Tag Archives: color grading

Color plays key role in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time

Color itself plays a significant role in the fantasy feature A Wrinkle in Time. To help get the look she wanted, director Ava DuVernay chose Mitch Paulson of Hollywood’s Efilm to handle final color grading — the two worked together on the Oscar-nominated film Selma. Wrinkle, which was shot by Tobias Schliessler, captures the magical feel of lead character Meg’s (Storm Reid) journey through time and space.

The film has several different looks. The rather gloomy appearance of the Meg’s difficult life on earth is contrasted by the incredibly vibrant appearance of the far-off planets she’s taken to by a trio of magical women — played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling.

Paulson recalls DuVernay’s thinking. “Ava talked a bit about The Wizard of Oz, where the early scenes are in black and white and then it goes into color. She didn’t want to take things that far but that informed the overall approach. The parts on Earth at the beginning are somewhat desaturated and depressed looking. Meg lives with her mom because her dad has mysteriously disappeared. She has issues at school and is constantly bullied.”

To fine-tune this idea, Paulson built curves inside of Autodesk Lustre 2017. These were designed to desaturate many colors, particularly blues and greens, without significantly altering skin tones. Then he went through shot-by-shot to refine this even further using Lustre’s Diamond Keyer function to isolate certain colors (such as the blue in a row of school lockers) and further pull out some saturation. “I keyed almost everything,” he says, “grass, skies, water. I’d have at least three to four keys per shot.”

Then, as Meg and friends travel to the other planets, Paulson says, “We did the opposite and used curves and keying to make things brighter and more saturated. As soon as they jump to the first planet, you feel the difference.” He also points out that the time travelers find themselves in a large grassy field — a scene for which he isolated the real green of the New Zealand location and brought the saturation beyond anything we’d be used to seeing in real life.

“By manipulating the chrominance softness and tolerance diamonds of the keyer, you can quickly and easily isolate the color for a key. I find it more effective than an HSL tracker,” he explains. The colorist also finds system’s shapes tool to be very effective. “I use it all the time to isolate a portion of an actor’s face or hair to create a subtle idea of light there that sometimes really help as a final step to making a VFX shot blend perfectly with the background.”

Not all the planets the characters travel to are happy places, and Paulson worked with the filmmakers to create some variations on the color themes. The planet, Camazotz is an evil place, he says. “That’s not obvious at first but we sort of queue it right away by making it look just a bit off. For example, we took almost all the green out of the plants.”

Besides the standard d-cinema version, Paulson also did trim passes for Dolby Cinema 2D, Dolby Cinema 3D (14 foot-lamberts) and standard 3D (3.5 foot-lamberts), each of which requires additional refinement. “Tobias likes the really deep blacks you can get in the Dolby Cinema version, but we didn’t want to push things too far. It’s already so colorful and saturated that when we’d open the files in PQ (Dolby’s Perceptual Quantizer) we pulled a lot of it back so that it has an extra pop, but it still is very similar to the way the P3 version looks.”

Dailies were colored at Efilm by Adrian DeLude on Colorfront OSD. Files were conformed in Autodesk Flame. Deluxe’s Portal service was the tool used by VFX vendors to locate and download camera-original material and upload iterations of shots, which were then integrated onto Paulson’s Lustre timeline as the final grade proceeded.

Video: Red Sparrow colorist David Hussey talks workflow

After film school, and working as an assistant editor, David Hussey found himself drawn to color grading. He then became an assistant to a colorist and his path was set.

In a recent video interview with the now senior colorist at LA’s Company 3, Hussey talks about the differences of coloring a short-form project versus a long-form film and walks us through his workflow on Red Sparrow, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian ballerina-turned-spy.

Please watch…

Behind the Title: Encore Senior Colorist Bob Festa

NAME: Bob Festa

COMPANY: Encore

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Situated in sunny Hollywood, Encore Hollywood offers file-based post services, including HDR Dolby Vision mastering, 4K workflows, near-set dailies and visual effects.

AS A COLORIST, WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Modern color in the episodic television world means being prepared to contribute on any issue, none more important than beauty fixes. All of the contemporary color tools that we use today have handles for eye sharpening, skin softening, crow’s feet, baggage and mid-tone detail augmentation. Beauty work today can take 50% of the color session time. We help ensure that the actors look their best.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
Primarily DaVinci Resolve and FilmLight Baselight.

