Colorist

There's an old story about the original "Star Trek" television series that illustrates the job of the colorist. It seems in an early episode, there was an alien woman who had green skin. The makeup department did a wonderful job making her look as if green were her actual skin tone. The scene was shot and sent off to the lab. When the print came back for dailies, the green woman had miraculously become white. Thinking there was something wrong with the way they had shot the scene, the crew went back in and reshot the green woman. Again the film came back from the lab with a white woman. This time the film crew went to the lab to find out what was happening. The technicians at the lab had seen the film come in, seen the green woman, and assumed their equipment had made a mistake. They color-corrected for the green and sent back a woman the right color for a Caucasian human but the wrong color for an alien. Eventually it all got worked out, and the episode became one of the classics from the original series.

Whether that's a true story or not, it tells you what the colorist does. He or she makes sure the color density and shade are consistent from shot to shot.

The colorist works with the director of photography, finding out what the original colors were and what the DP was looking for in terms of color saturation. Then, when the print is being processed, the colorist adjusts the color to match the real-life situation. The colorist also matches for scenes that feature the same setting or costumes, so if an actor is wearing a deep blue jacket in one scene, the same jacket is not a muddy grey in the next.

There are different ways to work with color and become a col-orist. When working with film, the easiest way is to find a lab where you can work.

In video, a colorist (also known as a telecine operator) is responsible for matching the color as the film is transferred to video for editing or broadcast purposes.

Either way, you need to have a good eye for color and a fine sense for detail. You can't start as a colorist, but working at any of the film labs in Hollywood (such as FotoKem, Technicolor, Crest National Film Laboratories, or Consolidated Film Industries) or any postproduction house in an entry-level position will get you in the door.

The rest is up to you.

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