a fantastic range oflenses on the camera. My main lens of choice was a Canon 11.5-165 mm T2.7 zoom that let me crash into huge close-ups or go wide, whilst doing handheld work.”

For Green Zone, which had a much larger budget and was shot on 35mm, he selected ARRICAM Lite (LT)s and ARRIFLEX 2Cs, as part of a camera and lighting package from ARRI. In keeping with the notion of continuum, he opted for the equivalent zoom for 35mm, an Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm. “It’s a phenomenal lens, but it’s 11 kilos in weight. The approach was the same as with the S16mm on The Hurt Locker, but then the challenge is to give the camera the same freedom.”


Anton Chigurh’s (Javier Bardem) placid face and unflinching eyes after murdering his first police officer just a few minutes into ‘No Country For Old Men’; April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) standing in the middle of her suburban bedroom quietly bleeding herself to death in ‘Revolutionary Road’; Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) rushing on the horseback to get the rattlesnake bitten Mattie to the doctor as the day light changes and the huge surreal stars light the sky in ‘True Grit’ – all these images remain deeply etched in our minds thanks to Roger Deakins’ unique gift to tell the story of a character in a single photographic shot by combining almost documentary-style realism with deep lyricism.

Roger Deakins is currently one of Hollywood’s busiest cinematographers: 11-time Oscar nominee, the winner of over 25 awards for best cinematography including 3 BAFTAs (for True Grit, No Country for Old Men and The Man Who Wasn’t There) and the winner of ASC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. Born in 1949 in Torquay, Deakins originally enrolled in art school but soon discovered a love of photography that drove him to drop out and enrol in school for photography. This shift led to him becoming a seasoned documentarian of war zones, mental institutions and impoverished regions around the globe. He then made the leap from documentary cinema to narrative cinema, eventually becoming the cinematographer of choice for the Coen Brothers as well as working with Martin Scorsese, Paul Haggis, Sam Mendes, John Sayles, M. Night Shyamalan, Ron Howard, Edward Zwick, Tim Robbins and Michael Apted. Looking through the list of over 60 films he has shot over the past few decades – some of them considered modern classics such as Fargo, Shawshank Redemption, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, 1984 – it is hard to imagine there are many people who have not seen a film shot through the lens of Roger Deakins.

Deakins’ background as a documentary filmmaker was instrumental in him developing the skills of an observer of human character and helped him realise that his true interest lay in humanity, i.e. in portraying the misfits and seemingly unusual characters as just another “person next door”. His interest in stills photography and low lighting helped him create a highly recognisable style of storytelling, how he moves the camera with purpose and precision. The best of Deakins’ shots are composed in such a way that the viewer has to look at different parts of the screen for different information, and has time to do so – a pure cinematic poetry.

A fan of the Alexa lens, Deakins was also an early proponent of the use of the Digital Intermediate (DI), a process by which the negative is scanned into a telecine, manipulated digitally and then scanned back on to film for distribution. The look of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” relied heavily on the DI process.


Irish-born Robbie Ryan, who was a budding cinematographer from the age of 14 and graduated from Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology has had a colourful and multi-faceted career that spans commercials, music videos, experimental video, drama and various genres of feature films. He has built up a hugely impressive list of visually exciting credits including Brick Lane, The Scouting Book For Boys, Isolation, The Summit, and the acclaimed C4 television drama, I Am Slave, which was nominated for a BAFTA in 2011. It was, however, his much-acclaimed partnership with the Scottish arthouse film director Andrea Arnold that helped Ryan sharpen up his creative focus and find a place in the cinematographers’ hall of fame.

Ryan first got together with Arnold on her 2003 award-winning short Wasp and has since been a firm right hand on her three features, Red Road, Fish Tank and, most recently, Wuthering Heights. Since returning from the wilds of Yorkshire where Wuthering Heights was shot, Ryan became the latest addition to the Ken Loach ‘family’, following in the footsteps of great cameramen like Chris Menges and Barry Ackroyd, to shoot the veteran filmmaker’s feature The Angel’s Share in 2012.

