“As colorists, we are not just responsible for enhancing each individual shot based on the vision of the filmmakers, but also for helping to visually construct an emotional arc over time.”
NAME: Ian Vertovec
TITLE: Supervising Colorist
COMPANY: Light Iron
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ROLE IN THE COMPANY?
A Hollywood-based collaborator for motion picture finishing, with a studio in New York City as well.
AS A COLORIST, WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
As colorists, we are not just responsible for enhancing each individual shot based on the vision of the filmmakers, but also for helping to visually construct an emotional arc over time. For example, a warm scene feels warmer coming out of a cool scene as opposed to another warm scene. We have the ability and responsibility to nudge the audience emotionally over the course of the film. Using color in this way makes color grading a bit like a cross between photography and editing.
ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Once in a while, I’ll be asked to change the color of an object, like change a red dress to blue or a white car to black. While we do have remarkable tools at our disposal, this isn’t quite the correct way to think about what we can do. Instead of being able to change the color of objects, it’s more like we can change the color of the light shining on objects. So instead of being able to turn a red dress to blue, I can change the light on the dress (and only the dress) to be blue. So while the dress will appear blue, it will not look exactly how a naturally blue dress would look under white light.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
There is a moment with new directors, after watching the first finished scene, when they realize they have made a gorgeous-looking movie. It’s their first real movie, which they never fully saw until that moment — on the big screen, crystal clear and polished — and it finally looks how they envisioned it. They are genuinely proud of what they’ve done, as well as appreciative of what you brought out in their work. It’s an authentic filmmaking moment.
WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Working on multiple jobs at a time and long days can be very, very draining. It’s important to take regular breaks to rest your eyes.
IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Something with photography, VFX or design, maybe.
HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I was doing image manipulation in high school and college before I even knew what color grading was.
CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Just Mercy, Murder Mystery, GLOW, What We Do in the Shadows and Too Old to Die Young.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Sometimes your perspective and a filmmaker’s perspective for a color grade can be quite divergent. There can be a temptation to take the easy way and either defer or overrule. I find tremendous value in actually working out those differences and seeing where and why you are having a difference of opinion.
It can be a little scary, as nobody wants to be perceived as confrontational, but if you can civilly explain where and why you see a different approach, the result will almost always be better than what either of you thought possible in the first place. It also allows you to work more closely and understand each other’s creative instincts more accurately. Those are the moments I am most proud of — when we worked through an awkward discord and built something better.
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I have a fairly extensive library of Pinterest boards — mostly paintings — but it’s real life and being in the moment that I find more interesting. The color of a green leaf at night under a sodium vapor light, or how sunlight gets twisted by a plastic water bottle — that is what I find so cool. Why ruin that with an Insta post?
NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
FilmLight Baselight’s Base Grade, FilmLight Baselight’s Texture Equalizer and my Red Hydrogen.
WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
After working all day on a film, I often don’t feel like watching another movie when I get home because I’ll just be thinking about the color. I usually unwind with a video game, book or podcast. The great thing about a book or video games is that they demand your 100% attention. You can’t be simultaneously browsing social media or the news or be thinking about work. You have to be 100% in the moment, and it really resets your brain.