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Summary

David Baud - Colorist and Finishing EditorDavid Baud is the owner and founder of Kosmos Productions, based in Denver, Colorado. Hailing from France originally, David currently lives with his wife in Colorado but continues to work extensively in Europe. David has over 20 years of experience in broadcast television, film, and video, and has directed, edited, and color graded numerous national and international productions.

David's passions for film was first nurtured by his childhood love for making stop motion movies with his older brother. Using a variety of different animation techniques, he learned his craft literally frame by frame. After studying computer-generated imagery and computer languages in Paris, David first became an assistant to a television director, then a freelance cameraman. He learned all the aspects of production—from working on 16mm film to a weekly broadcast video television show. Since the advent of nonlinear editing systems in 1993, David has applied his expertise to digital post-production, editing, and visual effects, with color grading being his special focus.

Show Notes

[01:54] Passion for film and cinema started as a child. He credits his older brother because they made stop motion film together with their super 8 camera.

  • Stop motion encompasses much more than Disney, which is what most people are familiar with.
  • The brothers used claymation and real people using pixelation technique to move between frames.
  • Interested in the technique of illusion. When you are working frame by frame, you really understand what it means to move an object on a few inches a day.

[05:58] Wanted to explore more computer techniques in the 80s after finishing high school.

  • Studied computer science – received a degree in 3D computer graphics.

[07:18] David landed a job on the main French television network…the equivalent of PBS.

  • It was here that David learned the craft from people who had been making film for years.
  • Started as assistant director and worked as a producer.
  • At that time in France (late 80s – early 90s) most French networks were still using 16mm film and moving that film to video.
  • There was a period of time in which you could use film, not tape. You had to figure a way to edit things that weren't live. You had to recall it on film and when it was ready to air you had to convert it.
  • David was lucky enough to witness the transition and so learned film and tape recording and then again to digital.

[11:00] David is heavily influenced by watching movies and understanding that language. He says that filmmaking is just another way of expressing ideas.

  • “Film is a language – people think it's obvious today because we are bombarded by images so that we sometimes don't realize what it is. This is why I'm talking about this idea of illusion.”
  • It took a full year to shoot a 5-minute film using stop motion. David points out that they were in school and busy with other things, but says that they still worked on the film a couple of days a week.

[14:26] David grew up in the Rhone Valley in the South of France in a small town in the countryside.

  • He moved to Paris in order to study.
  • The beautiful thing about living in Paris in regards to filmmaking is that there is so much history there and David says, there are many many cinemas that allowed him to watch a huge variety of films.
  • David's passion for learning more about other cultures and countries led him to work on a farm in Germany and England. Eventually, he really wanted to explore the United States.

[17:50] In 1988 David found a job on a ranch in New Mexico. He felt the experience was like living in the Western Films that he had enjoyed as a child.

  • David met his wife in New Mexico. She is from Colorado where the couple eventually settled.
  • David says he loves the light and the beauty of the Rockies.
  • David considers himself a citizen of the world and humankind and splits his time between France and the United States.

[20:10] David worked as a cameraman next. He wanted to understand all the jobs necessary to make a film.

  • He hoped that by understanding every job he would be able to make better films.
  • In the early 90s, David began getting involved in post-production along with the wave of the digital revolution.

[25:12] The advent of nonlinear editing, which is software-based editing.

  • One of the first software programs was Avid.
  • He says the process was long and complex but the software was already getting better when he started.
  • Today he focuses mostly on color grading and finishing.

[27:28] Post-production includes the editing of the image and the audio. Depending on the type of production it might also include graphics, titles and computer animations.

  • Editing is the stage where you bring everything together to make the story you want to tell.
  • After editing, the sound is added to enhance the story.
  • Once these are finished, color grading and finishing come in. Most of the time it includes working on the exposures, color balance, white balance, saturation and all the colors on different parts of the film.
  • Depending on the film, there might have been different cameras used. In the end, you have to mix these cameras which don't typically match and so you have to do color correction.
  • Even if you used the same camera, if you filmed in different places, different times of the day or any condition that alters the colors, correction can help make the story feel unified and complete.

[31:07] Color correction brings continuity.

