“TRUST AND BLOOD”
WARNING: THERE IS A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER OF SPOILERS BEING CONTAINED WITHIN…
Hello and welcome back HEROES-fans. Tonight we bring you another chapter in the fourth volume of the ongoing saga called HEROES. Tonight’s episode was written by Mark Verheiden and was directed by one of our executive producers and frequent directors Allan Arkush.
Mark Verheiden is new to HEROES but probably not to you. He and I worked together on the first three seasons of SMALLVILLE. He is an all-around nice guy and a pleasure to work with.
One of the things I enjoy doing with this blog is using it to introduce you to some aspects of the filmmaking process that you may be unfamiliar with. A critical but often little-thought-about step in the process is that of color timing. Color timing (and I don’t know why it’s called “timing”) is the process in which, after the film has been edited and the visual effects are completed, the show is rectified in terms of its color and overall look. In color timing (also called color correction) every shot in the episode is adjusted and unified so that it (a) goes with all the other shots around it and (b) looks just right.
Every one of us executive producer types overlaps each other in many job categories. For instance Dennis Hammer, besides working hard on prepping the show, the story and the budget, loves to deal with advertising, promotion and all of those kinds of things. Allan Arkush, besides his many other duties, loves to deal with postproduction and especially music. And I love all things to do with the visual design of the show – so I spend a lot of my time with the production designer the directors of photography, and I enjoy overseeing the color timing of each episode.
The color timer on the series is named Scott Ostrowsky. He has been aboard since the pilot. Tonight I interview him.
GREG BEEMAN: Good afternoon Scott and thanks for doing this interview. So – what is your job on HEROES?
SCOTT OSTROWSKY: I balance the color. Basically I take the film that has been shot by the DP’s (Director of Photography) and the director and I add a look. I add or subtract color, contrast, lights and darks and so on. Visually I work with the DP’s to achieve the look of the film they are after and I match the look of each shot and scene from shot-to-shot and from episode to episode.
GB: So, if I was to observe you at work. What would that look like?
SO: I’m in a big, darkly lit room, usually with a CRT (cathode ray tube i.e. traditional TV) and maybe a projection screen TV and plasma screen TV. Basically, I’m watching all of the various ways that the show will be delivered to the viewers at home. All of these are set up to very specific specs. And using these screens, I go through a G.U.I. (or ‘goo-ey”) which is a computer screen which I use to navigate through every shot in each episode one-by-one. I use a keyboard, a mouse, a WACOM palate and pen and I have a large panel with track balls, which I use to control the different blacks, mid-ranges, gammas and gains and colors. I also have various vector scopes and rgb (red-green-blue) scopes, which tell me what all the different colors and hues are doing from an electronic standpoint at any moment. It’s a very encompassing system and I use it all to make the show look balanced and beautiful.
GB: How long does it take to complete an episode?
SO: I do it in stages. I make a preliminary pass on my own, and then another pass when I go through it with the director of photography and then usually one with the producer. Lori Motyer, the postproduction producer supervises it all. I do a final touch-up pass once all the visual effects and so on are in. It takes a week to ten days to complete. About 16 hours of work.
GB: Then how does the show end up?
SO: It is on a hard drive the whole time I’m working on it. Then, once I’m finished it’s copied onto a Sony HD Cam SR tape in 1080 dp. That’s where the show lives when it’s all finished.
GB: So how did you get into this line of work?
SO: In college I was studying philosophy believe it or not. I thought I was going to end up a lawyer. But I also played music and always had. I was paying my way through college playing guitar with some very well known musicians, like Lou Rawls. I was attending Los Angeles Community College and someone I knew, who knew I was into music, suggested I see a film being scored. That was amazing. Just great. And through that I made a contact and I ended up working as an editor at Select-TV on an old COMEX machine. This was in 1986. Anyway, I was editing and producing international pieces for that company and it was the very beginning of electronic color timing. Before that everything was color timed on film using a very limited dye system. The only control was red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan and dark and light. The colorist at the station was a kid who knew almost as little as I did. So I worked with him and I had a natural affinity for it. I got a job doing that and for awhile I was working a day shift as an editor and a night shift doing color. One thing led to another and here I am today.
GB: So what are some of the kinds of things you can do on the system you work on?
SO: You can key on to certain colors boost them or diminish them. You can also create windows around areas within the frame, which can travel - for instance the faces – and make them brighter or darker or more colorful or less colorful. We can push the colors very strongly. Or dimish the colors all the way to black and white. We can add grain. We can bloom or overexpose the whites. Pretty much we can do anything we want to with the image as long as the original film negative has been properly exposed so that we have the information on it that we need.
GB: What are all the colors and hues you have control over?
SO: Well, first of all black, white - which is called gain - and greys, which is called gamma. But within each of these I have control over the dark blacks, the mid-range blacks and the high blacks – and the same for white and grey.
With color I have the main colors, red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan. But I can also combine and control every combination of these colors.
I can also control “hue”, which is a way of describing the degree to which a color sits on any object within the frame. I can diminish the hue and make the color very faint or I can increase it and make it very strong. I can make a color “deep,” “bright” or “devalued.”
