Vincent Taylor is obsessed with color. The corner of his eyes sparkle when he talks about color; its varied hues, its degree of brightness, the way it shades, adds texture, and can darken or lighten the mood of each film he applies it to. Taylor has worked as a colorist for seventeen years. His last three years he has held the title of Senior Colorist at MPC in Shanghai. It is time for him to move on from China but before leaving I had a chance to sit down with Taylor in his plush MPC color grading studio where he reflected on the good, the challenging, and the memorable parts of his time at MPC in Shanghai.
Taylor started his career as a cinematographer. This background turned out to be an excellent foundation for understanding lighting and color and helps him better appreciate the creative process in its entirety. At a time when he was practically the only freelance colorist in Australia, he was invited to come for a three week project with MPC in Shanghai. When the project finished there was an opening for him to stay on as the Senior Colorist. Taylor was at first hesitant but with the enthusiasm and support from his wife, the couple took on the challenge, packed up their two year old son and decided to move to Shanghai for this opportunity with MPC. “We made the move and came to China, and what an incredible adventure it has been”.
职业生涯之初，Taylor是一位电影摄影师。这样的角色正好为灯光和调色打下良好基础，也帮助他能更好地品味创意过程的完整性。他曾经一度是澳大利亚唯一一位独立调色师，那时候他有一次来到MPC上海参加为期三周的项目。机会随之向他敞开大门 – 继续留在MPC担任高级调色师。Taylor最初还犹豫不决，但是他对这份工作充满热情，再加上妻子的支持，于是，夫妻二人决定迎接挑战，带着两岁的儿子来到上海，加入MPC。“我们启程动身来动中国，开启了不可思议的奇遇”。
While walking down the bustling streets of Shanghai is a far cry from the less populated, calmer cities in Australia, “the work is familiar” Taylor tells me, slightly adjusting the laces on his fashionable high top basketball shoes. He has several deep blue-grey tattoos etched on the underside of his forearm. “Here in this studio we could literally be anywhere in the world”. Indeed perched on black, glossy leather couches where we were chatting just behind machines, monitors and computers, we could have been in a world class studio in LA or London.
“The way you deal with clients and the content is what changes over here” Taylor continues. Adjusting to the Chinese work flow has come with its fair share of frustrations for Taylor. “This [lack of respect for the creative process] is a real struggle because you always want to provide the client with what they want but when it goes against your own aesthetic it’s hard”.
China is certainly not the easiest work environment, with notoriously long work hours, demanding clients, and hierarchical societal norms that can sometimes stifle the creative work flow. “It comes down to a respect for the process and a respect for all artists and creators involved in the process. And there’s a reason for this process.” He hasn’t been called to a pre production meeting in China because color grading is usually ignored until the final stages.
Taylor recalls a project where the product and the talent’s jacket were supposed to be the exact same color blue. It wasn’t until the project reached post production that the team took the time to notice that the hues of blue were completely different and so Taylor had to go frame by frame adjusting the color tone of the talent’s blue jacket to match the product. If the color direction was considered from the start, the talent could have simply been given a blue color jacket that corresponded to the product, saving hours for everyone by the time it went into post. “There is an incredible amount of working hard, not a lot of working smart”.
This is not to put Taylor’s experience in a negative tint. He has worked on numerous projects in China that bring him to the edge of his seat sharing about how positive the experience was and how pleased he was with the end result. He grins like a little boy recalling the exhilarating moments when the whole team was in the room discussing a project, playing with the nuances of the color direction and then they all finally reaches that ah-ha moment. “I love the collaboration, that ability to get an idea out of peoples’ mind and put it on the screen for them. We really elevate the quality of the final piece when working together like that”.
Taylor’s work he is most proud of over three years in China
He couldn’t have been happier to be part of MPCs team in Shanghai. “I wouldn’t have lasted three weeks without their support”. Working with such an experienced and international team was one of the highlights of his time in China. Before working at MPC, Taylor had only color graded a small number of visual effects focused pieces. It was highly rewarding for him to work with such seasoned visual effects professionals on a range of high caliber projects. “The show reel I am walking away with is certainly more than I could have achieved in Australia”.
While he will miss the MPC team, he is ready for a new kind of adventure. “I liken it to splashing cold water on your face” Taylor tells me. Perhaps he has become an excitement junkie like the many expats before him that have fallen victim to that daily does of adrenaline you get from living in the unexpected and unknown. Living and working in China Taylor admits has helped him and his family grow as people. “We’ve met so many lovely and incredible individuals. Shanghai really is a sort of hot house, incubator that brings people together”. His contract has finished with MPC and he has already lined up a new opportunity in New York that will start at the beginning of October.
His advice for foreign colorists considering work in China is first and foremost to be patient. While pushing back a loose curl that had snuck out of his tightly pulled back bun, he jokes “I am a Jedi master in patience now”. Taylor has also become acutely aware of what the day to day reality of working in another culture entails. “Be prepared for a different way of working, take a deep breathe, and be very patient. Understand that people do things different and that’s okay. If you have suggestions make them in a gentle way, don’t just try to ram your ideas down peoples’ throat. At the end of the day remember it’s not your country”.
As a colorist, Taylor specifically hopes the industry will keep growing and that “they will start to appreciate and see more value in [a colorists’ role]”. The fact that everyone thinks they understand color makes respect for the profession slightly tricky. “Color is easy, we all know what green grass is, what the color of someone’s skin is – but that’s precisely why it’s deceiving. Color is complicated because of its subjective nature”. If Taylor’s four year old son can understand what his dad does for a living then surely any creative can weigh in on what the color of that red door should be in the background, right?
作为一名调色师，Taylor非常希望整个行业能继续发展，“人们能更懂得欣赏理解（调色师这一角色的）价值”。事实上，每个人都觉得自己对调色都懂一些，所以要想对调色师这一职位保有尊重还有点难。“色彩很容易理解，我们都知道绿色玻璃是什么，也知道人的肤色是什么样的 – 但是正因如此，调色才不像表面看起来那么简单。色彩的主观性使调色变得很复杂”。如果连Taylor四岁的儿子都能明白爸爸维生的技能，那么任何一个创意人士都应该知道如何权衡调色的重要性，对吧？
Color grading and color correction are not as simple as they appear though. This is what keeps the blood running through Taylor’s veins. “I just remember how much I love it. How exciting it is to keep evolving and keep playing, it’s a very satisfying process. Every job in the end really is different and I just love that because you are always learning, always growing, and if you work together you can create something truly amazing”.