Color Temperture - Brightness - Time of Day.
I edit video for a living and I work hard, and by “work hard” I mean, I work long hours. This means that often times I spend a majority of my day staring at computer screens. If you are reading this blog you are probably like me and that means you do pretty much the same thing. Every once in a while we all need a little reminder about things and this post is just such a reminder.
During he middle of the day and evening hours the light from the sun are different colors. Its as simple as that. Bright mid day sunlight is about 5600 degrees kelvin and sunset is probably somewhere down around 2800 - 3000 degrees kelvin. If you were paying attention in your film or video production classes you’d also know that incandescent lights are about 3200 degrees and florescent tubes are about 4200 degrees. What this means is that a bright mid day sun is very very blue and incandescent lights are very very orange by comparison.
Back in the olden days of cheap crappy video cameras you’d have to roll a filter in front of your lens to tell it you were going to shoot indoors or outdoors. If you ever tried to walk from indoor to out, you’d get outside and everything would be totally blue, or if you tried walking from outside to inside the opposite would happen, everything would be horribly orange. Of course, now a days most consumer cameras have some sort of auto correction and for the most part they do a pretty good job of compensating for this color change.
The reason we don’t notice this with our bare eyes when we walk from outdoors to in or vice-a-versa is that our brain is totally amazing and can figure this all out on its own.
Here is another fact you need to know. Computers put out daylight. Yea, the color temperature of your computer screen is essentially like looking into a little tiny sun and this confuses our bodies to be looking at daylight well into the night.
If you are anything like me you are looking at your computer late at night and our bodies and our minds get confused by the color of the light it puts out.
So, all of this has been one giant windup to… you need to try a product called “f.lux”. I recently put it on my laptop and this is what it does… “it makes your life better”. F.lux looks at your system clock, it knows what time sunset is because its smart and it slowly changes the color temperature of your screen from daylight in the mid day to something more appropriate for you to be looking at in the late night.
You can set the evening color temperature anywhere from “Candle” to “Florescent” (and anywhere in between). When you first get f.lux it defaults to something like 4000 degrees for the evening hours and you’ll think, “oh wow, there is NO WAY I can look at that”. So for the first few days I left my “evening setting” at around 5200 degrees kelvin. But over the past week I’ve been able to shift my evening setting down to 4200 degrees and it feels right.
[NOTE TO SELF… I fell asleep writing this post at this point.]
By feels right I mean… it doesn’t appear to be too orange anymore and it is just more comfortable to look at.
What I WOULDN’T do is put this on a work machine. You can’t color correct at 4200 degrees kelvin. You can’t do Photoshop work at 4200 degrees kelvin and you CERTAINLY can’t look at anything critically at this color temperature. However, you can read, you can browse and you can post on your FaceSpace thing and I really do believe it will allow you to sleep better at night and all around it won’t mess with your body clock.
So give it a try, lemme know in the comments below what you think of it. Hey… you can always disable it or pitch it if you don’t like it.
I want to thank my friend Taija Dilfer for showing this to me.
In the editorial process perhaps “iteration” is your single greatest friend and foe all at the same time. The ability to change and try different things has never been easier. Technology allows us to experiment, and explore, but it also gives us opportunity to change, and convert. You see, it wasn’t always like this.
In olden times, the process of video editing meant selectively copying the portions of your tapes to a “record master”. Each shot needed to be meticulously planned and laid down in order, one shot at a time. When you got to the end of the edit hopefully you hadn’t forgotten a single shot or clip, and hopefully you hadn’t put in to many shots. A single trim or addition or change could mean re-cutting EVERYTHING from that point on till the end of your program. There was so such thing as a “ripple edit”. Editing then was much more precise. You worried about how things were flowing WHILE you were cutting and, by and large, you weren’t even allowed to make mistakes.
Back then, “offline” meant something, and “online” was expensive.
When the dawn of non-linear editing happened we all thought, “oh wow, this is going to be awesome, we’ll be able to work so much faster, get so much more done, and do a much better job”. In all fairness, the only one of those three that is remotely true, is the third. We do indeed do a better job.
However, the ability to say, “oh crap, I forget to mention we need to insert some bumpers in between these themes in our story” has meant that we no longer worry about that level of preplanning. “We can always change it later” usually means WE WILL… change it later.
