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  • 15 June 2018 06:01 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)
    by Ben Allan, CSI

     It has become one of the catch-cries of the industry… Fix It In Post!  The pervasive attitude that surely everything will be easier for the digital wizards in post to fix than it is spending time and resources on a fast moving set.  Of course this inevitably leads to things being left to post that should have been fixed on set but equally I’ve seen cinematographers agonise over fine tuning on set that could be accomplished with no fuss or hassle in the grade.

    So how does it work when one person does both roles?  For over a decade now, I have been serving as both Director Of Photography and Colorist on the majority of the projects that I do and that phrase “Fix It In Post” takes on a whole new meaning when you know that you’re the one who will be doing the fixing!

    The first thing that I like to make sure I’ve got right on set is exposure.  This may sound obvious and of course with RAW and high bit depth LOG formats there is often a huge amount of latitude to correct exposure.  However, I’m seeing an increasing tendency for cinematographers, particularly some of the younger ones coming up through the ranks to assume that if you get the exposures close, that’s fine.  The big problem here is of course consistency and although it’s possible to easily correct the exposure levels, getting the right subtle consistency of feel shot to shot becomes a much more fiddly job when the exposures are jumping around in the range.  To me, this is dead time, not furthering the creative look of the project, just fixing errors that could have been fixed on set.  Consistent exposures require discipline, not time or money.

    I do find that using a lightmeter on set helps with an extra degree of precision compared to the other exposure tools available and then a waveform or histogram becomes a quick double check that everything is sitting where I think it is.  I find that if my eyes, meter and waveform are all telling me the same thing, then it’s going to be an easy grade.

    Another trend that worries me is cinematographers constantly exposing to “protect the highlights”.  While there are odd occasions when it is important to retain specific highlight detail, the midtones are usually so much more important and it’s tragic to see otherwise good pictures compromised because the skin tones are jumping up and down through the camera’s dynamic range out of fear that digital can’t handle highlights!

    One thing that used to take lots of time on set is darkening down backgrounds, particularly walls in small rooms while using soft light.  In the late 90’s when shooting on film, I often had actors making their way through an obstacle course of cutters and C-stands just trying to stop light from bouncing around the room.  It worked, but a big soft power window, tracked when needed, does the job at least as well and so much more efficiently.  Being able to often work with just the light sources not only speeds up the shoot but also gives the actors and director more freedom, so that’s a no-brainer.

    More recently, eye-lights were something that still needed to be done on set but more and more now I’m finding that I have more control by doing them in the grade, so rather than a time saver (although it is), that one is a creative control issue.

    One tool from post that has made it’s way to set now is the LUT.  I find that using a LUT helps me more as a cinematographer than as a colorist.  Essentially a LUT is just a color correction that has no variables.  As a cinematographer your job is to control all the variables in the imaging chain so this can be quite helpful.  On most of the projects I do, we use a single LUT which is either supplied by the camera manufacturer or one that’s hand made for the job.  To then be able to work within that LUT on set as well as having it applied to the dailies is great for keeping track of how the look is progressing with lighting, lenses etc and it also makes it easier to spot and solve with technical issues such as exposure calibration, light pollution or noise.

    Having the LUT applied to the dailies and the proxy files that go to editorial mean that everyone is one the same page creatively throughout the edit process and this is a huge help when we get to the grade because there has been time to get to know the footage with the intended look and identify what needs to be fixed or enhanced.

    In the grade I usually use this same LUT on a node so that it’s easy to work above or below the LUT to fine tune to look and only tend to occasionally remove the LUT and grade from scratch when there’s a particularly challenging shot, such as one recently where we lost direct sunlight on a drone shot and needed to rebuild the contrast to match the earlier footage.

    I realise that I have been very lucky to be able to be both a cinematographer and colorist for so many years on such a wide variety of projects.  Once upon a time it was virtually impossible to learn both crafts because access to the tools was so prohibitive that it took total commitment to even learn one.  But as the access to the tools has become more and more easy, I have been surprised by how few cinematographers have started to learn to grade.  

    In the future I believe that it will become expected for a cinematographer to know how to grade in much the same way as it is expected that we know how to pull focus or set up lights.  In the same way most will work with specialists in each of those roles on most projects but as grading gets more and more powerful and efficient, a deep understanding of the craft and how it works will become more and more important for cinematographers and their capacity to collaborate effectively with the artists who finish the work they start.

    Equally there should be more opportunities for colorists to be involved in pre-production.  I know many productions are starting to do this but for me, one of the biggest advantages of doing both roles is that it guarantees the colorist is always around in pre-pro and the DP is always around in post.  This makes it easy to solve a lot of issues before they become problems and keep the technical from getting in the way of the creative process.  By doing this that question of fixing in post or on set becomes a constant and beneficial discussion rather than just a casual statement.

