It was great having the chance to speak with longtime LAPPG member and expert colorist Tal about his work, how he’s spent his time during the pandemic, his go-to tools and his advice for people wanting to get into this field. Meet Tal!
Los Angeles Post Production Group: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Tal. We’ve been fortunate to have you present and showcase some of your impressive work at LAPPG over the years. How did you get started as a colorist?
TAL: I was an online editor and finisher for years and did color with the tools I had in the linear online rooms and later with what Avid Symphony had to offer. Once DaVinci Resolve was released as software by Blackmagic Design I gave it a try on a tough color job I was working on and never looked back. For me, it was a very natural progression of the finishing work I was doing before. I always look around and try to learn more and better myself. Grading work came as the next step to make my work look better.
LAPPG: What are some of your favorite go-to tools?
T: I always start and (for now) finish my work in Avid Symphony, since most of my projects are cut on Avid offline systems. I have a very solid roundtrip setup where I take my footage to be graded in DaVinci Resolve. My next go-to toolset is the Boris FX plugins family, I utilize these all the time. Boris Continuum, Mocha Pro, and Sapphire effects are in every show I work on. Sapphire usually arrives from offline as it is something offline editors use all the time and the other two are utilized constantly for fixing and perfecting shots.
LAPPG: What is one of the biggest misconceptions your clients may have about the work you do?
T: I am not sure my clients have any misconceptions; I am very open to explaining how I work and what my process is. My clients mostly let me do what I do, in a way they do not really want to know about how specifically the work is done. My clients hand me an uprezzed offline show and come back a few days later to watch a pristine, good looking show ready to go to air.
LAPPG: What project(s) has challenged you most and why?
T: I look at every project as a challenge, it is a way for me to keep things fresh and exciting, things change constantly even between seasons of shows. I recently did a presentation for a new show, this was a scripted project with puppets. The director was a big feature film guy and the things that were being looked at and the notes were very different from reality shows. Challenging and lot of fun.
LAPPG: What advice do you have for people wanting to do the type of work you do?
T: Be willing to accept and enjoy the fact you will be indoors in a dark room a substantial part of your day and your life. Doing your job well means it is invisible. If you are ok with that, it is an amazing profession, creative, technical, challenging and can be a very satisfying job. The sky is truly the limit on where your career can go, with so much work out there from Internet production, TV shows, streaming services, small feature films, and major motion picture films, the range is endless.
LAPPG: How has joining groups like LAPPG help you as a professional?
T: I am constantly educating myself, even when I am giving a lecture or doing a webinar, I am going over the material again and learning more. I am always looking for ways to make things faster and that allow me more time to do things better and experiment. Coming to LAPPG meetings are always interesting. If I walk away with one or two new tricks it was worth it. Don’t forget the door prizes! I won my first paid DaVinci Resolve license at LAPPG.
LAPPG: How have you passed the time at home during the Covid-19 pandemic?
T: I waited until my office was empty and went back to work, I have been the only person in a giant office suite all by myself. During the past three months, I finished the entire season two of Songland on NBC and I am halfway through World of Dance on NBC, as well as some consulting work on Legendary for HBO Max.
LAPPG: What skills and abilities does someone need to do to be a good colorist?
T: Be a techie for starters, the most basic aspect of colorwork is highly technical, you need to be able to run extremely complex software on very expensive setups so getting up to speed fast is a must. Attention to details, self-confidence, and the ability to make hundreds of little decisions and not doubt oneself. Grading software are very deep and with millions of combinations, one can go down a rabbit hole very quickly. It is paramount to be able to realize when things do not “look right” and backtrack or even start over. Also, have great communication skills, to be able to dig deep and understand what the clients are are saying about what they want. Sometimes they do not have a formulated idea and it is your job to produce the final product for them. Have an eye and be able to “make it look good”, without that it is pointless.
LAPPG: You have worked on some popular TV shows like “Dancing with the Stars” “Fear Factor” and “Running Wild with Bear Grylis.” How much creativity where you allowed in finishing these projects or is it more of a polishing process?
T: My work is a combination of creative and technical work. The shows mentioned are reality shows, so in most cases, they are shot under less than ideal conditions and in less controlled environments, the important thing is to capture “the moment” of drama and how it is exposed is sometimes secondary, so my job is to even it all out. Make it look seamless, so the technical aspect of things does not take the viewer out of the story. The last thing colorists want is for the viewer to start wondering why things look a certain way, why it is too bright or too dark or the person looks sickly green, etc.
When I do my work well, it is invisible to the viewer.