Hey there, welcome to the Colour Timer
podcast. I am your host Vincent Taylor.
This is a podcast where we speak to professionals who work
with colour every day to tell stories.
Today we're going to be speaking to Aurora Gordon or her,
that's what her paperwork says,
but she goes by Rory Gordon. Rory is an incredibly
accomplished colourist for film and television,
having worked on, oh my gosh, one of my most favourite
shows, Lovecraft Country. She's also
an incredible painter and very experienced in working with
HDR, which is something I want to
chat to her about. And yeah, let's get started. Also, don't
forget, we're going to use our little
colour timer and try and keep the... this is 15 minutes,
that's all we've got, so we've got to
make it work if I remember to use it. Let's go.
Take your seats because the hourglass is about to
turn. We are entering the world of the micro podcast.
Explore the craft, creativity and science
of professionals who use colour to tell stories. Welcome to
The Colour Timer with Vincent Taylor.
Hello, welcome. Hi Rory, thank you for
- Hi, thank you for having me.
No, it's my pleasure. We managed to get
our schedules lined up, which is incredible.
I know, the stars align.
- Yeah, it's true, it's true. I was
going through, I was stalking you,
I was going through your resume, looking
at your site and all the rest of it. And I,
because this is a 15 minute colour timer thing, I'm going,
oh my God, there's so much I want to
ask you. But anyway, that's the bed I made. All right, let
me, before I forget, I'm going to start
my, start my colour timer. So it's all official. And then
I'm going to jump straight in. I was
going to, I was going to start talking to you about your
profession as a colourist and HDR and
all of that. And I still want to get to that, but I want to
jump into painting. Because you're a painter
- Tell me about that.
- Well, as you know,
we spend so many hours in a day and a
week and a month and a year on the computer. And really,
for me, it's just being off of a device
feels really, really good. And what we do is...
We're taking away, right? Like we're working
on somebody else's material and refining it and making it
better. So in that sense, it's a
subtractive art. So for me to have an art that's additive,
that like I'm starting with the medium,
I'm the first one that adds to it. It just feels really
good. It just really changes the way I
think. And then also speaking of additive and subtractive,
right? Like you're working on
additive colour on a display and I'm working with
subtractive colour on a piece of paper or a piece
of canvas with paint. So I just think, and I also, I like
to study, I really like to study and the
type of painting I do, I'll do plain air, you know, going
out into nature, you know, what it doesn't
have to be nature, I do urban cityscapes too. But going
somewhere and just sitting and thinking and
observing or being in my art studio and just if it's an
abstract thing and working on paint,
I just think it makes my brain move a little slower. And I
think that's when I start to do
really interesting things is when I move a little slower
and make less decisions, but really
thoughtful ones. I really love it. So yeah, I have a
project called Colour Time, too, where I take the
runtimes of films and TV shows too, I'll divide them into
60 and then I'll paint a square for each
of those intervals of time. And then I end up with a colour
script that goes from the beginning of
the film to the end of the film and you can see how the
colour changes. And then because I love
puns, the reason I started doing this was because of an art
show that was looking for submissions.
And I was like, well, colour time is a funny pun. So I'll
paint colour scripts on clocks so it will
be colour time and you'll actually see that, you know. But
anyway, like it really truly started as
- That is amazing
like a pun joke. But they're really cool. Like they're
really watching the colour move. And I've
noticed some patterns too, like around nine o'clock and
pretty much every like movie, TV show, whatever
doesn't matter. And I've done some animation too. You get
dark, like you see the palette will get
darker. And I think it's because that story structure wise
is the point where it's like the
long dark night of the soul. And it's like physically the
long dark, you know, like light
is also the dark night of the soul right about that point
too. So I always just kind of, I just
think it's fun to study. So that's why. That's why...
That's incredible. You've just blown my mind
that that is amazing. And it's, how did you learn to paint?
I don't know that I have any formal training in painting. I
liked art and, you know, as a kid.