Runaways

ARE YOU ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Almost all projects are conformed or assembled before color even begins. That means all camera RAW shots are assembled on a timeline, in cut order, with transitions and effects. Beyond grading the color of a piece… things like composition, speed, and textural changes like “film grain” or softness are all routine on a daily basis.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I never thought I’d say this, but people. Collaborating with people can be really rewarding and fun. They can really make your day. I’ve had days where 1,000 shots just seem to fly by because of the air in the room.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
People. Collaborating with people. Not everyone has a good day every day, and many times whatever attitude or phone call that enters the studio becomes my challenge for the day. Those are the days where it feels like you have been on a single shot all day long.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION, WHAT WAS YOUR PATH?
After realizing that online editing was not for me, supervising feature film telecine sessions made me realize that I could do this. Not only was it highly creative, but it was a black art that had limitless areas where I could contribute. Many of the tools that I used back then, Topsy, Dubner, Prism and EPR were all highly customized, and no two were alike. Romancing color out of a Rank IIIC and threading a magna tech dubber was like wrestling an alligator; it was very physical and fun. It took about six months before I developed confidence and a reasonable eye for good color.

The Last Ship

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Yes, executive producer Michael Bay’s The Last Ship (TNT) and Marvel’s Runaways (Hulu), for which I also handle the HDR grade.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
It might not be the one I’m most proud of, but it’s one that had my jaw hit the floor in the ‘90s —Joe Pytka’s “Perrier… it’s perfect” commercial. Shot on Aaton 35mm in France, there was just something exceptional about the exposures, even in standard def. Many believe it was the light in Provence, or the quaint French villages or the quality of the water at the lab or Pytka’s genius. Whatever it was it all just worked. It’s still my guilty pleasure to this day. Ironically enough, I worked on this commercial the first time I worked at Encore Hollywood.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
I have an expression: “I steal from the best.” I have been so lucky to work with the top creatives again and again. After working with so many talented people in a dark studio for so many years, it’s only natural to liberate some of these great techniques that have worked so well for others. It’s my job to recognize the opportunities to contribute some of those ideas and improvise and combine them for a given shot today.

I have an exercise that I share with young aspiring colorists where I ask them to look at a camera RAW shot and tell me what they see, and how they can contribute color wise. Invariably, they bring something from their past to their color approach. We all use our fields of experience when grading.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Acrylic contemporary art, environmental conservancy or upright jazz bass.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Personally, I’d say digital audio reproduction for home HiFi. German cars for the hours of driving in Los Angeles and cellphones to stay in touch with my loved ones.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram is a great source of color and composition. Existing rules are broken there every day. Larry Bridges a famous editor and owner of Red Car editorial used to say, “Today’s mistakes are tomorrows techniques.”

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
For a guy who really loves the outdoors, working in a dark studio makes me believe I need to be outside often. Mountain biking… the fun starts when you leave your comfort zone behind.

First-time director of Beyond Transport calls on AlphaDogs for post

The new documentary Beyond Transport, directed and produced by Ched Lohr, focuses on technology and how it’s brought people together while at the same time creating a huge disconnect in personal relationships. In this doc, this topic is examined from the perspective of cab drivers. Shot on all seven continents of the world, the film includes interviews with drivers who share their accounts of how socializing has changed dramatically in the 21st Century.

Eighteen months in the making, Beyond Transport was shot intermittently due to an extensive travel schedule to countries that included, Ireland, Cambodia, Tanzania and Australia. An unexpected conversation with a cab driver in Cairns, Australia, and a dive trip to the Great Barrier Reef were initially what inspired Lohr to make the film. “I noticed all the divers were using their personal devices in between dives,” says Lohr. “It seemed like meeting new people and connecting with others has become less of a priority. I thought it would be interesting to interview cab drivers because they have a very unique perspective of people’s behaviors.”

A physician by trade, Lohr had a vision for the documentary, but no idea on how to go about creating it. With no background in producing, writing or even how to use editing systems, Lohr assembled a team of pros to help guide him through the process, including hiring the team at Burbank’s AlphaDogs to complete post for the film.

AlphaDogs colorist Sean Stack distinguished differences in climate between the various locations by choosing specific color palettes. This helped bring the audiences into the story with a feel and vibe on what it might feel like to actually be there in person. “The filmmaker talks to cab drivers from a variety of climates, ranging from the searing heat of Tanzania, to the frigid temperatures of Antarctica,” describes Stack. “With that in mind, I navigated through the documentary looking for ways to help define the surroundings.”

