One of Chicago’s
busiest color pros
looks ahead while
remembering the past
As a Senior Colorist at Company 3, Tyler Roth operates in a spectrum that literally runs as wide as the eye can see. Mixing pixels of red, green, and blue at different levels of brightness and saturation, he’s got millions of ways to enhance the look of films and commercials.
His clients include film and creative directors who occasionally rely on non-technical references to describe what they want him to do: mood boards, Photoshop images, and adjectives like “optimistic” and “sunny” often come in to play.
Movies make useful examples as well.
“Sometimes it’s films like Minority Report or Band of Brothers,” he explains. “Tree of Life gets referenced once a week.”
With over a hundred IMDb film credits and thousands of commercial campaigns to his name, Roth has not only mastered the art of interpreting creative visions, but also gained the trust of countless project leaders worldwide.
The success dates back to his days as an undergrad at Northwestern University, where he learned the old school way of doing things just before the new school got built.
“There were two Avid DS Nitris systems that were run by only a few students,” he recalls. “A senior passed down the workflow and techniques to one freshman, and I was that freshman.”
Over the next three years, Roth worked on “hundreds of music videos, spec commercials, everything coming out of there.” After graduating with nearly a quarter-million dollars in color billings, he accepted a position with Filmworkers and got busy on a Spirit Telecine machine.
“I had a good two or three years of all film,” he remembers. “Hanging negatives on the Spirit and grading via dedicated hardware systems proved to be far different from the unlimited layers available with today’s software based setups.”
The workload put him at the center of a busy post-production town just a few years before the industry embraced a revolution.
The change had been brewing since 2000, when Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother, Where Out Thou, was hailed as “the first fully digital intermediate film.” It continued until “about 2012,” the same year that Roth opened Company 3’s Chicago office.
“There was a very dramatic shift in commercial and film work,” he explains. “At the time, almost everything was shooting 35mm celluloid film. Then the RED One and the ARRI Alexa cameras launched, and cinematographers, filmmakers, and colorists started to say, ‘okay, this is a viable alternative to shooting negative.’”
While these cameras offered a departure from the overly ‘digital’ feel of existing cameras, the footage coming out of RED and Alexa didn’t boast the richness and texture of traditional film. According to Roth, this was due to the technology that contained it. The quality increased rapidly with newer sensors and faster solid-state disks.
“Digital cameras are all about data rate,” he continues. “Shooting in raw or log formats, they capture a wide range of color exposure and store the data in a logarithmic curve. So instead of storing images the way our eyes see them, they stored the data in washed-out, low color, but high-fidelity images.”
The look became a trend that has influenced commercials and films ever since.
“In lieu of having the traditional film dailies process, post-production teams would tend to cut with those flat, washed-out images,” Roth explains. “And sometimes the team or client would get used to seeing these images and essentially fall in love with the raw formats. How could they not after sitting with it for weeks?”
As a result, a deliberately narrow palette dominates a number of today’s commercial campaigns and blockbusters.
Roth plays these styles when they fit the project, but also pushes the boundaries with new and innovative looks.
IMDb currently connects him to nearly ten films in post-production. His recently completed jobs include award-winning features like Minding the Gap, Shooting in Vain, Mercury in Retrograde, and Princess Cyd.
He has also handled a number of commercials worth noting. Among them is a JennAir spot released in May that he colored for Team Darkhorse.
Bound By Nothing flashes through a montage of conceptual vignettes to get at a series of high-end product shots. The earnest, quirky and sensual scenes underscore the title’s bold declaration.
It begins with a verbal description of luxury that goes like this — “we’ve been programmed, told how it’s supposed to look” — and proceeds to embrace one of the riskiest concepts in contemporary advertising.
The thing is totally unexpected, kind of weird, and it works.
BOUND BY NOTHING BY DARKHORSE FOR JENNAIR
“The project had such stunning visuals and was a perfect opportunity for me to push dark and gritty elements with a stylized, fashion approach,” says Roth. “It’s one of my favorite projects to date and with the looks we created, I think you can see why.”
Senior Colorist – Tyler Roth
Executive Producer – Lauren Roth
Assistant Colorist – Parker Jarvie
Executive Producer – Rob Tripas
Executive Creative Director – Michael Frease
Creative Director – Mike Epstein
Creative Director – Steve Horn
Editor Cameron Yergler
Production Company – Stink Films
Director – Jovan Todorovic
DP – Albert Salas
Send your agency news to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, firstname.lastname@example.org.