My first love continues to be narrative screenwriting, most of which is intertwined with the projects I direct. My most recent screenwriting projects include the documentary-style promo Shenzhen Symphony, co-writing the Chinese language Carry My Heart to the Yellow River, writing the dystopian science-fiction thriller, Checksum (currently in postproduction), writing and development of the as-yet unproduced action-horror series Hidden Among Us, and writing the science-fiction thriller short The Place Where You Live (now available on YouTube).
Previous project include writing and developing an unproduced 13-episode animated science fiction series titled Starship Detritus, which I developed with illustrator Ryan Beckwith; four feature length spec scripts—Four Weeks, Four Hours (a survival drama which I also produced and directed), Walking to Frackville (drama), The Vampire Hunters (horror/adventure), and Dating the Devil (comedy). Before that I wrote several shorts including Peace & Quiet (science fiction), as well as the five episode radio serial Deadpan Alley (which aired on Santa Cruz, California radio station KZSC in 1991).
Technical Writing and Education
It’s no secret that, in-between writing/directing independent movies and working as a colorist, I also consult for software companies that make postproduction applications, and write user manuals and third party books to educate new generations of postproduction professionals. Here’s the list.
DaVinci Resolve 9, 10, 11, 12,12.5, 14, 15, 16, 17
While I did some revisions and new feature documentation in the DaVinci Resolve 8 user manual, Blackmagic Design hired me to do a total rewrite for DaVinci Resolve 9. It ended up being a 600 page, near total rewrite (to give you some perspective, the previous version of the manual was 435 pages). It was quite a challenge keeping up with the DaVinci Resolve team as they piled on the improvements and evolved the interface far beyond previous versions, not the least because of my additional involvement as a product advisor, working with the DaVinci Resolve product design and engineering teams to improve workflow and design important new features and enhancements. Today, I’m extremely proud of my work on both the application and the manual. I continued to be the sole author, updating the manual to keep pace with new features in versions 10 through 17, bringing the total page count to a whopping 3,016 pages with the addition of the Fairlight, Fusion, and Cut pages. Happily, after version 16.0 I stopped being the only writer for the DaVinci Resolve documentation, with three other contributing writers helping me out beginning with the documentation for 16.1.
Back in version 9, the update did not go unnoticed. Joe Herman at the NYC Production & Post News site writes “Before we dive into the most important new features in Resolve 9, let’s take a moment to talk about something many other companies seem to forget about these days: a good manual. Looking like it’s been completely rewritten, the manual now tops out at a thorough 600 pages full with tastefully handled graphic design and loads of helpful illustrations… The new manual thus doesn’t take it for granted that the reader is a color suite veteran, but starts out with an intro to color correction’s fundamental concepts. An in-depth tutorial covers a remarkable amount of ground on how to work with Resolve, including how to import a project, using Resolve’s core grading tools and then rendering it all out. Hundreds of concisely written pages of in-depth reference about every facet of Resolve follow. Nice job.”
Best of all, the entire manual is available as a free download at the Blackmagic Design support site.
The best-selling book at the NAB bookstore two years running has now been revised with a second edition, with over two hundred pages of new material. My platform-agnostic book covers all aspects of professional color correction theory and practice, providing information ranging from room setup, detailed color and contrast theory, practical grading techniques, QC adherence, and scene balancing, to memory color and image ideals, along with a wealth of creative techniques. Whether you’re just starting out or have been grading for a while, there’s something for colorists of all levels.
I’m proud to say that the Handbook has garnered wide-ranging praise. Here are some of the things folks had to say about the previous edition.
- Jim Hemphill wrote a glowing review at the ASC web site, saying “Plenty of books about color correction are on the market, but for sheer scope, depth and accessibility, it is tough to beat Alexis Van Hurkman’s Color Correction Handbook. A lavishly illustrated, meticulously written guide to color timing, it jams more than 500 pages with essential information for graders, editors and cinematographers alike. From the initial stages of setting up a work environment to the final output for film or television exhibition, Van Hurkman’s tome covers a vast array of techniques and tools equally applicable to student filmmakers coloring their own projects in Final Cut Pro and professional colorists in Digital Intermediate suites. By adopting an “application agnostic” method and attacking color from a multitude of theoretical and practical perspectives, Van Hurkman has crafted a definitive textbook on the subject.”
- Marc Wielage, senior colorist at Lowry Digital in Burbank, wrote “I have no doubt Van Hurkman’s book is as close as we’re going to get to a standard textbook for the world of color correction. If nothing else, I think it communicates the idea to neophyte filmmakers that there’s far more to color-correction than just having the software or the box. It’s *experience* that makes good color — not the system.”
