Colorist Alicia Wong shares her experience in grading TV Dramas for Singapore-based broadcaster, MediaCorp
The majority of English and Mandarin television drama programs at MediaCorp are created by in-house production units. Post production is also done in-house by their Digital Arts team, which specializes in Broadcast Design, Motion Graphics, Computer Visual Effects and Compositing.
2 years ago, a decision was made to beef up their color grading services by incorporating a dedicated DaVinci Resolve color grading suite, with the aim of producing a more polished finish to the locally-produced programs.
Alicia Wong was first introduced to color grading when she joined the Digital Arts team in February 2013. She went on to attend an ICA (International Colorist Academy) course at Media ASYLUM, conducted by ICA co-founder Warren Eagles (pictured right) and who helped shape her early career as a colorist.
Her first color grading project was for ’96 °C Cafe’, a 20-episode prime time mandarin drama, shot with the Sony F5. In the time since, she has color graded 7 television drama series, including those with a period setting such as the epic The Voyage and Mata Mata 2.
Alicia has developed a collaborative approach to her work, working closely with the production crew, for example, to help get the best images from camera into post production. She also works with the producers to try to understand their creative vision for each series.
“Establishing the color palette for the first episode of any series is usually the most important step in the production process. We work closely with the Executive Producer to establish an appropriate look that best captures the essence of the show.
For example, in Mata Mata 2, the production brief was to encapsulate the 50s in the first 3 episodes and then subsequently apply a different set of colors that best represent the 70’s for the rest of the programme.”
Creative inspiration can come from a variety of sources. “I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong when it comes to color choice”, says Alicia. “We need to have a good understanding of the programme content and setting.
For Mata Mata 2, we turned to music and fashion as an influence for inspiration. The production team felt that the color treatment should complement the efforts of the makeup and styling teams, who worked tirelessly to dress the cast in the bright colors of the era. Essentially, the objective was to distil the team’s collective memories of the 1970s, and communicate that effectively in the show.”
“My favorite shots are always those that allow me the ability to paint a story, accompanied by the challenge of matching the appropriate accompanying shots to ensure continuity”, notes Alicia. “These scenes are usually found in the establishing shots that set a new scene, and examples would include an idyllic sunset in a romantic scene or establishing the unusually cold setting of a mortuary or an interrogation room.”
Alicia counts her fellow professionals as her biggest influences as a creative artist. “My biggest influences are my fellow creative professionals – from the cameramen to the Executive Producers. While I do acknowledge that everyone will have a different approach and sensitivity towards color grading, eventually, it is about appreciating the creative journey process, and enjoying the final product as a team that matters most”
Her last project for Channel 5 was for ‘Whispers of the Dead’, which chronicles the real life crime cases of the late Professor Chao TzeeCheng, Singapore’s renowned forensic pathologist. I would dare say that this production uses the most brazen of color palettes as compared to my other works. Together with the Executive Producer, we’ve used very strong colors to transport viewers between the 1970s and to the present.
Her most recent work would be for Channel NewsAsia’s ‘Days of Disaster’, which televised early this year. It is a five-part landmark series that charts momentous events that shaped modern Singapore.
An exciting lineup of projects keeps Alicia excited about her future, she is currently working on Channel NewsAsia’s ‘The Worlds of Georgette Chen’ which is slated to premiere on 29th April 2015.