Ron Dawson at Dare Dreamer magazine conducted a really fun interview with me, the result of which is an eighty-six minute episode of the “Crossing the 180” podcast. We talk about the utility of film school, filmmaking and creativity, and of course, color correction. It’s a wider-ranging conversation then I usually get to participate in, and you might find it interesting.
I received some fantastic news this week from my collaborator, illustrator Ryan Beckwith, regarding our long-term project, Starship Detritus. He’s been laboring for months on the art for our pilot episode of this animated science-fiction series. This being a side-gig for both of us, his work as a commercial storyboard artist kept interrupting (damn you for being so successful, Ryan!), but getting the news that he’s finished is the biggest leap forward since I finished writing all 13 episodes of the first season.
Of course, now it means I need to get off my backside and start scheduling some After Effects character animators to put these images into motion. Ryan’s been creating high-resolution, multi-layered Photoshop comps (in conjunction with his assistant Ryan Zalis who aided with flatting and other assorted tasks). Working with our first animator, Steve Rein, the artwork has been constructed to accommodate skeletal and puppet-tool animation in After Effects.
Being an illustrator and not an animator, Ryan has gone in a much different direction with the artwork then in most animations. From the very first color tests he did, I was impressed with the texture and detail he brought to the world I’ve written, and it’ll be exciting to see the scenes come alive.
It’s a bit poignant; I used to work with After Effects every day back in the late 90’s, but having been focused on color correction for so long, at this point I’m so rusty that I’d rather work with faster artists to bring these characters to life. I’ll stick to animating the camera and framing of the final comps for rendering out the finished shots.
Of course, as the writer/director/editor, I’ve a few other things to handle. The very first thing I did, after Ryan and I storyboarded the first episode, and he created the first complete set of roughs, was to record a group of temp actors reading the script, and edit together an animatic in order to get the timing of the show right. This has been our reference going forward, and as soon as I get my hands on the full finished set of artwork, I’m looking forward to updating the animatic with the color art.
Which will take a bit of doing. The original animatic was put together in Final Cut Pro, but given this is such an After Effects-heavy project, I’m planning on moving the entire edit over to Premiere Pro in CS6, to take advantage of its AE integration. I’m hoping this creates some efficiencies. Besides, it’s an excuse to learn a new piece of software by doing something real, which I find is always the best way to learn.
Additionally, since this process has ended up taking far, far longer then it was supposed to (par for the course), I’ve begun novelizing this first season. As fun as the 13 episode, ten-minute-per-episode structure I used for the scripts has been, there’s additional story that my chosen format simply won’t accommodate. Prose has been a perfect outlet for the added bits, and the idea of telling this story across different platforms is tremendously appealing to me. At this point I’m 11,000 words into the novelization, and having tremendous fun with it. Alas, now my day job is interrupting, since working on the new version of the DaVinci Resolve 9 manual is proving to make scheduling creative time challenging.
Moving forward, there are plans within plans, and I’ll be sure to share more when there’s more to share. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grading and tech-writing work that I do, but creative projects like this are what brought me into post-production in the first place, and it’s gratifying to be making progress on my biggest creative project to date.
A few months ago I graded three web spots for the Mayo clinic at Minneapolis’ Splice Here, for whom I’ve been doing some freelance grading. They posted the full spot on a page highlighting some of my work.
It’s a fun high-style grade that splits the top and bottom halves of image tonality for separate rebalancing, employs selective desaturation using the hue curves, adds some subtle glow via luma keying, and includes some individual work on skin tones to keep them natural amidst all the stylizations. That’s one of the great things about working on spots, you get to dig so much deeper into the grade then with most other types of shows I work on.
And Mark Spencer and Steve Martin do their level best to keep me going in this hour and a half interview on MacBreak Live, wherein I discuss how I got started with color correction in the first place, why I like using Resolve, control surfaces, monitors, grading for the web, how I organize grades, how to move projects from Final Cut Pro X to Resolve, why experience matters, and what I think distinguishes colorists who take the craft seriously. It was a fun chat, I hope you like it.
For some reason, everything always happens while I’m traveling.
