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Re: Colorists & DP's



I would like to reply, as a colorist to Yuri, and also comment on the SEMPTE
meeting he mentions (which I attended).

First the meeting was preoccupied by the DP contingent insisting that the
"video master" should be identical to the "print master". Although one of the
colorists on the panel (Lou?), and several in the audience alluded to the fact
that due to the huge technical differences between the 2 systems,and their
viewing conditions, this is absolutely impossible, the Dps insisted that you
could watch a screening in a controlled theatre, then produce the same thing
from telecine. It is hard to believe that such creative people can not
appreciate the differences between film and video. Especially when in the same
sentence they confirm that it is standard practice to throw away up to 40% of
the image, (and its framing) through pan and scan. (A practice which is frowned
upon and rare in Europe - one of the reasons why we seek to re master films,
even though we may not have the luxury of the DP or editors presence. Or indeed
our own screening room).

I am sure all the colorists here are astutely aware of these differences and I
do not need to say more here. My point is that once you accept that there are
differences in viewing technology, environment and circumstance, I feel that
there is a strong case not to copy the "print master" to the letter, but rather
in spirit. In other words, the role of the colorist is to make aesthetic
changes to the cinematic images, so that they convey the experience to the
small screen. This is a creative process, not a mechanical one, and I wish more
Film aware people enhanced their creations, by opening their minds to the
possibilities.

>>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.

If you try to capture the entire range of film contrast on video, in a way
which shows the exposure of the original neg, it will appear flat. It
represents the negative, not the print. That is what we are asked to do in a
dailies transfer.

>>Adams knew what he was shooting , and what needed to be done to preserve his
vision.

Ansel Adams is something of a hero of mine and I am glad you mentioned his
name, it is indeed appropriate. First his "zone system" is a method of
controling scene contrast with the combined use of exposure and development.
Its use is predominantly to get a controlled negative. It is also true however,
that Adams images were created with the end process in mind. In my humble
opinion, I think he would have insisted on creating one negative for cinema and
a different one for television. Clearly this is not practical, so the tools
available to the colorist have been steadily improved and honed, to their
present potence. As an anecdote to the Ansel Adams point, a couple of years
back I was fortunate enough to work on a Levis commercial ("Creek") which was
shot Black and White, for both cinema and television in the style of Ansel
Adams, in Yosemite. The resulting negative was beautiful, and the proposed path
was to telecine, then neg cut for cinema. However, the images further enhanced
in the telecine transfer, using in particular power windows, and strict control
(read retention) of film contrast were so superior to the "straight" film that
the final release was from a tape to film transfer. After all Ansel Adams had
the luxury of dodging and burning his prints, motion picture labs do not. The
ad won several awards, in spite of the complete absence of any sfx or indeed
color. I put forward this example to suggest that given the chance a good
colorist can enhance your work, not just copy it.

>>individuals (colorists) moving up within a company from the vault, shipping,
or other >>"unrelated" departments, yet, not having any real "formal" film
education behind them.
>>exceptions.

I agree there is a terrible lack of training for colorists. The matter is not
helped by suggestions that an automated technical process is possible, since
why would companies encourage colorists to study aesthetics, or advanced
control of modern technology when such considerations are discouraged. The
problem is not a new one. May I quote the artist Delacroix 

"The elements of color theory have been neither analyzed nor taught in our
schools of art, because in France it is considered superfluous to study the
laws of color, according to the saying 'draughtsmen may be made, but colorists
are born'."- Les Artistes de mon Temps

My response is long because I feel as passionate about what I do as the DP does
about what he does. And I would say that I work closely with many interested
parties in sharing knowledge. My pesence in LA was made possible by da Vinci,
who arrange regular training courses, for colorists by colorists. Perhaps some
others in the industry would benefit from such courses.
 Kevin Shaw    - Film and Video Colorist and Consultant (Freelance)