5 examples of how colour grading can be used to enhance a story

“It’s easier to make colour look good, but harder to make it service the story” this quote by cinematographer Roger Deakins is spot on. I feel like there are infinite examples of how colour grading can be used to enhance a story but let’s throw five out for the fun of it. I think an important thing to remember is less is often more so that the “look” doesn’t have the opposite effect and jar you out of the story.

1. If a story is to feel soft, romantic, dreamy, ethereal, then the colourist can use some colour grading tools to enhance this feeling. Examples might be lifting the shadows to make the overall image feel lighter, softening contrast levels, slightly blurring the image to take out any over-sharpness, twisting or de-saturating hues to make them more pastel and less bold, sitting the midtones a little higher to make the image feel less dense and heavy, using shapes to create a sun flare effect in a portion of the image.


2. During the climax of a story, colour can be “turned up” a notch to reflect the intensity unfolding on screen. This could be done by slightly cranking up the contrast, or the saturation of all or selected colours. A “harder” or more “intense” look could be achieved by taking the current look and pushing it a bit further, for example an otherwise natural look could have some more stylised elements brought in. Examples of this might be blowing out the highlights, crushing the blacks a bit more, saturating the warm tones, making the overall image more dense in comparison to other scenes before or after it.


3. If there is a scene which is meant to feel off balance, off kilter, like something is not quite right, green could be used to mirror this underlying feeling. Often used in horror films or sci-fi, colours on the green spectrum can be used in the same way that a dutch angle might be used in cinematography. Green is often the colour of sickness and it can feel like an unnatural light source (as opposed to the natural colours in our atmosphere of cool overcast blue or warm sunny yellow).


4. The use of shapes to darken/brighten areas of an image can be a great tool to enhance the story. My personal favourite is vignettes (oval shapes) and I pretty much use these in some capacity in every work. If a character in a story is feeling bogged down or oppressed in their situation perhaps their scenes could have a soft vignette covering the top third of the frame to darken it down a little, reflecting their mental state. If a work is trying to focus the audience’s attention in a direct way, maybe a vignette could be used to brighten this element or portion of the frame and then the inverse to let everything else be more dim.

5. Blue is a colour which can be experimented with to create feelings of sombre, sadness, endings, misfortune and unhappiness to name a few. If the mise en scene is not overly blue through costumes and set design or location, colour grading can still create a blue/cool look by reducing warmth in the highlights, midtones and/or shadows. Reds can be de-saturated, cyans can be saturated. De-saturating the entire image will also usually render it cooler and can reflect the underlying tone of the work too.

Would you like to know more?


Email Angela at


Free colour grading initiative for women – half year update!

Well what an awesome six months that was! Over 100 applications were received for my free colour grading initiative to support female directors and/or cinematographers. To converse with so many talented and passionate filmmakers everywhere from Melbourne to Perth to Arnhem Land has been a truly wonderful experience. I loved examining the applications with a glass of vino in the evenings!


I first had the idea for my initiative one day in February when I had a slow couple of weeks of work. It was around the time of the Oscars and the #metoo and #pressforprogress movements. I am a big advocate for the call to level the playing field in our industry so it got me thinking. There I was not busy, with some time on my hands and an itch to be grading and working with kickass emerging filmmakers. If I could spend my down days colour grading some projects to help women get their stuff made then I could be part of this inspiring global movement. Fast forward to March and I was all over our industry news platforms promoting this unconventional and slightly crazy idea I had. I was told that I would go broke and that I couldn’t/shouldn’t do stuff for free. Well I would just like to say that I have probably had the best six months of my 12 year colour grading career so far, and that giving away your time and expertise for something you are passionate about feels freaking amazing!


First up was “Theo and Celeste”, a 2min short film combining live action, stop-motion animation, painting and puppets. Hannah Doherty was the creator of this work… she wrote, directed, shot and even hand painted some of the animation. From her previous work I could see that she had a very hands on approach and it was pretty clear that this chick was uber talented in so many mediums! It was my pleasure to work with such a creative filmmaker and help bring her vision to life. “Theo and Celeste” screened at the TedX Sydney convention in July.


