A woman sitting in front of two computer monitors and a control panel
This is what a colorist (the kind who doesn’t work in a salon) spends her time doing.

Post magazine chronicles what it calls “the most intensely dynamic segment of the entertainment industry.” Meaning the post-production phase, when film footage is edited and music, sound and special effects are added. The work often takes longer than the shoot itself and involves an army of specialists. One of them is Jennifer Gaida ’14, who generated buzz in Post for her post-production work at a Chicago company called The Colonie. She’s a colorist. Which is what, exactly?

What do people say when you tell them you’re a colorist?

They ask me, “What salon do you work at?” They assume it’s hair. But a film colorist or a digital colorist takes the final edit of any film, commercial or music video and creates the desired atmosphere through color.

Her Top 3 Projects as a Colorist

“The Remedy,” a music video series starring Rhyan LaMarr and Jack Red. “I love music videos and getting to work on them is awesome. I sat with Rhyan and the other creatives and we just tweaked things, scene by scene.”

A La Mer ad. “I love fashion and beauty, and La Mer is a very high-end luxury skin line that I can’t afford! The ad shows three inspirational women, and I was able to bring out all of this gorgeous, ethereal color and lighting.”

A Toyota ad. “I had to take the flat footage and get the rims exactly the right black, and make sure the grille popped so you can see the logo, and basically paint the car the right color red—which is really hard while it’s moving.”

How does that work?

I get the finished film cut, import it into my computer and use the DaVinci Resolve color correction program. I set the exposure, the shadows and lights, making things as bright or as dark as you want overall, then add the color saturation. Let’s make the shadows bluer, the client might say, or let’s isolate the skin tones to make them more accurate. Should the look be more noir? More vibrant? More vintage? A lot of action movies today, for example, have a distinctive orange-and-blue palette.

Who are some of your clients?

I’ve done work for Toyota, Porsche, Starbucks, Revlon, Pantene and more. The color of the car or the bottle has to be exactly right. And often that same color has to pop in other ways in the background too. I’ve been the colorist on several music videos [like “Stayed Down”] and indie films [like Milkshake].

How did you end up in this job?

I’ve been obsessed with light my whole life, and color has a lot to do with that. I taught myself how to draw in high school. I’m a photographer. I took senior photos for many of my Amherst classmates. I went to Chicago, which is known for its post-production houses. I got my foot in the door as an intern and then worked at several places, like Utopic, where I was an editor and colorist.

What was your Amherst experience like?

I was an art and the history of art major. I loved Joel Upton’s classes, especially “The Art of Beholding.” I also loved my classes with Professor Sarat [law, jurisprudence and social thought]. But it was a weird time for me, because I grew up in an unconventional way: my family are Jehovah’s Witnesses. So it was a bit of a culture shock, me being in college.

Which class most influenced your current work?

Adam Levine’s course on film editing. He taught the practical skill, not just theory. And the projects themselves were so freeing! My first piece ever was some ballerinas and betta fish and a bunch of other imagery, cut to “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies. Without that class I would have never discovered this field.

What do you like to do outside of your job?

I like boxing as a workout. I just got signed at a modeling agency. I’m a photographer. Recently I landed an acting role, another thing I never thought I’d do in my life. I’m going to be in a music video series as a Westworld-style robot. That appealed to me because I wouldn’t have to act that much: I’m a robot.

What’s your favorite “color” memory of Amherst?

I worked on campus most summers, and in summer the area between Converse and the [Loeb] Career Center looks like a painting. It’s so lush and green, and the trees cast these shadows. It’s crazy beautiful.

Photograph by Ben Pokorny