Colorist, Finishing Artist, Developer & Podcast Host
This month’s featured artist is Jason Bowdach, a multi-talented colorist and finishing artist based out of Los Angeles. When not working at Fox on promotions, or freelancing on indie projects – Jason develops PixelTools, color grading workflow tools designed to help artists work more efficiently. And if that is not all, he somehow finds the time to host Color & Coffee, a podcast focused on the craft of color grading. We recently spoke with Jason about his career journey and favorite tools of the trade.
Hey Jason! How did you get started in post?
“I originally planned to pursue a path in visual effects. I’ve always been fascinated by VFX and the enormous impact they could have on a film's narrative when used properly. Like many, after college, I started on the bottom rung, doing something completely unrelated to my passion – organizing the physical tape library at Disney-ABC! I slowly worked my way up the technical ladder, until I was reviewing and approving QC for distribution and mastering. While this was far from the “VFX artist” position I originally desired, it did prove invaluable – it gave me a “birds eye” view of an enterprise-level broadcast workflow and international distribution pipeline. I wouldn’t realize the importance of this experience until years later, but it was truly priceless.”
What made you transition to color and finishing?
“Eventually I started to realize that my passion for VFX wasn’t as intense as I thought it was. The business didn’t seem to really respect VFX and I had to decide if I wanted to dedicate my entire career to that specific craft. After discussions with a few mentors, I came to the conclusion that my best path was in a craft I had enjoyed – but never considered as a career choice – the role of colorist and finishing artist. In 2014, I left Disney to go out on my own as a freelance artist. In 2019, I started PixelTools and then eventually I landed at Fox as an in-house colorist & finishing artist.”
What kind of projects are you typically grading or finishing?
“At the studio, I focus primarily on promo content for shows, but I also work freelance on a large variety of projects – from feature and short films, commercials, to 360 exhibits and more. It's truly amazing how much content there is today and it all needs to look top level.”
“I’m particularly fond of a short film I worked on titled The Seed, directed and edited by Vashi Nedomansky, ACE. It was particularly challenging, based on the Unreal Engine generated source material and the strong look – but I think it came out well. I actually relied on Omniscope quite a bit to ensure major hue and saturation levels for the sky and sand were consistent and pleasing to the eye.”
What equipment is in your current color grading setup?
“I’m running Davinci Resolve on a Mac Studio M1 Max with 128GB. For monitors I have an LG 32EP950 reference monitor and a Sony X2400 as secondary reference for remote work that is matched to the studio/producer display. I have two Dell U2415 displays for the Resolve interface and a Viewsonic VG1655 Thunderbolt display dedicated to Nobe Omniscope. For peripherals I use the Elgato Stream Deck XL x2, a Logitech MX KEYS S keyboard, and a Master 3 mouse. Lastly, there is the Blackmagic Mini Control Surface, a Focusrite 2i2 Interface, and a Shure SM7B mic.”
“I use various plug-ins, apps and add-ons including: PixelTools PowerGrades and DCTLs (especially hueShift, halationTool, exposureTool and splitTone). Also, NeatVideo, Boris FX Sapphire and Continuum (as used in the edit), Topaz Video Enhance, Photoshop, Parsec, Jump Desktop, Screens 4, Lattice, and MediaInfo.”
Working with Nobe OmniScope
“I’ve used a wide variety of video scopes in my career, from hardware scopes (such as Tektronix) to other software solutions. I find OmniScope to be a superior replacement with several unique features, such as the HML vectorscope, qualifier and Stream Deck integration. I’ve become very attached to OmniScope after using it for so long. Sometimes it’s the little things! For example, I love the ability to take a single scope full-screen at the touch of a button via “Solo” mode. I have it mapped to my Stream Deck for several of my commonly used scopes.”
“My typical layout differs depending on the suite I’m working in, but preferably I have an entire 16x9 monitor under my reference display dedicated to OmniScope. I always display dual vectorscopes, one for a traditional vectorscope and another that splits the image into highlights, midtones, and shadows. I enjoy having both a luma waveform and a RGB parade quite prominent and easy to glance at. With remaining monitor space, I have a small histogram, audio channels, and channel plots on the side.
“Developer Tom Huczek has been a true gem to the colorist community and is always available to answer questions and provide great support. I highly recommend his products on a regular basis!”
Life as a Colorist
“Managing client expectations is likely the biggest challenge of being a colorist today. We’re working in a calibrated room with the best equipment and conditions, while our clients are watching on consumer-grade tablets and laptops – so clear communication on expectations is critically important. If you can get them in the same room with you for a few sessions (or in a proper remote set-up), it's enormously helpful.
“I do my best to learn my clients' chosen “language”, as color isn’t something that is innately understood technically. When requesting a highly saturated image, one client may request a “colorful” image while another requests “punchy” when attempting to describe the same thing. Through careful communication and by requesting specific references, you can slowly discern exactly what they are really seeking.”
So great to talk with you. What is your favorite thing about this profession?
“I love how frequently things change - the content, the technology, the workflows – and how I'm constantly needing to adapt. It always keeps me on my toes and excited to grade a new project or create a new [color grading] tool.”
To learn more about Jason’s work, please visit www.jasonbowdach.com.
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