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Imagine having the opportunity to sit down with a senior colorist who has graded dozens and dozens of shows over his career in the TV and movie business. That is what it was like as Randy Starnes and I conversed over FaceTime between our two locations, Austin TX and Santa Monica CA.
Picking out one key point from this rich interview is difficult because Randy speaks with such ease and depth and care about his profession and the people he works with. He is a teacher, mentor, and seasoned professional colorist who remains fascinated with color. I’m grateful for this time with him.
Clearly there are many important people in the creation of a TV series, but as a colorist your relationship with the DP is critical, and Randy makes this point with insight, finesse, and emphasis during our interview — multiple times. Randy has deepened my commitment to push harder on all my projects to get to know the DP as soon as possible, any way possible. You will see why he feels so passionately about this as you listen to his stories and experiences in creating looks for TV shows I’m sure many of us have watched. For example, The Blacklist, Masters of Sex, The Goldbergs, Camp, The Client List, Gray’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Desperate Housewives, and NYPD Blue, to name a few.
Before we get rolling, I’m giving a shout-out to Gray Marshall, colorist. He was kind enough to put me directly in touch with Randy for this interview. Thank you, Gray.
We cover a lot or ground in this 45-minute interview. Some of the following points are woven into the stories he tells:
1. Randy, how did you get your start and what drew you to color grading (or color timing, I suppose) back in the ’90s? What was the gear like back then?
2. Talk some about your experiences during the 2000-2010 time frame and the shows you did then. What was your experience with regard to the gear and, more importantly, the collaboration process?
3. As we move into the 2010-present time frame, the technology is changing rapidly, and I’m hearing there is more pressure to get shows graded in less time. Is that true? Talk more about that and what you’re grading on FilmLight these days?
4. Okay, about the Showtime series Masters of Sex. Geesh, I can remember in the ’70s the work of Masters and Johnson being SO controversial. The time period of this show, based on the book of the same name that came out in 2009, is the late 1950s, shot mostly in a hospital with people walking around in stylish clothes. Many are smoking. I’m wondering how the LOOK of the show was developed, at least from your perspective, after receiving the files.
In particular – many of the walls in the hospital are not actually white. They are a pale shade of yellow. Was that intended? However, the actual lights or practicals in all the scenes are pure white. Frankly, I like the look and the show; I’m just curious how the look came about. What was your input in the process or the collaboration, and why aren’t the lights more yellow? I just had to ask.
5. Ending our discussion – tell me what you think is around the corner with regard to grading TV and cable shows? What sorts of changes might we expect? What do you suggest to the up-and-coming colorists?