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Telecine etiquette


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#1 John OBrien

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 01:13 AM

I'm a student filmmaker and just recently wrapped my first production. I plan on "sitting in" on the telecine process but have never done so and was wondering if there is etiquette about anything I should know about. I want to streamline the process as much as possible to save money and want to be able to communicate clearly and efficiently with the colorist. Is there any do's and don'ts, things to know, phrases, terminology, the time to talk, the time to shut up and let him do his job, any prep I can do before I go in, anything that you wish you knew prior to going into your first telecine, an article about the process from start to finish, etc...

I know this is a broad question, but anything would be helpful.

Thanks.
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#2 John Mastrogiacomo

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 01:50 AM

[quote name='John OBrien' date='May 29 2008, 10:13 PM' post='234321']
I'm a student filmmaker and just recently wrapped my first production. I plan on "sitting in" on the telecine process but have never done so and was wondering if there is etiquette about anything I should know about. I want to streamline the process as much as possible to save money and want to be able to communicate clearly and efficiently with the colorist. Is there any do's and don'ts, things to know, phrases, terminology, the time to talk, the time to shut up and let him do his job, any prep I can do before I go in, anything that you wish you knew prior to going into your first telecine, an article about the process from start to finish, etc...

I know this is a broad question, but anything would be helpful.

Well, I would read up on what is possible and what is not possible with the telecine you are going to work with. Spend as much time as you need at beginning of the session telling the colorist what you are looking for and listen to his suggestions. Then let him start rolling. They are very fast. If you see something you want changed, just say so.

You are the client, so they are going to be very accommodating. Don't be afraid to ask questions, but do your homework first. You might want to call there and ask someone what is possible and what is not possible (power windows, grain reduction, sharpening, defocus, etc.) before you start your session.

After 3 sessions with my colorist, Keith Roddy, from Encore Hollywood, we started going out for beers when we were done. If they like you they may shave some time off the clock.

Enjoy it and good luck.
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#3 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 02:40 AM

As with anything you do in this business, communication is everything. You need to open the lines of communication asap in your session, and ask how you should refer to certain looks...etc. Bring in reference materials as well, like color corrected set stills, or photos from magazines. Anything helps when you are paying $15 a minute ($400/hr).

It took me a few sessions to learn how to speak with the telecine artist at my school. I would ask him how I can refer to things that he would understand in his language; once we figured most of it out, it went very smooth.

Also, remember how much money you are spending; I suggest that you be ready to rock as soon as you get in there.
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#4 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 03:20 AM

I like to do some basic correction to the dailies on my laptop and then bring it to the session to show the colorist on the same monitor I did the rough correction on.

What I say usually varies on the colorist, I had a great colorist at Encore the other day and I really didn't need to say much at all. I showed him a few reference stills at first and six hours later he knew what I was really looking for. I actually had to leave early that day and had no problem letting him finish the work on his own, he did great.

Just know what you want it to look like and how to describe it (the reference stills help that a lot). If you don't know what your looking for, tell the colorist to play and get some ideas from him once you communicated the overall look you were going for.

I never ask a colorist to show me what "no correction" looks like, you learn that lesson pretty quick. He just turns off the color correcter and your left with some crappy green biased image because that is what you get strait off the machine.

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#5 Andrew Koch

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 03:28 AM

Are you transferring everything from the shoot for editing? Do you plan on doing a scene by scene color correction when the project is edited together? If this is the case, try not to spend lots of time locking in your looks, especially avoid completely crushing the blacks and pushing the highlights to their limit, you will need these details for later color correction. Get a nice, clean, flat transfer. This is not the final look of your film, but rather your "new digital negative." Once everything is cut together, you can do a tape to tape color correction scene by scene from this "digital negative." It is sort of a poor mans DI. When I was a student, I found this method to be pretty fast and cheap since the films were short with minimal footage and we weren't spending lots of time tweaking shots that may not even end up in the final film. (IF you have shot a lot of footage, as in a feature, you might be better off doing a cheap transfer for dailies and then re-transfer your selects to HD).

