Saturday, December 19, 2015

Colourists are the last people who should have a say on monitors!

I was recently in a decent grading room - Dolby PRM 4220 monitor and I was demo'ing a Boland BVB25 OLED display. The demo unit had come back from a try-out at another customer's and I hadn't had a chance to check it's calibration (Rec.709, illuminant-D yada yada...) and so I grabbed the colour probe kit and calibrated it whilst chatting to the engineer and colourist. Once done I looped it off the Dolby to see how they compared and they were quite different! The Dolby was sat-up, over-saturated and a bit red-in-the-whites. The conversation went;

Colourist:"It doesn't match my Dolby",
Me:"…you just watched me calibrate the monitor for Rec.709",
Colourist:"It's wrong",
Me: "Is the Dolby set for Rec.709?",
Colourist: "No, I feel that when I export Quicktimes for customer approval how I have the monitor set now matches what they see better"
 I also have the same convesation about black levels endlessly. An online editor had a go at me because I'd left his monitor "too crushed in the blacks" - here is a frame from his timeline;

It is a continuous battle to persuade people that monitor calibration is NEVER a matter of opinion, rather it is defined by measurable technical standards and when I calibrate a display it is correct. Your material may well not look how you want it, but don't corrupt your monitoring pathway to make your project look good.
Often I'll ask the colourist what standard they want the monitor calibrated for; it's rare that they know what I'm talking about, but they'll often venture an opinion that their display is currently "too cool" or something (quite how they know without a reference I'm not sure?).
I suppose a lot of this is down to the fact that colourists are people who have to be very confident in their ability and are paid handsomely for what they do. However, they have to realise that their mojo doen't extend to how their monitors are set up. When I demo a monitor my heart sinks when someone says "we'd better let the colourist have their say" - monitoring is not about creative magic, it's about compliance.
This December I've calibrated over thirty customer broadcast displays; I've been there/seen that more than you!


lostinlimbo said...

How do these folks end up as colourists when they are unaware of the standards of their own tools? I am not even a professional colourist and I know to have my monitors calibrated to Rec.709 prior to every job (as a DIT in the film industry). A bit stunned at this.

Muhamad Taufiq said...

I think you just met with some self proclaimed colorist

Phil Crawley said...

You'd hope so, but after nearly thirty years working in London in TV & film facilities of all sizes I actually think it's the norm.
In fairness I see a lack of appreciation of the engineering and colour science in the smaller shops - probably where the colourist was/still is and online editor and perhaps hasn't had any formal training. However - I've also come across it whilst setting up grading rooms at big broadcasters - the BBC and ITV, for example.