Interested in what it takes to forge a career in color grading? Taylre explains how he got a foothold in the industry and how he learned programs like Premiere Pro, Colorista, and the color-dedicated platform DaVinci Resolve in his own time, using training from libraries like ours.
Skill Level Intermediate
(jazz music) - [Voiceover] Editors do a good job when you don't notice the edits. It's similar with a colorist. You don't wanna see a huge difference between shots within in a scene. (trance music) Color correction is fixing things like if there's an exposure issue and then color grading is more of a stylizing, giving it a certain aesthetic.
Creating a type of film look that would be done through a chemical process but now it's digitally done. You have certain colors that are really complementary to other colors just in the human mind, so as you enhance those colors to really match, it really makes it the most pleasant looking it can look. (trance music) Before I was ever even considered being a colorist or anything like that, I was in school for genetics because I've always been intrigued by biology and all that kind of stuff.
Took some video editing classes as fillers and from that point I kinda just fell in love with the film-making aspect and I was spending five, six hours a day after school just watching tutorials, studying, trying to learn as much as I could about cameras and sensors, and just all the different elements. I was always looking to bring my work to another level. I wanted to figure out "How do I make this look more professional?" "How do I make this look more high-end?" I learned about color grading and for me it was literally love at first sight.
Became my obsession, of my obsession, if that can even be possible. And for me the process really was a growing process. I began just with the basic tools in Adobe Premiere, moving from there into something called Colorista, from Colorista to Magic Bullet Looks, but I knew it wasn't dedicated enough and so I went into DaVinci Resolve. I probably spent six months just to learn Resolve, learn the ins and outs of all the buttons, all the tools, cause I knew I wanted to be a colorist, and move into a color dedicated platform.
So as I've been working as a colorist, I learned that from Alexis Van Hurkman's book, the Color Correction Handbook, he kinda talks about six key points of what a colorist's duties are. The first duty is that's he's doing is he's adjusting elements of your contrast, your exposures, you're correcting those types of things. This is part of the color correction process. And what we're starting with here first is I just brought in a little bit of contrast and saturation and then I adjusted my white balance and exposure properly.
That's a correction. The second element is gonna be something called making your key elements look right. So a key element really is gonna be something like your skin tones. If you have bad looking skin tones, it's just not gonna look good. So here we see in this image I did a bunch of adjustments to the image but as I was making those adjustments it really pushed his skin tone to a magenta red, pretty ugly, I'm correcting that, getting that fixed to a proper state.
Now we go into what's called color grading, where you're stylizing an image. So I've created more of a vintage, kind of a crunchier image, and obviously everything feels more warm, more sunset type of feel. Sometimes you've got shots that are kind of not matched. So here we've got a sunset. I enhanced it with some more warmth. Now we've established that warm tone, all those things, now I need to carry that throughout the rest of this scene that's happening. So we're gonna cut to the characters. They're sitting here on this boat.
It's not very golden. It doesn't have that same tone, so I've gotta match those. First adjustment I'm gonna do, I'm just gonna bring in that warm tone in the highlights. It's a little blown out in the sky on the left so just dialing that down, bringing a little more saturation in there. And that pretty much sets it there. So now we go into what's called creating depth to the image. Creating depth both in the image itself, but also in the emotions that are happening with this character. So we've got this character here.
Obviously you can see he has a look of agony, of pain, of sorrow, on his face. Beginning creating your initial saturation adjustments, creating that contrast that we want, and from that point, I'm creating some lighting adjustments, bringing more attention to the character's face, and then I'm gonna go in and create more depth with the color tones of the image. I brought in some cooler tones to bring a little bit of a sense of sadness, that it's late at night. And then from that point, increasing kinda that contrast in color, between the warm light that's shining on the wall, and the moonlight that's coming in from the windows and then adding just a touch more contrast to really feel more gritty for that character.
So that creates a big depth of both emotion for the character, and we're creating depth of the actual visual image itself. My last step is quality control. There are quality control standards that a colorist has to live by. So when you're putting out anything for broadcast, if your saturations are too high, if you have luminance values that are too high, you're gonna get your stuff spit back. They're not gonna accept it, you're not gonna be able to broadcast it. So you have to make sure to keep everything what's called broadcast legal and follow the quality control standards.
(banjo music) So when I was learning to color grade and kinda learning about color correction I did a lot of just Youtube searching, trying to look at what tutorials there were. There was a color program called Color Slide School, Patrick Inhofer, I believe he's with Lynda. Com, does tutorials for them. Patrick had some courses. I went there and did those and I kind of learned "Okay, I do know what I'm doing." "I have learned the technical elements correctly." "I am on track." And there's a point where you learn enough of the tools that, that only gets you so far.
The rest becomes your own creative decisions that you're making. And so I went into the industry doing just production type of things, production assistant. I interned with some companies here in Kansas City. But I continued in my own spare time to continue to learn as much as I could about color. (banjo music) Really from there it was coloring a lot of people's just free work, or really low-budget stuff, just for fun, kinda getting my name out there.
I knew a lot of em from being a production assistant. I knew a lot of different DPs and stuff like that. Having the people that are shooting say "Hey, I know this guy, he's really good, you should talk to him." And doing all that kinda stuff was really beneficial for me. Cause word of mouth was my biggest seller in the beginning, all word of mouth. (classical music) One big factor for me was there wasn't really anybody that specialized in color in Kansas City at the time. For me I'm born and raised here, so I have kind of a hometown pride, that I love to kinda like just say "Hey, I'm a Kansas City native." And so for me, I love being here.
