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Jill Bogdanowicz

The Colorful Colorist By Steve Wright

When you first enter the inner sanctum of the digital color timing suite it is dark everywhere except for the intimate glow from the many dials, lights and monitors of the Virtual Datacine. This is the haunt of Jill Bogdanowicz, ace Digital Intermediate colorist  who has worked on such films as Blade 3, Ray, and She Hate Me. Originally from Kodak's Cinesite, she now plies her craft at Technicolor. The soft glow illuminates this comely maiden and belies the steely intellect behind her lovely face. We spoke with Jill about one of her favorite subjects, color science, and its roll in the Digital Intermediate process for feature films.

Bogdanowicz actually started her career as a colorist at an exceptionally early age. Highly educated, she attended the State University of New York at Geneseo as a fine arts major and (amazingly) a physics minor where she earned her BA degree. Following that she attended art school in Italy at the University of Siena. She lives and loves art in her personal life through her hobbies painting with oils, water colors, and charcoal. And, of course, she has her own darkroom for black and white photography.


In stark contrast to all of her artistic talent is her passion for science in general, and color science in particular. At the tender age of 18 she had already landed an internship in Kodak's telecine department in Rochester that lasted for two years. Tutored by the colorist and engineer there, she mastered the operation of the Avid off-line editing system, Rank telecine, Pogle color corrector, the Spirit Datacine, and a DaVinci 8:8:8. Fascinated by the technology around her and having no fear of math, science, or optics, she read books, quietly attended technical meetings, and hung around with the engineers - an engineering groupie, if you will.

The science of film technology comes naturally to Bogdanowicz since both her father and grandfather are engineers in the film business. Her father, Mitch Bodganowicz, is a senior film color scientist for Kodak and an expert on the human perceptual system. He also has two academy awards to his credit - one for designing filters and the other for developing a lab printer. His knowledge of both film and color science frequently gets him called out to the field to solve daunting cinematography problems on the set. Even Jill's grandfather was an inventor/engineer that made custom modifications to 16mm Mitchell cameras to make them handheld, and he also developed the first 3D stereoscopic cameras.  Apparently Bogdanowicz comes by her color science intellectually, educationally, and genetically.

When asked why she learned color science Bogdanowicz flashes a satisfied smile and says "I simply wanted to understand how things work. Knowing the science behind your art is the only way to truly master it."  Indeed, Leonardo DaVinci mixed his own paints and knew the science behind his art which provided inspiration for Jill who also learned how to mix her own paints, try them on different surfaces, and learn how the thinner worked. She says that knowing what is going on "behind the black curtain" makes it possible for her to solve problems that will stump other, less well endowed colorists.

There are so very few people that have a command of color science, I point out to Jill, so I asked her what makes color science so difficult. Was it the math? Was it because it required so many different disciplines like optics and physics, or was it the characteristics of complex machines like film scanners, film recorders, monitors, and video projectors? "No," she replied, "Those things are easy." she says matter-of-factly. "The really difficult part is the human perception aspects of the problem. They are quite complex - but then I had my daddy to help me." she says. "Not only knowing color science, but knowing film is very important." Why is that? Because the labs are not consistent and the colorist must understand what the densitometer readings tell you about the developed negative and the print. Intrigued, I lean closer and ask her what other advantages there are to knowing film. She points out that her clients are serious cinematographers and they speak film, so she must speak film in order to communicate. "When John Toll (Last Samurai, Vanilla Sky, Braveheart) wants a bleach bypass look or something shot on '77 to look closer '18, you had better know what he wants and how to deliver it." And of course, she does.

But I wanted to know why color science is important to the Digital Intermediate process and the client, so I press Bogdanowicz for an answer. "Look, all this digital data is going to be converted into film dyes, then projected," she explains. "You must understand how the digital data is presented through the video projector and how the results will ultimately appear on the film through the 3D LUT's (Look Up Tables) in order to get exactly the results you want. I am dealing with cinematographers that have color perception so acute that they can see a shift of one point of cyan." The problem being, of course, that the gamut of film (its range of colors) far exceeds that of most of the video projectors that are used to preview the look of the film. So the 3D LUT must be very clever about how to "squeeze" the larger gamut of film into the smaller gamut of the video projector in order to not surprise and disappoint the client when the film is finally projected.

 "By understanding the color science behind the Digital Intermediate process I can explain why things happen the way they do which builds understanding and confidence. I can also steer them clear of problems later. For example, crushing the blacks to get a rich high contrast look might look fine on the film today, but later the studio might print it up a bit and all the blacks turn to blocked up gray blobsThe idea is to make a solid negative with as much detail as possible and look at all the colors in the picture to make the most out of the palette that is there, she says."

I ask Bogdanowicz what's wrong with just having brilliant engineers build a perfectly tuned "color pipeline" for the Digital Intermediate process and then just hire some colorists with a good eye to twiddle the knobs until the picture looks right. "When a top professional like John Toll asks technical questions he expects answers. He also expects to have no surprises after 15 hours in the color timing suite when screening the final film. Color science is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when doing a Digital Intermediate for the client and the final look of the film. If you don't know your color science, then you don't know your art."


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With nearly 20 years of experience in CGI and digital effects, Steve Wright is also an international speaker, published author, and widely recognized expert in the digital effects industry.

Steve is an industry veteran with in-depth production experience in digital effects and CGI for feature films and broadcast television commercials, as well as feature film Digital Intermediate. As Technical Director and Senior Compositor for Kodak's Cinesite, he has created digital effects shots for a long list of top Hollywood films. His earlier production experience includes eight years experience as an in-house digital effects producer and  supervisor for CGI studios. He is highly experienced with client interface, storyboard breakdown, production bid preparation, and project management and has extensive technical and artistic experience with digital effects, 3D  computer animation, and even digital ink and paint for cel animation. His production experience includes three years as a 3D animator and 12 years experience of compositing and digital effects. His production projects include over 40 feature films and over 70 broadcast television commercials plus numerous special venue projects. His many feature film credits are listed on IMDb.

To contact Steve or see more of his production background visit his personal web site at www.swdfx.com. Click on the book cover to Amazon.com below to see Steve's very popular book on Digital Compositing.


Related Keywords:Jill Bogdanowicz, Digital Intermediate , Technicolor, Cinesite

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