Artist in the Spotlight: Paul Westerbeck.
26th February 2021
Paul Westerbeck is a Senior Colourist at Picture Shop. A colour grading veteran, Paul has been in the industry for 40 years, starting as a runner for an LA recording studio in 1980.
Paul worked his way up through the industry to become the colourist he is today. From a runner at The Complex, to a video tape operator at CCR Video, to an edit assistant at TAV and later AME. As a colourist he began at Paskel Video and Todd AO before moving on to The Post Group.
At The Post Group, Paul graded features for Paramount, Disney and MGM, including well-known titles such as GI Jane, The Relic, and Legally Blonde. Legally Blonde is a particularly stand-out project in Paul’s career.
“I went to screen the movie at MGM with the DP, Anthony Richmond. When Anthony arrived he seemed pretty disappointed. He told me he disagreed with how he was told the transfer would proceed. He said he was told he would not be able to supervise except for at the end when I was done programming. I told him he could come in every day if he wanted to and that it was completely up to him. We proceeded to watch the movie with the sound down and spoke about each scene. When the movie was over he got up and told me he’d see me when I finished my pass. When I completed my pass he came back in, watched the movie and had no notes. He was in and out in two hours. It was a very satisfying experience.”
During Paul’s early years at The Post Group, he graded an indie feature called Skeletons in the Closet with DP Michael Barrett. Little did Paul know at the time that this relationship would change the trajectory of his career. A year after Skeletons in the Closet, Michael called Paul to let him know he was up for a job on a new TV show called CSI. If he won the job, he wanted Paul to join him. “Being polite I said that would be great, having no intention to go into TV then because I was a feature colourist”, says Paul. However, after a successful session with producer Danny Cannon, Paul got the show.
“My career path changed that day. I would still do the occasional feature but I was becoming a TV colourist.”
Paul went on to work on CSI starting in season 3 until the end of its run. “Being able to work with director and producer Danny Cannon was awesome. He is always pushing the envelope visually. And I had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented directors, producers, and DP’s in the business; including Quentin Tarantino and William Friedkin.”
Paul has continued his work in television at his current position of Senior Colourist at Picture Shop, grading such shows as HBO Max’s Doom Patrol, CW’s Supergirl, Fox’s Gotham, Jerry’s Bruckheimer’s Hightown, and Fox’s LA’s Finest.
“Working on Gotham was like CSI 2.0. Danny Cannon pushed the envelope to new heights”, says Paul, “ and Doom Patrol is a very fun show to work on. The photography is amazing.”
For LA’s Finest, Paul worked closely with DP Alex Nepomniaschy, as well as Bob Ganz from his CSI days. “Bob and I have a short-hand. I can tell what he wants when we roll into a scene just by his breathing. Both Bob and Alex are old school film DP’s and know how to expose. It has also been great working with CSI alumnus KristieAnne Reed and Jonathan Littman on LA’s Finest and Hightown.”
Paul considers himself fairly old-school as well. “I work mostly with RGB colour corrections”, he says, “ and I love Nucoda’s Digital Vision Optics (DVO) noise reduction and restoration tools in terms of matching older footage and stock footage.”
In spite of this, Paul is by no means stuck in his ways. “The work is constantly evolving so it’s always about adapting to new challenges”. When COVID first hit, Paul reached out to Henry Gu, a DaVinci veteran to help with a remote viewing system from home. Henry was able to come up with a RMS to allow Paul to view SDR and HDR at home, identical to his view in the grading suite at Picture Shop. “Henry is the smartest person I have ever met. He has been my go-to technical support for the last 30 years”, says Paul.
Having steadily climbed his way up the industry ladder, Paul’s advice for those wanting to get into colour grading is hard work and focus on the basics. “Work hard even if you don’t think it’s noticed. Give 110% in everything you do. And really focus on balancing the image using your RGB colour correction – you end up with more colour separation when you balance the image correctly.”