The fastest way to do telecine is to have the colorist calibrate exposure and color with your greycard.

As far as etiquette, the obvious rules apply: "please, thankyou, etc..." It is important to have a clear idea about what you want going in. It is alright to occasionally change your mind, but this can be frustrating for all parties involved and will cost you more money. A good colorist is very skilled and can offer a lot in terms of the look of the film, but they don't necessarily know what you are going for because they probably don't know the story yet. On a student shoot, colorists doing your dailies are unlikely to have read the script and had lengthy discussions with you about the look. They simply don't have the time for that. This is why when you first meet, try to SUCCINCTLY tell your colorist what the story is about and the overall look you are going for. Then when you are going through the footage, you can be more specific. Terms like "cooler" or "warmer" are okay, but this does leave some room for interpretation. It helps to know a little about color theory. Make sure you understand that blue is the opposite of yellow, red is the opposite of cyan, and green is the opposite of magenta. Knowing information like this will lead to less surprises and better communication. Find out if the facility is capable of secondary color correction and power windows, this will give you more options.

3 major controls the colorist has is shadows, midtones, and highlights, so you can be specific about what you want done to these aspects of the image EX: "could you bring down the blacks just a bit but bring up the highlights." These 3 controllers can be labled in other ways such as lift, gamma, knee, etc..., but I have never heard an objection from a colorist about referring to them as shadow, mid, and highlight. Once you feel you have clearly explained what you want the colorist to do, let him/her completely create the look for the shoot before you give your feedback. For example, If you say you want something to look really blue and as the colorist is attempting to make it happen, you interrupt by saying "it needs to be much bluer than that." That is not fair to the colorist because they are not done yet. Let them finish and then they will say "hows that" Then you can say "perfect" or "could you please make it bluer." Keep in mind that your eye will gradually adjust to certain things in the room. For example, if you keep looking at a blue image for a while on the monitor, your eye will start to time it out and you will want to make it even bluer than what you originally intended. If this happens, look away from the monitor at other things in the room and give your eyes time to readjust. Let your colorist know about this, they may have some advice about this.


Try to learn about how to read a waveform monitor and what IRE units mean. Know that if your blacks are below zero IRE, they will be crushed and your whites will be clipped above 100 IRE.

You will get more out of the session if you know some basics, but also be upfront with your colorist. Let them know you are a student and that you are open to suggestions and would appreciate their advice and guidance in the process. Show the colorist that you appreciate their expertise and generosity of their time (they are most likely giving you a heavily reduced rate). Try to establish a good working relationship with your colorist and request to work with them on future projects if you like their work. I personally think it is a nice gesture to bring some sort of thankyou gift for the colorist. If you bake, bring the colorist a cookie or two for example. Don't go too overboard with this because it might be considered inappropriate or against company policy. Just use your best judgment and if in doubt, ask.
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#6 Michael Most

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 09:16 AM

As a former colorist, I would suggest that the best approach - especially for a student - is to stay away from anything specific or technical. Instead, direct the colorist as you would direct actors. If you want something to be very dark and contrasty, don't ask them to "crush the blacks." Instead, ask them to make it overly dramatic, or perhaps "bolder". If you want it warmer, it might be a better approach to ask them to make it "happier" rather than to say "add more yellow/red." If you want to put a window on someone's face and brighten it up individually, you might request that the colorist "put a light" on the face.

Staying away from specific technical terms not only respects the colorist's experience and knowledge - after all, if they're sitting in the chair, they should be presumed to know more about the technical aspects of the job than you do - it encourages them to use technical and visual creativity to create something that's better than what you might be expecting. It makes them feel more like a collaborator and less like a button pusher, and gets you a better product, usually in a lot less time. No creative person likes to be told every step. Artists don't like to be given specific instructions regarding technique, actors don't like to be given line readings, and colorists don't like being told "make the blacks a bit cyan then crush them then bring up the gamma and balance the whites."

Just a thought.
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