Ian Vertovec is Supervising Colorist at Light Iron, which he co-founded, a Panavision company specialized in dailies, digital intermediate, archival, and data services for projects originated on file-based motion cameras.
Erik Messerschmidt with Camera Operator Brian Osmond, SOC (Patrick Harbron / Netflix)
Merrick Morton / Netflix
The Netflix original series Mindhunter is, by far, one of the best new shows currently running. The true story-based, 1977-set drama chronicles the early days of criminal psychology and criminal profiling primarily through the eyes of three people at the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit: eager newcomer Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), somewhat jaded veteran Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), and brilliant psychology professor Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). That this show is immaculately crafted from top to bottom will come as no surprise to those aware that it’s the brainchild of David Fincher, who serves as executive producer and directed nearly half of the series’ first season.
This is without doubt one of the best looking pieces of entertainment released in 2017, regardless of medium, with classical framing, motivated camera movement, and a tremendous palette that gives a mere peek into the darkness inside the minds of the criminals and serial killers who are the subject of the Behavioral Science Unit’s interviews.
So when I got the chance to speak with cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt about his work on the series, I was thrilled. Messerschmidt shot eight of the first season’s 10 episodes, including the Fincher-directed closing installments, and as he revealed during our interview, this was essentially his first major gig as a cinematographer. Messerschmidt had worked previously as a gaffer on shows like Mad Men and Bones, and then later the feature film Gone Girl where he first came into contact with Fincher. Based on their work together on that film, Fincher called Messerschmidt up when they were looking for a new DP for Mindhunter after the show’s original cinematographer exited over creative differences.
This promotion from gaffer to DP is a familiar refrain with Fincher’s cinematographers, as he did the same with his The Game and Fight Club gaffer Claudio Miranda, who was brought on as DP for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and went on to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography for his work on Life of Pi.
Messerschmidt’s rise to the primary cinematographer of Fincher’s brand new TV show elicits similarly spectacular results, as the DP’s work on Mindhunter is elegantly classical and incredibly motivated by character and theme. During the course of our conversation, Messerschmidt talked about the road that led to him becoming the cinematographer on Mindhunter, the specifics of his working relationship with Fincher, what it’s like to serve as a DP in the world of episodic television, how the work of production designers and costumes designers goes under-appreciated, and trying to maintain a consistent aesthetic with multiple directors. He also teased a bit about Mindhunter Season 2, including revealing their extensive shooting schedule.
Erik Messerschmidt with Episodes 3 & 4 Director Asif Kapadia (Merrick Morton / Netflix)
In 2014, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scored Gone Girl, the duo’s third collaboration with director David Fincher (following 2010’s The Social Network and 2011’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).
Gone Girl’s music consists of dark ambient pieces with layered synths, guitars, and electronic noises, and was inspired by the background music Fincher heard at a chiropractor’s office that was “inauthentically trying to make him feel alright,” according to Reznor.
To this end, the soundtrack juxtaposes lush new-age synths and percussion with distortion, noise, and stuttery beats. I’ll explore the synth behind many of the film’s sounds, as well as how to create these tones using software instruments in your own DAW.
April 12, 2018
Blender Guru (YouTube)
A homage to one of my favourite David Fincher films: Gone Girl! In this summary tutorial, I’ll show you how I recreated the lounge room from Gone Girl.
I loved the lighting and cool palette of Gone Girl, and wondered if there was any “secret” to making it look like this. So as a learning exercise, I recreated the lounge room entirely in Blender and rendered with Cycles.
Took about 30 hours to create in total + another 49 hours for the tutorial.
Thanks to FincherFanatic
January 16, 2018
Ian has colored major films “The Social Network,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Gone Girl.” And more recently, he has colored the TV shows “Baskets” for FX and “Glow” on Netflix.
Originally from Chicago, Ian focused on photography, then moved on to digital compositing. He later co-founded two post facilities in Los Angeles: Plaster City, then Light Iron. Out of necessity, he moved on to color at his company. He found his combination of photography and compositing matched perfectly for a career as a colorist.
In this podcast, we talk about:
- Coloring David Fincher films and working with extremely dark images
- The challenges of working on VFX heavy projects
- Making HDR look both cinematic and realistic
- Advantages of working with high-end systems like Quantel Pablo
- The difference between working on TV and films
- How experience with compositing served him as a colorist
- Bringing life to images using texture
- Using film emulation LUTs in his workflow
- Comparing different cameras as a colorist
- Using ACES in a color managed workflow
- Keeping grades simple, clean, and efficient
Tech Media Planet: The Social Network
December 6, 2010
Tech Media Planet
Colorist Ian Vertovec from Light Iron Digital takes us through the ins and outs of color grading one of this year’s biggest hit films “The Social Network”.
Dolby: Ian Vertovec and Michael Cioni, from Light Iron
September 2, 2011
Thanks to Joe Frady