'Star Trek' wizard casts spells with color

If you’ve been to a tentpole pic this year, you’ve probably seen colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld’s work.

Sonnenfeld’s credits for 2009 include “Watchmen,” “Star Trek,” “Terminator Salvation,” “Transformers 2,” “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” “Public Enemy” and “G.I. Joe.”

His career began when all color timing was done at labs, with chemicals, printers and colored lights. Now he specializes in digital intermediate, using tools for movies similar to what Photoshop provides for stills.

Helmer J.J. Abrams likens him to “a wizard ally.”

Abrams says Sonnenfeld’s work was vital to “Star Trek,” “because we had these extreme exotic and disparate environments that had to be as clearly defined as possible.”

Likewise, “Pelham” d.p. Tobias Schliessler calls Sonnenfeld “my first choice, always. I trust him 100%. He just has a very good eye for color and for contrast, and he has great taste.”

Sonnenfeld spends 80 to 100 hours on each picture, but wishes there was more time.

“The movies these days are so large and so complex, there are so many different vendors, so much information is coming at you all at once, it’s very difficult.”

It helps, though, that he loves the work. His firm, Company3, also suggests Sonnenfeld’s commitment to the business. “The nickname is Company 3 a.m., because we’re working around the clock, always,” he says. “I thrive on that stuff.”

– David S. Cohen

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