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Color Grading Insight From Pro Colorist Alexis Van Hurkman

This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

We interviewed professional colorist Alexis Van Hurkman and asked him to share how an aspiring colorist can tap into the competitive world of color grading.

The niche world of color grading is filled with highly specialized artists that have made it their craft to perfect the subtle art of manipulating moving images, matching shots, and crafting grades that realize their creator’s vision. I recently chatted withAlexis Van Hurkman, one of the more visible personalities in the field.

Hurkman has literally written the book on DaVinci Resolve, the instruction manual for the popular grading software that clocks in at a staggering one thousand pages, not to mention also having written The Color Correction Handbook and The Color Correction Lookbook.

Color Grading: Color Correction Lookbook
A still from the cover of Alexis Van Hurkman’s Color Correction Lookbook

“The Handbook is the vegetables,” Hurkman says, “while the Lookbook is the dessert.” The Lookbook is the smaller of the two volumes, but Hurkman says it’s the more fun of the two, focusing on interesting grades more so than the Handbook, which teaches a budding colorist the practice of color grading through an application-agnostic methodology. “The Handbook is about fixing the images, and the Lookbook is about screwing them back up.”

Hurkman also wrote an Encyclopedia of Color Correction which pertained to the now-defunct Final Cut Pro 7, but he’d written about color for Final Cut since software version 3 way back around 2001.

In addition to writing technical documentation, Hurkman has also created half-a-dozen Ripple Training series for Resolve. And then of course there’s the regular darkened-room grind of the professional colorist.

Best-Case Scenario

Color Grading: Zombie Movie Still
Video still via Alexis Van Hurkman

Obviously, Hurkman’s got many pots on the kettle, but we first discussed his writing career, his entrance point into the world of color.

When I write documentation like for Resolve, I consider myself to be the first end user for new features that have just been engineered or that are in the middle of being re-engineered. To make the writing resonate with an editor or colorist, it’s really helpful for me to know what users will want to use the new tools for. I try to present real-world examples on how to use the controls.

Hurkman found color correction in much the same way I did: while he was working as an editor, clients would ask him to make a few color tweaks to their footage.

Once you learn a little bit about color correction, you can’t unsee the problems. I’d make a few changes here and there. Gradually, clients came to me for that particular service.

For a while, Hurkman still didn’t consider himself a colorist, but clients liked the image fixes. Over time, Hurkman realized that he enjoyed color grading. This was 2005, a time when clients not commanding considerable commercial budgets were considered an underserved market for color.

As he started getting busier, Hurkman migrated to Final Touch, which later became the Color program in Final Cut Studio when it was acquired by Apple. He received a coincidental call around that time to write a user manual for the program, since he had written documentation for the color sections of Final Cut Pro in the past. It was a perfect fit and a great learning experience for the types of skills he was rapidly acquiring.

Read the full article on PremiumBeat’s blog and don’t forget to follow Tristan on Twitter.