- Rob Lingelbach, colorist and founder of the TKcolorist Internet Group (TIG) said “From Alexis Van Hurkman comes an up-to-date, most welcome, encyclopedic guide for colorists… The breadth of this work is almost impossibly ambitious: Van Hurkman embraces all the important topics, and the liberal use of illustrated examples, with accompanying waveforms and solutions from various platforms, succeeds in providing a single reference work for the colorist at almost any level of expertise…. Colorists will find gaps in their knowledge are as well-served by this book as the aspiring colorist already under the tutelage of a master.”
- Katherine Sierra, on Amazon, wrote “This book has not only given me a much richer understanding of how to use the tools for color correction and grading, but it has also given me a much better sense of what, why, and when to apply certain approaches to correct typical problems I was struggling with constantly including noise and underexposure… The format is extremely useful and learner-friendly, with a conversational tutoring style that walks you through a wide range of common problems then showing you not just the BEST adjustment, but also the other possible adjustments you might imagine trying, and then you can see the results with the waveform next to each image… I am so grateful for this book. This is a fairly complex topic, but once you begin to understand the use of the scopes, your confidence and skills will take a huge leap forward. Thank-you to Alexis for such a wonderful book.”
- Fellow filmmaker and Adobe guru Maxim Jago wrote “There are many textbooks that explain media technology but this stands out because it gives you a very personal view on the ‘why’, not just the ‘what’. As well as giving the reader a very clear understanding of the universal colorist challenges and the tools to respond to them, the book is filled with real world examples… There are often several ways to achieve a good result in post and this book helps the reader understand how to gauge finished work against objective standards.
- Vincent LaForet gave the book a succinct recommendation alongside other industry-leading books on production and post, saying simply “One of the best resources for understanding digital color correction.”
In addition, several schools and universities have adopted the Color Correction Handbook as a textbook in their classes on color grading and postproduction, and I can think of no more satisfying endorsement then that.
Color Correction Look Book
When I updated the Color Correction Handbook to its second edition, there were two hundred additional pages that wouldn’t fit. As a result, the Color Correction Look Book was born, splitting out advanced creative techniques from the Handbook into an alphabetically indexed “cook book” of creative looks that you can mix and match to create your own signature looks. I walk you through twenty-one categories of creative grading techniques, designed to give you an arsenal of stylizations you can pull out of your hat when the client asks for something special, unexpected, and unique. Each chapter presents an in-depth examination and step-by-step, cross-platform breakdown of stylistic techniques used in music videos, commercial spots, and cinema.
DaVinci Resolve Titles for Ripple Training
I’ve had a long history doing video tutorials about DaVinci Resolve for Ripple Training, garnering a reputation for doing some of the most comprehensive tutorials in the industry for an enthusiastic audience (my more comprehensive titles often hit somewhere around 30 hours of content). These titles began with tutorials on color grading in versions 9 and 10, but they expanded to include titles on editing as DaVinci Resolve’s capabilities grew in versions 11, 12, 12.5, and 15.
Autodesk Smoke Essentials
If you’re new to Autodesk Smoke for Mac, this guide will get you up to speed on the key tools in a practical, hands-on way. Featuring approachable, task-based exercises taken from the real world, this full-color, step-by-step book walks you through a professional workflow with the editing, compositing and finishing tool. Best of all, the book comes with a download link to high quality footage from my movie, “The Place Where You Live,” that you can use to follow the editing and effects exercises in the book. Full coverage scenes, and ProRes 4444 footage for keying make this footage a fantastic learning experience.
I wrote this electronic-only book (available as an ePub or for Amazon’s Kindle) to get users quickly up to speed with the Adobe-acquired SpeedGrade color correction application (now obsolete). A series of hands-on tutorials walked users though nearly every aspect SpeedGrade functionality. “Getting Started” was then upgraded to the Adobe SpeedGrade Classroom in a Book, which was made available in print.
I co-authored this book alongside Michael Wohl and Mark Spencer, contributing chapters on color correction, finishing, and using Compressor. Final Cut Pro X has some surprisingly impressive color correction tools, and this book showed you how to take advantage of them. Users who were only interested in a short primer on color correction in Final Cut Pro X, a digital version of just my “basics” chapters was also available for only $1.99 at Amazon.
My original book on color correction in Final Cut Pro (classic) was the Encyclopedia of Color Correction. If you wanted to learn how to do maximum color correction in Final Cut Pro 7, this book showed a wide variety of techniques that you may not have thought possible.