However, this post was not supposed to be a history lesson. It was meant to be some ramblings about “iteration”. By and large, the ability to try something another way is your friend as an editor. The commitment level to ‘give it a try’ is much less with our current technology. This allows us the freedom to give it a try, see what happens if we start the story in the middle and then backtrack. Experiment with putting a little more space between the answers. Try a different cut of music and then re-cut to the beat… again. These iterations allow us to improve.
As a producer you should plan on this. As a content creator you need to be aware of this. It is really easy to eat up your budget by trying options. If “time is money” and iterations take time, then trying too many iterations can be expensive. However, you also may find the magic that makes your piece really sing.
Often times I’ll show a piece to someone and they ask how long it took to cut. When I tell them there have been many times when they are astonished or they gasp. “I don’t understand, it looks like a really simple piece, why so long?” I then have to explain to them that, “yes, this piece looks simple, but you aren’t seeing all the previous versions BEFORE we got to this one”.
I wish I had a dollar, (why do we use that phrase?) for every time I spent hours, if not days on a passage in an edit only to have it all thrown out for a MUCH simpler treatment. Since we are pushing all those buttons it can be frustrating to “kill your babies” but as an editor, you learn to live with it. Hey, it happens.
So, if you’re trying to save time and money in your edit, it pays to be organized. It pays to be strategic, it pays to avoid un-necessary iterations and your “what if’s” and walk into the edit suite prepared.
Scott McQuaid, a technical director that I used to work with long ago once said to me, “If you can’t say ‘no’ then you aren’t really negotiating.”
The VFX community is all up in arms right now because of the movie “Life of Pi” which won best cinematography. The film was filled with visual effects. Apparently the guy who accepted the award didn’t thank the VFX people, but then again… I think the film won best VFX? I don’t know, I don’t care about the movie.
On Oscar Sunday there was a bunch of whiney VFX people protesting and picketing the Oscars because they didn’t feel they were recognized enough.
So then it turns out Rhythm and Hues, the lead VFX company filed for bankruptcy right before the Oscars, and they somehow want to blame the…. Oh my god… I couldn’t care less about these people.
Here is the problem. You don’t do a job if you don’t feel you are being paid enough.
The flip side of that coin is this. You always do your very best work. You do work that is above the competition. You give your clients your undivided attention. You bend over backward to meet their needs. What you DON’T do, is bend over forward.
Now, this goes for the guy sitting at a workstation doing wire removal, the lead compositors, the animators, the texture people, the guys who do the virtual lighting of a virtual set, the people that help the actors into those little suits with all the yellow ping pong balls.
If you feel you aren’t being paid enough, then DON’T go into work the next day. What is the result of this. All of a sudden the studio starts seeing a bunch of wires in their final shots and they don’t understand why. They call the VFX people and they say, yea, we can’t afford wire removal anymore on the budgets you give us, so thats the way its gonna be.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete tool. I DO realize that they will probably just get another guy to come in and do the job at the same rate that you refused to do it. And if that is the case then one of two things is true, either A. you over valued your worth to the situation or B. the guy that replaced you is more of a bitch then you were and CLEARLY doesn’t value HIS time.
So then, what ends up happening is that the VFX studios have these big facilities with a bunch of workstations and hard drives and servers, they have tons of fancy desks and chairs but they have no asses to put in them. Why? Because the VFX people started to say, “wow, this job sucks for THIS MUCH MONEY”.
I know what you are thinking, you’re saying, yea Chris, thats called a union and thats what we are fighting for. No. Thats called respecting yourself and KEEPING all your money and not giving dues to some union mob goon.
I have two stories to tell you before you tell me I’m a complete idiot. After you read the stories you are MORE then welcome to tell me I’m a complete idiot.
Story Number 1
My first broadcast job was at a PBS facility that was part of a community college. The way the “pay” worked was that they used students who were seeking credit in their classes to work on various jobs that the station would take on. So the first 4 hours a week you worked it went to credit in your broadcasting classes and after that you could make a few bucks, and I DO mean a FEW bucks. I think back then we got paid about 6 or 7 bucks an hour. But hey, I was 23 years old and I got to sit behind a big giant production switcher with a ton of buttons, so that was pretty cool.
I did this for a few years, and met many great directors from the outside that would come in with various clients who were renting the studio and crew. On several occasions I was being asked to go and work on the outside at other facilities and this opened my eyes. You see, back then in the mid 80’s a technical director doing live television could easily make 200 a day, or 20 an hour for a standard 10 hour day, a far cry from the 6 bucks an hour I was making at the station.
Eventually I got fed up.
One day I went to the station and walked into the General Managers office and I said, “We need to talk”.