After a long delay due to many unexpected happenings last fall, I’m happy to announce that my first video training title for DaVinci Resolve is now available from Ripple Training. It’s a seven hour overview covering every aspect of Resolve functionality, from project import, through the myriad grading tools Resolve provides, and finishing with Resolve’s flexible methods for outputting your project.
While I started out intending to do a “quick rundown” of how to use Resolve, the depth and breadth of the application forced me to expand what I was doing. After all, I didn’t want anyone to miss out on any of Resolve’s many features for making a colorist’s life easier.
As a result, the title consists of 53 individual movies, each covering short, specific topics. If you’ve already been using Resolve for a while, this makes it easy to focus on just those features that interest you. Ripple did a great job editing, indexing, and finessing the media to make the workings of the interface clear to see and easy to follow.
Lastly, I designed the lessons so that you can download the free (as in beer) DaVinci Lite version of the application from Blackmagic Designs support, then download the media I use from Ripple (instructions are included), and follow along for no extra money. And the free Resolve Lite now runs on either OS X or Windows, so you can follow along no matter what your platform.
So please, check it out. It’s like hanging out with me all day for $79 US bucks. That’s less then three martinis in Oslo, and there’s no hangover.
There are sample movies, a topic outline, and more at the Ripple Training web site.
Production company Three Volts approached me to do some grading for a Park Nicollet spot they were doing. It’s a graphically treated spot (effects by Minneapolis-based Design Guys), but I was brought in to do specific work on the skin tones throughout.
The nature of the spot made the skin tones pretty easy to isolate for hue and saturation adjustment, but additional work involved whitening teeth, some subtle complexion smoothing, and contrast tweaking to match the graphics.
Interestingly, KARE 11 did a news story on locally-produced regional spots competing with their bigger-budget national counterparts that featured this commercial. Professionally produced graphics and color correction added necessary polish. If you ever ask yourself whether or not it’s worth the money to have your project graded, ask yourself how your project will compare to the competition if you don’t.
Last year I was the lead colorist for director Yan Vizenberg’s first feature, Cargo. The premiere was this last fall, and it was glowingly reviewed in both the New York Times and Hollywood Reporter, but I only recently noticed the new trailer.
This was the first film I’ve worked on with a second colorist. Due to scheduling constraints, I brought friend and colleague Patrick Inhofer on to work with me on the piece. After I spent a week with the director setting detailed looks for 3-4 shots within each scene, Patrick finished balancing the scenes while I was out of town. On my return, I reviewed the reels with the director and producers and made the final revisions and tweaks.
This was the last project I graded in New York while co-located with Twitch Post, prior to my move to the Twin Cities. Congratulations and best wishes to Persona Films. It’s a daring film with great performances, see it if you get the chance.
Was I ever surprised when my editor gave me a call and mentioned that my Color Correction Handbook has been translated into Japanese. I had no idea, but apparently it’s been on sale for a while. I’m flattered, and looking forward to hearing from someone who can actually read the language to tell me how I translate.
It’s pretty cool to flip through a book that you know so well, and see a completely different layout and language. I must say, I like what they’ve done with it, even if all I can do is gape at the pretty pictures. A strange, wondrous feeling of illiteracy while looking at my own book.
Well, it’s been a heck of a year. Moving from NYC to Saint Paul. Traveling all over the place. Reestablishing my career in a new locale. Seeing how well my book’s been selling. Overall, things have been just fantastic.
Alas, I’ve been too busy to put together any kind of elaborate season’s greetings, so you’ll have to settle for this picture of me and my dog, Penny.
However, as a gesture of holiday giving, and in recognition that my “Color Correction Handbook” remains the number two most wished for item in its category on Amazon.com (apparently video game writing and design is a more highly desirable career then color correction, who knew?), I’m doing a little contest for those of you on twitter.
The first three folks who come closest to guessing the length of my Dachshund, in either inches or centimeters, by the end of the day on Xmas eve (Central Time) get a free signed copy of my book sent to them, anywhere in the world. To enter, you need to tweet your guess with the hashtag #howlongismydog (if you don’t include the hashtag, I may not see your guess as I’m using a hashtag search to survey the guesses).
