NAME: Tim Stipan (@timstipan)
CAN YOU DESCRIBE EFILM?
Efilm, a Deluxe company, is a feature film finishing house. We are a sister facility to Company 3, and that allows me access to a great wealth of knowledge. When I recently did something in UHD for the first time, I was able to call up CO3 senior colorist Stephen Nakamura, who is one of the few in the world who has experience in UHD, and ask him how he set everything up.
WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
The technical component involves working at a color correction console in a theater with the filmmakers. I make adjustments to the overall color palette. We do it to refine the look and give the movie a certain feeling with color. I take shots that were captured at different times, under different conditions — sometimes with different cameras — and match them with color and contrast.
That’s the coloring aspect of the job, but that’s really only half of it. The other part is being able to read minds, in a sense. If a cinematographer or director says, “I’m not sure what I don’t like about this,” then I need to think about their taste and personality and what they’ve liked and disliked previously, try to come up with a solution and then perform it quickly as possible.
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I think some people might be surprised by how many hours we spend in the room. Color correction takes time. We will color the movie once, usually in about five days, and then spend another five days refining “the look.” On big VFX shows it can take twice that time.
WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
I had worked on [Autodesk] Lustre for over 10 years. Now I working with the FilmLight Baselight and I’m also getting my feet wet with the Blackmagic Resolve. They all essentially do the same thing — they let you adjust the color, contrast and saturation and all of the things that affect the look of the image. Some are more flexible in terms of how they work with different file formats and resolutions than others, but knowing them all is a good way to stay on top of the technology.
ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
The role of the final colorist means you are usually involved in the project before principal photography begins. This includes working with the cinematographer on picking lenses, exposures, lighting units, filters, wardrobes, wall colors, makeup, look up tables and much more. It’s good to test as much as possible before principal photography so if you have to push the image in exposure or color you know how the elements will react.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I feel I’m helping to create something that might be around in 50 or 100 years, which is cool. My favorite part of the job though is working with such talented and creative people.
WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My 100 percent least favorite thing is not working. It can be grueling putting in 18-hour days, but I would take that over not working any day of the week!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Lunch! That’s when I have the opportunity to get to know the people I am working with better. You get to digress, talk and just be human. The more I know my client the better I am at reading their mind, which makes the color correction process smoother and faster.
IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
If I wasn’t a colorist I would like to be a director. When I went to film school at Columbia College in Chicago, I thought I was going to be an actor, but I wanted to learn every role in the filmmaking process. Eventually I gravitated to the camera department and received a degree in cinematography.
However, the most exhilarating thing I ever did in film school was when I directed my thesis film. You’re dealing with script, locations, actors, cinematographer, grips everybody. If I wasn’t a colorist, that’s what I’d want to be doing today.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE COLOR GRADING?
During college I was working as a camera assistant and crane operator on a Stage. This led to getting hired a lot as a grip for commercials and short films. Working on set was fun, but I was thinking about having a family and freelancing scared the hell out of me. My adviser suggested I visit Filmworkers Club in Chicago. I went in, started learning about color grading and fell in love with it.
CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I just finished Me Earl and the Dying Girl, which won best film at Sundance. I also completed a film called The Family Fang, directed by the actor Jason Bateman and shot by my friend Ken Seng, who I went to film school with. It was. It’s a great film and shot with multiple capture formats. Next is Creed, which will get everyone’s blood pumping!
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I like to look at old photographic books. Not any photographer in particular. A lot of people you’ve never heard of. I’m also fascinated by old printing processes, like autochrome, or by the look of a Polaroid when someone ripped it apart too quickly. I love to watch movies, commercials and TV shows, too. A lot of TV today is as cinematic as movies are.
NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
GPS. How did we get anywhere before? My color corrector and projector. I’m not married to any particular brand as long as they do what I need them to do. But the color corrector and projector have to be running perfectly or I can’t do my work. I’m very fortunate that Deluxe has an incredible technical and support staff, and state of the art equipment.
WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Facebook and Instagram, and occasionally Twitter. But I like Facebook the best. There are so many videos on there. I am friends with a lot of cinematographers, and they post great images and interesting articles. If you follow Chivo [Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC] on Instagram (@chivexp) — it’s jaw-dropping the things he’s producing. It’s also a great way to keep in touch with DPs who are working on location.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I ride a motorcycle daily, and it prepares me mentally and physically for my job. I am an avid runner, which helps combat sitting in a chair for long periods of time. Reading is a great way to zone off into another world and forget about any stress, but the best thing in life is spending time with my family!