The next project I selected was Imogen Thomas’s debut feature film, “Emu Runner”. The story of this film is seen through the eyes of Gem, a spirited 8-year-old girl, who deals with the grief of her mother’s death by forging a bond with a wild emu, a mythical bird of her ancestors. Imogen’s journey to get this film made on a “micro budget” was both remarkable and inspiring. The screenplay was created in consultation with Indigenous members of the Brewarrina community, in north western NSW, over many years. Despite the challenges and hardships of getting a film like this off the ground, it was obvious that it had been the good will of so many people during the process which had moved it forward, especially the Brewarrina community. I felt like I could really elevate this film by providing a professional colour grade and by enhancing the story through the use of colour. The DOP Michael Gibbs flew up from Melbourne for the grade at ZigZag Post. I spent 7 days on it (plus some after hours fine tuning!) to get it to a place that felt really right for Imogen. Of course limited budget and resources meant that lighting and shooting conditions were sometimes not ideal so we worked on fixing these and making the film more cohesive. “Emu Runner” debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and will have it’s Aussie premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival in October. I have my tickets and a babysitter booked – can’t wait to celebrate a job well done with everyone!


Jessica Barclay Lawton was the next successful applicant. Her 15 minute atmospheric and visually stunning short film “Living Room” was shot with a crew of four over the course of one week in Tokyo. Guerrilla and hybrid filmmaking at it’s finest! DOP Alex Cardy did a stellar job with natural light and one LED. Yes, one LED. I loved the opportunity to colour grade this film and work with this amazing director, out there creating even with limited resources! Every frame of this work could be a promo still, I love her aesthetic.


My 4th colour grading initiative project was a 5 x 7min web series for director/producer Laura Clelland called “Life of Jess”. Representing from Brisbane (total soft spot for my hometown), Laura was recently selected as one of Screen Producers Australia’s “One’s to Watch” and it was an absolute delight to meet her, Sandra and DOP Brendan Shambrook during our session.


“The Hitchhiker” was a proof of concept short for a feature film. It is the 5th project selected for my free grading initiative to support emerging female directors. The application won me on “an all-girl vampire road trip comedy (think Buffy meets Bridesmaids)”. Adele Vuko, Johanna Somerville and DOP Dan Freene all attended the grade. It would be awesome to see Adele succeed in directing her first feature film after a run of short film and web series success.


So I am taking a couple of months off and then will resume my initiative in November. Ladies, let’s do this (some more!)

Would you like to know more?


Email Angela at

Angela Cerasi_grading_2018

Let’s do this!

I have decided to do something a little bit crazy but really exciting to help the gender disparity issue in our industry. Free colour grading for female directors/cinematographers for 5 projects over the next 12 months. I have created a press release (ooo look at me go).. the details of which can be read here:

20 March 2018


Sydney colourist Angela Cerasi is tackling gender disparity in the film and television industry with an exciting new initiative designed to support Australian women film makers and creatives.


With the support of ZIGZAG Post, Angela is offering free colour-grading to five projects over the next 12 months. The projects must have a female director or female cinematographer attached, they can be long or short form for film, television or multimedia platforms, the proposed grading schedule must be flexible and the project must not have committed broadcaster funding. The initiative is targeted at working creatives and is not open to full-time students.


Angela says she was inspired to launch the initiative after navigating the choppy waters of parenthood and work and realising other women in the industry are in the same boat.


Angela Cerasi said, ‘As a working mother of two young children, I understand the challenges of re-establishing yourself after maternity leave and juggling the work life balance. I’m passionate about encouraging and mentoring women who are committed to chasing their dreams. I believe that by providing my specialist colour-grading services to female filmmakers, who may not have the resources to finance this aspect of production, I can make a difference and show my commitment to gender disparity.’


Rob Saroff, Co-Owner of ZIGZAG Post said, ‘When Angela approached me about her idea, I welcomed the chance to be involved. Already a major supporter of the For Film’s Sake Film Festival ‘Big Pineapple’ competition, this seemed like a great opportunity to further support women filmmakers. Angela is a hugely talented colourist and has elevated the production value across multiple projects tremendously. I commend Angela on her generosity and taking gender matters from a conversation to action.’

Terms and Conditions


  • The initiative was launched in March 2018. Five projects will be offered free colour-grading over the next 12 months.
  • Applicants are invited to submit a maximum one page synopsis and vision statement for their project, a short biography and proposed dates for colour-grading.
  • The initiative is open to Australian companies and individuals. However, the director or cinematographer must be female and must be able to attend the grading session(s).
  • Grading sessions will be held at Zig Zag Post in Crow’s Nest, Sydney.
  • Projects will be shortlisted based on the strength of the synopsis, the film maker’s vision and the proposed dates for grading.
  • Successful candidates will be notified by email. Angela Cerasi and the successful applicants will agree on dates for colour-grading.
  • Projects must not have a broadcaster attached or be subject to brand-funding.
  • Female creatives must be working in the industry and not currently enrolled full-time at an institution.

Would you like to know more?


Email Angela at