I’ll announce the winners on Christmas day, as that’s how I roll. However, I welcome non-Xmas celebrators to enter as well, since I figure getting free stuff is enjoyable for pretty much anybody. The three closest guesses win, my decision, no appeal.
So, there you have it. Merry Happy Whatever, everybody! I hope the year’s been reasonably good to you, that you’ve many fine prospects on the horizon, and that you’re not working yourself to death. Maybe you’re even taking some time off.
Update—Congratulations to @oliveira_mau, @AaronWeiler, and @eduserrano who came closest to guessing her length. For the record, she comes to approximately 32 inches.
Note to all clients, while I’ll be in Austin, Texas doing a DaVinci Resolve workshop on Wednesday November 16th from 8-10pm, never fear. My trustworthy assistant will be taking care of all grading sessions in my absence.
In other news that promises to make my presentation more interesting, at InterBEE (Japan’s equivalent of NAB or IBC), Blackmagic Designs announced that the newest version of DaVinci Resolve Lite now has no restrictions on the number of nodes you can use in a grade. Also, all versions of Resolve will start including DNxHD compatibility for free (you used to have to buy an additional $500 add-on).
Lite is still limited to SD/HD resolutions, has no noise reduction, stereoscopic tools, or remote grading, and is also limited to only using a single processing GPU. Otherwise, the free version just became a useful tool for doing all kinds of HD projects. You can read more here.
As I said on Twitter, use the money you save on Resolve Lite to buy yourself a control surface.
A few weeks ago I presented at the Boston Supermeet, showing off some new things in DaVinci Resolve 8.1 (the seventh update that Blackmagic Designs has released in 13 months, by the way). I discussed the many interoperability workflows that DaVinci Resolve is now compatible with (complete round trip workflows for FCP7, Media Composer, Premiere Pro, and FCPx), and I went on to show a variety of grading techniques using composite modes to create interesting effects.
Video of my Boston Supermeet presentation, hosted by the FCPUG network, has been edited and posted at the FCPUG SuperMeet YouTube channel, along with other presentations from the evening, including one by industry legend Walter Murch.
And By the Way
I’m going to be doing a two hour workshop in Austin, Texas, Wednesday, Nov. 16th from 8-10pm at “The Flying Saucer” bar. Because nothing goes with color correction like beer. Register at the Eventbrite page I’ve linked to to make the organizers feel like flying me out there is a good idea.
While checking out The Color Correction Handbook’s listing on Amazon, I noticed that there were some, let’s say enthusiastically priced used copies available. As far as I know, you can order this book in a pinch from Amazon.com’s US store from nearly everywhere, so I’m hoping this kind of international pricing is some sort of bizarre fluke. That said, I’d be interested in hearing just how many countries’ localized bookstores have copies, or at least a means of ordering locally.
While I’m on the subject of my book, I just got my quarterly report from my publisher, and sales have been great. A huge thank you to everyone who’s bought a copy and gave truth to my pitch that “people really want to learn about this whole grading thing.”
I’m remiss in not mentioning this earlier, but I’m doing a series of three presentations on DaVinci Resolve (sponsored by Blackmagic Designs). I believe my title sums up the content nicely–
Grade Faster Without Working Harder in DaVinci Resolve
I’ll be kicking off with a two-hour presentation; an informal overview of DaVinci Resolve, followed by a collection of techniques for manipulating key aspects of images quickly and efficiently using the software/hardware combination of DaVinci Resolve and its matching control surface. The third hour will be audience-driven Q&A (one of my favorite things). This is your opportunity to ask me anything you like about grading theory, practice, or DaVinci Resolve. I’m speaking at three different venues. Hope to see you at one of them!
- Thursday, Sept. 29th from 6-9 at Folsom Lake College, CA
- Thursday, Oct. 6th from 8-10 at San Francisco’s Academy of Art
Wednesday, Oct. 12th from 6-9 at Austin’s “The Flying Saucer”(postponed until further notice)
It seems like just yesterday that DaVinci released version 8.0.1 with its new color balance control interface, and DaVinci Lite, a free 2-node and HD-limited version. But, not content to rest on their laurels, DaVinci has eliminated a decimal place and announced DaVinci Resolve 8.1, with even more feature enhancements. Most are subtle, but welcome additions to a variety of users.