Loach’s more observational style, often with a long lens – “witnessing life without being intrusive, the camera is not there, really,” as Ryan describes – could hardly be more different from Arnold’s. “Hers is all about being on top of the person, walking about with them. The camera is definitely a character in her film.” Arnold’s films – Red Road in particular – have very little dialogue in them so they rely on Ryan’s breathtaking visuals, such as the observations of nature or urban landscape with a focus on symbolism. Another strong feature of Arnold’s films is “no jumping ahead of the action”; in other words, the camera allows the audience to understand what they are watching instead of the all too common overexposure of what is happening in the story.

2013 has seen Ryan return to native Ireland to stand behind the camera of his most mainstream feature to date, Stephen Frears’ Philomena starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench.

Robbie Ryan moved to England when he couldn’t get the kind of work he wanted in his native Ireland and made a point of trying to shoot as many drama shorts as he could take on because he was far more interested in the cinema than the commercials’ side of things. Just as he moved quickly between various forms of camera as a teenager, so he’d offer any aspiring cinematographer the same advice.

“Nowadays you can just grab a DSLR or even your iPhone and make imagery. It’s a question of getting your eye to a camera. That’s where you learn about composition, by shooting the world around you. It doesn’t have to be lit in any special way; there’s always natural light. If you can create an interest in the everyday world around you, then you’re probably going in the right direction.”


Ben Davis (b. 1961) started his career at Samuelsons Camera House, now a part of the motion picture equipment company Panavision. He worked as clapper loader, focus puller, and camera operator in both feature films and commercials. Ben started as a Cinematographer in commercials and pop promos, shooting award winning spots with directors such as Daniel Barber, Steve Reeves and Daniel Klienman.

Davis has particularly made his mark as a cinematographer of choice for comic book and fantasy adaptations, most recently linking up with Joss Wheadon of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel fame for the work on Avengers: Age of Ultron. He has recently finished shooting another Marvel project, the James Gunn-helmed Guardians of the Galaxy, while his previous credits include the Matthew Vaughn-directed Layer Cake, Stardust and Kick-Ass, as well as Wrath of the Titans and Seven Psychopaths. However, Davis’ talents do not stop there – he has been equally impressive shooting the stories set in pastoral landscapes and mundane or domestic settings such as the wonderful British countryside whimsy Tamara Drewe (Stephen Frears, 2009) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden, 2010).

Perhaps most unexpected and remarkable is Davis’ recent contribution to the American hit series Masters of Sex (2013), where he was the DOP for the first episode and set the creative tone for the rest of the Season 1. What Davis brought to this period drama about the pioneers of the science of human sexuality whose research set off the sexual revolution is his comic book feel – the characters look like they have stepped off the pages of 1950’s penny-a-pop comics. He also utilised lots of romantic looking soft-focus photography.

Fans agree that Ben Davis has a so called “old school” approach to cinematography with his beautifully established shots, natural colour palettes and smooth flowing camera moves and steadicams. He allows the story and the visual theme to be the focus rather than the camera operation. His style of cinematography very much harks back to the glory days of great photography in film and is a proof that a DP can showcase an expertly crafted and choreographed action sequence without resorting to the quick-cut frenetic blur so overused in many mainstream releases these days.


Seamus McGarvey was born in 1967 and began his budding career as a teenage photographer by experimenting in the dark room set up in the bathroom of his family home in Armagh, Northern Ireland. His first foray into the moving pictures was the Super 8 camera his art teacher lent him. Upon graduating from the University of Westminster in London in 1988 he began shooting short films and documentaries and directed over 100 music videos for artists such as U2, The Rolling Stones, Sir Paul McCartney and Coldplay.

McGarvey often mentions the legendary American photographer Henry Cartier-Bresson as one of his main influences and it is easy to see why – his stills have incredible warmth of imagery in relation to their subject matter, similar to his idol’s. Another great influence on McGarvey were the Soviet and Polish state-sponsored art movies of 1950-1970 period, Kieslowski in particular. This influence is particularly detectable on The War Zone (T. Roth, 1999), Wit (M. Nichols, 2000), The Hours (S. Daldry, 2002) and World Trade Center (O. Stone, 2006), where he concentrates on exploring the faces of main characters with the pioneering moving focus techniques. McGarvey’s “face exploration” art reached its pinnacle in the multi-award nominated Atonement (J. Wright, 2007), which features the most wonderfully fluid character cinematography ever captured.

