Meet The Colorist, Vincent Taylor

Vincent Taylor started his career as a cinematographer shooting commercials and films before making the switch to color grading.  15 years later Vincent has made the move from Australia to China to become Senior Colorist at the new MPC Shanghai office.  Six months into life in the Middle Kingdom, we met with Vincent to catch up on life in China’s commercial capital and meet the man behind the color magic.

What was your path to becoming a colorist?

I was a cinematographer for about six years.  Then I got chatting to a post house that said they wanted to train up a colorist.  Normally they would have someone come up through the tape room - this is back in the Telecine days - but they thought it would be interesting to have a cinematographer’s take on it.  We gave it a try and I loved it.  Directors and DoP’s responded well because I had lighting training.  So I kind of stumbled into it and haven’t looked back since.

Are there a lot of overlaps with the DoP and colorist roles?

Absolutely.  Both need to be able to extract the idea from a directors head and translate that into an image. The DoP and colorist are much the same in that sense.

What’s the most enjoyable ad campaign you’ve worked on recently?

The Coca-Cola campaign was really fun because I was grading a dinosaur. Mark Toia (Director) was great.  He was very succinct with his direction, he knew exactly what he wanted.  I think we only needed two conversations.  It was like, ‘great, got it, boom’.  

What has been the most significant change in the way you do your job over the years?

The most dramatic change, apart from the technology, is the fact that knowledge is being shared.  It used to be really difficult to get any information. 

The industry has blown up now that color grading software is available to everybody. Now everyone is a colorist; I see directors and DoPs playing with the software.  It’s useful because it’s like shorthand or notes.  I can see where they’re going and I can build on top of it.

Who has been the greatest influence on your career?

I get very inspired by DoPs; guys like Darius Khondji, Greg Frasier, Jeff and Jordan Cronenweth – amazing cinematographers.  I was looking at some images from Blade Runner recently and it still gets my heart beating faster.  The way the light is sculpted, the use of color.  It has an integrity to it.  They are telling a story, creating it from scratch.

What’s your best piece of advice to someone starting out in the industry looking to become a colorist?

Listen - listen to your clients, to your teachers.  Constantly ask questions – outwardly and inwardly.  You’re always learning.  After I’d been grading for about three years, I was almost becoming over-confident.  I had a director make a request and, in my head, I thought it would look ridiculous but I politely said ‘sure, we’ll try that’.  We did it, and it looked amazing.  I remember that moment - realizing you never know it all.

What digital tool couldn’t you live without?

My vector scopes. You’re looking at your scopes all the time when you’re grading. Not having them would cripple me.  Oh, and music.

What’s been your career highlight so far?

Last year I started with MPC and moved to Shanghai.  I liken it to splashing cold water on my face.  To come to another country with a different culture, to suddenly be the Lead Colorist for MPC - that definitely has to be a highlight.

How do you keep your eye and ideas fresh?

I look at real life.  I make time to go outside and look at the sky and natural light.  Nature is your best friend.  I see how many hues of green I can find in the park.  It zeroes your eyes.  Sometimes I’ll stretch my muscles a little bit and help a friend to work on a music video, where there are no rules. Working with students is very inspiring too. They’re still in awe of this process.

Agencies and clients seem to really enjoy the grading stage of the job.  Why is that?

I think it’s because they’re not stuck in the minutiae of the edit.  It’s finally becoming real and the story is solidifying.  Plus the suite is pretty damn comfortable and in my room they get to listen to some really good music.

What music do you listen to at work?

It really depends on my mood and the mood of the room.  It ranges from the Black Keys and Alabama Shakes to TZU and Graveyard Train.  My favourite soundtrack is Jesse James.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a colorist?

Whatever it was, it would be related to storytelling.  Everything in my life has been intertwined with storytelling from writing to filmmaking to cinematography and color grading.

What are your interests outside work?

I’ve got a young son, so I take all the opportunities I can to be a Dad.  I really love being with him.  His wonderment at the world and what’s going on excites me so much.  

What’s your personal motto?

Keep enquiring, keep searching, keep learning.

What’s your favourite thing about Shanghai? 

It’s like nowhere I’ve ever been before.  It opens your eyes.  From a colorist’s perspective, you’re looking at a whole range of new color and new light.