Top of the list is is enhanced AAF round trip support. A new Format popup in the Export Session dialog (that appears when you click the Export button in the Conform page) lets you choose whether to export XML or AAF (previously it only expoted XML). Choosing AAF generates a file for Media Composer that can be directly relinked to the media you output from Resolve.
Furthermore, when importing AAF files, Resolve now reads a variety of video transitions (dip to color, wipes, and iris transitions), composite modes, and transform parameters into your session. This will be welcome news for colorists wanting greater effects fidelity from project import.
Incidentally, transforms from Final Cut Pro (Position, Rotation, Scale) are now imported from XML projects, allowing you to render these effects using Resolve’s superior transform algorithms.
For those of you using EDLs day in and day out, a new contextual menu command–available from the Conform page’s Timeline–lets you load an EDL directly to a new track. If you’re the kind of person who needs this, you’ve just now come up with three different ways you’ll use this feature.
Next up is support for the new ACES “Academy Color Encoding Specification” standard. While comparatively few facilities need ACES right this second, it’s becoming clear that ACES is the future of media exchange in post, and DaVinci is being foward-looking by its inclusion. ACES support can be seen initially as a new option in the “Color Science Is” popup of the Project tab.
With “DaVinci ACES” selected, two new popups appear in the LUTS tab, which allow you to choose an Input Device Transform (a characterization of the source camera), and an Output Device Transform (a characterization of the target display or projector).
Finally, contextual menu item available from the thumbnails within the Browse and Color pages allow you to redefine the Input Device Transform on a per-clip basis, in cases where you’re mixing media from different cameras.
While we’re looking at per-clip options, a new contextual menu item for clips in the Media Pool lets you redefine the individual Data Level of clips. In previous versions of Resolve, the Data Level was a project-wide setting that determined which digital values in your source media mapped to the minimum and maximum levels in Resolve. In a nutshell, Y’CbCr source media typically used the “Normally Scaled Legal Video” setting, while RGB source media (think film scans) used the “Unscaled Full Range Data” setting.
However, you were in trouble if you had a mix of both kinds of media. Now, you can use this Media Pool submenu command to individually redefine clip data ranges in this situation.
If you’re still working with DVCPRO HD media (I continue to have documentaries coming in using this format), you’ll be pleased to know that DaVinci has finally added the DVCPRO HD pixel aspect ratio to the PAR dialog box.
Now, all these workflow features are nice and all, but there are also some solid additions for grading and effects. For example, if you hover your mouse over a node in the node graph, a tooltip appears showing you what adjustments have been made within that node, giving you an organizational heads-up.
Not impressed yet? Well, the Layer node, which until now simply combined multiple input nodes according to order and opacity (set via the Key tab’s Post Mixing Gain slider), now lets you choose a composite mode to use to combine all of the inputs. Now all you composite mode junkies can go nuts right from within the Node Graph.
Another valuable little feature is the ability to copy one node’s settings (select the node and press Command-C), and paste them into another existing node in another shot (select another node, press Command-V. Along with all dynamics (marks, or keyframes, whichever you prefer to call them). This is similar to Final Cut Pro’s “Paste Attributes” command, except without any options, you simply copy and paste all settings at once.
Lastly, 8.1 continues to refine the use of the Timeline in the Conform page, enabling you to copy and paste clips in the Timeline of the Conform page. Select a clip, press Command-C, and then move the playhead and click a track number button to determine where the pasted clip should go, and press Command-V. It’s the little things, right?
So those were the features that grabbed my eye. There’s more to the release, but honestly, those engineers deserve a break. And a beer.
My apologies if you’ve been trying to read something on my blog today, as it’s been in a somewhat unfortunate state of transition. I’ve decided to go for a more minimalistic look, and I’m trying out some different approaches towards readability. The current layout seems to be an interesting improvement.
What do you think? Leave me some feedback in the comments.