Color Industry Pro: Mark Todd Osborne

June 28, 2024

OmniScope Featured Artist:

Mark Todd Osborne

Color Industry Pro

Mark Todd Osborne is an award-winning colorist based in Los Angeles who’s had a prolific career in film and television. Over the last 25 years Mark has helmed the grade on over 175 feature films, numerous television shows, commercials and branded content. Known for having a meticulous eye and combining technical and creative capabilities has led to working for some of Hollywood’s most famous names including Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, Martin Scorsese, and James Cameron – to name drop a few!

The team at Time in Pixels was excited to learn that Osborne recently added Nobe OmniScope to his grading suite. And after a few successful projects, he was ready to talk!

Mark, thanks for chatting. How did you get started in color grading?

I credit my former boss at Encore Santa Monica, Larry Chernoff, for putting the idea in my head to use me as a dailies colorist. I was always into cinematography and filmmaking, so the idea of being a colorist seemed perfect for me, since I am an extremely visually-oriented person. From there, I moved over to the newly opened Company 3, Santa Monica and that’s where I was given the opportunity to really spread my wings as a professional colorist.

For the last 12 years, I have been an independent contractor who works for various post and production companies and am able to work out of my home studio MTO Color where we are known for having a “large post house look” but with a smaller footprint.  We even have a nice, big kitchen where you can get coffee or espresso!

You’ve worked on so many well known projects. What projects from your career are you most proud of ?

“Although I have a lot of current work that I love, like the recent features “Scrambled” (Lionsgate) & “Becky” (Quiver), I have a fondness for “Sunshine Cleaning“ (Overture), “Need for Speed“ (Disney/dreamworks) and “It Follows” (Radius-TWC) which, frankly, has been the “gift that keeps on giving” for my career. To this day, I am requested for projects simply because of the color design and my work on that movie. It was the first time I was chosen as colorist before the movie had ever been shot and was given the chance to play with footage before we ever got into the DI theater for the final grade. They gave me a lot of leeway to be as artistic as I wanted to be on that film and was afforded the chance to create several multilayer color palettes throughout each scene of that film.”

Have there been any particular projects (or specific shots) that were especially challenging?

“Since most of my work focuses mainly on independent feature films in the 5-10 million dollar range, every project can have its challenging scenes. One, in particular, is the movie “Supercell” (2023) which was a highly ambitious indie about storm chasing that had over 450+ visual effects. We had to work backwards once the VFX came in. The design of the stormy world created, made me re-tool the look of all the shots that came before or after the VFX shots – in order to ensure a smooth and organic feel throughout. I really needed to let the look of the weather & and twister environments of the VFX help guide where I was going to take the overall color in regards to mood, tone & texture of that story.”

You’ve been in the industry for a while and have seen tools change a lot over the years. Has your role as colorist changed as the tools transitioned from hardware based platforms to software based applications?

“The role of colorist, for me, has had to stay both flexible and fluid in order to stay on top of the constant changes in technology over the years. Workflows need to evolve and change with each project that comes my way. Just when I think I’ve got a system down, I discover an even better one on the next project. It is truly amazing how fast things move, but that’s what keeps my job exciting! I am always looking forward to new tools and techniques I can play with on any given upcoming project. The more you understand the technology of the tools, the better you can create your artistry.”

What tools are you currently working with?

“Although I have worked on many coloring systems including Quantel Pablo, Digital Vision Nucoda and Autodesk Lustre, I am currently working on Blackmagic Resolve. My studio is equipped with a Mac Studio M1 Ultra, 5.1 Sound, BMD Mini Panel, iMac Pro 2nd station with a Tangent Element Panel, BMD Speed Editor, Ultra studio 4K Mini and I absolutely cannot live without my 3 Elgato Stream Decks!”

Resolve has added so many features over the years, how do you keep current with all the newest tools?

“Yes, Blackmagic is constantly adding new and helpful color tools in Resolve, and I do my best to stay informed and aware of them as I can, but there’s always something new to learn on any given day. I’m really enjoying using Resolve’s Depth Map OFX, 3D Keyer, Compositing Mode and my trusty Offset & Printer Lights. Also, I have used the Face Refinement OFX for quite a bit of beauty work over the last few years.

Working with OmniScope:

“I had been hearing about OmniScope from my colorist peers for several years now and honestly had trepidation about using it, until just recently. I have always relied on the Resolve scopes, but once I finally took the time to explore how OmniScope worked, I fell in love with it and have been using it for the past two months on every job I have had. I look forward to implementing some of the other scope options in the future.

Currently, I love the fact that I can zoom in quite a bit on my Vectorscopes, including the highs, mids and lows, as well zooming deep into my RGB Waveforms to show finite shadow and highlight details. I also enjoy being able to isolate a particular area with my mouse on the source signal viewer.”

You need a great eye for color and great scopes to support your artistry, both technically and creatively. I highly recommend OmniScope to all colorists & color science engineers in our field.

What is the most challenging thing that you come across as a colorist?

“The answer for me is twofold: 1)  you have to be talented and continue to grow your talent, creative process and have smart workflows in order to stay competitive. 2) the other half is the “psychology” behind our job in dealing with and maintaining client relationships. The client has probably been working on their project for quite some time before they are ready to bring it to a colorist, who may only be on the project for 2 to 4 weeks. This project is “their baby” and so they need to be assured you’re going to take care of it and see it all the way through. This not only means creating a “tasteful look” that helps best tell their story, but also making sure that everything is technically accurate / technically sound as it goes out for final delivery to the world.”

What part of your career do you enjoy the most?

“There are two types of grading a colorist must do on each project: first is the “technical grade”— making sure A & B cameras match, smoothing out any problematic exposure, lighting, and temperature issues, etc. The second is the “creative grade“ and that is my favorite part. Designing “the look” that will help draw your audience into what the characters are saying and the story they are telling.”

Learn more about Mark Todd Osborne’s work at MTO Color, or on IMDB.