    Ben Allan, CSI is an award winning cinematographer, producer and colorist with over twenty five years industry experience. He has a background in shooting and post with both film and broadcast technology and has over 1,500 TV commercial credits as well as work in documentaries, features and primetime episodic TV. 

  • 08 April 2018 14:30 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

    CSI T shirt Design Competition

    First Prize: BMD SmartScope Duo


    The Contest opens for entries on Sunday 8th April 2018 ET and closes June 30th 2018 ET (referred to herein as the Contest Live Period). Entries must be received by 12.00 am ET on June 30th 2018 ET. Winners will be notified by email, and announced in July 2018.

     For your entries to qualify for consideration, you must meet the following requirements:

    • Entries must be sent by email to and include your name, email address, telephone number and physical address for shipping of the prize.
    • Please provide a description of your entry including the type of shirt(s) the design is intended for and where on the shirt the design should be used.
    • The design may consist of several elements, in which case a mock-up of the layout should be included. Mock-ups are also useful to show intended size.
    • Entries can be for one or more types of t-shirt and designs for front back and sleeve will be accepted. A single entry can include several similar designs, intended as variants or as a series but separate entries must be substantially different
    • T-shirt designs should be printable, golf shirt designs can be embroidered. Embroidered designs must be clearly marked as such.
    • Send, or provide downloads for illustrations of a suitable resolution for printing or embroidery. File type options: EPS, PDF, GIF, JPEG, PNG
    Send your entry to with the following information:
    • Name
    • email address
    • phone number
    • address to ship the prize to
    • Type  of shirt (t-shirt, golf, long sleeve etc)  the design is for
    • Location and size of your designs
    • Printed or embroidered (golf shirts only)
    • number of designs included in the entry
    • additional information explaining the design (optional)

    The judges will consider these criteria: 

    • Originality 
    • Appeal
    • CSI Branding
    • Cost
    • Manufacturing

      There is no limit on the number of entries a person or team can make can make but each entry must be a substantially different design idea.

      CSI reserves the right to cancel or alter or amend the competition at any stage, if deemed necessary in its opinion, or if circumstances arise outside of its control.


      CSI Full Members will have the opportunity to recommend and comment on entries in the private Members forum during the Contest Live Period. The CSI Board will make the final decision based on the comments of the voting members. There will be only one prize. The CSI Board decision as to the winner is final. No correspondence relating to the competition will be entered into.

      Terms and Conditions

      The Board and their immediate families are not eligible and are prohibited from entering

      Winners will be notified by email, and announced in July 2018.

      There is no cost to enter the Contest.

      Entrants must be 18 years of age or older. The CSI Board and Fellows and their immediate families are not eligible and are prohibited from entering.

      The Contest is open worldwide, except where prohibited or restricted by national or local law.

      The entrant may submit multiple different entries to the Contest, but each entry must be a substantially different design idea. If the same design idea is submitted more than once, the entries will be disqualified.

      Entries must be submitted by email and meet ALL the entry requirements

      No responsibility will be accepted for entries lost, delayed or damaged in transmission.

      Entries can be for one or more types of t-shirt and designs for front back and sleeve will be accepted. A single entry can include a related series of designs but separate entries must be substantially different

      By entering, entrants warrant that to the best of their knowledge: (1) their entry is an original idea; (2) they are authorized by the owner of the design to enter the design in the contest; and that (3) the design does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any third party.

      Entrants grant the Sponsors permission to contact them using the information provided, including name, address, email address, and phone number.

      CSI is not responsible for any expenses incurred by entrants in connection with participation in the Contest and will not return any materials submitted to the Contest.

      CSI reserves the right to disqualify entries that are frivolous or fail to meet the entry requirements as described in these Official Rules.

      CSI reserves the right to cancel or alter or amend the competition at any stage, if deemed necessary in its opinion, or if circumstances arise outside of its control.

       Entrants are authorized to and do grant Colorist Society International, the right to use, reproduce, or incorporate in any manner whatsoever all or any portion of the entry designs. Entrants represent and warrant that the materials are owned by them or their company free and clear of any liens or claims of any third-party, that they have a legal right to grant the permission herein given on behalf of themselves, their company, or a third party, if appropriate. Furthermore, the entrant agrees that he/she/they, or, if the design is owned by his/her/their company, that his/her/their company will indemnify and hold harmless Colorist Society International against liability should any third-party claim that the use of the materials by the Primary Sponsors, their affiliates, assigns, agents, and employees violates any right of such third party to the materials.

      Prizes cannot be substituted or redeemed for cash except at the sole discretion of the CSI Board. Sponsors reserve the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value if a prize cannot be awarded as described for any reason.