To accomplish this, Stack added saturated warm colors, such as yellow, tan and brown to locations in South Africa and South America, making even the dirt, cars and buildings radiate a sense of intense heat. In contrast, less saturation was given to the harsher climate of Antarctica, using a series of blue tones for both the sky and the water, which added depth, and also gave a more frigid and crisp appearance. Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve Power Windows were used to fix problems with uncontrolled lighting situations present in the interviews with cab drivers. Hand-held footage was also stabilized, with a final touch of film grain added to take away from a videotape feel and give a more inviting texture to the documentary.

In addition, Stack created an end credits section by pulling shots of the cab drivers looking into the camera and smiling. “This accomplished the goal of the filmmaker to have pictures accompany the end credits,” explains Stack. “It also added another element of connection to the drivers who are telling the story. Seeing them one last time reminds the viewer of some of the best moments in the documentary and hopefully taking those memorable moments away with them.”

AlphaDogs audio engineer Curtis Fritsch completed audio on the film that included clean up on noisy audio files, since most all of the interviews take place inside of a cab. To keep the audio from sounding over processed, Fritsch used a very specific combination of Cedar and Izotope plugins. “We were able to find a really good balance in making the dialogue sound much clearer and pronounced,” he says. “This was of particular importance in the scene where a muezzin is reciting the adhan (call to prayer). I was able to remove the wind noise so you not only heard the prayer in this dreamlike sequence but also to keep the focus on the music, rather than the VFX.”

Netflix’s Altered Carbon: the look, the feel, the post

By Randi Altman

Netflix’s Altered Carbon is a new sci-fi series set in a dystopian future where people are immortal thanks to something called “stacks,” which contain their entire essence — their personalities, their memories, everything. The one setback is that unless you are a Meth (one of the rich and powerful), you need to buy a “sleeve” (a body) for your stack, and it might not have any resemblance to your former self. It could be a different color, a different sex, a different age, a different everything. You have to take what you can get.

Based on a 2002 novel by Richard K. Morgan, it stars Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman.

Jill Bogdanowicz

We reached out to the show’s colorist, Jill Bogdanowicz, as well as post producer Allen Marshall Palmer to find out more about the show’s varied and distinctive looks.

The look has a very Blade Runner-type feel. Was that in homage to the films?
Bogdanowicz: The creators wanted a film noir look. Blade Runner is the same genre, but the show isn’t specifically an homage to Blade Runner.

Palmer: I’ll leave that for fans to dissect.

Jill, can you talk about your process? What tools did you use?
Bogdanowicz: I designed a LUT to create that film noir look before shooting. I actually provided a few options, and they chose my favorite one and used it throughout. After they shot everything and I had all 10 episodes in my bay, I got familiar with the content, wrapped my head around the story and came up with ideas to tell that story with color.

The show covers many different times and places so scenes needed to be treated visually to show audiences where the story is and what’s happened. I colored both HDR (Dolby Vision) and SDR passes using DaVinci Resolve.

I worked very closely with both DPs — Martin Ahlgren and Neville Kidd — in pre-timing the show, and they gave me a nice idea of what they were looking for so I had a great starting point. They were very close knit. The entire team on this project was an absolute pleasure, and it was a great creative collaboration, which comes through in the final product of the show.

The show is shot and posted like a feature and has a feature feel. Was that part of your marching orders?
Bogdanowicz: I’m primarily a features colorist, so I’m very familiar with the film noir look and heavy VFX, and that’s one reason I was included on this project. It was right up my alley.

Palmer: We approached Altered Carbon as a 10-part feature rather than a television series. I coined the term “feature episodic entertainment,” which describes what we were aspiring to — destination viewing instead of something merely disposable. In a world with so many viewing options, we wanted to command the viewer’s full attention, and fans are rewarded for that attention.

We were very concerned about how images, especially VFX, were going to look in HDR so we had weekly VFX approval sessions with Jill, our mastering colorist, in her color timing bay.

Executive producers and studio along with the VFX and post teams were able to sit together — adjusting color corrections if needed before giving final approval on shots. This gave us really good technical and creative quality control. Despite our initial concerns about VFX shots in HDR, we found that with vendors like Double Negative and Milk with their robust 16-bit EXR pipelines we weren’t “breaking” VFX shots when color correcting for HDR.

How did the VFX affect the workflow?
Bogdanowicz: Because I was brought on so early, the LUT I created was shared with the VFX vendors so they had a good estimation of the show’s contrast. That really helped them visualize the look of the show so that the look of the shots was pretty darn close by the time I got them in my bay.