I love Kansas City and my other purpose in being in Kansas City was to be able to bring quality work to the local market to where they could come sit with me, we could really design some looks, really enhance the images, make the work that came out of this city just that much better. (country music) Anytime I see an image, what we're gonna think about first is what's the emotions of the character because that's the most important element, for me as a colorist, is to really help tell the emotion of the scene.
So what's happening with this character at this moment, him and his brother kind of having a strange relationship and they're kind of distant from each other. The feeling that I was sensing was kind of this feeling of isolation, of separation. And so to me that had, in my mind, as soon as I think about that, I think about blues, as being kind of that loneliness feeling, that's a typical emotional feel for blue. But typically what I do as a colorist is I like to work in what's called red film log. So I'm gonna go into the camera metadata, I'm gonna change that over to red film log, so we see this here, red log film.
Now the image looks even more desaturated, it looks a little brighter. And the benefit of that is I can see where I can truly stretch that full stretch to that image. So my first thought process was I really wanna give an interesting vibe to the background. And in this process we actually talked about utilizing LUTs and we actually decided upon kind of a Kodak LUT. So it kind of emulates the film stock of Kodak and so I'll go ahead and turn that on.
So we see right off the bat, we're getting a nice, rich contrast. And it actually looks pretty good just right off the bat. The second thing I'm gonna do after that adjustment is I'm gonna go ahead and put in some saturation, kind of tweak the lighting just a little bit more. I kind of had the image in the general color tones that I wanted it to have. So then I wanted to just really bring my attention, my focus to the character. So I create what's called power windows to really draw and isolate areas of light and enhance areas of light or color or whatever may be.
But in this instance, it's gonna be lighting. And so this first adjustment I'm doing here is real subtle, slight vignetting to just the tip edges of the image, very small to see, but it just kinda draws your eye in just a touch. Bringing some exposure up on the character. So you can see this window. I created this light pool here, or enhanced the light in that pool so you can see that. I did it again on the character specifically, just to make him pop just a touch more. Then this one, I'm isolating.
This light's just a little too bright. I wanna really draw my attention on the character right here. So what I did was I drew a gradient here, drew down the light just a touch, and then last but not least, brought up just a little bit bit more of this foreground so that my eye doesn't draw too much into the background, but kinda draws more towards the foreground. So let me just give you an example before and after. This is our starting point. This is our finishing point, before and after. (trance music) What I'll find is they'll be films that I loved the way it looked, but I never get to see what did the colorist do to it.
And I'm sure that's part of their secret sauce, they don't wanna reveal a lot of the things that they're doing, but for me, I believe that they could be real inspiring to the creative market if they would do those kind of things. So on Vimeo I've created different color wheels from different films I've worked on. And there was one film in particular, The House on Pine Street, that I worked on. That Vimeo video that I created was kind of just a breakdown of some the scenes I did and some breakdowns of the color in those scenes.
And what happened was I posted it just for the cast and crew to see, and somebody posted it to Reddit and from there it became in one of the top five videos on Reddit and just blew up. It's got a good million views or so on it now and just continues to keep being an exposure tool for me. Since that Vimeo video went on the internet and went viral, I've worked for commercials in other countries like Australia, Kuwait. There's not a marketing tool that I could've used that would've been more successful at just getting my name out there.
With this film, it was a lot of fun. It was just a great story. It's kind of a psychological horror. First adjustment I'm doing is typically my contrast and saturations. From that point, just increasing the contrast a little bit more, bringing out some of the detail of her hair and things. I'm bringing more attention to here face. From there, I brought in the blues. This is a very kinda teal and orange type of a film and so it creates more visual color contrast in the image, makes the palettes themselves are pleasing because they're opposite spectrum so they create more of a pop to the image, more of a contrast to the image.
Now this shot here, this is during a nightmare scene. I really wanted to be able to enhance that but I wanted it to feel very scary, like it's in this really abandoned, scary hallway. So here we're working with the log. So the first thing I'm gonna do is enhance the saturations and the contrast like I always do. But it wasn't scary enough for me, I wanted to push it. This is surreal, this is a nightmare. And so I even pushed the contrast just a bit more, brought out more of the shadows around the door.
I was getting way too much of my eye drawn to the foreground, these doors, and this beginning of the hallway. And I wanted to focus my attention on the actual door floating in the middle of the hall. So creating kinda that isolation of light, dropping down all that light, I'm drawing my eye to the middle. But now what happens is it's not the right tone. I want it to be scary, which to me was this blue tone that carries throughout the film. So I increase this blue tone into the shot. Now after doing that, this doorway's an red-orangish color.
And that really needed to stand out so what I had to do was go back and isolate the reds of that door and pop it out, really make that door stand out from the scene, really make it pop and draw your eye and attention to that door. (clapping) (rock music) One thing that you run into as a colorist is an image is never good enough. You can continue to tweak an image for the rest of your life and never find like "This is perfect." Trial and error is your biggest teacher.
Experimenting, trying things out, playing around, you start to learn how different camera types like react to your color. There's a lot of also Photoshop, like retouching types of techniques, just watching and looking at a lot of different photographer's styles that they do. All those kinds of things help me to kinda get that beginning process. And then in terms of technical elements, there's a lot that you can learn from just different color correction handbooks, or textbooks, or whatever may be about color correction.
That really helps you to understand all the technical things that you need to know as a colorist. And so from that point, really the only end is whatever your creative mind can think up.