September 2, 2014

What Does a Colorist Really Do for Your Films? This Video Takes a Look

The video above from the International Colorist Academy (which was started by Warren Eagles and Kevin Shaw) does a great job explaining what colorists actually do. Colorists are often the last thing people think about on many lower-budget projects, but besides a good sound editor, they are what bring your video to the next level. A good colorist is capable of (within reason) making your footage match perfectly from shot to shot, and they are often a great second set of eyes to give you a new perspective on what your project is about and how it can look its best. Even if you choose to do your own color correction and grading, understanding the mindset that a colorist uses when approaching a project can help you produce better work with a more consistent vision throughout.

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25 Comments

Nice. I like how simple, but appropriately extreme, the examples are.

September 2, 2014 at 1:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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The problem is, it always looks so simple.
It's like good audio - people expect it to be perfect, but nobody knows how difficult it can be to get the perfect result that we all like to see!

September 2, 2014 at 8:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

I agree! My comment regarding simplicity was less to do with the actual process, and more to do with how that process was conveyed. :)

September 4, 2014 at 7:52PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
945

I always wondered why Cinematographers don't do their own color correction. They more than anyone know how things are supposed to look.

September 2, 2014 at 1:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Danny

I guess it's comparable to why Directors don't do cinematography - it's just one more massive thing that is done so much better when someone dedicates their life to it.

September 2, 2014 at 1:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tyler

Yeah, because otherwise I'd be t of a job. You never realize how much people seem to despise color grading until you see how relieved they are that someone like me is hired on for the project.

September 2, 2014 at 9:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Josh

Generally cinematographers will supervise a colour grading session.

September 2, 2014 at 1:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Right in the beginning he states how he works with directors and DP's to achieve a look. More often then not, the DP is at the coloring session because it's more or less his creative choices in mind while shooting the film. He could be lighting, exposing and framing a specific way. The director will then communicate with both to make sure his overall vision is being executed as well. It should always be a fun collaboration between multiple artists IMO.

September 2, 2014 at 1:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brad Watts

i direct, dp and color my own stuff. More autonomy and less people to deal with.

September 2, 2014 at 3:11AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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That's fine for small productions but when you start scaling it up doing all your own stuff becomes difficult.

May 13, 2015 at 6:56AM

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Doing colour work is an infinitely different set of skills than cinematography. Most colourists wouldn't have a clue how to go onto a set and start moving lights around, nor can DPs know how to dial in looks and get disparate shots to match.

September 2, 2014 at 6:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I know a director who tried to do his own grading and who really spent a lot of time practicing with Resolve.
And then when he thought he was pretty okay at it, his editor and the cameraman convinced him to let a pro color grader do the work on a bigger commercial.

After he had watched the pro work, and seen the results, let's just say he swore to us that he will never try to grade himself, unless its a private film for a birthday... ;)

September 2, 2014 at 8:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

I think every director should understand the basics of Resolve, just so they're aware of what's really easy and what's inordinately difficult / impossible to achieve. It'll get them better footage on the day. But at the same time, even if a director gets really good at grading (and of course many directors murder their work and the DP's work with cheesy grades), color grading is just one more avenue for the director to pick away at their film and ultimately lose confidence in it. Spreading the work around keeps directors same.

September 16, 2014 at 9:23PM

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same reason with Directors dont edit their films.

September 3, 2014 at 2:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kemalettin

This sentiment always bothers me. Color correction is a specialized job, just like cinematography, but they are not the same... they go hand in hand.

A colorist is just as important to me as my gaffer and I work with both of them from the same frame of mind. (Another way of looking at it is this: now that shooting film is a rarity on most productions, the colorist essentially replaces the film laboratory, lab supervisor, and color timer.)

When we're lighting a set, I can tell my gaffer what quality of light I need, the spread, the stop, the look, the gel, or specific units-- but that's all I need to say. I don't need to tell him the exact make and model of lighting units to order, where to run the cable, what gauge, what gels to start on the lights to correct them to white, etc, etc, because they fill in those blanks if they're worth their rate. It has to be that way because we're always on a stopwatch and I have other things to do and oversee.

Same with the colorist: I can tell them exactly where I need to go and they can get the image there very quickly because they know exactly what dials to turn and how much. Their eye is calibrated to see color in a far more scientific way, so as a DP in a color session I guide, supervise, and sometimes pull back the adjustments to keep the look where it needs to be. I have to keep my eye on the image as it relates to the story, they have their eye on the image from a more technical / measured perspective.

Filmmaking at it's best is a team sport and the more that highly specialized positions are combined, the more the quality of work suffers.

September 14, 2014 at 4:55PM, Edited September 14, 4:54PM

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Matt Irwin
DoP
86

Love this article. Proper nofilmschool article. Keep more of this coming.

September 2, 2014 at 2:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Conan

OFF TOPIC:

Hey Joe...

pchood.com has a cinema manual iris version of sigma's 18-35 lens. looks nice. $1799. or $1000 upgrade

http://www.pchood.com/image/data/sigma%2018-35-2/5.jpg

September 2, 2014 at 3:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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VinceGortho

along with manual iris cinema style tokina 11-16

... if anyone is interested. They are cheaper than other modifications offered.

September 2, 2014 at 3:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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VinceGortho

Looks interesting, though I know they've done other cinemods before, and they've mostly just put the cinema housing over the previous lens, instead of actually reshousing it, which is why they tend to be cheaper. Not sure what the case is with this one but I'll check it out.

September 2, 2014 at 9:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

I just like the manual iris. I's take that over the fancy wrapper

September 2, 2014 at 6:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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vincegortho

I remember when me and my friends first starting making short films, I didn't think we needed to color grade, but then I saw the Blackmagic Design Davinci overview video and realized how much that grade would mean for the films. Color grading is something every cinematographer, director, or editor should learn. Even if you can't become a professional colorist level, just having some knowledge can go a long way. It will make you think all the way through your images too.

September 2, 2014 at 10:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Levi Stutzman

I thought this was a creative and engaging little demo reel. Keeps it simple and dosen't make you feel like an idiot for not knowing what he does (many producers don't know how the magic happens) but at the same time giving off a nice sampling or work and with the VO it lends to it his personality and sense of humor.
Great find and post.

September 2, 2014 at 1:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tbonemain

Here is another look at what a colourist does. Andrea Chlebak was the DI colourist for Elysium and works at Digital Colour Central in Vancouver Canada

www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbXV2nFSNVk

September 2, 2014 at 6:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Hopefully it's just samples without saying that this is grading. Because it's just terrible.

No sense to even open DaVinci Resolve if you didn't read at least Richard Gregory "Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing".

September 2, 2014 at 10:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Alexey

Great video. Thanks!

May 13, 2015 at 3:04PM

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William Scherer
Writer/Director/Producer/Fine Art Aerial Photography
325

Very clever

May 21, 2017 at 8:25AM

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