And my partner is in animation. So they know a ton of
concept artists and a lot of our friends are,
you know, through the people that my
partner has worked with in animation.
I've watched them. And honestly, I think following people
on Instagram and like watching,
watching painters there, it was always something that was
like tangential to my work. But I like,
again, I like to study and I like to try. I have a very
deep but narrow interest set. So like color
and light, like these are the things that my dad's a
jeweler. So like he works with
- oh, wow,
- that kind of runs in the family. And we're like,
three generations of jewelers that
grading diamonds and like looking at light and color, like
it's it's something that I think is
like very, very deep in, in, you know, who we are. But I,
you know, painting is another way to do
that. So I am because I, you know, there's, there's, I
could very easily, I could very easily just
took it because I find this really fascinating, especially
because as a wannabe painter, I just,
I just bought, I just, I'm not joking,
I just bought a paint by numbers cactus.
I love that. I think it's because that's study too, right?
Like you're studying like where,
you know, they tell you to put the paint
and then you look at it later and you go, wow,
that looks really good. How can I do that on my own? And,
you know, I love that stuff. It's awesome.
And look for anyone who wants to look up
Rory's website, she's got her paintings
on her site and they're, they're great. I'm looking at them
right now. Got, got some out here and
they're really cool, man. Thank you.
How big are they? How big are they?
Small usually because when I go out,
I take a four by little four by six
cards, like cold pressed paper, because I like, you know, I
like to be compact. And even when I've
done largest, they're small. I did a calendar of unnameable
colors a couple years ago. And even
those are probably, I think they were nine by nine. So small.
Wait, wait. Unnameable colors?
Yeah, it was. So they're like, I've wanted to do another
one because I got a lot of people were
like, this is so cool. And I was like, really? No, I think,
I think I have synesthesia or a form
of synesthesia where, you know, when you when your brain is
like, oh, I get so anyway, like a lot of
times I get it with taste. Like, I don't know if you get
that when you look at a vectorscope,
I very much see different different tastes as you're kind
of moving around in a circle. Like,
you know, red is kind of salty, yellow is like oily and
fatty, and then green is a bitter. And
then depending on the shade of blue, it's tart or sweet.
That is so cool. So the calendar I did was
like, there was like a magenta shade for one month, and it
was like a jar of jam that has burst on
your floor and you will never clean it up all the way or
something like that. So although all the
months were like color, they were colors, but they were
names. Not that it's not about the color,
- it's about the experience.
- That's wonderful. I have in my
brain, I have colors for days of the week,
it changes sometimes. But like, like a Thursday is always a
kind of a deep red for some reason.
Anyway, I've got to I've got to keep going because I'm
going to run out of time. I'm not going to
ask you all these amazing questions. I got to ask you.
You've worked on so many wonderful shows.
I'll wait for your image to come back. It looks like
there's a little dropout. This is the joy.
This is like live TV. There you go. It's great. Because I'm
not editing this, you know, because
it's real, it's real time. Yeah, go for it. All right. All
right. Let me go. Which question shall
I ask you? Let's talk about - so you've done research on
applied color science and practical
color workflows. Tell me about that. What is that?
to me, color science is the creative of
the big picture and color as my work as a colorist is
creative of the micro. So it's like macro level
systems versus micro level systems. And what I do in the
research that I've undertaken in the color
science world, it's all about trying to measure things,
right? That's what I love about science
is that it is really the trying to figure out how to
measure things and communicate them. And when
you're talking about color, which is not - I mean, something
may emit certain spectra, a light source
may be emit certain spectra, or, you know, a thing may
absorb certain spectra. But color is context,
color is a perceptual experience, including the viewer and
the display, it's like such a long chain
of places, there can be variables. And certainly with
humans, there's like an organic element to
it, right? So like your vision, as, as it was, when you
were 18 years old is different than it will be
when you're 68 years old. So knowing that the whole
experience is ephemeral and temporary.
