Arguably, until recently not many audience members were aware of colour grading. Colour in film was thought of as something almost “invisible”. If people noticed colour, they would invariably relate it to the director of photography. And then in 2010 with the release of Transformers the teal-and-orange debate started in the main stream media.
That year, following the release of Transformers, several articles were published everywhere, from small niche blogs to the mainstream media, showcasing the many films that had adopted the teal and orange palette. The Guardian went as far as saying that “Hollywood seems to gave gone teal-and-orange crazy”.
The man responsible for such strong reactions was no other than the legendary Stefan Sonnenfeld, Senior DI Colourist and founder of Company 3. Sonnenfeld, in collaboration with Michael Bay, created the Look of Transformers. However, he was quick to point out to The Guardian that the decisions were based on how to best tell the story.
“There’s no specific colour decision-making process where we sit in a room and say, ‘We’re only going to use complementary colours to try and move the audience in a particular direction – and only use those combinations.’ Every film has its own look. We are always pushing our tools and our creative capabilities on every project”.
He further explained the palette choice during an interview for Film Imaging:
“ILM did a wonderful job in giving the robots depth and character and our role was to enhance that further through colour and light. Optimus Prime, for example, is a wise and noble character who needed to stand out, his presence was achieved, in part, through a warm colour treatment.”
Sonnenfeld grew up in Los Angeles and after a summer job delivering dailies for popular 80s series Miami Vice his interest in post production was ignited. During the 90s while at Pacific Ocean Post, he was one of the most sought after colorists in the commercial industry. Described by NPR as a “da Vinci of the movies,” Sonnenfeld has applied his skills as a DI colorist to many of the most acclaimed and popular films of the past decade: Watchmen, Star Trek , Terminator: Salvation, 300 , Super 8 and Dreamgirls, to name a few. Stefan Sonnenfeld has pioneered the digital intermediate process. He is among a handful of artists who have championed the telecine process as an indispensable part of the filmmaking process.
In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named Sonnenfeld to its list of “50 Smartest People in Hollywood” and Creativity-Online included him in its “Creativity 50” in 2008.
Appart from being incredibly talented colourist, Stefan Sonnenfeld has to be honoured for his business and entrepreneurial skills. Company 3 that he has founded is by far the most successful colour grading company in the world.