Crafting Reality: Colorist Seth Buncher Turns to Louper for Documentary & Unscripted Post-Production

Ross Shain

December 20, 2023

Case Study

4 min read

Even before the Hollywood strike, “unscripted television” has consistently been one of the most popular and profitable formats in media & entertainment. Beyond the glamorous surface of reality shows lies a hidden world of unscripted gems, including tales of crime, drama, and unfiltered authenticity. As fans of the “True Crime” genre, the team at Louper was super excited to talk to Seth Buncher, a veteran colorist, who has been at the center of the post-production workflow on many famous projects – including the Academy-award winning O.J.: Made in America and the long-running A&E crime series, The First 48.

Now based upstate in Woodstock, Seth Buncher paid his dues in the New York City post industry for many years, eventually working his way up to colorist.  “I started in the dank and windowless shipping room of a long-forgotten video editing facility in NYC.  I’d stay late and learn how the machines worked, teaching myself Avid Media Composer and other editing systems in the very early days of non-linear editing.  At some point I realized, perhaps mistakenly, that I knew more than the people I was packing boxes for and I struck out on my own,” says Buncher. “Color correction was not something I originally set out to do, but found that I had the skill set and more importantly, the right temperament to specialize in this specialized area.”

Sam Buncher

“Docs can be challenging. We are often mixing hundreds of sources coming from different cameras, film stocks, formats, even decades. Finding the right balance of correcting, fixing, and enhancing to make it all work together can be a juggling act, especially with tight delivery dates. When done right, the work is undetectable to the viewer and simply makes the story flow.”

Having worked across a variety of film and television projects over the years, Buncher’s bread and butter is now flexing his chops on reality and true-crime style series. “I’ve worked on Emmy and Oscar winners but in my most honest moments I’ll say that the things I’ve worked the hardest on are nearly all low-budget, non-scripted shows. The challenge to get something that was shot terribly into a non-terrible state is orders of magnitude harder than the challenge of getting something that was shot wonderfully into a wonderful state” states Buncher. And when asked what his favorite projects have been after OJ, Buncher jokes, “My obituary will probably mention that I’ve worked on a few hundred episodes of The First 48!”

Sam Buncher

“My clients are worldwide but I am on the side of a mountain, miles from civilization, which means they’re not near me.  One attraction with Louper is that my collaborators don’t need any special credentials or anything.  I give them a link and we’re off!”

Moving to Remote Workflows for Post

For many years, Buncher commuted into New York City to work with clients in a dedicated color grading suite for review and approvals. Eventually the culmination of the pandemic, combined with new streaming technologies, allowed him to move his entire workflow to his home studio – switching between using Avid Symphony or Davinci Resolve depending on projects. Buncher now uses Louper’s real-time streaming platform for live grading and approval sessions.

“Before 2020, I was trying to convince my clients to go remote but I often faced pushback. Most producers like to work ‘over the shoulder’ and talk through a color session. We’ll bounce back and forth between versions in a collaborative way that really isn’t possible by sending them exports to review. But once Covid hit, as they say, it became difficult to put the toothpaste back in the container. We’ve used platforms for export and review but really require a real-time streaming platform for live grading and review sessions.” Buncher continues, “Sharing files has its place of course but it’s so much faster and easier to have somebody point at a screen and say, ‘Fix that.’ Or in the case of Louper, marking up a screen remotely… I’ve used many platforms including Evercast, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. I love that Louper can do literally every single thing that other platforms can do at a fraction of the price!”

“Working remotely means less unproductive time and more time with my family. And my content is of immeasurably higher quality. That’s better for everybody.”

“Nothing beats the immediacy of sharing a space, real (or virtual), with another person.  There's no danger of misunderstanding or wasted energy.  With file-based collaboration, feedback requires diligent timecode accuracy – but when we're sharing a Louper room, everything is more intuitive.  They can just point at the screen and say, "There!". But with Louper they're not putting their greasy paws on my expensive monitor!”

Sam Buncher

Buncher continues to be busy fixing and correcting unscripted, documentary style shows including New York Homicide, Moonshiners: American Spirit, and Downey's Dream Cars, an eco-friendly car transformation show produced by Robert Downey. On his career, Buncher quips, “My parents used to scold my viewing habits and say that I’d never get paid to watch TV. I guess I’ve proved them wrong.”

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