December 7th, 2018

Mill Colourist Damien Van Der Cruyssen is no stranger to grading feature films. With a number of years under his belt collaborating on projects in New York, London and Paris, Damien has a wealth of knowledge not only across the art of grading but cinematography as a whole.

A multi-skilled colorist, he has earned a reputation as one of the few go-to artists for internationally renowned beauty brands including Maybelline, L’Oreal and Victoria’s Secret. His talents have attracted the attention of feature film DOPs and Directors across the globe, and Damien now has a number of features under his belt including the critically acclaimed ‘The Beguiled’ directed by Sophia Coppola and Netflix feature film ‘Barry’ directed by Vikram Gandhi. 

His recent creative triumph, 'Vox Lux', is Director Brady Corbet’s sharp new drama starring Natalie Portman and Jude Law, that premiered at US box offices on December 7th. 'Vox Lux' documents the life of a teenager catapulted to fame, and her subsequent journey battling the consequences of living and staying in the limelight.

Damien tells us more about the part he played in bringing this tumultuous story to life, and how grading for the big screen differs from that of commercial work.

Tell us about the film and how you collaborated with the director and DOP?

I'd never worked with Brady Corbet (Director) or Lol Crawley (DP), but they had both seen and enjoyed my work on The Beguiled by Sofia Coppola. They were also after a colorist with experience in grading film and "European eye". I had also been lucky enough to work with the film’s editor Matthew Hannam on It Comes at Night. I really liked Brady's first feature and was thrilled to be working with them. We did a quick test and immediately gelled. Brady has a huge movie culture and his taste was an immediate fit for me.

This movie really defies the rules of storytelling by skipping the ascension of the star in question and instead focusing on the more traumatic elements of her life and fragility of the character.

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What elements did you consider within the grade and what was the overall tone you wanted to achieve throughout the piece?

Having been shot on film, we wanted to preserve that look as much as possible. Keep the contrast and richness of film without overdoing it. The overall tone was filmic and real for the first part. Not overly stylized but really grim. The hotel had a lot of warm golden tones that created a different feel, so we pulled back on that warmth to retain a grittier look. The last big scene had a much brighter and colorful vibe that Brady wanted to really stand out, whilst also retaining the film aesthetic. 

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Were there any new or special techniques used?

I used a Film color space to restrict the palette to a film color gamut. The reason for this was primarily because the film was being converted to print and I wanted the DCP (digital master) to match the film print as much as possible. 

It became a little challenging for the last scene of the movie, where Brady wanted a broader colour palette, so I pushed the saturation on this scene to the limit of film gamut. 

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What are the key differences between grading features and commercials? Does the creative process change?

Of course, the length has to be taken into consideration. On a feature, we spend the first week getting a solid first pass, balancing the look that we’ve established and applied. The second week I like to revisit and change a few scenes and at this stage, we sometimes change direction. In a way, there is more room to revisit a look than on commercials. Most of the time you only have one shot at a commercial because of the short turnaround time, whereas working on features over a few days allows you to review and adjust the look several times.

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Find out more about the film at