Raúl Lavado Verdú is a freelance colorist based in Madrid, Spain. He works on a variety of content, including film, TV and commercials. And while Verdú has graded countless video clips from new urban music artists, he is best known for his work on The Vast of Night Cuéntame,
La Última (the first original Disney+ series from Spain) and
Chronicles of a Wandering Saint.
Here, he shares with Post, insight into his career journey.
Tell us about your path to become a successful colorist?
“My journey to become a colorist has been a long and winding road. I learned what a pixel is through playing videogames as a child in the ‘80s, and this world instantly fascinated me. Combined with my study of painting and the arts, it was clear to me from a young age that I wanted to dedicate my career to the arts and technology.
Chronicles of a Wandering Saint
“I have always liked urban art and photography, and my family is very fond of the cinema, which has had a big influence – I still have color palettes and images recorded in my retinas from a very young age.
“Professionally, I started out as a video editor, doing simple motion graphics and VFX work, but what I really enjoyed was helping to tell stories and for my work to have a narrative context. The click in my head was when I realized that I could change the color of the scenes and create atmospheres and environments. Even though I did not know at this point that the role of a colorist even existed, it was clear to me that this is what I wanted to do.”
What type of content do you usually work on?
“I normally work on feature films and TV series, which is what I enjoy the most because of the creative capacity that can be proposed. I also work on commercials, with my favorite being fashion ads.”
What would you consider your career highlight to-date?
“It's difficult to say, as there are many projects that I'm very fond of, but I'm very happy with the result of the first original Disney+ series from Spain, La Última, as well as La Espera, the latest film by director Francisco Javier Gutierrez and DoP Miguel Ángel Mora, which will premiere this year.”
You grade on Baselight? How long have you been working on that system?
“I’ve been working on a complete Baselight system since 2018, but I have been following FilmLight very closely for a long time, with great interest in Daylight, Baselight Editions and Baselight Student - now Baselight Look.”
“What I like most about Baselight is its flexibility. It allows me to be incredibly creative and it can be used in various ways, adapting the workspace to the different stages of the conform process, color, QC, deliveries, etc. Color management is unbeatable, and the respect with which it treats the media and the finesse of the tools is on another level. You can make subtle color changes to the most complex looks with great sincerity. The design of the interface and the integration with Blackboard is also something that I love. For me, it is an extension of myself.”
How did you get involved in the series La Ultima, and at what stage in the process?
“Luckily I was there from the beginning, something that is becoming more and more common, and is highly appreciated. With Ricardo De Gracia, the DoP, we had the opportunity to test a few cameras and various sets of lenses for testing in Baselight - to see what different types of textures and features were closest to Ricardo's creative intent for the series.
“Ricardo and Eduard Cortes, the director, let me work independently, and when I had an episode ready, we had a review and adjustment session. Everything worked very well, and it is one of the most pleasant projects I have ever worked on. I think this is the advantage of being close to the DoP and director from the beginning – you are very clear about what they are looking for, so there is little margin for error.”
What was the desired look for the series and how did you achieve this in Baselight?
“The main premise of Ricardo and Eduard was that everything should be very natural, vibrant and organic, but above all, that it be an image with volume – as three-dimensional as possible. This was very much the goal for the look of the series.
“My favorite Baselight feature is Base Grade. For me, it is a tool that changes everything, and is my main tool. Sometimes I combine it with Film Grade, to get some nuance with more character, and I almost always make fine adjustments with Hue Shift.
“I am a technical and methodical colorist, but I also like to tap into my creative side when grading. I like to lean on my artistic expression and create emotions with color, to help tell the story. I let the images speak and spontaneously my instinct guides me to the tools I need to develop looks that emotionally match the scene.”
Can you tell us a little more about your work on La Espera?
“La Espera has been a very rewarding challenge. I worked with Miguel Angel Mora, the DoP, on Cuentame, and he put my name forward for the film. The director, F. Javier Gutiérrez, and I always had very fluid communication, too.
“The movie occurs in a desolate location in deep Andalusia, in the middle of summer, and with a dry and suffocating climate at more than 40 degrees. The objective was to achieve that sensation of dryness and desolation of the villages of rural Spain. And as the movie progresses, it gets darker and more dramatic.”
What kind of treatment did you apply?
“Speaking more technically of the objectives of the look, it was to try to ‘kill’ the green tones of the foliage of the plants and any color that could convey any feeling of ‘hope.’
“The main aim was to achieve a desert and suffocating atmosphere, but never fall into sepia tones. To do this, I set Baselight's Mastering white point to D55, which gave us a warm creative starting point closer to our goal. La Espera was also done under the T-Cam Pipeline with VFX management in ACES.”
How do you collaborate with the director and DoP on a project?
“It depends a lot on the project. In the case of La Espera, Miguel and Javier, who I have worked with in the past, let me propose the look. They really liked it and then we just made adjustments per scene – using mask and paint to enhance or hide certain elements.
“There are other cases where the DoP will always want to be present. And others might only come in to review so that I can do the matching work on my own. I don't have a particular preference. I enjoy all the processes, but being given freedom of proposal and creativity is very gratifying.”
Can you talk about your role as a freelance colorist? What are the challenges?
“The truth is that I am really enjoying this new stage as a freelancer. I have always been a very corporate colorist, working in large companies, but I think it is very nice to be able to manage your time and your clients yourself. It is true that now I work more than ever before, but when your work is your passion and way of life, like it is for me, that doesn’t matter. I think in color 24 hours a day.”
What’s the market like in Spain at the moment?
“Personally, I see Spain at its best when it comes to the level of post production. Spain is becoming a European content hub, without a doubt. There are more and more prepared people and initiatives, like the Netflix summit a few months ago, which was a resounding success – allowing professionals to learn, grow and network.
“I firmly believe in a collaborative industry, which is why I think Netflix should be congratulated for this great initiative – and it also says a lot about its intentions for the Spanish market.
“On the other hand, I teach Baselight in the Colour Master at the ECAM (School of Cinematography and Audiovisual of the Community of Madrid), and I see younger people eager to learn, with a lot of interest and a lot of talent.”
What do you like to do outside the grading room?
“Eating and cooking is my other passion. I really enjoy gastronomy, a good wine and meeting with friends around a table. I am also passionate about live music and concerts, and I haven’t lost my love for videogames, either – although I have less time to play. And, of course, the cinema!”
You can reach Raul by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.