I recently color graded a spot for the new Fall/Winter campaign for Diane Von Furstenberg's "Bohemian Wrapsody" collection. The goal was to match the video to the print campaign, and it was quite a challenge! Below is a still from the print campaign and the finished video that I colored.
I was nominated for an Emmy! Well...kinda, sorta, not really. Colorists can't get nominated for some reason, there isn't even a category for us!
Park Bench with Steve Buscemi, the show I colored several months ago, did however get nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Short-Form Nonfiction Program. So I'm still proud of that.
Unfortunately we didn't win. We got beat out by ESPN's 30 for 30 shorts. While it's always a bummer to lose, at least we were beat out by an old classmate and friend of mine, Dan Silver, fellow Syracuse University '01 Film School alum. Congrats Dan!
I had the pleasure of coloring a short film for the Wildlife Conservation Society's recent gala honoring Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.
It might sound crazy, but I spent just as much time getting the "skin tone" right on the elephants as I usually do for people. Grey is a difficult color to get right, one nudge in the wrong direction and it can look red, purple, or green! Another challenge was creating a consistent look throughout even though the elephants all have different amounts of red mud on them.
Check out the video below:
On my reel you can see a lot of the "before/afters" of color grades that I have done…but what exactly goes into creating a look in a color session? In this post, I will attempt to show what's "behind the curtain" for a basic grade that I came up with for Steve Buscemi's new show Park Bench. If your a colorist yourself, hopefully these posts can help you become the best Davinci colorist you can be!
This show was shot on the Canon C300 and the raw files look very flat and bland. Below is the raw uncolor corrected media:
And here is the after:
To create this look, I came up with a simple 5-node color grade. Below is the order of my nodes:
1. Primary color correction. I do a basic contrast/saturation fix. If the shot had an incorrect color cast to it (too yellow for example) I would adjust it here.
2. Skin-tone warmup. I isolated the skin tone by pulling a qualifier on the characters skin and I pushed the highlights towards orange/red to give the skin a nice wash of color. I increase the saturation.
3. Shadow cool down. I isolate the shadows and things with low saturation (like the hoodies and the jackets) and I push the shadows (blacks) towards blue.
4. Primary out. I do another primary color correction to fix any contrast and saturation that might have shifted after I did nodes 2 and 3. From here the look is pretty much set.
5. Vignette. I put a vignette on the shot to focus your eye towards Michael Shannon's character in the middle of the screen.
And that is basically it! Next time you watch a TV show or movie and wonder "Are Leonardo DiCaprio's eyes really that blue?" "Is Brad Pitt really that tan?" you will realize that there was a colorist behind the scenes in a dark room enhancing everything you see. Check back soon for another Making The Grade, and to see this episode of Park Bench, check out the video below:
Bonus: check out this "behind the scenes" photo that Steve Buscemi took of me while I was coloring:
I recently colored a music video for the band Trust for their song Capitol. It is a psychedelic sci-fi video that has vintage looking graphics and takes place in space. It features colorful shots of the singer mixed with "real world" shots of a girl who gets increasingly entranced until she is a part of the "space" realm.
Director Will Joines sat in with me during the color session at CVLT and we came up for the look of the video together. One goal was to figure out a way to merge the two worlds in the video. The shots of the band are very colorful with strong influences of magenta, purple, and blue, while the footage of the video's main character was very muted before color work.
What we ended up doing was very subtle, but I think it made the video more cohesive. I pushed the shadows a little bit towards magenta and brought more saturation to the pink background of the shot of the girl at the table. I also created two small power windows on the girl's eyes and really brought up the saturation in the blues to make her eyes pop. Finally a fairly heavy vignette was used to draw the views eye to her staring gaze.
The decision to bring out the pink/purple/blue/magenta palette in the "real world" scenes really worked and definitely helps with the cohesion of the video. But don't take my word for it, check out the video below:
I do a lot of work where client are looking for a high contrast/high saturation look. This glossy look has become standard amongst a lot of commercials and TV shows. Last year I colored several short films for Amex's "Amex Unstaged" series. In the Vampire Weekend episode featuring Steve Buscemi, Steve and Vampire Weekend march in New York's Easter Day Parade. For this short film, the bold and colorful look fit just right. Saturating the Easter colors and giving the skin tones a nice peach wash really worked. It made Steve's very pale skin come alive in this comedic short.
However, not all films are the same, and using a colorful approach doesn't always work. Sometimes subdued and subtle can create the strongest imagery. For the Avett Brothers new music video "Morning Song", muted colors really paired well with their stripped down vocals and music. And muted has never been so loud. What makes the simple imagery in this video powerful is not bright in your face colors, but washed out desaturated look that we eventually came up with. It evokes a very American blue collar vibe and pairs well with their bluegrass sound.
Below is their video "Morning Song" which was directed by Michael Bonfiglio and produced by Judd Apatow. I of course did the color. It premiered on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show blog.
Independent films are one of my favorite types of projects to color. Unlike a lot of the documentary or reality stuff I work on that tended to get a "normal" looking color correction, I can get a little more creative with indie movies. Color becomes another character in the film.
Back in 2011, I worked on a film called "Ponies" staring Sopranos actor John Ventimiglia. Ponies was a film about three immigrants living in post 9/11 New York City. The story revolves around horse betting and trying to make it in America. The world that is portrayed is not the glamorous 5th avenue world of Sex In The City, but another side of New York, a grittier and bleaker one.
The look I came up with for the film was a high contrast low saturation look. It is supposed to make NYC look and feel as bleak and hopeless. We view New York through the lens of our characters eyes. It is a desolate landscape with very little opportunity.
Below are some still grabs of before and after the color grading. I colored this in 2011 using Apple Color.
"Ponies was a New York Times Critic's Pick.
My latest project "Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger" premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Joe Berlinger. I was the online editor and co-colorist with Yohance Brown.
2013 was a good year for Brian McCallister's flilm, "Patti and Me, Minus Patti." It showed at several film festivals including; The Phoenix Film Festival, The Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival, The Rome International Film Festival, and The Big Apple Film Festival.
When Brian approached me with this film, we tried several different palettes before settling on our final look which comprised mostly of peach, green, teals and blues. I colored this in DaVinci Resolve. Trailer below:
Back in 2013 I colored the ABC special "David Blaine: Real or Magic." When it first aired it attracted 7.8 million views. Not bad. ABC decided to re-air it in January. Promo Below: