Editor Jeff U’Ren Stretches His Artistic Chops with Avid Artist Color

While the ultimate goal of editors is to leave little of their own fingerprint on their work, the process itself can be a juggling act of epic proportions. As editing software has become increasingly powerful, so too has its complexity.

“When I first started out, there was no such thing as non-linear editing,” recalls veteran editor and colorist Jeff U’Ren. “At that time, the capabilities of editing equipment in general were considerably more limited, as were the options for controlling it.”

An early adopter of Avid editing software, these days U’Ren is equally conversant with Avid Media Composer and Apple Final Cut Studio. “Media Composer was my main tool for many years, though I started incorporating Final Cut when I started being presented with more and more projects that had been started in Final Cut,” he says. “These days, I use both programs about equally, depending on the specific needs of each individual project. For me, both programs have their advantages and their strong points.”

Also playing a major role in U’Ren’s arsenal are Avid Artist Series controllers. U’Ren called upon Artist Color (formerly Euphonix MC Color) for his work on the Casey Affleck/Joaquin Phoenix movie, I’m Still Here. “I’d used [Artist] Color on previous projects, so I was pretty conversant with it,” he says. “When I was first given a demo of the panel, I knew right away Artist Color was what I needed for that project. After doing five pilots that were shot in the field and needed good color correction, and working with files using multiple compression schemes, I knew I needed an efficient control surface that would enable me to control things to the smallest degree and provide quick access to functions like copy and paste, grades, and corrections. Artist Color is very intuitive, very quick and accessible. The combination of a trackball and a ring is a lot more intuitive than nudging things with a key on the keyboard.”

That versatility, says U’Ren, is what makes Artist Color one of his go-to boxes. “I’m never adjusting just one thing at a time, so having the ability to have several parameters at my fingertips is a tremendous advantage,” he explains. “Sometimes I want to just bring the Gamma up a bit, while at the same time bringing the blacks down or whatever. I can adjust that stuff easier by eye, rather than having to look over to another screen and back again, and the Artist Color allows me to do those kinds of multiple tasks on a single screen and see the results immediately. I know there are other products that can accomplish these kinds of tasks, but most of them are a lot more expensive and a lot less portable.”

Integration between Artist Color and Apple Color provides an edge as well, says U’Ren. “It’s great to be able to do 32-bit rendering right within an application. I can jump to a specific clip or keyframe, grab a still and color match to it, and navigate through the Apple Color application, and save and recall corrections to and from the Apple Color application.”

For U’Ren, Artist Color does more than just speed up his workflow. “Using Artist Color instead of, or in addition to, a keyboard certainly does streamline the process, but it’s more than just a speed issue. It also gives me the ability to look at things more critically, and in more detail, and take that extra bit of time to say ‘do I like the way this looks?’ or to nudge things a bit and make those fine adjustments. It gives me a lot more creative freedom and allows me to be more artistic.”