Was there a favorite scene or scenes?
Bogdanowicz: There are so many spectacular moments, but the emotional core for me is in episode 104 when we see the beginning of the Kovacs and Quell love story in the past and how that love gives Kovacs the strength to survive in the present day.

Palmer: That’s a tough question! There are so many, it’s hard to choose. I think the episode that really jumps out is the one in which Joel Kinnaman’s character is being tortured and the content skips back and forth in time, changes and alternates between VR and reality. It was fun to create a different visual language for each space.

Can you talk about challenges in the process and how you overcame them?
Bogdanowicz: The show features a lot of VFX and they all need to look as real as possible, so I had to make sure they felt part of the worlds. Fortunately, VFX supervisor Everett Burrell and his team are amazing and the VFX is top notch. Coming up with different ideas and collaborating with producers James Middleton and Laeta Kalogridis on those ideas was a really fun creative challenge. I used the Sapphire VFX plugin for Resolve to heavily treat and texture VR looks in different ways.

Palmer: In addition to the data management challenges on the picture side, we were dealing with mixing in Dolby Atmos. It was very easy to get distracted with how great the Atmos mix sounds — the downmixes generally translated very well, but monitoring in 5.1 and 2.0 did reveal some small details that we wanted to adjust. Generally, we’re very happy with how both the picture and sound is translating into viewer’s homes.

Dolby Vision HDR is great at taking what’s in the color bay into the home viewing environment, but there are still so many variables in viewing set-ups that you can still end up chasing your own tail. It was great to see the behind the scenes of Netflix’s dedication to providing the best picture and sound quality through the service.

The look of the AI hotel was so warm. I wanted to live there. Can you talk about that look?
Bogdanowicz: The AI hotel look was mostly done in design and lighting. I saw the warm practical lights and rich details in the architecture and throughout the hotel and ran with it. I just aimed to keep the look filmic and inviting.

What about the look of where the wealthy people lived?
Bogdanowicz: The Meth houses are above the clouds, so we kept the look very clean and cool with a lot of true whites and elegant color separation.

Seems like there were a few different looks within the show?
Bogdanowicz: The same LUT for the film noir look is used throughout the show, but the VR looks are very different. I used Sapphire to come up with different concepts and textures for the different VR looks, from rich quality of the high-end VR to the cheap VR found underneath a noodle bar.

Allen, can you walk us through the workflow from production to post?
Palmer: With the exception of specialty shots, the show was photographed on Alexa 65 — mostly in 5K mode, but occasionally in 6.5K and 4K for certain lenses. The camera is beautiful and a large part of the show’s cinematic look, but it generates a lot of data (about 1.9TB/hour for 5K) so this was the first challenge. The camera dictates using the Codex Vault system, and Encore Vancouver was up to the task for handling this material. We wanted to get the amount of data down for post, so we generated 4096×2304 ProRes 4444XQ “mezzanine” files, which we used for almost all of the show assembly and VFX pulls.

During production and post, all of our 4K files were kept online at Efilm using their portal system. This allowed us fast, automated access to the material so we could quickly do VFX pulls, manage color, generate 16-bit EXR frames and send those off to VFX vendors. We knew that time saved there was going to give us more time on the back end to work creatively on the shots so the Portal was a very valuable tool.

How many VFX shots did you average per episode? Seems like a ton, especially with the AI characters. Who provided those and what were those turnarounds like?
Palmer: There were around 2,300 visual effects shots during this season — probably less than most people would think because we built a large Bay City street inside a former newspaper printing facility outside of Vancouver. The shot turnaround varied depending on the complexity and where we were in the schedule. We were lucky that something like episode 1’s “limo ride” sequence was started very early on because it gave us a lot of time to refine our first grand views of Bay City. Our VFX supervisor Everett Burrell and VFX producer Tony Meagher were able to get us out in front of a lot of challenges like the amount of 3D work in the last two episodes by starting that work early on since we knew we would need those shots from the script and prep phase.

Video: Fotokem DI colorist Walter Volpatto on The Last Jedi and color

 

Last month Blackmagic held its first Expo, and one of the keynote speakers was Fotokem colorist Walter Volpatto. He was born in Italy and grew up on a farm, quite a long way from his current life in Los Angeles.

Volpatto originally got into this industry as a broadcast engineer, but his path continued, and when computers became more a part of this world, he started learning about photography and how computers interact with images.

