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ARRIVEDERCI, CHROMA COLORIZATION IS NOT JUST TO RUIN OLD MOVIES ANYMORE; SOME DIRECTORS FIND IT FAR MORE PLATTE-ABLE TO CUSTOM-TINT IN POST

By Published on .

DIRECTOR TONY KAYE IS ONTO SOMETHING. EARLY LAST year, on a campaign for Home Savings of America via Chiat/Day/Los Angeles, Kaye shot in b&w and then colored the spots at CST Entertainment in Culver City, Calif. CST, the company that got its start tinting classic films from Turner Broadcasting's library, is today the only facility left practicing the much-maligned art since American Film Technology went bankrupt late last year. And while CST's coloring effects division, which treats commercials and videos, is less than a year old, it's grown with a brisk work flow from Kaye, who's sold on the technique. "It's like painting," says Kaye, who's known for his often eccentric work habits. "It allows you complete control.

"I wanted to colorize my work five or six years ago," he adds, pointing to the long and expensive hours he'd spent in a Paintbox/Harry suite coloring sequences of a commercial, which ultimately didn't satisfy him. "I just couldn't find anyone to do it. So it was really a godsend when I found them."

Fast appearing on other directors' reels, colorization may well become the next shakycam. (Tony Kaye Films says it gets several calls a week inquiring about it.) In addition to Kaye's projects, the technique has been used on an ESPN campaign directed by Epoch Films' Paula Greif, a music video directed by London-based Anton Corbijn and an American Express International spot directed by HSI's Gerard de Thame.

Even as this body of colorized work continues to build, the most striking example of the process-and the one Kaye shows skittish creatives-is undoubtedly an 80-second spot he shot last year for Dunlop tires and Abbott Mead Vickers/BBDO/London, (see Creativity, July 1993). In this nightmarish spot a car encounters "Mad Max"-like creatures and bizarre obstacles, all draped in unnatural colors that compound the eerie otherworldliness of the scenes.

Stan Rutledge, exec producer at CST, says that most agencies are at first wary of colorization, which requires an extra cost of $11,000 per 30-second spot for a technique that, to some, seems redundant. "When most people think 'colorized,' they think of the old Turner films," Rutledge admits. But when CST switched from an analog to a digital system two years ago, its palette was expanded to 16 million hues, which Rutledge claims are sharper and without the tinty, bleeding quality that became synonymous with the early Turner releases. CST can turn around a commercial project in about a week, consulting with the director and agency art director to select a few key frames, map areas and select colors. An automated computer system eliminates the tedious task of retouching each frame.

And while commercials like Dunlop's certainly plumb the depths of CST's color range, many projects opt for more-subtle yet equally distinctive tones. For instance, a Start credit cards campaign Kaye directed for Margeotes Fertitta Donaher & Weiss dovetails disparate color schemes: One spot, which shows an old couple bickering over the husband's loony spending habits, suggests nostalgia with hues redolent of faded post cards. Another commercial in the campaign employs saturated colors in a scene of a man at the beach with his granddaughter.

Coloring in post greatly expands set design and art direction possibilities, a critical factor in a commercial from Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot for Allied Signal's Autolite spark plugs and Fram filters, which showcased about 20 vintage cars. Directed by Kaye, the :30 employs heightened, exaggerated colors to bring out the eccentricity of car owners as they croon in time with George Thorogood's "Who do You Love?" next to their cherished vehicles. Associate creative director Rod Smith explains that while coloring the 40 different shots in the spot was time-intensive, it allowed them to use neutral-tone vehicles when they couldn't find the precise color cars they wanted: a green car was tinted blue, a maroon car was turned spearmint green, a beige model was colored taffy pink. A CST colorist even took a little artistic license to repaint a wall of graffiti in Los Angeles, which appears in the last shot. "We could make those cars any color we wanted against any background," Smith says. "It has so much texture and tone already from the b&w film."

While the bulk of its work is in other video genres, CST sometimes must borrow colorists from other divisions to work on commercials and videos, something that could become routine if more directors adopt Kaye's attitude. Kaye proclaims, "I would never shoot on color film again-unless there wasn't enough time."

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