Magazine article American Cinematographer

Senior Colorist Mark Griffith on Film Restoration: INSIGHT

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Senior Colorist Mark Griffith on Film Restoration: INSIGHT

Article excerpt

Color grading has been Mark Griffith's mandate for almost 30 years. He began as a colorist, specializing in award-winning commercials and visual effects at Optimus in Chicago, then at Command Post & Transfer in Toronto. At the time, secondaries were still fairly new, there were no windows and no way to store a list. Even tape-to-tape color passes were a matter of trial and error. As the industry evolved, so did Griffith. He moved to Los Angeles in 1991 and expanded on his commercial experience, adding trailers and feature film projects to his growing credit list.

For 10 years now, Griffith has been a member of the FotoKem team. Since 2010, he has worked on a number of important restoration projects, including three major 4K film restorations: The Sound of Music for its 45th anniversary, Oklahoma! and My Fair Lady, on the occasion of their 60th and 50th anniversaries, respectively, last year.

Here he offers insight into the delicacies of his craft:

How does picture restoration differ from color correction for a newly released feature?

With a new feature, you're using color tools to create a particular mood or to lure the eye to a certain point on the screen through windowing. But restoration takes a different mindset. It's not about creating something new that looks cool but re-creating the existing image to look new, as if it was shot yesterday. It's a very precise process. You have to be sensitive to the intentions of the people who created the elements that went into that film - the lighting, the exposure, the art direction - because the director, the cinematographers and the art directors are not usually able to be in the room with you.

How do you perceive your role as a colorist on restoration projects?

I consider myself a creative ambassador, melding the technical aspects of color correction with the creative aspects to preserve these films and represent all those who took such care to create these national treasures. The tools are so vast and effective today that you want to use them to make the picture look good, pop off the screen, and address imperfections that would be visually distracting to the audience. But there is a fine balance. The restorations I've done are big films, and people have strong memories of them. …

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