“I was in the right place at the right moment,” he says. “I was lucky enough to be working with color timers who helped train me and my eye to the color, the image, the feeling and the world they were trying to create. So I was technical first and artistic second and that creates a unique blend.”

And the power of color? Volpatto says, “It’s kind of like when in the 1800s impressionists took over the world of painting; it’s the same now with the colorists. They can create a look that was impossible in-camera, and colorists can now give life to what the camera captured and every shade in between. I’m more on the naturalistic side, but it’s difficult because you have to be able to create what the client wants, but do it in a way that doesn’t step on their photography.”

We were lucky enough to get some quality time with Volpatto — we asked him about his recent high-profile color work on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, how he got started as a colorist and more…

 

HPA Tech Retreat — Color flow in the desert

By Jesse Korosi

I recently had the opportunity to attend the HPA Tech Retreat in Palm Desert, California, not far from Palm Springs. If you work in post but aren’t familiar with this event, I would highly recommend attending. Once a year, many of the top technologists working in television and feature films get together to share ideas, creativity and innovations in technology. It is a place where the most highly credited talent come to learn alongside those that are just beginning their career.

This year, a full day was dedicated to “workflow.” As the director of workflow at Sim, an end-to-end service provider for content creators working in film and TV, this was right up my alley. This year, I was honored to be a presenter on the topic of color flow.

Color flow is a term I like to use when describing how color values created on set translate into each department that needs access to them throughout post. In the past, this process had been very standardized, but over the last few years it has become much more complex.

I kicked off the presentation by showing everyone an example of an offline edit playing back through a projector. Each shot had a slight variance in luminance, had color shifts, extended to legal changes, etc. During offline editing, the editor should not be distracted by color shifts like these. It’s also not uncommon to have executives come into the room to see the cut. The last thing you want is the questioning of VFX shots because they are seeing these color anomalies. The shots coming back from the visual effects team will have the original dailies color baked into them and need to blend into the edit.

So why does this offline edit often look this way? The first thing to really hone in on is the number of options now available for color transforms. If you show people who aren’t involved in this process day to day a Log C image, compared to a graded image, they will tell you, “You applied a LUT, no big deal.” But it’s a misconception to think that if you give all of the departments that require access to this color the same LUT, they are going to see the same thing. Unfortunately, that’s not the case!

Traditionally, LUTs consisted of a few different formats, but now camera manufacturers and software developers have started creating their own color formats, each having their own bit depths, ranges and other attributes to further complicate matters. You can no longer simply use the blanket term LUT, because that is often not a clear definition of what is now being used.

What makes this tricky is that each of these formats is only compatible within certain software or hardware. For example, Panasonic has created its own color transform called VLTs. This color file cannot be put into a Red camera or an Arri. Only certain software can read it. Continue down the line through the plethora of other color transform options available and each can only be used by certain software/departments across the post process.

Aside from all of these competing formats, we also have an ease-of-use issue. A great example to highlight on this issue would be a DP coming to me and saying (something I hear often), “I would like to create a set of six LUTs. I will write on the camera report the names of the ones I monitored with on set, and then you can apply it within the dailies process.”

For about 50 percent of the jobs we do, we deliver DPX or EXR frames to the VFX facility, along with the appropriate color files they need. However, we give the other 50 percent the master media, and along with doing their own conversion to DPX, this vendor is now on the hook to find out which of those LUTs the DP used on set, go with which shots. This is a manual process for the majority of jobs using this workflow. For my presentation, I broke down why this is not a realistic request to put on vendors, which often leads to them simply not using the LUTs.

Workarounds
For my presentation, I broke down how to get around this LUT issue by staying within CDL compatibility. I also spoke about how to manage these files in post, while the onset crew uses equivalent LUTs. This led to the discussion of how you should be prepping your color flow at the top of each job, as well as a few case studies on real-world jobs. One of those jobs was a BLG workflow providing secondaries on set that could track through into VFX and to the final colorist, while also giving the final colorist the ability to re-time shots when we needed to do a reprint without the need to re-render new MXFs to be relinked in the Avid.

After a deep dive into competing formats, compatibility, ease of use, and a few case studies, the big take away I wanted to leave the audience with was this:
– Ensure a workflow call happens, ideally covering color flow with your on set DIT or DP, dailies vendor, VFX and DI representative
– Ensure a color flow pipeline test runs before day one of the shoot
– Allow enough time to react to issues
– When you aren’t sure how a certain department will get their color, ask!


Jesse Korosi is director of workflow at Sim.

