Swapnil Patole

Swapnil Patole : In Conversation With A Film Grader

Swapnil is a Senior Colourist based in Mumbai. Since starting his career 18 years ago, he has graded a plethora of commercials in all genres and for brands such as L’Oreal, Garnier, McDonalds, BMW,Mercedes and Lee jeans, to name a few. 

He has more recently worked on feature films & OTT web shows for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Hotstar, Sony Liv, festival short films and music videos for Tseries, Sony Music India.

Swapnil is Colourist Nominated from India as Best Colourist for Web Show “Paurashpur” (alt Balaji) at Independent Colourist Guild awards world wide in year 2020.

Today he is Regional Head of ICG INDIA Association & Chief Colourist/DI Head of Department (HOD) at Famous Studios in Mumbai.

As a child what were your early influences towards cinema?
As a child I was influences with CGI and action sci-fi movies like alien series, terminator series and enjoyed action movies of Jackie Chan, Bruce lee.

How did you first become interested in images? Did you start with photography/painting?
I was always good with colours and painting in my child hood, having said that, back in my schooling days there was not much of exposure / institute / classes to explore my skills further.

What steps did you take to train yourself?
When I started my career in post-production studio 2004 (Prime Focus Studio) I had to start from base learning which is studio machine room, I worked hard, learned and slogged day and night and slowly but surely made my way up from machine room to tape operator, telecine negative loader and telecine assistant to then telecine junior colourist. I finally became a colourist in 2007 when I joined Pixion post-production studio. Since then, I haven’t looked back. To be where I stand today took hard work, dedication, passion and, most importantly, my love for colour grading.

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Have you assisted anyone? How does it help one?
I have assisted couple of foreign colourist and then I met my mentor Albert Goo who was my senior colourist at Pixon Studio, under his guidance and training, I learned the craft of colour correction and technical aspects of film making.

How did your first film project come about?
As a colourist I was pre-dominantly grading commercial ad films from 2006 to present, of which I had great working relationship with many ad film cinematographers.
Among which Cinematographer Bijitesh De took me on board as his lead colourist for his Marathi Feature film “Bhatukali” released in 2014 & since then I’ve colour graded many feature films from theatrical to OTT platform.

How do you arrive on the ‘look’ of a grade…?
Creating a certain look in grade for film or ad film comes from creative input & narration from Cinematographer/Director. Understanding their vision, content of film in terms of storytelling, lighting a shot, costumes, sets & art design, I start with base colour grade and then process mixing colours from primary to secondary colours using lot of tools like soft key, window trackers, image equaliser of colour grading software.

Do you think starting a ‘film look’ conversation before the shoot will help create a better final grade?
Yes, it will definitely help a lot in creating a final look, if the Colourist is on board from pre-production stage with cinematographer & director of film.
As colourist I will understand and connect with film requirement in terms of colour palette, technical aspects of film like creating LOOK UP TABLE (Lut) for DOP, to make visuals more adaptive while shooting.

Is grading intuitive or is it something you learn?
Love for Colours were intuitive in my life and as I mentioned when I started my career in 2004, there were no pvt institute or schools or academy to learn or uplift my skills for colour grading, so yes, I had to train myself on practical terms and learn the craft by assisting my mentor.

Tell us something about your latest film.
“Code Name – Tiranga” is Directed by Ribhu Dasgupta and Cinematography by Tribhuvan Babu (shot on Sony Venice).
“Code Name – Tiranga” is an action film Lead with Parineeti Chopra, story takes place in turkey careening across Jordan & most of the movie was shot on the cityscapes and countryside & Its characters are a touch abstract as well. Released in cinema 14th oct 2022 and coming soon on Netflix.

Where do you seek inspiration from?
Watching world cinema gives me immense amount of inspiration to learn n get more skillful & grow with my color grading knowledge.

What is in the kitty right now?
There are couple of OTT series and theatrical feature films I am assigned with, which will be releasing in year 2023/2024. Soon gonna start web series TAJ Directed by Vibhu Puri and produced by Contiloe Production.
Happy Teachers Day feature film produced by maddock films, Directed by Mikhil Musale. And few to name further which will go on floor next year 2023.

What’s your dream project?
As colourist I have always been fascinated with CGI/ VFX film making so I am really looking forward to be associated with a feature film shot and produced with today’s technology like unreal engine, motion capture techniques.

Your most memorable blunder?
When I was assisting my senior colourist, I overwrite his colour timeline of which he had to redo whole coloring of ad film, that was my worst day in my life and the biggest blunder of my career.

Any advice to the inspiring graders?
Follow your heart, learn your surroundings with nature and implement those in your work. Learning grading systems, hardware and software won’t make you a colourist, but learning the skills of colour grading with time, passion, dedication and patience will make you become a respectful colourist. It’s not always necessary to please everyone with your work, so learn to let it go when it happens.

What book, music, movie are you enjoying right now?
I am not much of book reader, but enjoy music in many genre and my favourite genre is blues, there are many movies and series I am enjoying on OTT platform , to name a few (House of dragons series, Crown series and Marvels movies).

Swapnil’s IMDB profile is here, and his Vimeo reel is here.

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