12th November 2003
Just wanted to get everyone's opinions about something.
I received a call from a film colorist that I've worked with many times
over the last few years. He started asking questions about HD cameras
and places where he could get some information about them. It didn't sound
odd at the time, he'd always been very interested in the film stocks and
process I had used on the productions that he coloured and to a lesser,
but life saving extent, corrected for me.
So, he took one of our HD seminars and afterwards came up to me and asked me how he could get into the local 600 as a DIT. I did find that odd.
Not odd because he wanted to try something new, but because he hasn't
had a day of production experience in his life. Not to mention he is a
master craftsman at what he does. So, I asked the only question I could…Why?
His reason was simple. Because he wanted to do what he was doing now,
outside. (we'll used the term "outside" loosely) Needless to
say, we had about a two-hour conversation about painting on set, locking
yourself into a color corner and a slew of other things. He really didn't
like the fact that there is no AC in video village under all that deubateen.
However, the more we talked the more enthusiastic he became about learning
how to make "looks" for his clients on set just like he does
in a telecine bay.
This, meaning a conversation like that with a colorist, started out as
a one-time occurrence…but he has friends and lost of them who are
all excited about the same thing.
Most of us who have shot or have been involved with an enough HD production
to know that there are pit falls of creating a look on set. We have all
seen the limitations that rout imposes on the post guys. So, what happens
when the post guys aren’t post guys anymore? I'm not implying that
colourists shouldn't learn the cameras and be in the field with the Digital
Image Techs or engineers. I only asking the question, is it safe to have
someone who knows too much that close to the production/artistic control
team. The director, the producer etc. or is having a colorist as you DIT
going to prove to be the most beneficial and influential position on an
I'm not trying to be bias or hold anyone back from doing something they
are really excited about or are really good at doing. I personally think
it would be great to turn around and ask my tech if the Matrix numbers
I'm using will prevent me from doing….?
I was just curious as to what the rest of you thought about turning in-house
colourists into on-set camera colorist?
Ryan M. Sheridan
Digital Cinematography Tech.
Birns & Sawyer, Inc.
>So, he took one of our HD seminars
and afterwards came up to me and >asked me how he could
get into the local 600 as a DIT. I did find that >odd.
Oddly enough, I was considering the same thing. The primary difference
between your colorist and myself is that I do have a lot of production
experience, as well as over 10 years as a colorist. However, after giving
it some thought, I have my doubts as to whether the colouring part of
the DIT position will be viable on anything but multicamera, stage based
sitcom work in the long run. I say this because underneath it all, I really
don't believe that such a task should be done on a set, in the midst of
a lot of chaos, under improper viewing conditions (even in a tent), and
in the "heat of the moment," where decisions have to be made
quickly and are sometimes compromised in the name of expedience, i.e.,
making the day.
Particularly when shooting single camera, as lighting tweaks are often
done between set-ups, even on stage, and weather plays a part on location.
Continuity is a large part of what scene to scene post color correction
is all about, and post production is where that step should logically
be applied if the final result is to be the best it can be. Perhaps more
importantly, I also believe that the current practice of trying to achieve
close to a final result when shooting HD is really a by product of the
limitations of the first generation cameras now being used (i.e., the
Sony and Panasonic equipment) - limitations that hopefully will be eradicated
in future generations of electronic capture.
We can already see a preview of this with the Viper, a camera that not
only discourages production camera tweaking, but actively eliminates it
in favor of recording the raw output more faithfully and leaving the final
color correction to post, just as we now do with film. I understand the
view of Sean Fairburn and others who want to embrace the capabilities
of current HD cameras to create new looks, and to experiment with those
possibilities. But for many if not most projects, the idea is usually
to create a look by knowing the characteristics of the imaging device
and using lighting and filtration, as well as composition, to create an
image which can then be manipulated if desired, or reproduced faithfully
using standard methods. This is where the Viper is trying to go, and I
believe it's ultimately where future electronic cameras will also go.
The necessity for manipulation of the current cameras directly is most
often not to create something unique, but simply to allow one to capture
the range of values in the scene. In other words, it's a workaround for
the very real limitations in those cameras in terms of maximum contrast
I would tell your colorist to stay in post production, enjoy the far more
predictable hours and superior working conditions (as well as generally
better pay), and the likelihood that the need for his expertise will continue
for a long, long time, whether we're shooting chemically or electronically.
IATSE Local 600
>I was just curious as to what
the rest of you thought about turning in->house colourists
into on-set camera colorist?
Bring Um On…there is far more work than the current state of personnel
can fill, and I think there is a fallacy (AKA Myth Exaggeration) about
the apparent inability to change things in post if something is done in
Ask your Colourist buddy to do this simple test :
1) Do nothing to the Camera and create a look in Post.
2) get close to the look in Camera and create the same
look in post.
I have yet to see a Frame of footage that was unfixable because in the
field someone intentionally set a look that was approved on the set in
the first place.
I have seen more mistakes with over exposure (Which has nothing to do
with setting a look in camera) than with intentionally shooting any LOOK.
News flash not setting a look is in itself a LOOK.
So the question is who fixes the look that the colorist sets when he is
done with it?
So if your colorist sets the look before it is shot or after it goes through
post what is the difference? An good engineer is a colourist with a Tan.
Again You can chain your dog to the tree in the middle of the Yard and
he can only go as far as the chain will reach. Better to chain him near
the most likely place intruders will enter your Land.
"Best way to get a good shot is to start with one"
B. Sean Fairburn
A good post production colorist does not necessarily translate in to a
good video controller (or DIT, if you prefer) any more than a good video
controller translates in to a good colorist. They both have different
production and technical requirements, job demands, and skill sets. Can
one make the transition? Probably. Is one going to walk right in to it?