Behind the Title: MTI Senior Colorist Trent Johnson

NAME: Trent Johnson

COMPANY: MTI Film

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
MTI Film works in multiple post production disciplines, including TV and feature post, film restoration and software development.

AS A SENIOR COLORIST, WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
In order to be excellent in this profession you have to be obsessive about the details, because it is in the composite of details that the whole mood and tempo of the show comes alive.

At this point in the post process, I may even become more passionate about certain aspects of the project than the clients. With years of experience under my belt, I have mastered many tricks of the trade that clients may or may not be aware of. I can see what needs to be corrected in lighting and color to make the director, cinematographer and producer’s vision for the piece become a reality.

It is my responsibility to make it right and I take this responsibility very seriously and down to the tiniest detail. For example, I can unify inconsistent shots, change the time of day, augment special effects that have to be married into practical photography, tint color to affect an emotional response from the audience and enhance the appearance of characters, to name a few. The addition of my creative input to the creative process – at the direction of the creative heads of a project – serves as the icing on the cake. It’s the final perfection of the product before it’s delivered and released.

WHAT SYSTEMS DO YOU WORK ON?
I am proficient on Nucoda, Resolve and Baselight.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS? IF SO, CAN YOU DESCRIBE?
I take on light editorial tasks: compositing, speed changes, titling, etc. For a restoration project it could be sifting through various elements to choose the best quality.

The Emoji Movie

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I have lots of favorites. First is working with very talented creative clients who know what they want and how to communicate a vision. Sitting in a theatre with these creative giants, over a period of several days, an atmosphere of camaraderie develops. This has resulted in many wonderful working relationships.

Second, I love being given a challenge on a film or TV project and then being able to meet or exceed expectations. I have always said there are two kinds of people in this world: those who give you reasons why they can’t do something and those who give you reasons why something that seems impossible can be done. I like to be the guy that figures out how to make it happen for a client, even though it may be out of the wheelhouse of most color correctors.

Third, once I meet a challenge and succeed in enhancing the creative vision of the client to an unexpected level, I like reviewing what I colored and how it’s made everything come together according to the vision. I thoroughly enjoy looking at what I colored yesterday and liking it, not to mention witnessing my client’s satisfaction with the final product.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Rushing through the grade. I’m a perfectionist and like to refine a look until everyone in the room is pleased. I’m willing to put the time to get it right.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I edited as well as colored early in my career. I could have easily pursued editing, as I enjoy it quite a lot. I like focusing on performances and finding the magic moments in shots and scenes and piecing it all together to move the story forward. I bring these skills into the color bay every day and draw on them by using color to amplify and strengthen the storyline of the project I’m working on.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
As a child I binge-watched TV shows and movies and developed a love of classic Hollywood. I can walk into a room and glance at a movie and usually know what the title is. My kids get a kick out of that. I have a bit of a photographic memory in that sense. This has come in handy because I not only remember the movie, but the color and lighting as well, and how it was used in that particular instance to create a mood.

As I grew into my teens, I decided to make that movie-watching time investment pay off. I bought a Super 8 camera in high school and began making movies with my friends. I’ve never looked back. I majored in film production at the collegiate level at USC and San Diego State University. I started my career at Complete Post in Hollywood, and the rest is history.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I recently worked on Overboard for MGM, Proud Mary for Screen Gems and The Emoji Movie for Sony/Columbia.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I’ve worked on all the Smurfs movies. I started on the animated TV series early in my career and was hired to color correct all three of the motion pictures. The most challenging aspect of these movies early on was the combination live action and animation.

I became known as the “Smurf Blue guy” for keeping the characteristic blue color of the characters consistent. I especially enjoyed working with the animation clients on these shows because they are extremely precise, and I respect that.

A close second favorite is the motion picture Burlesque. The cinematography on that film was executed brilliantly; it featured dramatic dance numbers enhanced with creative lighting, had an avant-garde cast and was a throw-back to old Hollywood.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
I feel as connected to the old as to the new. Technology is always morphing, and the way movies are made constantly in flux. This is a source of fascination to me, and I’m inspired by the way all forms of art both reflect and influence culture. I study how camerawork and lighting techniques come and go, and how they were and are effectively used artistically in movies past and present. How to communicate different facets of life is the fundamental inspiration for art. What I do is a technical art form, so it draws deeply on these principles.

