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  • 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...
  • 20 April 2017 20:00 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

    CSI Tours and more at NAB. And don't forget the Colorist Mixer at the Stratosphere

    Read it here...
  • 09 April 2017 14:43 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

    Attending NAB2017? Colorist Society International is a sponsor of the infamous Colorist Mixer and has organized a number of group tours for CSI members at the booths of its corporate sponsors.

    As an added incentive, many of the booths will offer refreshments. CSI co-founders Jim Wicks and Kevin Shaw will lead the tours at the following times:

    Colorist Mixer - Sunday 4/23 from 7-10pm - The Air Bar, floor 108, in the Stratosphere Tower

    Dolby #SU1702 – Monday 4/24, Tuesday 4/25 and Wednesday 4/26 at 5pm-6pm each day

    FilmLight  #SL3829 – Monday 4/24 at 11am – expect an announcement that could benefit all colorists

    FSI #SL6328 – Tuesday 4/25 at 1pm – monitors for colorists

    S-A-M #SL1805 – Tuesday 4/25 at 3pm – Rio does HDR

    Blackmagic Design #SL216 – Wednesday 4/26 at 4pm – check out the new panels

  • 09 April 2017 14:37 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

    Dolby sponsor CSI, Oscar colorists, the Peter Doyle podcast and so much more. 

    Read it here...
  • 08 February 2017 06:50 | Anonymous

    The ASC Spotlight Award, the Colorist Podcast, and much more in the February 2017 newsletter. Plus, be sure to check out the special offer from IMDbPro and discounts for CSI members. 

    Read it here...
  • 13 January 2017 08:22 | Anonymous

    The January Newsletter starts off 2017 with a great contribution by Marc Wielage, CSI, including FREE downloads. Plus, be sure to check out the special offers and discounts for CSI members. 

    Read it here...

  • 14 December 2016 02:46 | Kevin Shaw (Administrator)

    The December 2016 Newsletter finishes the year with a big announcement about IMDB and CSI. Plus in the spirit of the season there are plenty of special offers for CSI members. And our exclusive 3 part series by CSI Fellow Dale Grahn concludes.  Seasonal Greetings from all of us at CSI. 

    Read it here...

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