The 10 things that make a great Colorist.
First off, I am not saying I am a great Colorist, far from it. These are only my opinions. They are drawn from working with some of the worlds top graders over the past 30 years. Not in any order.
Being creative is only part of the job, but it is a very important part. Knowing when and how much to push an image or how far to take a look is a fine art.
Sometimes a simple grade is all that's needed. Remember to keep your work fresh and interesting.
2 Technical, know your formats
When I first started grading the job was far more technical with $750,000 Telecine machines and $400,000 grading systems that needed to be treated the right way.
I had two possible sources, either Kodak or Fuji film, and two output choices D1 or Digital Betacam videotape. I knew all the film stocks and all their little ‘funnies’ inside and out.
Nowadays we have over twenty formats coming in and maybe ten going out. The same rules apply today; get to know your camera formats and codecs. The more you know the better grader you will be.
3 The Business
This is very relevant in 2017. As a freelancer you have to know how to balance the books. It’s no good cutting deals everywhere, then forgetting the invoices or letting your equipment get tired. Remember to think of what jobs will look good on your reel, making sure you get the rights to use the footage. Ensure you keep the reel up to date and is easily available online. Finally, don’t work for free. I wouldn’t ask a painter to fix up my house for free, even if he was just out of college! So make sure you get something even if it is a reduced rate.
4 Be an entertainer, look after your clients.
This is hard to teach and to learn, but being able to control a room full of people, tell funny stories and still deliver a funky look on time is an invaluable skill to have. Remember, clients like to feel relaxed and at the same time enjoy your sessions. If they get both they will be more likely to work with you again. It is all about your clients and the top graders know this.
5 It has to match
Consistency across your project is accentual. Sometimes getting the look is the easy bit, however, matching it to the rest of the TVC or show is what sorts the men from the boys. The best colorists make this look easy; when in reality it’s actually one of the hardest parts of being a colorist.
6 Be flexible and happy, most of us don’t mind Mondays.
Clients will change their minds, delay grades, bring you bad EDLs, keep you after hours, weekends etc. Despite the challenges you must always work with a smile on your face.
7 Know what you like
Collect still images and movie clips of what you like. Keep them on your system ready to pull out at the right time when you need to show examples or make suggestions. Follow different directors and DPs, ensuring you remember their style and what formats their films were shot on. Try to keep a set of Power Grades or LUTs that you can utilize as examples.
8 Be fast
You can be the most technical colorist in the world, but if you cannot decipher what your clients need quickly and then deliver it nicely graded and matched on time you won’t be asked back.
Buying an easel and some paint doesn’t make you an artist. Know your kit, it makes for a faster, better and more enjoyable session for both you and your clients. No colorist knows everything about color correction or the software they operate. I have been on Resolve since 2005 and still probably learn something on every job or class I teach. I originally learnt with senior graders, working as an assistant for two years before continuing my apprenticeship as a junior grader for a further two years. It is not as easy as that nowadays. Try and find a mentor who can assist you by offering feedback on your work.
10 Love your work.
It has been said before, but you are only as good as your last job. Always be enthusiastic and keen no matter how small the project or session. The small music clip is as important as the A list feature.