      Participation in the Contest constitutes an agreement by each entrant, including all members of a team in the case of a team entry, to be bound by these Official Contest Rules.

      Entrants agree to abide by the terms of these Rules and by the decisions of the CSI Board, which are final and binding on all matters pertaining to this Contest. By entering, they agree to waive any right to claim ambiguity or error in these Official Rules. Except where prohibited by law, the winners consent to the use of their design without further compensation.

      Questions? Contact Us

    • 06 January 2018 04:05 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

      by Dale Grahn, CSI Fellow

      Last month I discussed why awards for colorists have been long debated yet not actioned. In this second part I outline my view of what we can expect of Colorist Awards. It is a view that is supported by Colorist Society International and a view we plan to make a reality.


      What I am trying to accomplish here is to lay down the first basic categories, rules, conditions and expectations for receiving an award. These will be discussed privately in the CSI forum, then finalized and refined by the Awards Committee before being officially adopted. Membership involvement and opinions are very important and welcomed, so please take the time to visit the forum, even if it is to say “yes, I agree”.

      By  ‘Independence’ I mean the separation of our unique or ‘Owned’  skill sets from all other skill sets in the film industry. An Owned skill is one that is unique to any craft, job, or workflow using unique equipment and or techniques that cannot be bypassed or accomplished by any other means.

      A simple example is a cameraman shooting an image with a camera. That is a unique job, equipment  and workflow, so it is an Owned skill.

      For a colorist, continuity or shot balancing is an Owned skill set. It is a unique postproduction workflow with uniquely needed skills and equipment. There are of course other colorist Owned skill sets that are in line with their unique interactions with the given projects that they work on. Until technology removes any or all our Owned skills, they belong to us, and we have every right to judge and thereby award those same skills as we see fit.

      This type of independence will bring attention to us in our community in a way that will raise awareness of our unique contributions to the film industry. It will also serve to discourage any and all who would try to take credit for our contribution.

      For these reasons, I feel that we should identify and award all our uniquely Owned skills. I consider all of the following award standards to be colorist Owned skill sets. These are the standards we should be recognized for and by which we should be judged.

      Awards Standards 


      Accurate and exact shot to shot consistency is our most basic skill and an absolute requirement. Any inconsistencies in this area will be noted and points removed based upon the level of unevenness. Continuity is an Owned colorist skill set and is required. Points are deducted for any inconsistencies throughout the entire project submitted for any award.

      Any artistic decision unbalancing the project must be explained in detail and must accomplish the proposed purpose.


      Beauty in some form is an essential aspect of any work up for consideration of any award.

      All recipients considered for excellence awards must have accomplished a unique work with a genuinely proposed artistic intent. An explanation of the intent and methods taken to achieve it should accompany all award nominations.

      All applicants may be questioned by the Awards Committee concerning any proposed awards project.

      Color Concept

      Color Concept is truly one of, if not the highest of our skill sets. Mastery of the first two skill sets are needed to accomplish this third.

      Color Concept is the use of color to tell a story, improve understanding of the imagery, or to add an extra dimension to a project. It must be used constructively in harmony with the standards of continuity and beauty as well as with other core elements of the project such as sound, cinematography and editing. Above all the color concept must be relevant to the project and influence the audience experience in a positive way.

      Color concept is sometimes integral to a project from inception of the creative process. Recognition is given for the enhancement of the project design, but the introduction and execution of a meaningful Color Concept by the colorist is expected for the highest scores.

      Colorist Award Categories

      Colorist Special Award: Feature Storytelling - Original Concept 

      For excellence in the use of color to create an original concept storyline for an entire theatrically released feature film.

      This award expects an exceptional display of excellence and will only be awarded when an appropriate entry is received. This award might not be given every year.

      The Colorist must be solely responsible for creating an original Color Concept for the storyline throughout the entire project. Work should not follow production’s original color vision by direction but collaboration with other creatives is allowed.

      The Colorist must be supported and nominated by the production creatives for this award. The Colorist’s nomination must be approved by at least two seated CSI Fellows.

      CSI leadership may be nominated for this award.

      This is a solo award to the Lead Colorist only and must be unanimously supported to win the award.

      Colorist Award: Project Storytelling

      For excellence in the use of color to create the storyline of an entire project.

      The Colorist must be solely responsible for creating the color storyline throughout the entire project. The work should be the colorist’s own original idea with explanation of the reasons and techniques. Creatives may be involved but not direct the work.

      The colorist must be supported by the production creatives for this award. The Colorist’s nomination can be submitted by self, the production, or individual full members of the CSI.

      The Colorist’s nomination must be approved by at least two seated CSI Fellows.