  • Going a step further, you might want to give a certain look. A certain mood or color… and you need to make sure you are matching the narrative story.
  • The color grading is the process of emphasizing the emotion, the depth of the story.
  • The finishing typically ensures that the film you provide meets the standards that are applicable for how it's being released…ie: in the theater, on television, etc.

[33:39] Rec. 709 is the number given to a standard in television since the advent of HD television.

  • If you follow the 709 standard, you should be able to show it anywhere in the world. Rec. 709 also specifies a color space, meaning all the colors you use in the film correspond to a specific standard. If you follow the standard, the piece will look standardized no matter what player it's being shown on.
  • “We need some kind of reference. What we see as a human and what we are able to record and what we are able to display…there are quite some differences.”
  • The industry is moving to Rec. 2020. That's the HDR standard. Things are evolving for the better. 2020 is able to show more color, more dynamic range.

[41:21] How can a filmmaker set themselves up for success to work with a colorist?

  • It's important to record your images the best possible way in the first place. The quality of the camera, the codex makes a big difference.
  • A general recommendation is that if you don't have great equipment, it's important to make what you are filming right when you first film it in terms of light, color, etc. You want to make sure you aren't overexposing or underexposing. You don't want too much noise. When you are shooting at night, you need to make sure you have enough light. You don't want to stress the camera.
  • More expensive cameras give you much more room to make corrections because you have a lot of information with a lot of subtlety that you'll be able to massage in terms of color.
  • David loves working with RED cameras but points out that those cameras can't shoot cameras in precarious situations, like extreme sports filming where GoPros are much more common.
  • At the end of the day, you need a good crew to make a great film. People who understand their equipment and their craft can carry the process with a range of equipment.

[49:39] David says that human vision can adjust white balance, but a camera needs to be taught how to see it correctly. Ultimately he says that exposure is more important to get right.

[53:05] The new generation of camera that can record raw, you can change the white balance in post-production. It's better to get it right when you shoot, but there is some room to alter the file later.

[58:17] Differences between France and the United States.

  • There are different approaches to how to make a film. In the United States, the producer has quite a bit of importance in making a film. In France, the director is the one who owns a project. There is a big difference between the people who are putting the money down and the people who are making the film.
  • France has a lot of laws that protect the ownership and rights of the director.
  • There are differences in how we perceive color and emotions from country to country. If you look at Asian culture or African culture, they perceive visuals and how a film is cut differently than western cultures.

[01:03:51] Working on film restoration. Color grading can bring back life to an old film.

[01:07:00] David has been working on some extreme sports films that used up to 15 different types of cameras.

[01:08:26] Color grading is a mix of technical understanding and artistic understanding. Telling a story from a color point of view is very rewarding. David's ultimate goal is to have viewers completely forget the technical aspect and just get wrapped up in the story.

[01:11:35] Main tool for color correcting is Davinci Resolve. The Davinci Resolve system was upwards of a million dollars in the early days. Today, you can download a copy of Resolve for free. That is a huge evolution in the industry.

[01:13:38] Working in the Denver market.

  • David has never worked in Los Angeles, but he says Paris is similar to the Los Angeles market. The Denver market is smaller which makes it difficult to focus specifically on color grading.
  • Video editing in the 90s was like writing in the Middle Ages, you had to seek out someone who knew how to write and had the tools. Today editing software is so easy to access, it's made it more difficult to freelance. Having multiple skills is necessary to survive in the Denver market.

[01:22:03] Watching HDR film on the reference monitor has been an “aha” moment for David. HDR brings you all the subtlety and details in the black as much as emphasizing the highlights.

[01:27:25] David’s best advice for aspiring filmmakers is to be prepared. If you are trying to create a narrative, make sure you have a great script before you take it to production. Even with a small amount of money, you can make a great film. Not being afraid to ask questions is key. There are so many aspects of filmmaking – it's important to ask people who are specialists.

  • Once you answer all the nuanced questions about your film, you can begin to build a workflow – from where you want to film all the way through post-production.
  • The better workflow you have, the more efficient the whole process will be and the less expensive the project will be.
  • Different types of projects have different workflows. Films are different than documentaries for instance.
  • Test as much as possible. The great pros test before they start a project. From recording a shot to processing the files to getting it through post-production, if you test the whole process your project will benefit.

[01:34:00] What is a log?

