18 Feb 2018

Five top tips for colorists

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Match the scene

“It’s relatively easy to create a look on one shot, but the hard thing is to be able to match to the next shot. I often say to students (with a wry smile) that you could sit a monkey down at a control surface and let him muck around with the controls and he might come up with something we quite like…He could do, but not in a million years will he match it to the rest of the film.

“That’s the key skill and you have to be able to do this quickly. It doesn’t happen over night, it takes years to become a proficient colorist. Consistency is what we are aiming for. It allows the audience to continue to willingly suspend their disbelief. Poorly matched shots shatter the illusion at the speed of light.

“Skin tones are your main focus. It is the Number 1, commented on more by clients than any other subject in the picture. Time of day color temperature shifts, when it is our main source of light, has a knock-on effect that ripples through everything it illuminates, especially skin tones.

“You must know the story. Even if it’s a commercial, watch it over before you attempt a grade. Ask for footage as early as possible so you can start to locate your hero shots. The more you know about the project the better the grade. You probably already know from your own experience that even when you’re away from the monitor you can be problem solving.

“My last piece of advice is don’t be tempted to sit in the studio for hours. Tired colorists don’t make good decisions. Take short breaks every couple of hours, come back with fresh eyes, and if the look isn’t working, bin it. A subtle and deft touch is what’s needed here.”


Warren Eagles can be found on Twitter at @warreneagles or you can visit warreneagles.com/au, fxphd.com or icolorist.com.

Matt Aindow

Matt Aindow is a freelance artist and M&E workflow consultant, in an ever-deepening love affair with story telling via the dark art of colour grading. He believes these are jolly exciting times to be involved in the business, but is saddened that we can't deliver on gender equality. Come on! Member of SMPTE, CSI and DCS. The eternal student.

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