I think my goal and all the different topics I've
researched has been how to communicate how things
are changing and describe the relationship, which is like,
another reason I think, like calculus is
so beautiful, for example, it's like trying to describe
these nonlinear relationships. You know,
our relationship. Anyway, so the specific I'm also trying
to be like, how do I get all the things in
the 15 minute window? I know, I know, I know the pressure's
on. So specifically, the areas I have
researched are HDR - and how - so my the first paper I did
the I did was, by the way, I have not
really no formal training in math or science. I just like,
I love to, like I said, to study things.
So the first paper I did was I think in 2018. And I took
set the time we had three first season
shows that were all in HDR, and they all use the same color
workflow. So I what I did is we had the
all of them had standalone HDR deliverables and SDR
deliverables. And we had, you know,
are obviously suite of color management. So we had the same
the same creative part of the, you
know, same same grades, and then our ODTs would change
depending on the the container that we were
delivering for. So Rec.709, P3, P3 in a
2020 container. So I measured in SDR, the
contrast ratio between the key side of the face and the
fill side of the face in the SDR version
and the HDR version. And we did very minimal trims. Really,
this was a because, again, the
workflow was so strong, but I wanted to see what how the
contrast ratio would change in SDR and HDR.
And the main conclusion that I came to was that when you
have a transform like that, it's basically
a math machine that takes 1 in and gives you 1 out,
right. But depending on the content that
you're feeding in, you're going to get a different
relational result at the end. So if you fed a very
low key image in that had a really dim key and a really dim
fill, it could be that both sides of
the face would actually get darker because remember HDR
also depends on blacker blacks to
get to that very, very high contrast ratio. Yeah, you know,
if you had a really high contrast image,
the key side of the face could increase, and then the fill
side of the face could decrease. And so
you would end up with overall higher contrast in HDR. And
then there I would find some examples,
really, really bright examples, like I had one was The Tick
with a character flying through the sky.
So both sides very, very bright. And then in the HDR
version, both sides of the face were
were brighter. So that that the most interesting
observation was that, yeah, guess what, depending
on the content that you're putting into your your transform
or your LUT, if you're working,
you know, everything concatenated, a LUT based workflow.
And this is a log based workflow,
by the way, it, it, the content that you're putting in is
going to change the effect of the
color science decisions. So it is worth it to make bespoke
decisions on a show by show basis.
That's right. I tried to run through this as fast...
- And my brain's
already going, yeah, but what about
what about what about this is the thing I'm quite enjoying.
When I first started this idea of just
having this 15 minute chat, I went, is this is this silly?
Is this gonna, but I quite like it,
because it keeps it keeps you going. All right, let's just,
you know, and who's got time,
who's got time to listen anyway? All right, all right, I'm
gonna get how much I've got, I've got
time for a couple more questions. What do I got?
- Good. I'm having fun, this is fun.
get? What do I get? Also, so anyway,
these articles got got published in the SMPTE journal. So I
guess, I guess my question is,
tell me about SMPTE. Who's that for? What is that? Yeah,
that's the Society of Motion Picture and
Television Engineers. And that is, they do
conferences, let's see, I think I have an
mission statement, I thought you might ask, "The mission
of the journal is to drive the quality and
evolution of motion picture television and professional
media through our global society
of technologists, developers and creatives, by setting
industry standards, providing relevant
education and fostering and engaged membership communities."
So the big thing that they do is
standards. So you know, standards, in terms of file
formats, in terms of display, like it
everything, when you think of SMPTE bars, those originate
from the Society of Motion Picture and
Television Engineers. And the big thing is, for me anyway,
about the journal is a peer review
element of it. It's not, you know, when you when you
publish a book, or you publish an article on
a blog or something, it doesn't need to go through peer
review. When you publish with a journal, it
has to go through a committee of people that all say like,
this methodology makes sense, this person,
you know, their their controls are all in the right place.
