What was your journey in post like?
I started my career in 2003 at Rhinoceros Editorial in the traffic department, running around NYC in the snowy winter delivering 3/4 tapes to advertising agencies. I moved into the machine room for a few months learning all the decks and patch bays, and then went into the assistant online editor position. This was right around the time of HD really breaking out, so instead of moving into the offline editorial position, I decided to stay on the post side. This is where I was introduced to the Avid DS. In 2005, I took the leap to Postworks to continue as an Avid DS Online Assistant. Although instead of just assisting, I was thrown into the fire on the very first day by having to run my own session. After a few years I moved on to being a full online editor using Avid Media Composer and the Symphony color correction tool. My first ever color job was a series called ‘Carrier’ for PBS; the DP, Bob Hannah, won an Emmy award for Outstanding Cinema Photography, and was nice enough to give me an Emmy Citation for my help on the series. I guess you can say my first taste of color was a successful one.
When did you first use Baselight for Avid? And what about Baselight?
I was introduced to Baselight Editions around the summer of 2012. I really didn’t know FilmLight or Baselight, so I watched all of the tutorials online and just started playing with it. This opened my eyes to many more possibilities in color, and also to workflows conforming in Avid and working with the full Baselight system. By the fall, I was starting to incorporate it into my Avid projects. I would color most of the shows on Symphony, and then dive into the plugin when I felt the need for extra tools and more specific color correction. Later that same fall, I started to migrate more of my projects entirely over to the full Linux system, familiarising myself with the different UI and Blackboard panel even more. From there I just utilised whatever was available at the time. If the full systems were booked up, I might start my color in the plugin, then migrate over to the full system and back and forth; that’s one of the many beautiful things about the plugin.
What do you see as the key benefits of Baselight for Avid?
First of all, you get an amazing set of color tools right there within your editorial platform. This is just truly unbelievable. You go from being inside a certain box, to being able to think outside of the box and being able to do everything that your mind and eyes want to do, instead of ‘settling’ for what you could do before.The second huge benefit is the workflow between Avid and the full Baselight system. At Technicolor PostWorks, we were able to create workflows and design them in a way that not only saved time and money, but made things so much more efficient. Things like being able to share a small AAF instead of a flattened full program, to sharing BLG grades, to keeping the grade live throughout the whole post process, to doing first pass coloring on a show within Avid, then handing it off to myself or another colorist on the full system. This includes following color space journeys. Especially when working with different cameras, you can treat each camera/shot in its own way, and no matter what systems you’re on, you can be sure that it’ll all look the same. It’s a little bit of work, but it can be incredibly helpful, especially when it comes to multi-format docs. In general, one of the best things is that it opens the door to so many options as an operator, I never feel tied down to having to do something a certain way.
What do your clients say?
There are many things about Baselight Editions that the clients love, depending on the project. For example, if it has a very complicated Avid timeline, like multiple layers, many Avid effects, multiple screens, then being able to access the Baselight color toolset right within Avid is very impressive. I will just stay in Avid and color within the plugin, or use it in combination with the Symphony toolset.For jobs that require moving to the full Baselight system, being able to send over and receive small AAF files to the colorist, is a huge timesaver. Another plus factor is with last minute editorial changes, whether it’s an edit or a new VFX shot, we are able to apply the full color effect via BLG files, even when the colorist or full system are not available. And my favorite part is that even after all of that is done and we are watching the final showdown, if the client wants to make a last-minute color change or correct something, I can go into the color stack and fix it right away. So basically instead of needing two systems, two operators and extra time, it’s right there at my fingertips.
How does the plugin behave on the Avid timeline?
The plugin acts just like every other Avid effect, which is nice because you can use it directly on clips or as a filler layer. So, depending on the complexity of the timeline itself, you can select the right workflow.
You’re both an editor and a colorist. Where does editing end and finishing start for you?
Hmmm, that’s a trick question! Does editorial ever really stop? [He laughs].
I’m a person who tries to be as organised and cleaned up as possible, and because I do both jobs, I try very hard not to mix them up. I really like to have all of my attention on the task at hand. So, that means spending as much time as I need to clean up shots and getting editorial as close to 100% as I can before even turning my focus onto the color. This way when I am coloring I don’t have to think about, ‘did I remember to fix that stutter, or resize this or that, or paint that boom out?’But that’s both the beauty and curse of it. When you tell your clients that they still have the ability to edit even though we are coloring, it can open a can of worms. But I like doing both sides, so it’s really exactly what I want. One of my biggest philosophies is to never tell the client ‘no, or ‘I can’t’. And I think (and hope) that’s one of the things that clients like.
How do you approach color grading?
Do you have a particular style of working, or is it dependent on the project?The short answer is that it’s always dependent on the project. Promos/commercials are different from TV; TV is different from documentaries; all are different from film, and so on. But, I think I approach color in a very similar way to most: expose the shot so you can see everything you have to work with, add some color and contrast, then just dive into shaping and stylizing it. I do like to separate things into certain layers. I will never mix my initial exposure layer with anything else, and the same goes for my initial color layer. Even as I move down or up the stack, I try to keep things neat; I guess that probably comes from the finishing editor in me. Sure you can do many operators in one layer, but that, to me, would just get messy. I like to know where everything is and be able to jump back to it immediately if I need to. And with unlimited layers, why not take advantage of it? I do love that Baselight works in layers. For me that’s familiar and it was fairly easy for me to understand that process, which was probably why I was so drawn to it so quickly.