[Tig] Film Timer Question

David Bernstein d_bernstein2000 at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 10 20:11:52 GMT 2012

Hi Rick,
Quick question maybe, but there's not really a quick answer. To begin with,there is a bit of a semantics issue in this question. While the esteemed Mr.Swinson gives an excellent response on the definition and history of the film timer, your question specifically refers to the film transfer process, which is generally performed electronically by those of us who refer to ourselves as colorists (or graders, of you prefer). The term 'Film Timer' has historically been used to describe those who work photochemically in a film lab, as described by Peter S., and to which you you would have knowledge due to your lab experience. The transfer process typically refers to a device such as a telecine or scanner that would convert a film image to an electronic image (video or digital file), as is widely done for preservation nowadays. However, the digital colorist or timer has a much different tool set, allowing for greater control over the image manipulation.
  In either case, the colorist's (or timer's) role would be much the same, which is essentially to balance the color and density of an image in order to achieve a desired look on screen. In your example question, the role of a colorist on a preservation project might be to restore proper balance to a faded image, as well as creating a consistency of the look for any given scene from shot to shot. Depending on the circumstances of your particular transfer, the colorist may also be the operator of the scanning device, controlling the level of detail and the texture of the scanned image. He or she may also have access to tools that can manipulate the grain structure, and also remove dirt and scratches. Often though these tasks are divided among several people, and the colorist can serve as a sort of arbiter of the final image, making sure that all the restoration efforts come together into a cohesive package. 
This is perhaps an oversimplification to a question that could have several answers, depending on the job in question. There are a lot of factors at play, such as the type of film, the amount of money you have to spend in order to preserve it, what your delivery needs are, what country you live in, what facility you might choose to do the work, etc. It could be as simple as a guy putting up a reel of film on a machine, making a few basic color and contrast adjustments, and then hitting the record button on a tape machine (old school), or as complex as someone spending weeks or months going frame by frame through a film and fixing all sorts of density shifts, colorimetry errors, and carefully crafting a specific color balance according to the client's wishes. 
David Bernstein
(never been an actual film timer)

From: wbpags <rickpags at yahoo.com>
>To: "tig at colorist.org" <tig at colorist.org> 
>Sent: Monday, December 10, 2012 7:21 AM
>Subject: [Tig] Film Timer Question
>Sohonet http://www.sohonet.co.uk/ sponsors the TIG.
>Support from Digital Vision http://www.digitalvision.tv/
>  Hey All,
>     I have a friend who needs some input on the role of a film timer. While I've worked for 2 labs in my career and
>have a solid understanding of film from pre-production to post production, I was hoping a film timer out there might
>put this into a more succinct manner. All replies greatly appreciated.
>"Quick question. FIlm Timers - what do they do exactly?  Am writing a term paper and want to explain the role.  For example, if I want to transfer a film for preservation purposes, what would the timer's role be on my transfer process? "
> Thanks,
>  Rick

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