FORGOTTEN HEROES

            Despite an occasional populist nod in that direction, the motion picture industry has never given much respect to its past.  During the frantic transition from film to video in the early 2000’s, long-established ways of doing things were often chucked out the window with no regard for the decades of experience held by so many of its workers.

            Chief among them were the laboratory reps who supervised the color timing of dailies and release prints.  Though some made a successful transition to the electronic world, many were left in the alley, their vast expertise rendered moot.  That was a shame because they were truly valuable and talented individuals.  Frequently, their good taste and political acumen were as responsible for a cinematographer’s success as anything the cinematographer did on set.

            The DI colorists who replaced them now perform a similar function, but it’s not quite the same.  If you haven’t experienced it, there’s no way to understand that special feeling you’d get when the previous day’s dailies or that first answer print lit up the screen.  When I think of the most satisfying moments in my career, quite a few are located at a console in the back of a laboratory screening room, the chief timer at my side.  It was always an intimate, confidential relationship and I never felt anything but total support from them, regardless of where I might’ve been working.

            For the record, here are some of the great ones with whom I had the privilege to collaborate over the years:

            Art Tostado, Dana Ross, Dan Muscarella and Ron Scott at CFI in Hollywood and later Technicolor, North Hollywood.

            Joe Violante and Lee Wimer at Technicolor, NY.

            Terry Haggar and Bob Raring at Technicolor, North Hollywood.

            Don Donigi, Steve Blakely, Noel Scheinberg, John Franick and Dave Pultz at DuArt in New York City.

            Ron Koch, Phil Hetos, Ron Graham, Beverly Wood and Jim Passon at DeLuxe, Hollywood.

            Mark Van Horne, Mato Der Avenessian and Bob Fredrickson at FotoKem in Burbank.

            Martin Reese and Alex Aldo at DeLuxe, Toronto.

            Lex Batten at Technicolor, Toronto.

            Ed Dobbs and Dave Armstrong at Alpha Cine, Vancouver.

            I send a heartfelt thanks and offer good wishes to each and every one of you, wherever you may be!

11.22.2022

3 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN HEROES”

  1. So many talent people on your list that I had the backing and support from including the fathers of some of these lab reps. Also lost in time but never forgotten where the Kodak individual that were your second set of eyes on the negative. Jack Cooperman ASC

  2. Sorry we never worked together so that I could make the cut!

    But you’re so right about the special talent that color timers had, especially the Technicolor culture of “Timing with your brain” where color corrections were done on the fly without the use of any filters, and how almost always the corrections were nailed and spot on. I was never to that level, I was mainly the liaison between the lab and the cinematographers and offered photographic consultation and had a talented timer by my side to handle the complex “on the fly” the corrections that were sometimes called for in dailies.
    Larry Rovetti was the pinnacle of the craft in my experience. He was head timer when I arrived at Technicolor in 1979. I was tasked with taking care of the cutting room during post on Apocalypse Now, and they had sent in a “match clip” shot of Martin Sheen sitting in the door of the helicopter.

    Match clips were a shot sent in that needed to more closely match a shot it was cutting into, and the original daily didn’t match well enough. Something that would be taken care of in answer print, but sometimes editors wanted it to be more closely matched for some work print screening.
    Anyway, this shot had been attempted to be matched by by lesser timers at Technicolor using filters and at their timing stations, hazeltines, everything, but never coming close to matching the shot it needed to be matched to.

    So finally I approached Larry (who eventually ended up being the Answer Print timer on the film for Vittorio). The culture of the timers at Technicolor was that a match clip was beneath the head timer, and Larry chewed me out for even asking him. I pleaded with him, and he finally gave it and said “Give it to me!” and he trotted up the steps to the projection booth of screening room 5 at Technicolor, and held the latest print and compared against the clip it was to match over a yellowing dirty light box on a rewind bench in the booth.
    I swear to God, Larry called out a correction along the lines of -10 +6 +7 (the alterations of the YCM lights at the lab for the correction).
    I said, “are you sure? That’s a big correction!” To which he chewed me out to not ask for his help if I was going to question his correction.

    Well… I put in the reprint as he directed, and astoundingly, it came back as a perfect match!
    That’s with his eyes, over an off color light box!
    I don’t think there are many DI colorists today with that kind of innate skill. I’m sure there may be… But not many.

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