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 www.EndCrawl.com 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.
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.