A more verbose compilation of advice on becoming a colorist

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The following is a compilation of a recent (Feb 2007) thread on the TIG mailinglist, and goes into much more detail than the quick questions and answers on the TIG FAQ.

---Rob Lingelbach rob@colorist.org

I (RL) received the following message today and am forwarding it to the group with the sender's permission.

Begin forwarded message:

From: "David Walegren" <walegren@gmail.com> Date: February 8, 2007 3:11:42 PM GMT-02:00 To: rob@colorist.org Subject: Hey Rob

My name is David and I'm 16 years old. I recently subscribed to the news in TIG. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on what i need to study in university to be able to become a colorist. Also, is it more important to have good grades or is it really the showreal that matters? What do you think I should work on when I have extra time from school? Pictures? Editing videos? Finally, is there any software/hardware you would recommend me to use?

--David Walegren

begin response #1

David, my short reply is that you read the FAQ on the TIG WIKI at http://tig.colorist.org/wiki3/index.php/FAQ and refine your questions a little, they cover a lot of ground that some colorists may not have time to answer completely. (As you have done below since [this added after the message above was written])

regards Rob

begin response #2

From: Rob Lingelbach rob@colorist.org

Where are you studying- what school and what city?

    • Also, is it more important to have good grades or is it really the showreal that matters?

well, I think university is very valuable for reasons other than working in "the business." I know people who never went to college and are very successful and respected artists in color correction, animation, editing, and special effects (2d, 3d). If you have the chance now to complete university- the financial means- my advice is don't stop, do it, and if possible attend an arts school like the North Carolina School of the Arts, California Institute of the Arts, NYU Film School, USC, or UCLA. No doubt Steve Bradford is going to mention his institution when he reads this :)

    • What do you think I should work on when I have extra time from school? Pictures? Editing videos? Finally, is there any software/hardware would you recommend me to use?

the answers to these questions I may leave to others, and I certainly hope there will be responses (your plea is at the heart of the TIG's existence) ....I think you should learn either Final Cut Pro (with Final Touch) or Avid, as they have color correction components in their software, and allow you to get a feel for editing as well as color treatments. Otherwise even Photoshop and Gimp are great tools to work on still frames to experiment with color.

Response #3

From: Steve Hullfish

Grades probably don't matter as much in college, but they ARE an indication to your first employer about how hard you work and how smart you are. (I got decent grades at a state college and have done fairly well.) You should be absorbing as much media as possible. That includes print and film and video and art. I know a lot of colorists that were schooled at art schools. The "reel" won't be very important for you because you'll work as an assistant or gopher of some sort for many years before you need a reel. Mostly the first job takes persistence and the willingness to work hard, keep your mouth shut and learn as much as you can from listening and occasionally asking questions. Watch the way the colorist interacts with the client. Client skills (communication and "personality") are important tools, though many may not admit it. You have to know the tools technically, you have to be creative with what you can envision and do and you need to be able to communicate with the client.

I just interviewed a bunch of colorists and many of them suggested the approach of "absorbing the media around you" as well as paying close attention to training your eye to the way color looks "in real life" all around you. What colors are the shadows during dusk? Which is more muted at night: red or green? What are the subtle shades of color to someone's skin standing in mixed light? Develop the ability to break down the way an image looks and communicate it. Is the image hi contrast? Are the colors muted or are they bold? Is there a "tinge" or "cast" to the color? Some training in photography or art will help you understand what to look for and how to define it.

To play with color correction "on the cheap" I'd suggest using Photoshop to color correct still images. It's not quite the same as telecine correction which has to cope with motion and things not being in the same place on the frame all the time, but at least it gets you developing a sense of what you can do with color manipulation. If Photoshop is too expensive, some other things like iPhoto have rudimentary color correction tools. [EDITOR'S NOTE: There are Open Source tools for color work that are completely free, and available on most platforms. One is [http://www.cinepaint.org CinePaint], which is 32-bit capable and a fork of The GIMP]. If you can get hold of FinalTouch when it becomes available again from Apple, I'd do that. Might be out of your price range though. There are other color correction apps and plugins available, like IRIDAS Speedgrade and Synthetic Aperture's Color Finesse. There's a new plug in called Colorista. Final Cut Pro and Premiere and Avid all have limited color correction built in to them. So do After Effects and Shake. Shake has some powerful color correction tools.

There are a couple of color correction books out there. Check Amazon. Make sure you get one that's not illustrated in black and white. :-)

Steve Hullfish Verascope Pictures

Response #4

From: Bobbie Thomas

Greetings first of all it's show-reel not showreal :-) but in all seriousness if you are fortunate to become employed at a facility ( probably as dubber first then an assistant) assist as many colorist as you can. Not only will you learn how different colorist address and resolve grading issues, but you will also learn what not to do, because not only do you learn from their success' but you also learn form their mistakes, which at time can be invaluable.


Rob Lingelbach 18:41, 9 February 2007 (PST)