      This is a solo award to the Lead Colorist only.

      Colorist Award: Technical Excellence 

      For excellence in the overall technical consistency within each sequence and throughout the entire project.

      Many workflows and all projects eligible for any award, qualify for the Technical Excellence Award. Consideration is given for continuity, damage repair, storyline consistency, visual direction, and beauty. Entries may consist of a single feature film, a single program episode, or a series of episodes.

      The Colorist’s nomination can be submitted by self, the production, or individual full members of CSI. The nomination must be approved by at least two seated CSI Fellows.

      This award can be made to an individual or a team of colorists. The award goes to the Lead Colorist first and then to the Team that he/she directed.

      Colorist Award: Creative Collaboration: Theatrically Released Feature Film.

      For excellence in artistic collaboration, accurately producing the original creative vision of and with the Head Creatives Direction.

      The Lead Colorist must work directly with the main creative heads and be responsible for all color decisions during the entire feature film.

      The Lead Colorist must be endorsed by at least two creative heads including the Director and Cameraman or Editor.

      The production must submit the nomination for the Colorist/Team. The nomination must be approved by at least two seated CSI Fellows

      This award can be made to an individual or a team of colorists. The award goes to the Lead Colorist first and then to the Team that he/she directed.

      Colorist Award: Creative Collaboration: Project 

      For excellence in artistic collaboration, accurately producing the original creative vision of and with the Head Creatives Direction.

      The Lead Colorist must work directly with the main creative heads and be responsible for all color decisions during the entire project.

      The Lead Colorist must be endorsed by at least two creative heads including the Director and Cameraman or Editor.

      The production must submit the nomination for the Colorist/Team. The nomination must be approved by at least two seated CSI Fellows

      This award can be made to an individual or a team of colorists. The award goes to the Lead Colorist first and then to the Team that he/she directed.

      Colorist Award: Friends of the Colorist

      Awarded to one or more Creatives for artistic collaboration with a colorist in producing a creative vision that best displays Color Concept, beauty and technical excelllence.

      The Lead Colorist or individual full members of CSI must submit the nomination for the Creative(s) with one or more projects for consideration. The nomination must be approved by at least two seated CSI Fellows.

      This award can be made to one or more individuals that worked closely with the Lead Colorist.

      N.B. Dale’s outline is integral to the CSI Awards which we plan to announce in 2018 with the first awards given in early 2019. The outline, terms and condisitons are under discussion in the CSI Forum. – Kevin Shaw CSI

      Legendary motion picture Color Timer Dale Grahn is a Fellow of Colorist Society International (CSI). With hundreds of major film credits including, ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ‘War of the Worlds,’ ‘Minority Report,’ ‘Gladiator,’ and ‘Predator’ Dale Grahn has shaped much of the look of modern cinema, working with directors Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and cinematographers Janusz Kaminski, Michael Ballhaus, and John Mathieson.    

    • 05 December 2017 02:15 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

      by Dale Grahn, CSI Fellow

      The question of awards for colorists by the Academy has been raised yet again with many varied responses. Some say that it is too early in the digital timing world to be thinking about awards. Others say it’s long overdue.

      I personally have faced this question most of my career. The way that the industry viewed color timing would never have opened a door to the consideration of an awards program from the Academy. They had no idea what or how we as color timers did our job. They customarily would consider the color and look of the film to be the work of the cameraman, set design and costumes.

      I think the real answer is easy to find but, even when found, there are many who would claim our skills as their own and try to rob us of our prize including the technology that gives us our tools.


      All of the crafts that are in line for an award must meet certain standards of excellence in order to even be considered by the Academy.

      Each craft has over time, established the guidelines necessary to judge their own work. By creating these standards or guidelines, they have an unbiased way to measure and judge the skills being used in the work.

      The work of a colorist is quite often considered an aesthetic art. Meaning that it cannot be accurately measured because everyone that views it sees it differently.

      I find this to be incorrect for most films, if not all. A truly well timed movie will be seen the way the colorist has directed the eye of the viewer.

      Storytelling with color - if done correctly - will direct the viewer’s eye and emotions, and carry them through the storyline with a more powerful effect, resulting in a more meaningful story experience.

      The following example of this skill is a simple untouched iPhone image of a lake that is drying up. The small mark on the island is a Christmas tree placed there by a neighbor in an effort to cheer up a sad situation due to the long drought.




      Photos by Dale Grahn

      Just looking at the shot of the lake from camera, doesn’t invoke a feeling of winter for a number of reasons.

      First off, the overall tone is in the warm range with reddish browns, most likely mid-tone contamination and global warmth.

      The effect being a lack of cool tones, which confuses the viewer’s eyes, thus raising questions concerning the season and time of day.

