Optix Digital Pictures

Diane Kuo
Senior Colorist

Dubai Color Artist Gives International Film Festival Favorite, The Intruder!, a Winning Look

Diane Kuo, senior colorist at Dubai’s Optix Digital Pictures, is fast becoming one of the top grading artists in the Middle East. Her portfolio boasts a number of ‘big brand’ commercials, Bollywood feature films and most recently an independent Sci-fi film hitting the international film festival circuit called The Intruder!.

The Intruder!, a 50’s inspired science fiction horror film, premiered at the Dubai Film Festival in December of 2011. After receiving critical acclaim, it was selected for the Abu Dhabi Indian Film Festival, Black Hills Film Festival, Boston Science Fiction Film Festival and received the Golden Palm Award at this year’s Mexico International Film Festival.

From humble beginnings

Starting out as a projectionist in a Taiwanese cinema, Diane came from humble roots and within ten years has rocketed herself into the international post production industry. Shortly after her film studies at university, she moved to India to grade world renowned films in Bollywood, which put her skills to the test with an array of colors and fast turnaround expected in Bollywood films.

“I loved working in India, especially grading Bollywood films because they are very colorful and visually appealing. As a colorist, these types of films will put your skills to the test, but are both enjoyable and rewarding as jobs go,” said Diane.

After her time in India, she continued to grade in locations across the globe, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and the UAE, where she’s currently a senior colorist at Dubai’s leading full service post production studio, Optix Digital Pictures.

The art of grading

Despite her title, Diane does not consider herself a colorist or a grading technician. Above all things, she considers herself an artist.

“Color grading is an art form. Yes there is some science to it but when I am grading, I look at the film as if I was painting a picture. There is a lot of emotion in art, so I think that grading a film should be thought of in the same respects.”

“My background is in photography, so my decision to become a color artist was simply a decision to expand my current artistic skills. Having the background and interest in art has been important in making me the colorist that I am today,” said Diane.

Crafting a visual masterpiece

Diane has worked on various high profile commercials and independent films for Optix Digital Pictures. Most recently she completed the grade for the sci-fi indie The Intruders!, directed by Majid Al Ansari, which premiered at the Dubai Film Festival in December last year. The Intruders! was filmed in the UAE’s rural desert, where a young couple has an extraterrestrial encounter which puts their lives in danger.

“I really enjoyed grading The Intruders! It was a really interesting story and the film had no dialogue; so there was a heavy reliance on emotions and the look of the film to make the story work,” said Diane.

DaVinci Resolve ahead of the Curve

Diane used Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve to achieve the key looks used in The Intruders!. She credits Curve Grading and Multi Point Tracking as the two most useful features in Resolve. Both feature sets, and Resolve’s real time performance, aided her in achieving a ‘vintage effect’ whilst completing the job in a timely fashion, ahead of its submission into the Dubai Film Festival.

Even though the film is set in present day, the aliens and their spaceship bear more of a resemblance to 1950’s science fiction films than modern day monsters, so it was essential for Diane to maintain a classic 50’s horror film look in the finishing process.

“Because Curve Grading gives you precise control of the red, green, and blue channels independently, it allows you to push certain tones and wash out the blacks and blues to achieve that unique 50’s film look, which was an integral part of Al Ansari’s vision”

“Multi Point Tracking was an important time saver because I could easily select the object that I wanted to grade and Resolve remembers what I selected and tracks it throughout the scene. If you know how to use it to your advantage, it can make the difference between delivering a job on time or being late,” said Diane.

All of the offline editing for The Intruders! was completed with Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and the XML files were imported into DaVinci Resolve for the finishing process.

“I’ve used DaVinci Resolve for most of my career, and it remains my grading tool of choice because it’s simply the most powerful and affordable software currently available on the market today.”

“I also trust Blackmagic Design’s investment in the DaVinci brand, because they are always updating the product and continue to push Resolve forward year after year. The updates are frequent and the features just keep getting better and better,” said Diane.