Atonement also features the famous sweeping five-minute Dunkirk beach scene which movingly captured the concept of wasted youth. According to all accounts, it was arguably the toughest portion of shooting. The shooting schedule dictated that the scene must be completed in two days, because the crew has limited time with the 1,000 extras. However, the location scouts report indicated the lighting quality at the beach was not good enough until the afternoon of the second day. This forced director Joe Wright to change his shooting strategy into shooting with one camera. On shooting, Steadicam operator Peter Robertson shot the scene by riding on a small tracking vehicle walking off to a bandstand after rounding a boat, moved to a ramp, stepped onto a rickshaw, finally dismounting and moving past the pier into a bar.

McGarvey returned to work with Joe Wright once again in 2012 on Anna Karenina, which received both Academy and BAFTA nominations for the best photography. Another two notable pictures were Sam Taylor-Wood’s Nowhere Boy and Lynne Ramsays’ We Need To Talk About Kevin – both notable for McGarvey’s signature style of attempting to communicate the internal process without dialogue whenever possible.

Currently, Seamus McGarvey is busy working on Sam Taylor-Wood’s film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey


Dick Pope was born in Bromley, Kent in 1947 and became interested in photography as a young boy. His father gave him a Brownie box camera and he began making portraits of his family and friends. Later, an uncle who worked for the BBC suggested a career as a cameraman so he became a trainee at Pathe Film Laboratory in London and worked as part of camera crews on ‘B’ movies and TV documentaries. Eventually, he began shooting music videos and feature films.

Pope’s collaboration with the British director Mike Leigh commenced in 1990 on Life Is Sweet and over the years blossomed into one of the longest standing and the most remarkable creative partnerships in the history of British cinematography. Pope and Leigh went on to shoot Naked in 1992 and following the wide critical acclaim of Secrets and Lies (1995) continued their success run with Career Girls (1996), Topsy-Turvy (1998) All Or Nothing (2001) and the masterly chronicle of 1950’s backstreet abortions Vera Drake (2003). The latter propelled Pope into Hollywood elite and he went on to shoot two blockbusters, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Neil Burger-directed The Illusionist (2005) which earned Pope an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography. Following the blockbuster success of The Illusionist Dick returned to Mike Leigh a few more times, in 2007 for Happy-Go-Lucky, in 2009 for Another Year and most recently this year for Mr Turner.

Dick Pope has demonstrated an uncanny flair and understanding for realistic illumination (with an emphasis on realistic), spatial composition and the drawing out of the emotional texture of a film in tandem with the director. The camera method he has been employing throughout the career is the one of tracking the actors across the room or a space, right around them slowly which creates the effect of action serving the camera and not the opposite, i.e. camera serving the action. As Mike Leigh explains, “I did sit in cinemas as a kid looking at English and American movies thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the characters were like real people?’ And the worst thing is films are constantly advertising themselves, drawing attention to their style of things. But actually me and Dick make films that I think are extremely sophisticated and cinematic. But you don’t want the audience thinking about the bloody film. You want them to think about what’s going on, and believe in it. Be flies on the wall, you know?”


John Mathieson (b. 1961, Dorset) got into the film industry by hanging around his mates who were into movies and assisting on shoots. Later he went to India where his producer blagged a commercial from a tyre magnate and it looked good so they kept getting asked back. When he was 26 he started shooting pop promos and soon garnered recognition for the ground breaking video “Peek-a-Boo” for Siouxsie and the Banshees, directed by Peter Scammel. He also collaborated with the director of the Sinéad O’Connor video “Nothing Compares 2 U”, and honed his craft through the 90′s shooting numerous television commercials and music videos for artists including Madonna, Prince and Massive Attack.