      The corrections to the image in printer points are:

      A global correction of +1 cyan, -2 yellow
      Mid-tone correction of -3 magenta, -5 yellow, +2 density, +2 saturation
      A highlight correction of -3 yellow

      These are small but effective corrections and make the image look more like a winter day in the late afternoon. The eye and the emotions instantly recognize the cooler darker image even before the mind can process it.

      The point of this illustration is this: the color runs independently in the background of the eye freeing the viewer’s emotions to experience the image without the need of the mind to receive it or explain it.

      Seeing that color can truly tell the story of the images displayed by using the eye and the emotions, we can claim our rightful place in the artistry of film storytelling.

      The Time is Now

      As colorists we must now do as the other crafts have done; establish and define our own standards and guidelines for our craft. These skills and techniques are unique to the colorist alone, and cannot be done in camera or with lighting.

      The CSI leadership is currently at work compiling a set of goals, rules, standards, skill sets and categories in the hope of creating an annual awards program for the membership.

      Once completed, titles will be submitted for consideration for an actual and official CSI award for excellence in the category of color grading.

      The CSI leadership had an awards program in mind when CSI was created, so this is not a new idea. My hope is that it will not take too long to complete and will be well received by the membership.

      I know that it will be at least fair to all.

      We need to be able to establish our own awards program based upon our unique skills, teach these skills by demonstrating them in lessons and our everyday workflow, thereby shining a light upon our skills that the industry cannot ignore.

      I don’t really feel that we need the approval of the Academy to show our contribution to the industry. We can do it without them.

      And, we should.

      (editor’s note:) Next month, Dale will be back with a follow up on awards and judging standards that he calls, “Independence.”    

    • 22 November 2017 17:04 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

      The two previous forums have now been amalgamated into one. All threads from the previous forums have been moved to the new CSI forum, which is accessible from the header of each page.

      We would especially like to draw attention to the latest thread "Definition of the Role of the Colorist" which discusses work done by CSI members to create an international template for use by other organisations. This is a great example of how we can use the private forum to discuss and agree on something, then  present with a single representative voice. As a professional community we are loud enough to be heard.

      The CSI forum is open to Full, Alliance, Associate and Corporate members. If you are not a member already Join Us

    • 03 September 2017 04:10 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

      by Dick Hobbs

      In last month’s newsletter, there was a great podcast interview with Juan Ignacio Cabrera CSI. He talked about a wide range of things, but one section that struck me was about his relationship with the people around him while he is grading a movie.

      “In Europe, you work with the DP all the time,”

      “In Europe, you work with the DP all the time,” he said. “Most of the shows I have done in Spain, the DP was sitting by my side, the whole process.

      “There are no unsupervised sessions. Having the DP in the room with me, it was not a hassle, it was a blessing: it was amazing. What has strengthened my skills as a colorist has been working directly with DPs, and being challenged by them. And having them leaving the session comfortable, happy and excited – that’s an amazing feeling.”

      I suspect most colorists would agree, that one of the gratifications of grading is the collaboration, the talking through issues and working together to achieve a great result. But is technology now threatening this fundamental partnership?

      Until very recently, if you wanted to see what was going on, you had to be in the same room as the colorist, looking at the same (extremely expensive) calibrated monitor. Now, you can deliver files and projects or even stream sessions to remote screens which are calibrated to match.

      Remote Grading

      Nice Shoes was probably the pioneer in remote grading, with the client in one city and the colorist in another. FilmLight uses a render-free, metadata-driven grading scheme so you can put copies of the raw footage anywhere it might be needed, then just swap compact metadata files so everyone – even VFX artists and Avid editors – sees the latest grade. DaVinci Resolve has a feature that allows a system in one location – with clients - to be controlled remotely by a colorist in another location.

      All of which is trending towards the unattended grade, particularly for long-form work. The director, cinematographer and colorist may meet up at the beginning of the project, and perhaps agree on some LUTs and base looks. Then they go their separate ways, two to the set and one to a lonely grading room to interpret and refine the original discussions.

      Television work has been done this way for a while. Pressure on movie release dates often means that original photography and post have to be concurrent today. Then there is a growing body of work where the client sends a drive to the colorist who grades the material alone and sends it back graded on another drive.


      Do colorists find this approach satisfying, or do you miss the constant challenge and stimulation of working directly with people who are intimately bound up in the creativity? You tell me. Does this work for you?

      Collaborative workflows, of course, depend upon communication. But an email list of comments is not the same as sitting together, talking the issues through.

      It is also a brake on quality. If you can respond in real time to a thought – should the faces be a little cooler in this scene – then you will do it. If you have to wait for a render to go from 99% to 100% then you might not bother. If you have to put the idea into a report, which is then sent to the colorist to action for the next version, then a lot of the tiny details, which are the difference between good work, and great work will just be forgotten.