NAME SOME TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
XM Radio, television, my iPhone and my coffeemaker.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I thoroughly enjoy reading blogs, and especially listening to podcasts of cinematographers and other colorists to stay current on innovation trends. Anything to do with the industry on Facebook, YouTube, etc. is always interesting to me.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Sinatra, classic radio shows and pastry. Actually, it’s my sense of humor that keeps me going. Also, coming home to my loving family and being highly involved in my children’s lives is my lifeblood.

Behind the Title: Encore (and Ryan Murphy) Colorist Kevin Kirwan

NAME: Kevin Kirwan

COMPANY: Encore Hollywood

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Encore specializes in television post production. I’ve been at Encore forever — they have nice people and it’s a nice working environment.

JOB TITLE: Colorist

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Not a lot of surprises here. As a final colorist for television you have to balance the wishes of the producers against those of the director of photography and various post supervisors.

Feud

I think in features you have a great deal more input from directors — that really doesn’t exist in my world. The people skills that are required to keep everyone feeling like their voices are being heard and their concerns addressed, might be one of the overlooked nuances of the job.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
I’m currently working on the DaVinci Resolve. I started coloring just about 30 years ago, so I cut my teeth on the old analog Amigo and Dubner color correction systems. I’ve spent the bulk of my career on DaVinci systems since.

That has to be one of the more interesting aspects of having been at this as long as I have, the changes in technology are stunning. I used to master to 1-inch tape for god’s sake. When I came up, the old quads were just being phased out. Those things were massive. Everything that I did back in the day was mastered from film. Tape to tape came along much later and then, of course, digital.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Not really. I do get invited to the set occasionally to offer advice on situations that might become an issue later on in the process, but that’s become increasingly rare. I just do my thing in the color correction suite and schmooze with the clients.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Interacting with the creatives. I’m a people person. I have a creative personality, and that’s a nice mix when you’re dealing with like-minded producers and DPs. I have had great client relationships over the past 15 years or so; it’s always enjoyable to have that familiarity and the loyalty that comes along with having worked on multiple projects with a client.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
As much as I enjoy collaboration there is a downside to that as well. When you get too many voices in the room, and this is even more pronounced when they’re not in the room together, then occasionally you see a project suffer from having too many cooks in the kitchen, too many disparate visions fighting one another. That can end badly, and the overall look of the show can take a hit.

It’s difficult to say no to a client, but once in a while I am faced with pointing out the negative effects that a producer, or a DP, may be imposing on a show by insisting on something that might not be serving the best interests of the project.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’m also a professional helicopter pilot. I’ve been flying for as long as I’ve been coloring. I owned and operated a helicopter tour and charter business here in LA for years, and sold it this past July. I’m incredibly passionate about aviation, so for sure if I ever stop coloring, I’ll be up flying something the next day.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
I stumbled into it. I came to LA to be a rock star — this is me rolling my eyes at my youthful naiveté — but it was a lot of fun. I wasn’t much of a musician to be honest, but I was enthusiastic!

I did however land a job driving and working in the mailroom at a tiny little film lab… this was when I was in my early 20s. They had one color correction bay and two guys operating the video department. I befriended them and they took me under their collective wing. I took that opportunity and made the most of it.

YOU’RE A LONGTIME COLLABORATOR OF RYAN MURPHY. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT HISTORY?
I used to do all of Mike Robin’s stuff, Popular, Nip/Tuck, The Closer, etc. Ryan worked with Mike on a few things, and I started out with him on Popular, and then Nip/Tuck while he and Mike were still in business together. I became very close with Alexis Martin-Woodall, who was at that time just cutting her teeth as a post producer. She’s now exec producing all of the shows along with Ryan. She is by far one of the nicest people that you’ll ever meet, and easily the best client that I’ve had in my career. Alexis is a total rock star. She and I are creatively simpatico, she trusts me, and I know what she and Ryan are looking for. It’s a nice marriage.

HOW HAS THE VISUAL STYLE EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS AS YOU AND RYAN HAVE WORKED TOGETHER?
It’s a show-by-show thing. Shows like Glee, or something like the new series that we just started, 911, are pretty straightforward, nothing stylized, good contrast, nice poppy colors, don’t go too dark, feature the performance, make sure you can see into the actors’ expressions… that sort of thing.

American Horror Story is a different creature each season. These anthology series are fun because even though it’s technically the same show each time, the seasons all have their own theme. The look is much more tailored to fit the individual story. Season 2, which was called Asylum, was my favorite in terms of look. Very desaturated, dark and moody. It was a grungy, forbidding vibe that I really had fun with.

