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Colorists & DP's



I would like to thank Rob Lingelbach and his Altruistic Intentions Company
for mentioning an article about our "Thorough Control System" in American
Cinematographer March 96 issue. Altruism of these intentions cannot be
overstated enough.  I would like to respond to these comments as a Director
of Cinematography, not as the President of Gamma & Density Co. I am glad
that the article (written by an independent writer for the magazine) makes
all colorists (chrominists) aware of DP anxiety issues.  Also, it raises
the  issue of "color correctness"  between the cinematographer and telecine
colorist.

The evidence  that these  issues became dangerously hot appeared at
Wednesday evening's meeting of SMPTE in Hollywood, when a young telecine
colorist told  one of the panelists who happened to be a DP, something to
the effect that,  "I , Joe Shmoe (how he called himself), will do your
dailies how I see it, and what are you going to do about it?"  Needless to
say that the audience, mostly consisting of SMPTE members,  clapped and
smiled very enthusiastically.  This meeting was the  wrong place to display
a competition of egos among people working together in the same industry.
They are not only dealing with "color correctness" issues, which, by
itself, is obviously not  only a technical problem, but they are also
dealing with the destiny of  "free-lens" (freelance) cinematographers,
whose careers depend on the quality of presented materials and dailies. At
present, when everything is viewed on videotape only, how is it explained
to the director during an interview for a perspective cinematographer job,
that "the deep blacks or shinning whites were really on the the set, as it
was lit properly. It is just a bad transfer." While the telecine colorist
is often annonymous,the DP is putting his name on the screen. But we in the
industry know that there are many unrecognized names behind those that are
just listed.

The idea of the "Thorough Control System" from Gamma & Density Co. was born
in the summer of 1994 out of desperation, when I, and the director I was
working with on a feature film,  were not able to achieve the "look" that
we wanted. Nobody, including SMPTE,  had an answer how to avoid a color and
contrast balance problem again.  We all know about Ansel Adams, and yet we
don't know a lot about his printer. Without his system, his great
photographs would not be so great. And Adams,who was  not a lab technician,
created the famous  "zone system" as a dictionary between photographers and
technicians. Adams knew what he was shooting , and what needed to be done
to preserve his vision. Certainly, not everybody is Adams or his printer,
but let us not forget the principle of the relationship.

It is a bit strange that on the 100th annual anniversary of cinema we need
to explain the creative role of the cinematographer and the telecine
colorist. But, if in the traditional lab-DP relationship, the timer went
through a long educational process, based on the respect of creative side
of the industry, the process of becoming a telecine colorist today is much
faster and less formal, with individuals moving up within a company from
the vault, shipping, or other "unrelated" departments, yet, not having any
real "formal" film education behind them. There are, of course, the
exceptions.

The Gamma & Density system is a practical tool of control, created by DP's
and Telecine colorists for their colleagues.  After meeting with many DP's
and colorists, we came to the idea to have a meeting of free flowing
conversation  between the DP and the colorist about issues that are close
to the  heart by all parties involved.  This, then, can be the first step
to reach an understanding  in dealing with our common issues.

At present, Gamma & Densityis assembling panel of DP's and colorists with
proposals  for practical steps in the achievement of satisfactory results.
All individuals on this forum, as well as those who are not, are invited to
participate.After all, we must all work together.

And, who knows?  Since DP's in general are fair and good guys, maybe there
will be a proposal for another Academy Award in this town for best Telecine
colorist (in different categories, naturally). Whether it's called the " Da
Vinci", "Michelangelo" or "Rembrandt" award, at least we will have another
opportunity to support the tuxedo renting industry in this town.   Thank
you.

Yuri Neyman, Cinematographer