      The good news is that CSI provides a place to network, to discuss ideas and share experiences. You can challenge established ideas – and I would love to see a debate in the private forums on what I have written here about unattended and remote sessions.

      You can debate the issues of the day. For example, in last month’s newsletter the venerable Lou Levinson set out his definition of HDR, and Kevin Shaw responded with a very different set of requirements. I might weigh in on this question myself next month.

      Finally, if you are going to IBC this year, then you can join in the Colorist Mixer – CSI is one of the sponsors.  These evenings are not (necessarily) the wild hedonism of the old Telecine Fun Nights of blessed memory, but a great chance to network, meet up and talk. This year’s IBC event is at a great venue, too. You will definitely not be alone in the room.

      Dick Hobbs has been a leading commentator and consultant on media technology for more than 30 years. He is well known for his writing and appearances at conferences and on panels, where his lively good humour adds to the detailed subject knowledge.

    • 31 July 2017 10:28 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

      by Dick Hobbs

      The very first IBC – then called the International Broadcasting Convention – was held in 1967. I have been doing some research for a 50th anniversary commemorative book.

      Although I have tried, I have failed to find a catalogue of IBC '67, so I cannot give you a list of who was exhibiting and what. But I can be absolutely certain that there was a display of telecines. Indeed, I even have a picture of them.

      The idea of IBC came from three sales directors. Two came from companies now largely forgotten: Tom Mayer of Marconi and John Tucker of EMI, both then big players in studio cameras.

      The third was John Etheridge, general manager of the broadcast products division of The Rank Organisation, which later became Rank Cintel and Rank Brimar. He clearly ensured that his company got a good stand position, and a nice picture of the products.

      Pride of place on the stand was a photo-conductive telecine, with the then relatively new 16mm twin-lens telecine also on show. A lot of space was given over to a slide scanner, too!

      It was “broadcast products” because back then telecines were all about live broadcasting. VTRs were still relatively rare – around that time the BBC Television Centre in London (nine studios plus news plus the Television Theatre down the road plus editing) had a total of 16 VTRs. A lot of playout of programmes, as well as news inserts, was from telecine. Operation was by engineers, not grading specialists.

      In 1978 Rank Cintel launched the digital version of its Mk III telecine, making the 3:2 pulldown possible and allowing it to be used in the USA and other 60Hz countries. At the same time it launched Topsy, its first separate programmer, which was succeeded in 1983 by the Amigo, which really ushered in the age of the colorist.

      The shift was away from technical grading.

      The shift was from technical grading (making the waveform monitor look right) to creative control (making the pictures look good). Film always had a lot more dynamic range than could be transmitted, so colorists developed techniques for digging into the colours, using secondary vectors as well as primaries (and ultimately the ability to isolate colours and operate in multiple windows).

      Film scanning improved. HD came along. Peak telecine came with the contrasting images and operation of the CCD Spirit telecine (sometimes with a BTS badge, sometimes Philips, possibly even Thomson) and the Ursa family from Cintel. Third party colour correctors and controllers by now were normal. The Copernicus introduced digital colour correction, but the real contenders were Pandora and da Vinci, two great companies with innovative engineers and a positive attitude to having fun.

      In 1993 Kodak introduced its Cineon DI system

      The big industry shift started in 1993, when first Kodak introduced its Cineon digital intermediate (DI) system, followed very shortly by Quantel Domino. Both systems included a film recorder as well as a scanner: post was a digital intermediate stage between (analogue) film acquisition and delivery. And it allowed colorists to bring their creative skills into the movie industry. Movies like Amélie (2001) introduced the idea of subtle grading to add another layer to the story-telling.

      Texas Instruments developed the DLP chip 20 years ago, and today we have high power, high dynamic range, high frame rate digital projection which allows directors (and colorists) unfettered image control. Companies like Red, Arri and Sony developed digital cinematography cameras, largely eliminating film acquisition (although there is the odd outlier: this summer’s hot movie Dunkirk was shot by Hoyte van Hoytema for Christopher Nolan on 65mm and Imax celluloid. Walter Volpatto CSI is the colorist).

      Digital origination eliminated the routine need for big, expensive film scanning hardware, and grading could be performed in software. A new generation of companies came into the grading business and, as standard computers became more powerful, prices plummeted.

      Companies like Colorfront with Colossus (which became Discreet Lustre) led the way. Software grading became part of consumer-priced packages like Final Cut Studio and Adobe Creative Cloud. Blackmagic bought the intellectual property of da Vinci and offered a basic version free. They have also kept the Cintel tradition alive and 50 years on we can expect to see the Blackmagic Cintel Film Scanner at IBC 2017

      Blackmagic Cintel Film ScannerBlackmagic Cintel Film Scanner

      The result was a better awareness of color.