As a cinematographer and director of photography, Mathieson’s films credits are a balance of smaller British arthouse films on the one hand, and multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbusters on the other. In the mid-90’s Mathieson photographed the film Plunkett & Macleane for Jake Scott, which attracted the attention of father Ridley who invited him to work on his next project. Mathieson has so far been the DOP on five films for the veteran director (Gladiator (2000), Hannibal (2001), Matchstick Men (2003), Kingdom Of Heaven (2005) and Robin Hood (2010)), was nominated for an Academy Award for Gladiator in 2000 and won the BAFTA award for best Cinematography in the same year. His second Oscar nomination came for The Phantom of the Opera (2004) directed by Joel Schumacher.

As a team, Ridley Scott and John Mathieson work very well; the cinematographer’s narrative sensibility and vivid sense of colour compliment Scott’s fluid, improvisational directorial style. Scott has developed a method for filming as swiftly as possible, preferring to work with a minimum of three cameras, and up to eleven on a big stunt – with the result that it may only take two or three takes to capture what’s needed. From a cinematographic point of view this meant the DOP had to create and capture images differently to the way you might work on other types of films. With multiple cameras to set up, there’s a lot to get organised and to communicate to the crew. “The production is like an ocean liner leaving port”, says Mathieson, “and you have to be ready to get on board every day and go with the flow.”

For somebody famously preferring the 35mm film to the digital (as was also the case on Mike Newell’s 2012 Charles Dickens dramatisation Great Expectations), and natural lighting to the artificial one, Mathieson still displayed an impressive degree of high-tech inventiveness on the dynamic sets full of big set pieces, battles, charging horses, the intimacy of people walking and talking and multiple cameras running simultaneously. One example includes strapping together two 100K SoftSuns delivering enough light for a shot of a horse and rider galloping a couple of hundred meters away from camera through the forest. Cameras included ARRI ST and LTs, often with nine of these running across a set-piece, or as many as 11 on a big day, as well as SI2K and various crash cams to get close into the action during the battle scenes. Along with lightness and speed of deployment, Mathieson’s lens choices were dictated by the simple premise of capturing the best possible quality, super-clean image – he selected a wide range of Panavision Primos, and an array of fast but lightweight zoom lenses. Mathieson believes the choice of lenses for shooting Super 35 gives you sharpness, range and incredible apertures – “you can cope with shooting in either low-light or in full sunlight on a beach, or pan from a bright exterior into a dark interior without introducing lens artefacts”.

DI post-production was used to enhance the dreary coolness of the imagery and take reflections of sunlight off leaves on the ground, helmets and armour, as well as for a lot of custom colour sharpening – helping to tell the audience on a subconscious level that it is a certain time of day and season.

Whether he’s shooting a multi-million dollar epic or a more modestly budgeted British independent production, Mathieson’s approach remains the same. “To me it’s all about the story, the script and the director, and how I as the cinematographer can make images come to life,” he says. “You’re at the sharp end, always on a tight schedule, working with the director and the crew, to light and frame the images that will best tell the story.”


Colour Fridays is back at MyTherapy! This summer we’ll be discussing the top British Cinematographers of our time whose influential work and groundbreaking techniques have really pushed the boundaries of film. Tune in every Friday for the latest article on Colour Pros: Cinematographers. First up we have the incredible Anthony Dod Mantle.

Anthony Dod Mantle

Anthony Dod Mantle (b. 1955) was a late bloomer, having grown up in an artistic-minded family in Oxford and traveled the world until his mid-20’s. It was in India that he began to realise his growing love of stills photography. When he came back from India he applied to the London College of Printing and studied there for 3 years before getting his degree. Soon realising he “can’t be as good a photographer as, say, David Bailey” he moved from stills into film, and shot his first project on a CP-16 (Cinema Products Corporation) camera, which was a “little strange box with a funny lens that looked like a spare tire balanced on top of it”. Encouraged to pursue his growing fascination with film, Dod Mantle found himself in one of only five available places at the National Film School of Denmark, and moved there in 1985.

Dod Mantle describes his cinematic style as a mixture of ‘politics and poetry’ and believes it is personality and honesty that enables a person to leave their artistic mark in the world and be different from thousands of others who do the same. His friendship with Thomas Vinterberg soon opened the doors of mainstream success through groundbreaking digital camerawork and he has since been a pioneer of the creative use of digital technology, having collaborated with Lars Von Trier (Dogville, Dear Wendy, Manderlay, Antichrist), Kevin McDonald (Last King of Scotland) and Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Trance).

