Colorist Yoram Tal, better known as “Tal,” has made an impressive career for himself working in the reality TV genre. Some of his credits include Dancing with the Stars (beginning in season five),
Fear Factor, Wipeout and
Running Wild with Bear Grylls. Tal is now adding two more shows to his credit: Fox’s newest competition-based series,
Kicking & Screaming and
My Kitchen Rules which, Tal enhances outdoor colors on K
icking & Screaming.
Kicking & Screaming, hosted by New Girl’s Hannah Simone, is a competition series that teams expert survivalists with “pampered” partners to face a series of tough challenges within the jungles of Fiji. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is My Kitchen Rules, hosted by celebrity chefs Cat Cora and Curtis Stone, which pits pairs of celebrities against each other in a cooking-competition which also involves a dinner party and review/ rating of the meals.
“Both shows look very different from one another,” says Tal. “My Kitchen Rules takes place in and around Los Angeles. It’s very intimate. It’s couples of celebrities and their spouses or families and they participate in a cooking competition while hosting a dinner party. That show has a very specific look — small, intimate, it happens in the kitchen and around the dinner party. So, there’s the action of cooking, the talking heads, as well as food shots. That show was shot on Arri Alexa in flat mode, so when the footage arrived at offline, it all looked very flat.
“Kicking and Screaming was completely opposite. The show takes place in the jungles of Fiji. So, we’re talking snakes and bugs and who knows what else is going on out there. They have to find their own food, figure out how to fish, how to hunt, it was rough from what I’ve seen and also pretty funny because they actually are, kicking and screaming. It comes from the executive producer Matt Kunitz, who did Fear Factor and Wipeout, so it has those challenges that came out of Fear Factor, like the disgusting food challenge. So, they need to survive in the jungle as well as complete challenges the show producers throw at them. It’s an interesting combination. For the challenges, they have to run, climb, fall, cross alligator-infested rivers, plus there are all the natural elements as well. It was rough on production, too. They shot Kicking & Screaming completely differently from My Kitchen Rules. They shot on Sony PDW-F800s and used Hyper Gamma 2, which does not have a flat look.
“The color direction for Kicking & Screaming was for a lush, green jungle, blue sky, details if there were clouds, good skin color. My Kitchen Rules, with these beautiful homes, intimate dinners, which always start early evening/late afternoon, and always transitions into nighttime. The desserts always happen at night. Some are indoors, some are outdoors, and basically maintain a consistent feel and vibe to it. My other guide was to make my work invisible. Color shouldn’t be so extreme as to pull the viewer out of the feel of the show. I see myself basically as a polisher to what the producers and editors have done. I’m another layer to bring the viewer at home to be a more engaged participant.”
For both shows, Tal is the finisher, doing everything from when he receives the footage on a drive from the assistant editors to delivering the Quicktimes to the dub houses and to the network for air. In addition to color grading, he handles the online, adjusts graphics if needed, incorporates My Kitchen Rules is shot in LA.
“I came from the linear world and then I moved to Avid when you could do online on it and then Avid Symphony came out with their color corrector,” says Tal. “Then DaVinci Resolve showed up. It was around for a long time, but it was bought by Blackmagic Design and became a tool that is financially viable for reality TV shows. When DaVinci Resolve came on the scene, it was a whole other software — very deep, very heavy piece of software. I took a couple of classes and I dived right in and it was amazing how much more can be done. As a freelancer, I always try to offer my clients more. And with Resolve, we can do so much more. I can now make that sky really blue and I can color the sky separately from the grass, which could have been done before but not on the time and budget of reality TV. They just keep upgrading the software on Resolve and adding more and more things with every release. “Now I can deliver a show that looks better, looks more smooth, which, again, especially for reality television, is something that’s super important. You want the viewer at home to stay engaged. It’s reality, so sometimes the stories get combined and jumbled from different days and different times and different interviews and you want to keep the viewer as engaged as possible. Color so easily can mess that up. Resolve is a giant help in that regard.”
As a freelancer, Tal works from his home studio, where he says he has “a very nice set up.” Tools include an Avid Symphony, where he receives uncompressed, original footage (Avid DNxHD 175x), generates an AAF file and moves the media to his Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve for color correction. “When I’m done color correcting, I move the files back into Avid Symphony for the final pass, titles, graphics, removal of picture production elements. At that point, there’s usually a screening with clients to sign off on it. And I generate Quicktimes that go to the dub house.” Other tools include a Flanders OLED monitor, an Elements panel for Resolve and several key plug-ins including Mocha (from Boris FX — “I love Boris, I use them all the time. I was beyond ecstatic when they incorporated Mocha into most of the plug-ins.”) and NewBlue FX Titler Pro.
As for his work in reality TV, he says, “I have fun — I think that if you’re not enjoying your job, maybe you should look for a new profession. I’m very lucky to be working on these really cool and fairly big shows for big networks. I get to work with the directors and sometimes the DPs, executive producers, offline editors and get their visions. Then I get to execute it and make sure I deliver quality product that passes the QC and gets delivered. And I really like that wide range of jobs and responsibilities; they just don’t exist, as far as I know, outside of reality television. If you’re doing episodic, you have a colorist and a person doing conform and someone else doing titles, someone else doing deliverables, and someone else overseeing all of those. In reality television, whether it’s for budgetary or proximity reasons or a need for quick turnarounds, most of those jobs get done by, for the most part, one or two people — and I really like that.”