It got some great reviews:
- DV magazine gave it four diamonds, with reviewer Matthew Jeppsen calling it “A good mix of background tech details and concise, effective techniques that would-be colorists immediately can employ.” link
- Patrick Inhofer at FiniTV says “…I had to note the excellent entry on Broadcast Legality and the following entry on [the] Broadcast Safe Filter. These two topics confuse hobbyists and professionals alike. This book does a better job explaining these topics than anything I’ve read anywhere else, ever.” link
- Consultant and fellow writer Larry Jordan wrote “Since starting Edit Well, I have become a huge fan of Alexis van Hurkman. His books on color and color effects in Final Cut are excellent and he now has a new book out on Advanced Color, which I used as one of my sources during my recent seminar tour… I recommend it highly.”
- Shane Ross, editor and author of the blog Little Frog in HD, wrote me to say “This book explains the nuts and bolts of color correction in such a way that you don’t need to be a professional Colorist or engineer to get what is being said. Yet it also contains all the information that a professional colorist might need to understand how color correction within FCP works. I own a couple tutorial DVDs on color correction, but this book covers not only the basics, but goes more in depth and reveals some of the advanced features of the built in 3-way color corrector. It is the perfect color correction manual for the novice as well the advanced colorist.”
- Paul Escandon, editor and motion graphics designer for The Outdoor Channel, was also kind enough to write me saying “My role is slowly shifting to one of a colorist and graphical finisher here on our original programming and I thought I needed a resource that provides me with real world examples… This book is amazing! I’m only through page 180 and I’ve learned more than I ever knew about color.”
- Michael Elmkjr Madson from Denmark wrote “As a casual but pro user of FCP – this book has proven invaluable. It’s very well written and packed with useful information. It’s clearly written by a pro for pros. With a no nonsense attitude it delivers real life solutions that’s applicable for commercial use, and there’s some tips and tricks in here I haven’t seen anywhere else…”
It’s an encyclopedically organized collection of articles that compiles methods and information I’ve found valuable while working with my own clients, combining specific color correction techniques with technical information relevant to colorists and finishing editors, with hands-on exercises throughout.
I cowrote the now out-of-print Advanced Color Correction and Effects in Final Cut Pro, part of the Apple Pro Training Series published by Peachit Press. Excerpted chapters from this book covering the use of color correction filters in Final Cut Pro were later moved to Color Correction in Final Cut Studio.
Color 1.5 New Features Videos for Ripple Training
On behalf of Ripple Training, I created a one-hour set of instructional videos covering every new feature in Color 1.5, providing a focused tour of the new features and workflows available in this upgrade to Final Cut Studio 3.
Color Video Training for Magnet Media
Years ago, I did my very first video training title for Magnet Media, recording lessons for the JumpStart Color title in their Digital Media Training Series. This title provided a solid foundation with 13 lessons—over four hours of training—spanning the entire application, from set up, through each corrective room of the Color interface, and wrapping up with rendering your final output.
Columns in Edit Well
I was a contributing writer for Larry Jordan’s Edit Well, the interactive newsletter about Final Cut Studio, with an ongoing column on color correction. Many of my articles from the series, and others from experts in Final Cut Studio applications, have been collected into the verbosely named book Edit Well: Final Cut Studio Techniques from the Pros.
RED/Final Cut Studio White Papers
On behalf of both Apple and RED DIGITAL CINEMA, I wrote and updated the RED Final Cut Studio 2 and 3 Whitepapers, that cover the most ideal postproduction and finishing workflows when using media from the RED camera with Final Cut Studio 2 and 3.
Apple Pro Apps User Documentation
I drew upon upon my postproduction experience on behalf of Apple as one of the founders of the User Publications group, responsible for documenting Apple’s professional digital video applications. Much of my work was done on staff, but I also freelanced for Apple as the author of the Color and Final Cut Studio Workflows documentation.
- Sole author of the Color 1.0 and 1.5 User Manual
- Sole author of the Final Cut Studio: Workflows guide
- Wrote the Shake 3.5 New Features Guide and expanded and reorganized the Shake 4 User Manual
- Contributing author to the Motion 1.0 User Manual and Motion 5 User Manual
- Lead and primary writer of the Final Cut Pro User Manual for versions 2, 3, and 4
Early Awards for Technical Writing
The Final Cut Pro 2 User Manual won a Touchstone 2001 award for Excellence from the Northern California STC. The Final Cut Pro 4 User Manual also won an award for Excellence from the Rocky Mountain STC.