This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.
We sat down with pro colorist Patrick Inhofer to discuss his color grading process and how new colorists can jump into the color industry.
Last month we interviewed prolific author and colorist Alexis van Hurkman about his vantage point of the industry. We’ve got another exclusive, this time with colorist Patrick Inhofer, a 25-year veteran of the post community. His long list of clients include HBO, NBC, ABC, Showtime, and ESPN. His foray into teaching began in 2005, and Inhofer has since has made coaching a key part of his business with his sites Tao of Color, Colorist Flight School, and Mixing Light.
From Editing to Coloring
Inhofer went to school for television and film, working as an editor for about a decade in large Manhattan edit houses before making the switch to freelance. That’s how he found color grading.
When it came time for me to go freelance and start selling my services, I realized super quick that many of my competitors didn’t know what a good-looking picture looked like. They didn’t even know how to read a scope, which I learned in college. I decided to establish myself as someone who had this additional skillset. As software became more capable of digital color correction, I realized I loved it, and I made a conscious transition towards full-time color correction.
Having a color grading subspecialty benefitted Inhofer, and today continues to differentiate many of the editors he coaches.
I teach a lot of editors who are well served by not only being good at editing and putting a story together, but by having a subspecialty they can sell their clients on. Color correction is a great skill to have. It has a visual impact on the image. You can do a before and after and really see the difference. For a lot of the people I coach, color correction won’t be their primary job, but it allows them to differentiate themselves from their competition. I’m a big proponent for that.
Screencap from Rivers Wash Over Me
Five years ago, Inhofer started Tao of Color, a weekly colorist-focused newsletter, which in itself was a part-time job, taking up 20-25 hours a week.
Tao was designed as a community-building exercise when there was very little cohesive communication going on about color grading. That was a way of pulling together everything that was happening in the community.
With this split revenue system, I wondered about the balance of business intraditional coloring versus coaching.
It’s about 50-50 right now. I’d like for a bit more to come out of training. When you’re selling product, if you’re not constantly generating new product, any good will you’ve built up starts to evaporate. To go down that route, there’s a certain amount you have to commit to, and I haven’t found the right amount that allows me to run Mixing Light and Tao of Color.
For many of us that wear multiple hats, finding the right mix to devote time to each aspect of our business can clearly be challenging.
My goal is to cut back on grading about 15 percent, maintaining a smaller base of regular clients. That’ll free up time to revitalize Colorist Flight School, where I’ll be offering certifications. I need to keep the client base to keep me relevant on software, workflows, and changes in the industry, and the training allows me to live a more independent lifestyle that isn’t tied to any particular region.