And that's very, very attractive to me,
is the opportunity to be in a peer review situation and
have community because what we do
as colorists, we're so isolated. And even I think post each
post facility can be isolated, and you
get like, well, this is the way we do it, because this is
the way we do it in this facility. But I
really enjoy being a part of organizations like that, where
you're, you know, you're, you're
looking at like the, like I said, the macro creativity of
the macro versus creativity of the
micro. And people are looking at like, okay, well, what
makes the sense the same sense? And I think
it's really helpful, especially considering how many
different display options people have, how
many and sheer number of surrounds in which people watch
things. I mean, people watch things on the
Metro on their phones. And, you know, ultimately, they find
a way to view it and see it. And, you
know, there's, there's, there's so many different ways an
image can look in an end user situation,
I think being aware of the process, the engineering to get
it to them, the psychophysics of the
displays, it's all
That's such a great phrase.
You know, because it is, like I said, you know, colors of
perceptual experience, it's not just,
it's not just one measurable, you know, Pantone value,
it's, it's the combination of the surround
person, the display, the choices made, you know, everything
from the camera to the lensing.
Because, you know, lensing, that's a huge, that has a huge
impact on coloring as well. I think
about that all the time, like, when we're when we're
matching, we don't, you know, like, we don't
know, we don't know which lens and a set is a
DP's favorite. So, you know, we're
matching everything, take out all the seams, but
like, that's a, that's a huge critical
choice, like, of like, which lens in that set was that DP's
favorite. I mean, you know, they'll
travel as a, as a group and obviously, similar optical
qualities, like for, for a whole lens
package, but, you know, just this tiny choices, they just
ripple so far out downstream. And
every time I have clients that are like, they get nervous
because they see it in the color bay,
and it's like, oh, that's beautiful, but it looks a little
different on the mix stage, you have to,
I think my ... working with SMPTE and being
aware of the standard - what I always say is
like, it's standards are important, because it's important
to know where the standard is that you
deviate from. So when we calibrate everything to standards
in the color bay, but then that way,
you know, like, things could deviate in a lot of different
directions. But we know that we started
from the ground, the ideal point at which
everybody else is measuring things. So yeah,
it is going to deviate in the real world, but it's going to
deviate in a lot of different directions.
And what we're going to do is we're going to start where we
know the deviations also begin from.
So it ... it amazed me. And as you, because I
realized my, my sand time is right now.
Oh, I'm breaking the rules. No, but, but it made me think,
because the idea behind this podcast
was to do like a 12-part first season. And if you, if
you're up for it, can you be on season two?
Because there's so much more, there's so much more I want
- Well sure!
to, I haven't even started and, and I,
and I would love to love to keep going.
There's more, I wanted to speak to you
about HDR specifically and about that world as well.
- Yeah, yeah.
Yeah. Another world with a lot of
decisions. Rory, thank you so much. Thank you. It was
amazing. It was really, really fantastic.
- Thank you, Vincent.
That's such a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you.
- Thank you for
joining me. I've started doing these,
uh, I was originally when I started doing the interviews, I
started to try and introduce the
guest, speak to the guest, do the thank yous, do it all in
the one thing, but my, my brain,
it just doesn't work. So, so that's why I'm doing these
bookends before and after the interview.
Uh, but, uh, thank you to Rory for coming on board. And,
and I think, yeah, if we, if we end
up doing a season two, uh, I'll definitely have to get her
back because there's so much more I want
to speak to her about. Um, uh, thank you to Mixing Light,
uh, for, for, for hosting the show and,
and having me on board. Uh, if you're listening to this on
the Mixing Light site, you already know
what they do, but if you don't check them out, look,
they're, they're, they're all things kind
of to help you as a, as a colorist and, and everything
from, uh, the software into talking
about color. Uh, and thank you to FilmLight, my friend of
the show. Thank you. And Kayla,
my producer, uh, and thank you for listening, like,
subscribe to all that kind of stuff.
All right. Cheers. See ya.
The Color Timer, a micro podcast experience.