Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Love Your Colorist

I just finished color grading a documentary.   I thought that I'd share a few before/after screen shots the editor sent to me.  This footage was particularly challenging: the film is about children with cancer. The children and their families were all given Flip Camcorders to shoot footage.  If you think an image from a $2500 DSLR is thin, imagine some of the images from a $150 camera shot by non-professionals solely in ambient light.  I should also say that there were also some very nice images, really remarkable given the cost of the camera.

There was a serious red skew with blotchy magenta spots on the flesh tones in this image.  The real challenge was not only in giving the flesh an overall naturalistic color but also disguising the darker magenta artifacts without making the thin image look overly worked.  When I say naturalistic, I mean making his flesh look as good as possible while still retaining the overall feeling that it was shot under fluorescent lighting as opposed to trying to make it look like it was lit on a Hollywood set.  Flattering but authentic. If you click on the images, a larger version will open in a new window.

This image also had a serious color skew.

This image had contrast and color issues.  The greens were a little too yellow in the background and the water color isn't right either for the time of day.  This is actually when it gets fun.  I closed my eyes and put myself in that place and that time (late dusk in summer) and visualized what it looked like.  That is the intangible part of being a colorist, can you see what the intention was in your mind and actualize it? It's late in the day, so there is a little yellow lingering but the shadows are turning blue, particularly a challenge to make look subtle in the greens.  It becomes a balancing act.

 I feel like my job is done well if, when people watch a film, they don't notice what I've done and stay absorbed in the world created by all those who pass before me in the process.

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