We just finished the second season of American Crime. This one was The Assassination of Gianni Versace. It’s very warm and colorful, especially when we were in Miami, but as we descended into Andrew Cunanan’s world it got a bit dirty, and we got to play a bit.

The first season of American Crime, The People Vs. OJ Simpson, was pretty gritty. It had a really tight look and a nice period feel.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT AND UPCOMING PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The Ryan Murphy camp keeps me busy. I mentioned 911 earlier. That’s a brand-new series. We get to watch the shows, of course, and it’s nice when you enjoy what you work on. I like 911.

American Horror Story

I’m looking forward to the next series of Feud, another anthology. Season 1 was the Bette Davis and Joan Crawford story with Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. I believe the next season is the Charles and Diana saga. That should be pretty opulent to look at.

At some point in the near future we’ll start a series based on Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Sarah Paulson. Looking forward to that one.

WHAT IS THE SHOW THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
It’s probably American Horror Story. As I said earlier the changes in theme for each season make it new and different each time, and I really enjoy the show and am very proud of the work that we do on it.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
Music. I’m a huge music fan; anything from John Denver to Jay-Z. Love the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Snoop and Slim Shady. I grew up listening to vinyl and got back into that recently.

My daughter Bella inspires me with her art, she’s amazing, she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with some day. Hold it, I take that back, she already is a force to be reckoned with. My house is pretty much baby girl’s own personal art studio at this point.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My phone. I’m an old man, there were no cell phones for the first half of my life pretty much, and I still remember when pagers were a big deal. It’s insane how dependent we’ve become on our phones, but I can’t live without mine.

My computer, of course.

GPS is huge for me when I fly. Again, I’m dating myself but I learned to fly when you kept a paper chart on your lap and kept dialing up nearby VORs (you older pilots will know what I’m talking about), in order to navigate. GPS was an absolute game changer.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Don’t do social media. Don’t understand the need to share every detail of one’s life like that. Not my thing. (I’m a crotchety old man at this point. Hey, you kids get off my lawn!)

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Fly airplanes and helicopters and hang out with my daughter. We go to live theater and concerts quite a bit. My dogs de-stress me. I take them everywhere.

Neil Anderson upped to colorist at Lucky Post, talks inspiration

Neil Anderson has been promoted to colorist at Dallas’ Lucky Post after joining the company in 2013 right out of film school. Anderson’s projects include national brands such as Canada Dry, Costa, TGI Friday’s, The Salvation Army and YETI. His latest feature work was featured at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in Augustine Frizzell’s comedy, Never Goin’ Back. He works on Blackmagic Resolve 14.

Anderson’s interest in cameras and color science inspired his career as a colorist, but he says his inspiration changes all the time, depending on where his mind is at. “Sometimes I’ll see a commercial on TV and think, ‘Wow. There was great care put into that piece, I wonder how they did that?’ Then I’ll go back and rewatch it over and over again trying to pick it apart and see what I can glean. Or if I’m developing a specific workflow/look and I’m struggling to get exactly what I’m after, I’ll find interesting frames from films that pop into my head for guidance.”

In terms of colorists who inspire him, Anderson points to Peter Doyle (who most recently colored Darkest Hour). “He’s incredibly technical, and he exploits his thorough knowledge of color science to guide films through a color pipeline in an almost algorithmic fashion. I’m at awe by his expertise and, in a way, use him as a model of how I want to approach projects.

“I also admire Steven Scott for maybe the opposite reason. While technical like Peter, to me he approaches projects with a painter’s eye first. I’ve heard him say the best inspiration is to simply pay attention to the world around us. His work and approach remind me to branch out artistically just as much as I try technically.”

When he thinks about cinematographers, Roger Deakins comes to mind. “He’s a DP that really captures almost the entire look of the film in-camera, and the color grading is supposedly very simple and minor in the end. This is because he and his colorist work hand in hand before the shoot, developing a look they’ll see and use on set,” explains Anderson. “This workflow is a critical tool for modern colorists, and Roger is a reminder of the importance of having a good relationship with your DP.”

Tim Nagle, a Lucky Post finishing artist, describes Anderson as a “quiet and ardent observer of life’s design, from light and shadow on a city street to bold color blocks in a Wong Kar-wai film. His attention to detail and process are implacable.”

“Color is like magic to most people; the process feels like happenstance and you don’t realize how it’s supporting the narrative until it’s not,” concludes Anderson. “I love the challenge of each project and mining through color theory to achieve the best results for our clients.”