David Orr is commonly credited as ‘Colour Timer’, having compiled a credit list of over 200 feature films including – The Dark Knight (2008), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Matrix (1999) and Inception (2010). A colour timer is a grader who often works within the traditional photochemical process, in the case of Orr he performs this at his photographic laboratory and often follows through into the digital enhancement of colour. He is an expert in traditional film and modern digital grading techniques making him one of the most famous current graders in Hollywood.
Colour graders are often unsung heroes in filmmaking as a lot of credit for the visual style goes straight to the Director of Photography. The best colour grades go unnoticed as they blend in seamlessly, enhancing the vision of the DP and Director. Colour grading can vary from enhancement to completely changing the mood and style of a film. In terms of ‘The Big Lebowski’ (1998) Orr was presented with perfectly exposed film negatives allowing smooth, indistinguishable visual transitions that was achieved purely in the photochemical lab. ‘The Social Network’ (2010) is another credit in which Orr timed the 2K-answer print in Technicolor. The intention was a dark and moody print, so the combination of mellow light whilst filming and dialling down the image in the grade created the mise-en-scene David Fincher was after.
It is difficult to assess the success of a colour grader as they are often forgotten about and tracking down precise information of industry professionals is a difficult feat. It seems to be the type of job that you work your way up the ranks, it is an inherited job rather than something you can study to perfect. This is very much like the process of colour grader itself, there is no right or wrong formula, it purely comes down to the eye of the beholder.
David Orr is a hugely successful colourist; his credit list stands out from the crowd and shows that his competence results in continually being one of the first names when grading a film. He has adapted to the digital age as domestic level colour grading software becomes widely available. However there is no substitute for the trained eye of a coloruist that grades everyday using state of the art digital grading systems and theatres. Orr has great range in his portfolio and this is what makes him stand out as one of the best, he can create a completely manipulated visual masterpiece or can simply correct the errors in a film.