I explained to him the disparity between what he paid me and what the rest of the production community paid and I told him that I thought I brought expert level abilities to my desk and that both he and his clients benefited from that and I wanted to be compensated for it. Fairly!
He sat back in his chair and hemmed and hawed and told me that there was no way that the college could pay me 20 dollars an hour and that there was no “mechanism” for that in his books. I told him that I didn’t care about that. It was not my problem and that he would have to figure that out because that was HIS job. I then told him that I would not set foot back in his building until this was resolved. I also explained to him that my next shifts was 3 days away and it was a live show that I was supposed to switch.
For the next 3 days I called his office to try to get an update from him. He dodged my calls. I won’t go into all the details but he was there. His secretary lied for him and he dodged my calls.
On the evening of the live show, I got a call from the production manager asking where I was and I told him that he needed to walk down the hall and talk to the General Manager. I soon got a call from the General Manager and he was “shocked” I hadn’t come in to work. I reminded him very emphatically that I had said I was not setting foot in the building until our dispute was resolved. He told me to come in the next morning and we’d work out a deal.
The next morning I went to his office, we sat down, we agreed to a method so that I could paid my $20.00 an hour I was asking and then he said, “So, are we ok now?”, to which I responded, “Well there is just one more thing.” If you are going to pay me that amount then you have to pay Phil the same amount. Phil was my friend who took me under his wing and showed me the ropes there and there was no way I was going to leave him behind or get paid more then he was.
Rick sat back in his chair and very uncharacteristically let out a few choice curse words and then said, “FINE”.
I then walked down the hall and pulled Phil out of a pre-light for an upcoming production and let him know he just got a raise tripling his current pay. That was one of the best negotiating sessions of my career.
Story number 2, (thanks for hanging in there).
The next place I worked was KQED in San Francisco. This was my first experience with a union shop and in order to do any work there I had to join NABET. They required something like 2 weeks or 2 months of your salary to join, and they took a big cut out of every pay check too.
One of the directors I had worked with was doing a cooking show there and she dragged me along as her Assistant Director. Eventually that job led to doing some live technical directing during the aftermath of the 1989 earthquake and I had been given the chance to prove myself as competent behind a production switcher. Eventually a strip show came up that the station was going to produce. A nightly variety show that I was very qualified to do, not only cutting the show but also creating all the elements on the spot that would be used during the show.
Now, its important to know, that I was a temp there but the Assistant Director of the show was advocating me as the best candidate for the show, the Director of the show wanted me at her side and even the Producer of the show was requesting me by name to the station as the guy they wanted working on their show. As a card carrying, dues paying, member of the union, I could have walked in, day one and nailed that show! No training, not warm up period. Just nailed it.
However, the station had a “better” idea.
They thought it was a better idea bring in a freelance TD for two weeks to sit with one of their AUDIO guys and TRAIN him to be a technical director on the show that I was being REQUESTED to work on. And yet, here was a guy who had paid the union the same dues he was paying who could ACTUALLY DO THE JOB but I didn’t get the show.
Oh, and to make matters worse, on the first night of the show, the idiot audio engineer turned TD, COULD NOT FADT TO BLACK! When it came time to fade to black at the end of the show he couldn’t do it. He dissolved to the un used camera 1 which was pointed at the wall and had some sort of indicator light like off of a phone or something that was hanging on the wall. Nice!!! Good job!
I vowed to never work for another union again. I let my membership expire and I have NEVER EVER looked back once.
And one more thing, today, I make WAY more then I EVER would have made working for the union. WAY more.
So here is my point.
At KCSM I was uniquely qualified to do my job. I was very good at it and no one around me could replace me. When I didn’t show up that night, the live show crashed and burned and they wanted me back the next week. After my taking a stand the station went thru a bit of a revival and changed the way all the student assistants were paid and then began and era of using part-time temporary craftsmen and artists serving their outside clients.
KQED is still there, still doing their union thing and producing ALMOST NO programming because it is too expensive to work there. Last I heard, the audio mook turned TD was still there too.
So whats my point?
Do your job, excel, be excellent and don’t take crap from people. If you don’t like the situation you are in. MOVE ON.
It may very well be that movies like “Life of Pi” will never be made again. But my guess is that some kid will look at the crap wages that the next VFX house that replaces Rhythm and Hues is offering and think its REALLY COOL that he gets to work in Show business.
Perhaps it was best said by Hunter S. Thompson.
“The television (and film) business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long, plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and where weak men die like dogs, but you can get free cookies.”