  • Raw and log recording means you can record much more information than a traditional camera. When you work with RGB or Rec. 709, the colors you record are very close to what you are working within post.
  • In raw and log, the cameras aren't capable of showing you what you'll end up with in post-production.

[01:35:12] A LUT (Look Up Table) is a mathematical transformation that will translate in real time, the log information into your finish format like Rec. 709. It gives you an idea of what the film will look like.

  • David doesn't personally use a LUT because he doesn't get the kind of flexibility he likes. He says that it can be useful however in bigger productions when people need to communicate certain visual intentions.
  • Normalizing footage before running it through a LUT can be helpful if you are working across platforms.

[01:41:39] Academy Color Encoding System – ACES can be used from the beginning of a shoot or from the post-production point depending on your camera and your workflow.

  • Will help resolve issues between having different cameras responding differently to different color spaces.
  • Color space established in 1931 – all the colors that are seen by human vision. Equipment, from cameras to display, aren't all capable of seeing that. ACES encompasses the whole human vision system.
  • ACES is future proof because it encompasses all the colors we are able to see.
  • Some people can see more color than others. There is an amazing complexity to human vision.
  • ACES is being used on most Hollywood productions
  • Archiving will be easier in the future because it has all the information you'll need to retrieve color.

Links and Resources

Be sure to check out podcasts with other great guests in the film and media industry on our DMP Podcast Page!

Summary

A true renaissance man of film, Alex Ferrari worked his way up through the ranks from the bottom to become an award-winning director and writer, as well as a producer, editor, colorist, cinematographer, podcast host, consultant, and all-around indie film guru. His commitment to making the art of indie filmmaking accessible and relatively inexpensive to the masses has garnered a massive following of dedicated fans worldwide. He can often be found on the guest list as a speaker at any number of film and media events, and his films have screened at festivals around the globe.

In addition, Alex Ferrari is the creator of the Indie Film Hustle website and podcast. He has also created the podcasts Bulletproof Screenplay and Ask Alex, and has recently launched Indie Film Hustle TV, which is a fantastic resource for filmmakers on the internet.

Show Notes

[2:06] Alex’s background

  • Born in Fort Lauderdale, FL, raised in NY, living in L.A. for the past ten years
  • Full Sail Film School
  • Inspired to create a guerilla film school on DVD to make it affordable for lower-budget filmmakers in order to give back to the film community  

[6:42] Alex’s take on the value of film school, then and now

[11:11] Connections that filmmakers make and their value

[12:27] Alex’s experience with his first job as a tape vault operator, and how he got it

[13:50] Building his first demo reel

[17:06] How Alex discovered that he was meant to be his own boss

[18:05] How Alex made his first director’s demo reel

[19:15] Going into business for himself

[20:06] How Alex got into color correction and a brief history

[21:52] Jumping on the Red bandwagon, and adding more tools to the toolbox

[23:13] “You always ask for forgiveness, not permission… you just gotta hustle, you gotta be bold.”

[24:20] The highs and lows of Alex’s career

[26:49] Alex’s take on the allure of the film industry

  • The sizzle of the American media industry
  • Discussing the Indie Film Boom
  • Advances in technology and the next generation of filmmakers

[36:21] Building your entire business on someone else’s platform

[37:25] The history of Indiefilm Hustle and Alex’s olive oil “odyssey”

[45:43] Alex’s initial motivation and plan for developing Indie Film Hustle

[51:31] The benefits of having your own podcast

[54:02] How Bulletproof Screenplay was born

[58:27] The art of curating guests according to Alex Ferrari

[59:40] The exploits of Faith Granger

[1:05:02] Alex’s favorite podcast episodes:

[1:09:44] Indie Film Hustle TV and how people can get involved

[1:12:28] Alex’s typical work day

[1:19:06] The top ten books that will change your life… (see Links & Resources)

[1:13:32] Maintaining a balanced life

[1:21:35] Who would benefit from watching Indie Film Hustle TV? What kind of content is available?

[1:25:08] The best piece of advice Alex has ever received…

[1:32:35] ”I’m super happy making small, little independent films that mean something to me, mean something to my audience.”

Links and Resources

Be sure to check out podcasts with other great guests in the film and media industry on our DMP Podcast Page!