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Re: what's so hard?

>Nicole Yates, telecine operator at Temple University, who is now
>subscribed to the TIG, wrote asking:
>can i ask you some thing? well, i do transfers, and i adjust stops and
>stuff, but whats so difficult about this job? i mean, your careful
>with the film (fingerprints and lint and stuff), fix stops if needed,
>focus and sync the sound and your ready. i just dont understand why
>its so hard. am i missing somthing? dont get me wrong, i love it, its
>nice to make people happy and to kick back and watch a film, but
>geez. oh well:)
> ----------------------------------------

I think the key is that color-correction used to be 90% of the job, when I
first started out 19 years ago.  Now, I think it's only 10% of the job.
The rest of it is:

a) dealing with difficult clients who can't make up their minds, yet who
you have to please since they're paying the bill.  The skill to smooth
client tempers and egos might be the single most important skill for any
good telecine operator, editor, or mixer.  And I sympathize with what Dick
Hobbs sez elsewhere about maintaining one's temper.  (Engineer Dave Tosh
will attest to my ability to kick down doors and put fists through walls --
but always out of the client's sight.)  <*grin*>

b) dealing with equipment that breaks down or is, at best, intermittantly
reliable.  Also, dealing with equipment set-ups (routers, monitoring
facilities, etc.) that are completely different in each bay.  I have worked
for facilities that had _three_ different kinds of color-correction
systems, yet we operators are cut no slack in being expected to know the
ins and outs of each.

c) dealing with poorly-shot film.

d) having to work very long hours, often well into the middle of the night,
and still having to produce results that look as good what you did 20 hours

e) matching every scene and transition so that the end result is as
seamless and perfect as possible.  It's often said, "anybody can take one
shot and make it 'a Rembrandt.'"  Try doing it for 300 or 400 shots in a

f) having to deal with a half-dozen different KINDS of projects.  For
example, at Complete Post, a single operator might have to work on a
pan/scan feature film from interpositive, an animated show from 35mm
negative, a sitcom shot on 3-perf 35mm negative requiring Flex files and
perfect A-frame editing, a commercial session, and color-correcting a
videotape show (!), all in a single week.  I know of very few operators who
are versatile enough to handle all of these different projects equally well.

g) having to deal with different operational problems -- for example,
complex audio mixes, bizarre aspect ratios (particularly those involving
16:9), missing or inaccurate slates and time-code, complex editing/assembly
situations, etc.  I hesitate to admit the number of times my telecine bay
has turned into a combination on-line/audio baby during sessions.

h) knowing a myriad of "tricks" and short-cuts that make the session go
faster, make the pictures look better, and impress the clients.  These are
the kinds of things that have to be learned over many years; to me, they
make the difference between a mediocre operator and a truly good one.

i) having to do all the above under frenetic, fast-paced conditions, where
you have to complete the assignment quickly and without making a single

If you can do all the above and still say it's easy, then I'd say you're
either hopelessly insane or a far, far better person than I am.

As Dave Bernstein says elsewhere, the basic job of color-correcting a piece
of film isn't that hard.  But I say it's the REST of it that not only is
hard, it's damn right impossible a lot of the time.  I'm amazed we manage
to pull it off as good as we do, 99% of the time.

-- Marc Wielage / Complete Post
   Hollywood, USA

thanks to Ken Rockwell, Dwaine Maggart, and Joe Wolcott
for support of the TIG in 1997
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