BRINGING IMAGES TO LIFE: “We like to get involved in a project as early as possible,”
says Metcalf. “If you can work with a colorist during the shoot, the process of grading
and lighting becomes interactive, which means you don’t have to bend the image
around as much in post.”
Q&A with Nick Metcalf, colorist at Vision On, which specializes in color grading, editing
and retouching for creatives in both stills and motion. http://www.visionon.com
PDNedu: Where did you study photography,
and what did you do after graduation?
NM: I studied at the School of Visual Arts
in New York and, after graduating, began
working for photographer Todd Eberle,
who was putting together his first show
with Gagosian Gallery. Todd has a great
eye for detail and color. I supervised printing for his exhibition,
learning a lot that translates directly to what I do today.
After two years, I moved to Vision On, to get more experience
working digitally. I started as a digital tech but soon moved into
the film department. It took a lot of work to get up to speed,
but eventually I started going out on shoots. I now focus on
color grading and postproduction for that department.
PDNedu: What exactly does a colorist do?
NM: A colorist is responsible for the look of a film or commercial.
We work with the director and cinematographer to establish a color
palette and make sure each shot works together as part of the whole.
Having a background in photography helps me communicate with
cinematographers on a technical level. I also studied painting, so I
still use that color theory every day.
PDNedu: What kinds of personal attributes or technical
abilities are most essential to your success?
NM: Focus and attention to detail. It’s easy to get an image 90
percent there, but that last 10 percent can make a big difference.
The process can tend to get very technical, but, fundamentally,
it’s about having an appreciation for imagery.
PDNedu: What’s it like to work for your company?
NM: I’ve been at Vision On for about five years, but the company has
been around since 2001. We have a small core group and then reach
out to freelancers when we need to staff up. We also have a few internship positions that tend to attract some really talented people.
PDNedu: Do you deal directly with clients’ or are those
relationships managed by other company contacts?
NM: We have a really talented producer, Juan Peralta, who
handles most of the client-facing aspects, but when someone
comes in for a supervised grading session, they’ll sit in a dark
room with me for eight hours at a time, so communicating
with clients is a big part of the job.
PDNedu: What’s your workflow process?
NM: Typically, I’m there on the shoot day to set an initial look and keep
an eye on technical aspects relating to the camera. After the shoot, we
do an initial color pass for the dailies that go on to editorial for the of-fline. Once the edit has been locked, we conform back to the RAW files
in the grading system and do the final color and deliverables.
PDNedu: Is there any specific software that’s
particularly helpful to you?
NM: On my last few projects, I’ve been working with Filmlight’s
Baselight. It’s very customizable, which helps me configure things
to correspond to my stills background. I use a combination of
printer light adjustments similar to a color darkroom, plus all the
extra tools and plugins similar to Photoshop. Grading systems have
a more developed hardware to accommodate working at 24 frames
per second, so you have tools like object trackers and keyers that
allow you to isolate elements as they move through the frame.
PDNedu: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned
that you weren’t taught in school but should have been?
NM: I’ve learned a bit of programming, which I never thought I’d
need. We deal with a lot of data that needs to be managed, so I’ve
written some custom scripts that make my life a lot easier.
photos: © Nick Metcalf, headshot © Twin Lens Photography
PDNedu: Any final tips for students interested
in this line of work?
NM: Make sure you’re not color blind! EDU
To learn more about color grading, check out a
Baselight software video tutorial in PDNedu’s digital
edition < bit.ly/XxpmV6>, or visit < www.filmlight.
To read our full interview with Nick Metcalf, read
this article on < www.PDNedu.com>.