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How does one become a Colorist?


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#1 Ethan Lyu

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 02:56 AM

Hello,

How does a person become a colorist for a post-production house?
Is there a training school? Or you go to art school and learn After-effect and those
other software on your own?

Any info would be appreciated,

Thank you very much.
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 04:54 AM

Being a colorist has a lot more to do with your ability to attract and sweet-talk clients than any technical training. As you have correctly recognised, the technical skill-set is not that much different from that of a moderately advanced Photoshop or After Effects user, and in fact is probably somewhat less complicated than either of those unless you start working on one of the software correctors like Baselight. Even then, it's less techy than even a pretty basic AE composition. There is of course a user interface to learn and you may be requried to do some film handling, but it's far from rocket science technically and all else is a matter of opinion. I've seen colour work on big, internationally famous TV series that I considered to be ugly and completely incompetent; clearly, the colorist and producers disagreed.

The big deal with colour work is therefore that your opinion coincides with that of the creative people you work with, and you must of course be proficient at figuring out what people want without ever asking them directly - this is viewed as very inappropriate and in general you are expected to somehow seem to be in complete artistic agreement with the client as a matter of course, as if your two visions just happened to be completely identical from the moment the guy walked in the door. I have seen colorists do this and some of them are so good at it that it's tough to spot it happening even if you are expecting it. By doing this you cause that client to believe that you just happen to see his production in exactly the same way he does, regardless of whether you actually like the results or not, and he keeps coming back.

At the end of the day you are in command of a pile of equipment worth millions and your primary function is to ensure that it gets business and pays for itself. The technical skill is almost trivial in comparison. So, if your face doesn't fit, if you don't wear the right fashions, if you don't drive the right car... forget about it. If on the other hand you are willing to prostrate yourself upon the altar of shallowness that this sort of work requires, fine!

As to actually getting that sort of job; the standard approach is through working at a lower level engineering job in a postproduction house. Certainly in London and I believe worldwide these posts are paid absolute peanuts and are mainly used as a filter to see who's got the right degree of swagger to go further; you will probably work in this sort of job, barely making a living if at all, for years, moving between several places, before a: you give up in absolute disgust at the puddle-deep mentality of high end post, or b: someone takes a liking to you. Then you might become an assistant to a colourist, and eventually work up towards doing dailies transfers for people the small hours of the morning. After many, many poorly-paid years of this, the senior colorist will have a job he can't do because he's at his grandmothers' funeral, and you might get to do it.

P
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#3 Rob Vogt

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 08:44 AM

Stop making it sound so easy Phil.

Here's a good resource though http://www.finalcolo...htm#newcolorist
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#4 Ethan Lyu

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 03:29 AM

As to actually getting that sort of job; the standard approach is through working at a lower level engineering job in a postproduction house. Certainly in London and I believe worldwide these posts are paid absolute peanuts and are mainly used as a filter to see who's got the right degree of swagger to go further; you will probably work in this sort of job, barely making a living if at all, for years, moving between several places, before a: you give up in absolute disgust at the puddle-deep mentality of high end post, or b: someone takes a liking to you. Then you might become an assistant to a colourist, and eventually work up towards doing dailies transfers for people the small hours of the morning. After many, many poorly-paid years of this, the senior colorist will have a job he can't do because he's at his grandmothers' funeral, and you might get to do it.

P


Thanks for the great info Phil,
so you have worked as a professional Colorist in UK?

What kind of job is "lower level engineering job" in post-production house? maintaining servers?
How about in US/Canada is it the same?

Edited by D Lyu, 04 December 2008 - 03:32 AM.

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#5 Ethan Lyu

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 03:31 AM

Stop making it sound so easy Phil.

Here's a good resource though http://www.finalcolo...htm#newcolorist


Thanks a lot Rob
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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 07:02 AM

so you have worked as a professional Colorist in UK?


Hell, no - I'm insulted!

Well, OK, actually yes - but probably not in the way you mean, sitting in a Spirit suite on £300/hour surrounded by free takeout meals.

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#7 Stephen Williams

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 07:12 AM

What kind of job is "lower level engineering job" in post-production house? maintaining servers?


Getting food & coffee for the clients, making copies......
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Tai Audio

Visual Products

Metropolis Post

Glidecam

CineTape

Technodolly

Willys Widgets

Rig Wheels Passport

rebotnix Technologies

The Slider

Wooden Camera

Ritter Battery