2008 and beginning of 2009 were particularly busy years for Dod Mantle as he scooped awards left, right and centre (including an Oscar for Best Cinematography) for his work on the Mumbai rags-to-riches fairytale Slumdog Millionaire and TV crime thriller Wallander. In May of 2008 Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist premiered at Cannes and the DOP spent the rest of the year fielding questions concerning the storm of controversy that this film whipped up. In all its simplicity, Antichrist was the most technically demanding work that Dod Mantle had done up to that point. The stunning black-and-white opening scene with the two main protagonists making out in the shower was shot with a high-speed camera, running between 600 and 1000 frames per second. Dod Mantle believes it was Lars Von Trier’s intention to make that contrast between the roving physicality of the rest of the film and the amazing stillness you get when you use a high speed. What we are seeing is slowed down so much that for the first time in the cinema you had the sense of watching a film in the way that I look at a painting.

However, his most experimental and technically complex work to date has to be Rush, Ron Howard’s 2013 fast moving Formula 1 racing drama, which captured the glitzy, global, flamboyant nature of 1970’s F1 season before it got shackled by the corporate interests. Dod Mantle utilised a mind blowing array of cinematographic tricks and devices including archival footage, old lenses including Baltars and Cooke S2s that broke down the definition while keeping the amazing ArriRaw latitude, Canon C300 cameras on ramps to capture the violent, animalistic nature of vehicles up close, Indiecam’s small 1080p HD cameras for capturing fast movement (positioned on the car as well as driver’s helmets and actors), an onsite grading facility with a whole host of tools including Blackmagic Design, DaVinci Resolve (on Mac), Scratch Lab and Adobe After Effects, as well as many others.

Dod Mantle continues to develop an original and inventive approach to cinematography with every new project. His rationale is to tell the story in the way the story deserves and not repeat yourself: “If you start to repeat the styles, it is pointless.”


Gareth Spensley is without a doubt one of the UK’s top colourist, featuring every year in top 10 of Televisual’s annual Colourist survey. He is the talent behind the grade of several TV series including ‘The Hour’, ‘Black Mirror’ and more recently several episodes of ‘Doctor Who’. Spensley credits also include iconic films such ‘This is England’ and the Academy Award winner for Best Picture ‘The King’s Speech’.

“The King’s Speech” was Spensley second collaboration with Director Tom Hooper and DoP Danny Cohen.

The director and DoP decided to shoot the picture in 35mm film (Fuji Eterna Vivid 500T film stock) and to have select scenes scanned at 2K and conformed. Spensley performed much of the grading work in a DI theatre equipped with a 2K projector and a 10-foot wide screen. During the final stages of the process, however, he moved into a new, purpose-built grading theatre at Molinare, equipped with a 30-foot projection screen.

Despite ‘The King’s Speech’ being essentially a period drama and its story revolving around a culture clash between the King and his speech therapist Logue, Spensley told in an interview for FilmLight that Hooper did not want to stress the differences between the two classes through the grade:

“Tom didn’t want an England that was all glorious colours. For instance, London in the 1930s was full of factories spewing smog and he wanted that to come across. Also, there was a lot of cutting between Geoffrey’s working class world and the palaces and country mansions of Bertie’s (George’s) world. Nobody wanted that to jar, but instead to become increasingly intertwined. Let the narrative provide the flow. We didn’t want the pictures to become obviously glorious every time you see a palace”, Spensley recalled.

The grade gradually changes to enhance the evolution of the King’s confidence:

“We brought in colour and contrast progressively through the film so that when we arrive at that scene in Buckingham Palace, you can really feel the grandeur of his surroundings”, he exemplified.

Another use for the grade in ‘The King’s Speech’ was to draw attention to certain objects, notably a coin given by George to Logue:

“We used about a million tracking markers to follow the coin around the screen, putting just the right amount of light on it so that you know that it’s there. It gets put down on a sofa and it has its own highlight, later it appears at Lionel’s house and it gets just the right amount of glint as it passes through the frame. Tom is very much a details man.”