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DP vs. Colorist


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#1 Scott Bryant

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 09:27 PM

I know there isn't a set number or percentage, but how much of the "look" of a film the DP/lighting and how much is the colorist's alterations? I know the the colorist has nothing to do with camera movement etc, but it seems like an awful lot can be done in post with changing the exposure white balance and overall mood.
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#2 Andrew Koch

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 10:04 PM

While it is true that a lot can be altered post, this is supposed to be done according to the intentions of the Cinematographer. It is certainly a collaborative process and a good colorist may have some great ideas, but it is the cinematographer who should be making the final decision. For example, the colorist makes a scene blue because the cinematographer tells him/her to, or maybe the colorist suggests a hint of green based on what he/she knows about the story and the tastes of the Cinematographer, or whatever reason and then the cinematographer likes it and says go with it.

It is very hard (and in many cases impossible) to create the lighting in Post. So the lighting on set is a major part of the look of the film.
Production design makes a huge impact on the look of the film, Robert Elswit said when he got his Oscar for There Will Be Blood that 80% of his cinematography was the production design. Of course Mr. Elswit is being humble, but I have heard many Cinematographers say the same thing. Most of the look of a film is a result of what you put in front of the lens. When I was in filmschool, my Cinematography professor had a funny way of putting it.

"Lets face it, if you have a supermodel in a tropical rain forest, it will be much easier to make that look good than if you have a bum sitting next to a gray trashcan against a white wall."

Imagine if you wanted to create a scene with high saturation. You use a really contrasty, high saturated film stock, you have all sorts of filters, you further increase the saturation in post. None if this will give you a really saturated image if all the actors are wearing grey shirts, the walls are white, the furniture is black, the carpet is offwhite, etc... There is nothing to saturate.

The Cinematographer is the main person in charge of the look of the film but they achieve it with the help and collaboration of many others.
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#3 gordon liron

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 02:02 AM

I just spent the last couple of months in a Luster Color Correction bay at $800 an hour. After picking the brain of our colorist, I would like to add that studios still like to look at Dailies as if they have been color corrected which is why some DPs get so much work because they dont freak exuctives out who don't know anything about the wonders of Color Timing. Those DPs know how to light so well that their Dailies look tip top. It is true that DPs can get in a hurry and chose to shoot a scene fairly neutral only to try to save it in post. Other times, the DP can suck major balls and the colorist can not only save his job but get him more work.


It is pretty amazing though...if you haven't been in one yet.
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#4 Dominic Case

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 06:45 AM

For example, the colorist makes a scene blue because the cinematographer tells him/her to, or maybe the colorist suggests a hint of green based on what he/she knows about the story

But the important points are (a) that the colorist knows to suggest green at a certain point, and (B) that the colorist knows how to make the scene bluer.

For both the cinematographer and the colorist, it's knowing what to do, AND how to do it. And it's not just "make it bluer", it's "bring the lead character up a little to make her stand out more", or "these people look healthy and happy, they are supposed to be have just got off a plane in a thunderstorm, make them look sick." Or "we did these reaction shots a bit too late in the day - they light is off their faces. Can you make them cut in better?". How? Contrast? primary colour shift? window corrections? with tracking?

Or "over the entire course of the film, the characters' relationship gets more and more friendly. The lighting changes gradually softer, but you need to warm it up - imperceptibly - over 11 reels".

The colorist's skills certainly overlap with the cinematographer's, but each has his or her own unique skills.
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#5 timHealy

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 07:42 AM

One would think cinematographers would have final say in the transfer room, but really they do not as color correction often happens without the DP in the room but the producers, director and the editors may be there.

Also a poorly done transfer could easily sink a DP's work and the relationship between the DP and the director and or producer.

But a good colorist can really put some nice finishing touches on the photography.

Best

Tim
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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 12:28 PM

Theoretically, the colorist works for the DP, and is chosen by the DP, just like the gaffer. What happens in TV is that DP's work so much that they have long established relationships with colorists, and often trust them to know and preserve the look of the show.



-- J.S.
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#7 Scott Bryant

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 02:32 PM

Interesting. Thanks alot to all.
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#8 tylerhawes

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 01:29 AM

If I find out the DP can't make it, I watch the film and then call her to discuss her intentions. We may swap some JPEGs, etc. After the Director has made the their first pass grading key shots in the film to anchor the overall look I'll email stills to the DP to let him know where things are going. This is assuming the producer hasn't told me that the DP is evil and is not there because they hate him (only happened once). If I'm working with the director and know from my conversation with the DP that he would prefer a different direction than where the Director is going, I feel obligated to speak up on his behalf and at least suggest what I think he might've preferred. But ultimately I have to do what the person in the room asks.

Most films I have the DP with me and they have a rough idea of what they want to do but are also anxious to see what I can do, variations on it, as well as invite me to think outside the box and show them something new because they don't want to be constrained by convention if it's not the best approach. So we'll spend a day playing around with the look before moving forward (unless the budget is so low we can't afford the time, then we have to decide more quickly).

I don't find myself ever being an "operator", where I'm basically a trained monkey there to push buttons and match shots quickly. But I try to turn down films if I think that is what they want. It is no fun.
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#9 A.Burak Turan

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 09:27 AM

Hi all,

Dp is the one who creates the atmosphere and exposure before anything comes to post production steps, it's the mood we play with by style of exposure lightning and other tools. I have been working with many tc operators and senior colorists, what i prefer is non-ego colorists so we can collaborate and get the creative point higher, get the ideas from the colorists share discuss and create the best for the project together.

Edited by A.Burak Turan, 28 March 2008 - 09:30 AM.

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