      The result of software grading was a better awareness of color. While the initial reaction might have been that low cost grading meant the end of the colorist’s trade, like most such “end of the world” pronouncements it turned out that grading is a whole lot harder than some might think. It takes skilled eyes and a lot of experience, whether you are driving a dedicated, hardware accelerated platform or software on a laptop.

      Ready access to the tools meant that television made time for grading where it had not been before. Producers came to expect their programmes to feature distinctive looks, whether it was tobacco skies on Top Gear or highly saturated colours on CSI Miami. Movies saw an even greater shift in workflows, with colorists part of the digital intermediate pipeline, not just an unavoidable and time-consuming matching process at the end.

      Colorists have always been on the cutting edge.

      Colorists have always been on the cutting edge of technology, from the days of live playout. Telecine was a rich source of HD in the early days. Colorists seized the potential that the replacement of chemical labs by the digital intermediate meant for the movie industry. Today we look to colorists to make the most from new advances like higher resolutions and frame rates, and particularly the extended colour gamut that HDR offers.

      50 years on from the first IBC, the media world is very different. But there will still be much for the colorist to see and enjoy.  

      Dick Hobbs has been a leading commentator and consultant on media technology for more than 30 years. He is well known for his writing and appearances at conferences and on panels, where his lively good humour adds to the detailed subject knowledge.

    • 29 July 2017 10:17 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

      by Lou Levinson
      After graciously being invited to be a CSI fellow, it seems that life circumstances forced me to have to pay attention to other things over the past year. Please accept my apologies, and allow me to stir up some trouble, if I may.

      What I’d like to discuss is a subject that’s gained buzzword status in our endeavors on par with“Digital” and “4k* ”. Yep, that’s right, HDR. I’m sure you’ve all been inundated with this in one way or another. “Can you do this in 2020**? Your competition can”. 

      So, what do we mean when we say HDR? I have to say that I have yet to hear a simple and coherent definition, but everyone seems to know it when they see it.  Do we mean high peak brightness? High average/diffuse white? Are we including wide color gamut? High frame rate? High spacial resolution? As far as I can tell, there are now five or six competing HDR “systems”.  We’re well on the way to the 19 different standards of the ATSC. I have asked folk at NAB, at HPA, at ASC Technology Council (new name) meetings. I’m allergic to SMPTE meetings, and no one wants to send me overseas to IBC or to ITU meetings, but I do have work associates for that. So, even though Ideal with this all the time, I’m confused.

      If we take a step back to SDR, we see a fair amount of energy still being put into defining it and the environs one would master it in. Really? Let’s get real here. The only place you’ll find 100nit pictures*** is in a reference grading room. Let’s define it well, and be aware that it will be applicable for those archival projects when we want to see what was done in HD****, hopefully with Creative input. Everywhere else you’re likely to view them is going to be significantly higher.

      Your phone is probably 400nits peak or more. For those that can do this, try looking at something you’ve graded at 100nits and 400nits side by side. Or even as single stimulus; in two different rooms one after the other. Tell me how your 100nit grade holds up as consumed by the Best Buy crowd. SDR does point to other benchmarks we need to exceed, such as 709 primaries.

      So, you ask, what would I call HDR? Well, let’s take a clue from some Dolby research that says that even untrained observers, in single stimulus, can tell when the peak brightness has gone up by 2 stops. If we chose 100nits as SDR then entry level for HDR becomes 400nits. If we chose a more current 400nits as SDR, then 1600nits becomes an HDR entry point. This is not as arbitrary as it seems, as will be seen in a bit. So I would start to define HDR as 1000nits plus peak brightness. I’m taking some away here for realism, i.e., what we can come close to building as a reference display right this minute. Add wider, P3 primary, color gamut as a minimum. Use whatever transfer function, gamma, pq, hlg, the ballistic curve of a 16” shell fired from the USS Iowa, that you feel works. Package it however you want (you will anyway). Just use enough bits to be user transparent. And make sure there’s clear metadata that says what you’ve done. I would make a plea to keep it simple, but that barn has already burned down.

      One thing of note I can pass on from my more recent imaging voyages is that there is a place, between 100nits and 400nits where dragons reside. What I mean by this is that on either side of that gulf, one makes different creative decisions about one’s visual storytelling. Period. I’ve yet to see any automathemagical, transform driven solution that crosses that place well, if at all.

      Keep that in mind when those cost conscious clients want one master to rule them all. It’s a long walk to Mt Doom. Staying above 400 makes those automathemagical transforms work better, if not perfectly.

