Monday, January 4, 2010

Color Correcting 'Superhero' Music Video

Welcome back from break, everyone! I'm really looking forward to getting back into Hollywood Bound and Down and taking it to the next level this year. I have a good feeling, all around, about 2010, so I'm quite excited to see what it brings.

While I was in New York during the Christmas break, I had a coloring session for Tim Kubart's music video "Superhero." While there, I blogged about it, but didn't post it until today.



I’m sitting in an edit bay in New York City watching Color render out the corrected images from the music video for “Superhero” from Tim and the Space Cadets. (Remember that one, from October?) My colorist, James, is somewhere wrapping a Christmas present for his mother.

Anyway, since our due date wasn’t until January and James was slammed enough that the massive amount of money I’m paying him to color this video seemed like chump change (it actually is chump change, since I’m not, in fact, paying him a massive amount of money) I thought that, since I would be in New York for the Christmas break anyway, it’d be cool if I could just come in a supervise the coloring. That way I could 1) actually see what James is seeing and not try to judge the color on a computer monitor and 2) it’d go faster, as James could make color corrections on the spot. Plus, I enjoy going to the city but only if there’s a reason.

And it’s going well. James started work on it yesterday and we’re trying to finish it today. I have to say that, color, for me, if often a very integral part of telling the story. The power of color was something I discovered on 12:01 and then put it to really great use, in my opinion, on The Beautiful Lie. Color can really do a lot of things and is important part of the filmmaker’s toolbox (as is, focus, something I discovered, again, on 12:01 and put to better use on The Beautiful Lie, when I started using the Mini-25 adapters with cine-lenses).

However, I’ll admit that when I started working on “Superhero” I had no idea how I was going to use color and still didn’t when I shot it. The video for W&CK was somewhat subconscious as we utilized color for the little vignettes in the video and didn’t really put it all together until I was looking at the images in post, at which point, I went “Ah ha!” But with Superhero, I had no clue. It somewhat vexed me that we shot everything, performance included, at the same location with no lighting (except God’s, who granted us a diffused 20k for the day, free of charge) and we were shooting so fast that I wasn’t really concerned with it.

Then I got to editing and felt, while the video worked, it’d be nice to find someway to separate the two setups so that it didn’t feel like one location, even though it is. I was a little worried that it all mushed together.

And, through more discussions with James and Paul (the DP, remember?) we’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t want to do too much to separate the two, especially something unnatural, like having the performance we tinged blue and the kid be tinged orange.

So, really, James goal has now become to accentuate what’s already there and make it clean and pretty. And boy does it look pretty. Sadly, few will every see the video that I’m watching right now (unless, somewhere down the line Tim releases a Blu-ray version of it…hint, hint).

James just explained to me how he can change the color of Tim’s eyes, and only his eyes, and I didn’t understand a word of it. (Don’t worry, Tim, your eyes will look normal in the video.)

As a director, there’s no real trick to working with a colorist. A lot of it is just looking at the image and saying what you like or don’t like. As you sit there for long hours watching the images change little by little you begin to see what, I assume, James sees. You see how things look red or blue or green, how things are more contrasty or less contrasty, and then you begin to learn the language of how to collaborate and make it what you, as the director, need it to be. (I assume that this is the same as working with a composer, if you have no musical training.) The language of film is something that comes and goes, that is learned and must be re-learned every time you work on a new project. This is, perhaps, why certain directors like to shoot film after film after film. Like a foreign language, unless the skill is put to work, it atrophies. It never goes away completely, but it lays dormant until you use it again, when slowly but surely it comes back to you, like a dream upon waking.

And then it’s easy. Look at this, look at that, makes some tweaks and we’re out. Now, I’ve never color timed an entire film and can see how that would be a daunting task. Some movies these days can have upwards of 2000 shots! Going through those one by one requires patience and strength to get you through, what is arguably, somewhat boring days. As exciting as it is that you’re putting the movie together to truth of that matter is, most of your time is watching someone else do work (hence, my ability to write this blog and supervise coloring at the same time).

Nonetheless, it’s part of the job and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now.

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