I can also control the luminance of every color – which means how bright or dim that color is.
Then, by using windows and power windows (which can move throughout the shot) I can isolate certain sections of the shot and alter these colors and hues any way I want within a certain section of the shot only.
GB: And, since you are working on the show shot by shot, how many shots or edits are there to deal with in a given episode of HEROES?
SO: To give you a place of comparison, when I was on CROSSING JORDAN – it would average six hundred to seven hundred cuts perepisode. HEROES, in season one had about nine hundred shots on average. Last week’s episode, episode 14, had one thousand and fifty eight shots – a new record!
GB: So, besides volume, what makes HEROES different than most shows?
SO: First of all, HEROES has a different writing style. It’s a story-based series where everything ties in from episode #1 right up to the present. It’s also a very visual show. You, the producers, and also the directors and most specifically the directors of photography shoot the show in a unique and specific way in order to tell the ongoing stories. It has a lot of different looks. For instance, in the beginning New York is always cool, Texas is always gold, California is always warm and colorful, in this weeks episode there is a device in which Nathan is on the phone that frames the whole story. The goal of that one part was to make it edgy and uncomfortable, in those scenes we pulled out color, added grain, added contrast and made the whites and highlights bloom and halite.
HEROES is also global it takes place in India and Japan and Haiti and Russia and each of those places has a look. Next week there is a big sequence in India with very bright colors in the sets and wardrobe. There the goal was to maximize and saturate the color but still to not oversaturate the flesh-tones of the faces.
Most shows on TV have one look which they want continuity with. On HEROES the look is always changing and evolving. But there are also ongoing stories that have to have a continuity of look – some of which go back to the first episode.
This is why it’s so much fun to work on.
GB: It seems that some aspects of your job are creative and some are technical. I guess that’s how it is with my job too, or anyone’s job on the show.
SO: You’re right. The creative is to establish a look. The technical is to keep that look consistent from shot to shot and show-to-show. First I watch the scene and see how you or Allan or whoever the director of the week was shot it. Then I study how the DP’s lit it. Sometimes they give me notes of what they are going for. If not, I try to interpret what is right emotionally. If it’s a pre-established look I’ll go back to when it was established. If not I’ll start right then and there. I always start with the widest shot, or the master and establish the key look. Then I go into all the shots and make them match that.
GB: Now we have two different director of photography’s on our show. We need two to just keep up with the schedule. But does that create any challenges for you?
SO: Challenges? No. I love collaborating with both Nate and Charlie. They both do great work for the show and both are working toward the established “look” of the show. But, yes they do expose their film differently – so I have to adjust to each of their styles.
What can be challenging is, if within one episode say Nate shot most of it, but Charlie ends up shooting a day or two of second unit – then their styles get intermixed and that is an adjustment I have to make.
GB: One catchphrase I’ve come up with is that Nate lights the spaces and Charlie lights the faces. It seems to me that Charlie really concentrates on the faces of the actors and he lets the sets fall off around them. Everything draws the eye to the key figure in the frame. Nate comes from a much more naturalistic point of view. He creates, in his mind, a logical pattern for how the light would enter and play within a space and he lets the sectors move through that space, letting the light play as it would upon them.
SO: That sounds about right. Charlie does a lot of mood lighting. He lights with certain kinds of fill lights and certain kinds of key lights. Nate does something different. He has a lot of foreground light. But they both have great styles and in the end it all ends up being pretty much the same as the HEROES look. I try to make it work within the established look and balance it all out.
GB: And how did you come to the HEROES team after all?
SO: Really through Lori Motyer (the Producer who’s in charge of post production). She and I had worked on a couple of pilots together and a feature called CROCODILE DUNDEE IN LOS ANGELES, she brought me aboard CROSSING JORDAN and I’ve been with that team, ever since.
GB: Well I can tell that you really enjoy your work.
SO: I do. I really do.
GB: Thanks for the interview. Any last words?
SO: No. Just that I do really enjoy the show and working with Lori and you and the DP’s and the whole team. Everyone is great. It is really creative and I feel I have the freedom to get creative and to really be part of HEROES. And I really do feel like I’m part of it. So thank you.
That’s it for our interview with Scott. And now….
ON SET WITH MR. ARKUSH AND MR VERHEIDEN
OUR DIGNIFIED DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY NATE GOODMAN
MSSRS ARKUSH AND PASDAR
ALLAN ARKUSH HAS A PASSION FOR NOODLES
FAN FAVORITE MARK VERHEIDEN
OUR COLOR TIMER SCOTT OSTROWSKY
SCOTT AT WORK
SCOTT PUTS A WINDOW AROUND HAYDEN
HAYDEN AND JACK – WAITING TO GO IN
BREA GRANT TALES A PICTURE OF ME TAKING A PICTURE OF HER (IT’S PROBABLY ON HER BLOG SOMEWHERE?)
NATE GOODMAN IN TOYKYO
ZACH Q ON SET
ALI AND I
ALLAN AND SCRIPT SUPERVISOR VAL NORMAN
HAYDEN TO ZELJKO – WHAT’S A TEN LETTER WORD FOR BAD-ASS ASSASSIN?