Is Color Timing A True Art Form
Dale follows up last month’s part two essay with the third and final installment in his series on the early days of color grading and color correction.
Early on, while employed at Deluxe Labs, I was working on low-budget films, and on one of those films the Director was guiding me in the timing of his movie. He wanted the film to be very golden in color. The golden look was part of the story line and was very important to his vision for the film.
For each sequence the director would ask me to add more gold to it. This went on for the first two screenings, and with the corrections that I was putting into the film for the third print, I was sure that the third print would be the final. Thinking third time’s the charm, I thought the director would be very happy.
So we started running that print. All was going well, but at the end the Director said to me, "Dale, the golden color you created is stunning, your shot to shot matching is flawless - but everything is the same color, the entire film is now one color and it's BORING.”
I contended that I had given him exactly what he asked for at every step of the way. He agreed, saying, “yes but I am not a timer Dale, you are. “
The Director explained that he thought his film needed to be more golden but admitted he had been wrong because, “not being a timer, I couldn’t have known that I was asking you to make it all one color. You must have known that was happening because you were doing it.”
The Director wasn’t blaming me for doing what he told me to do; he was just saying it didn't work. “It's probably the first time that you have made any movie only one color. Sorry but we need to fix it.”
At this point in my career I hadn’t been with enough clients to have the strength of confidence, the savvy, nor the skillset necessary to effectively redirect a clients’ vision to my own so I could do what was best for the film.
I was well aware that each sequence or location in a film needed its own look, and yet, have the continuity to fit in with the overall look of the film’s story. But I was also told to give your client what they want, not what you want.
This experience became my crucible. The lessons learned taught me that I really needed to be the one in charge of storytelling with color.
So I learned how to do just that.
First, I worked hard learning how to extract the best look from every exposure and image construction I worked with based upon its workable range. That gave me the confidence I needed to have the correct answer when asked why I made any shot or sequence the color and density that I did.
Every image has it's own individual construction and levels of separation within that constructed base. The established relationships between these levels are set by the initial exposure and lighting conditions and should be maintained unless they are out of balance. Breaking this rule results in an unbalanced image.
Knowing that each image has it's limits in color and density before it starts to "break up" (become unbalanced) means that you have to work with the image on it's own terms.
An average major film has about 2000 individual shots. That's a lot of terms to bring into agreement with each other, and still maintain the film’s overall sense of beauty or symmetry while keeping to the goal of telling the story with color.
I titled this three-part series, "Is Color Timing a True Form of Art?" So what about it? As the title asks, is color timing a true form of art?
To my way of thinking, the answer is yes. The true art form is to use color with skill and understanding to create beauty and symmetry using the film’s multiple related images to tell a story. So in this respect color timing is clearly proven to be a true form of art, and the color timer a true artist and should be rewarded as such.
The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has announced its television nominees for the 31st annual Outstanding Achievement Awards. Winners will be revealed on February 4, 2017, at the organization’s annual ceremony at the Hollywood & Highland Ray Dolby Ballroom.
This year’s nominees are:
Regular Series for Non-Commercial Television
Regular Series for Commercial Television
- John Conroy for Penny Dreadful, “The Day Tennyson Died” (SHOWTIME)
- David Dunlap for House of Cards, “Chapter 45” (NETFLIX)
- Anette Haellmigk for Game of Thrones, “Book of the Stranger” (HBO)
- Neville Kidd for Outlander, “Prestonpans” (STARZ)
- Fabian Wagner, BSC for Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (HBO)
Movie, Miniseries, or Pilot for Television
- Tod Campbell for Mr. Robot, “eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc” (USA)
- John Grillo for Preacher, “Finish the Song” (AMC)
- Kevin McKnight for Underground, “The Macon 7” (WGN)
- Christopher Norr for Gotham, “Wrath of the Villains: Mr. Freeze” (FOX)
- Richard Rutkowski for Manhattan, “Jupiter” (WGN)
- Balazs Bolygo, HSC, BSC for Harley and the Davidsons, “Amazing Machine” (DISCOVERY)
- Paul Cameron, ASC for Westworld, “The Original” (HBO)
- Jim Denault, ASC for All The Way (HBO)
- Alex Disenhof for The Exorcist, “Chapter One: And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee” (FOX)
- Igor Martinovic for The Night Of, “Subtle Beast” (HBO)
The nominees were selected by ASC active members who voted on submissions.
For information regarding the 31st ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography visit www.theasc.com or call 323-969-4333.
Get the credit you deserve.
With CSI colorists now receiving recognition on the IMDbPro Guild Affiliations page, it is more important than ever that you receive screen credit for the work that you perform on motion pictures and television programs.
Patrick Woodard, CSI, is recognized to millions of viewers each week for his outstanding work on the CBS-TV series, NCIS: Los Angeles. Patrick asked to get his CSI screen credit - you should ask for yours, too!
The style guide established by Colorist Society International for the preferred usage of the suffix affiliation for on-screen credits for full members is as follows. “Name, C.S.I.” or “Name, CSI.”
We are asking all CSI Full Members be given a solo title screen credit, typically following the editor’s credit. There is no way to insist on this, but it is worth asking for.
If you have an on-screen credit displaying “Name, C.S.I” or “Name, CSI” be sure to send us a photo and we’ll share it with the membership in future newsletters.
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CSI wishes all its members seasonal best wishes and looks forward to a healthy, prosperous, and exciting new year.
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Best, Jim and Kevin