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‘You’re the number one trending topic, ahead of Tater Tots’: Inside the colour grade on Succession

Light Iron's senior colourist Sam Daley reveals how the look of the hit HBO drama is rooted in both realism and classicism

TV viewers around the world are currently enjoying the latest machinations in the Roy family with the return of Succession.

The show continues to be shot on Kodak 35mm negative, and the third season has been colour graded by Light Iron’s senior colourist Sam Daley, who has worked on Succession since episode one.

In a blog post on Light Iron’s website, Daley describes the show as being iconic: “Handheld, snap zooms, searching, finding the actors rather than placing the camera in front of them. This lends a documentary style to the popular HBO dramedy. You’re a fly on the wall watching the Roy family scheme with and against each other. But there are Shakespearean moments as well, so the look of the show is rooted in both realism and classicism.”

The negative is shot with underexposure to soften the contrast says Daley. “A proprietary film print emulation LUT is used in the grade to maintain the look of film. Cinematographer Andrij Parekh and I established this look in the pilot, and series cinematographers Patrick Capone and Christopher Norr have skillfully maintained this throughout some of the most challenging situations of any episodic show on television.”

“Staying true to the analogue tone and texture of film is vital to the look of the series, so I approach the grade as if I’m in a telecine environment,” Daley adds. “I work very hard at finding the right primary grade with just offset and lift-gamma-gain. I use secondaries sparingly as too much artifice would distract from the realism. The beauty is already there in the negative, you just have to dial it in and let the story and performances take centre stage.”