      What I might have done if I were king (oh, thank god) is set the following HDR target:

      • 1000 nits peak bright
      • P3 primaries
      • D65 white
      • 1886 or 2084 transfer curve (sensible metadata)
      • 4096 minimum
      • 12 bits minimum

      I would like to assign some homework if I may,  to be dropped on the CSI website in some manner to be determined by wiser heads than mine. I would like anyone who cares to, to submit your definition of HDR. The catch? You have a 147 character limit. [N.B. There is a thread in the CSI Forum to discuss this further - Kevin]

      Next time, I might be talked into telling you why, almost certainly, none of your reference monitors exhibit ideal, reference behaviour.


      Half Moon Bay, Ca
      July 23, 2017

      * UHDTV is not 4k, it’s 3840

      ** Can you actually capture 2020? Can you display it? I thought not. Nice package, though.

      *** I actually use 102.7 nits as it equals 30 fl

      **** I’ve seen folk put masters graded on a crt up on a dlp projector in 709 and say that’s the reference. In the words of Wolfgang Pauli “That’s not even wrong!” Crt’s were SMPTE C not 709, 30fl not 14fl, and blacks were significantly different, as well. I fear for our ability to know what came before now.

    • 05 July 2017 05:30 | Anonymous

      by Dick Hobbs

       "My gut feeling is that, if you ask a director – who has probably been sitting next to the colorist for days – then they would certainly agree that the job deserved a high position credit. "

       I first came across the world of color grading more than 25 years ago, way back in the last century. Back when it was mostly telecine, getting the best out of that strip of celluloid.

       Remember the Spirit v Ursa wars? I was there and writing about it.

      From the very first, I developed a huge respect for colorists. It is a hugely complex job, yet at the same time completely aesthetic. The colorist has to use an extraordinary array of tools, accessed through a big and undeniably impressive user interface, to create something that can only be judged artistically.

      Then there were colorist superstars in the postproduction world. Today’s top colorists are equally highly regarded by their peers, and by their colleagues in production and postproduction. In today’s digital movie-making world they are even more important, since they are responsible for conforming and delivering a myriad of formats, taking raw footage from very high dynamic range cameras and crafting it into evocative, immersive, atmospheric looks across a host of different colour spaces.

      So why don’t colorists have their names above the titles?

      Of course all those names on the credits have made a real, practical and often creative contribution to the movie. But very few have painstakingly crafted every single frame of the film. Colorists have.

      When Ang Lee came to IBC in 2016 to talk about Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and all its technical challenges, he took with him his technical guru and his editor. Definitely not the colorist. Adam Inglis, working with Marcy Robinson, thank you for asking.

      Anthony Raffaele was colorist on Café Society, Woody Allen’s first digitally-shot feature, with DoP Vittorio Storaro. The movie has distinctive looks for the locations and time periods of the hero, and is a real colorist’s movie. He is listed 243rd in the crew section on IMDB.

      This year, Jesse Glucksman, CSI, got a full screen credit, albeit shared with the assistant editor, on Tiago Mesquita’s The Shadow Within. Yes, the board does say Jesse Glucksman, CSI.

      Damien van der Cruyssen had a full screen, solo credit, right after the editor, before the crawl, on a movie called It Comes at Night, written and directed by Trey Edward Shults. This has happened maybe three or four times in movie history: 

      Gonçalo Ferreira for Horse Money in 2014, for example. Eric Whipp CSI for Mad Max Fury Road (2015), Kevin Shaw CSI for “In Her Skin” in 2009. CSI co-founder Kevin Shaw once got his name on a movie trailer.

      There is an interesting article at on who gets credited and why some might not. But I think the issue is not that colorists are not getting any credit: simply that it is way down in the crawl when people are trying not to tread on the spilt popcorn while shuffling out of the theatre.

      My gut feeling is that, if you ask a director – who has probably been sitting next to the colorist for days – then they would certainly agree that the job deserved a high position credit. But the director and colorist work together in the last few weeks of a project, and are always under huge time pressures: credits are the last thing on anyone’s mind. And the colorist does not want to divert the flow of energy by sounding needy.

      I think the answer lies in making CSI more authoritative. The DGA has strict rules on credits, which are widely recognised and respected. One way forward is for members to use the letters CSI after their name, wherever the credit lies. Ensuring the society is recognised will go a long way to ensuring that so are its members.

      Editor’s Note:

      Dick Hobbs has been a leading commentator and consultant on media technology for more than 30 years. He is well known for his writing and appearances at conferences and on panels, where his lively good humour adds to the detailed subject knowledge.

    • 09 May 2017 20:16 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

      Divergent Media become our latest sponsor. The NAB roundup and the answer to the often asked question "How long does it take to grade?"

      Read it here...

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