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Making the Grade: Painting Through the Process with Colin Travers

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Forager colourist on learning the dark arts, being bit by the colour grading bug and the value in music

Making the Grade: Painting Through the Process with Colin Travers

Colin Travers is a native New Yorker, audiophile music lover, world traveller, and street art enthusiast.


LBB>What was your first experience with the world of colour grading – and when did you decide that being a colourist was a role that you wanted to pursue?

Colin> I was a staff assistant editor working at a motion graphics house in NYC and we had a big commercial campaign I was helping with. I was invited to tag along with the editor for the colour grading session which was at CO3 NY with Billy Gabor. I was really struck by the whole experience, I didn't really understand up until that moment what this higher end of finishing was all about. He was just really a nice guy and the whole experience from the music he had playing, to the conversation we had over lunch and most importantly the work being done during the session. It was just a huge mind opening experience for me because I had no idea these dark arts even existed. 


LBB> What was the project that you felt really changed your career?

Colin> I was approached by a post house in Detroit for a large Chevy campaign which involved setting looks for each generation of that car model. I was in the prep remotely and brought out there to work with the clients over a one week period, it was super exciting and challenging / scary and I was able to do it and enjoy the experience. That really gave me a lot of confidence not only in my craft but an ability to work with challenging clients and still hold the room. This opportunity also opened up more jobs in other cities both on site and remote from Brooklyn.


LBB> How/where did you hone your craft and did you have any particular mentors?

Colin> I am self taught originally from books and tutorials just hands on in the trenches. At the time there were limited courses on DaVinci compared to now with YouTube and all of its offerings haha. I worked in production for a long time first as a PA on set for indie film and TV both in NY and LA, and eventually moving into post-production doing assistant editor work at post houses and eventually started doing online editing / finishing. This is where I got bit by the colour grading bug as they say and it just was a pursuit of passion at the time so when Resolve became available it was a logical jump from Apple colour and Symphony to DaVinci Resolve strictly. In terms of mentors, I follow other colourists friends and colleagues along with photographers and painters old and new. 


LBB> Tell us more about your creative process - (e.g.when you get a project, how do you go about developing a look)?

Colin> I usually like to just watch the edit down before getting any notes just to get a sense of the story being told and from there evaluate the light and of course the director and/or DP's notes and references. Sometimes I'm just given free range to explore the footage and play with the dynamic range available to see where best things will land. Other times there are very specific stills provided to match to vs a general mood born for inspiration. For me it's always just a fun puzzle in a way but also a painting as you add colours and shift hues it's really fun...music from a good Spotify playlist enhances the experience as well.


LBB> From experience, we’ve found that colourists often love art and photography - when you’re out of the studio, what inspires you?

Colin> MUSIC! It's always been a huge creative inspiration for me since I was a kid playing my mom's records and watching music videos as a kid. Then later in high school djing / turntablism in the 90's hip-hop / rave/club scene and a fascination for samples and all genres of music. I studied photography and film in high school and loved developing the film in the dark room, then in college I did a double minor in film and art history which further expanded my understanding of colour and film.


LBB> How do you ensure that each colourist-director partnership is a success?

Colin> I really try to take a look at the director's work thoroughly to understand his/her eye, vision and style. Making sure to start off on the right foot on feel and look is important and having a shared language is part of that. Coming to understand how they work and what they are looking for you to do helps inform the relationship and work quickly. Being able to recognise personal traits and language on an individual basis is vital in a collaborative effort. You hope during your career you connect with really talented people that you get along with and share sensibilities with etc.

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Forager, Tue, 12 Apr 2022 09:16:24 GMT