By Randi Altman
Turn your TV to any network or streaming channel any evening and you will immediately be reminded just how much television production is currently going on in New York City. This boon is directly related to New York’s inviting production tax incentives. And thanks to the state’s post production tax incentives, many of these shows are now staying in New York for finishing.
In response to this increase in work, Panavision’s Light Iron in New York has been growing its episodic division, most recently with the addition of supervising colorist Steven Bodner, who joins after eight years at Deluxe in New York.
Bodner’s extensive television resume includes Girls, Blue Bloods, Treme, True Detective and the new HBO series Vinyl. Bodner also works on features, including the recent Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba.
Considering his history and his new position, we figured there was no better time to reach out and learn more about Bodner and how he works.
Why was now the right time to make a move, and why was Light Iron the right choice?
I was with Deluxe for the past eight years and felt I needed a change. I was approached by Light Iron and was impressed right off the bat with their technological know-how and advancements. The Panavision connection also influenced my decision. I love the fact that I can be involved from the early stages of choosing the camera and lenses to the final delivery.
What do you hope to accomplish in your new position at Light Iron? Your title says supervising colorist, but you will you be hands-on for shows as well?
I am 100 percent hands-on with all the projects I work on. I feel like I can connect more with the filmmakers and creatives by touching every frame of the show or film. My title is more for building a strong team and department. I want to help our new colorists polish their skills so that we can all grow together and collaborate. I have a lot of knowledge I can spread through our new department, and the title allows me to do that.
What is your color grading tool of choice?
I feel like we as artists use many tools to mold a picture. A great colorist can shape pretty pictures with whatever platform we are given — it’s more about the creative vision. That being said, I am currently using the latest version of Resolve from Blackmagic. (Light Iron’s New York facility just installed a Quantum StorNext 5 SAN (700 TB) and a Sony X300 for HDR monitoring.)
What is your ideal way of working on a TV show, and does that differ from how you work on a feature?
What I like to do, whether it be TV or a film, is get involved as early as possible. I like to get into the head of the DP and/or director and see what his or her visions are for the show. Then, during testing, I like to find time to sit and play around a bit and get some “look-book” stills done for reference going forward. When a delivery actually comes in, I like to do a quick pass unsupervised and get everything in a ballpark with my look-book stills and then go from there with the clients.
Do you prefer getting visual examples of looks or talking about the look and feel?
It’s always nice to get visual examples of what the DP or creative wants. However, there are situations when time doesn’t allow for that and a quick conversation is all you get. That’s why, for me, it’s important to be involved from the start and to communicate as often as possible or needed.
As a New York post veteran, it must be fun watching all this episodic work come to New York, and stay in NY for post.
It’s been great watching the amount of NY work grow. I remember years ago only doing the dailies and hoping for a day when we could keep the finishing here as well. It’s a dream come true.
What changes/trends have you noticed over the past few years relating to color grading?
The biggest changes or trends I’ve noticed are related to speed and capabilities. With most projects being digital now, there is an expectation for speed. We have to be fast and precise while retaining the look and the feel of the show. I also feel like we are doing a fair amount of beauty work in color due to the stronger color tools and better trackers.
Finally, where do you find inspiration for looks? Photography? Museums? The streets of New York?
I get my inspiration from everyday life, photography and other shows or films. I also like to sit in my color suite and just try things that I normally wouldn’t do, when a client is present, to see what comes out of it.