Saturday, March 6, 2010


I was talking about the last color grading work I did (see the post before this one) with someone and they said, "geego."  I said, "wha?"  He said "Garbage In Garbage Out."  I understood his point immediately.  Don't go into a shoot thinking that you can "fix" everything in post.  The truth is that you pay, either up front or later, but you always pay at some point if you want quality. It can be equipment, people's time, locations, planning, etc., but quality has a price.  For example, the footage that I graded for that documentary required a lot of  time to make it look good.  I put a bunch of extra time into it because: 1) it was for a friend, and 2) because of the topic matter.  But, realistically,  what it would have cost to pay market rate to do what I did would have been out of reach for many filmmakers.

Here is what I probably would recommend in a situation like this, a documentary film with a lot of difficult footage:  select a couple of good looking shots (post correction) which repeat themselves in the timeline to which the same corrections can be applied.  These really nice looking shots will serve as the visual baseline for your piece. You then spend less time (and money) correcting the rest of the shots.  As long as you have that baseline of good looking shots, your audience will be forgiving of the other shots interspersed between them especially if they are verite.  Again, I repeat that this is for documentary films, narrative film grading is a different beast.

CLARIFICATION:  For clarity's sake, when I am talking above about cost cutting, I am speaking generally which is probably not a good idea.  What is "expensive" will vary from production to production and mean different things to different individuals.  Paying $300-$400/hour for a grading session on a DaVinci with a highly skilled colorist is normal for some people while for others it is incomprehensibly expensive.  Having your editor grade your feature length documentary may be the perfect solution for you, while others may want someone who is an expert in color correction.  Sometimes having someone who is more expensive per hour is cheaper in the end because they do the project more efficiently or because they have better skills to help express your vision.  Or, sometimes they are just more expensive.  The real point is, if you want quality, plan ahead because quality costs skill, money, time, energy, etc, and it's best to know how you are going to allocate your precious resources to meet your goals.  Research your options and the people who are going to do your work.

Remember, the process of getting something into Color, or any color correction process, will also take time.  So, if you have a messy timeline that is more than mostly straight cuts, you will have to do a lot of prep work to get it into Color (this will be a future post). Either you will have to do it or you will have to pay the colorist to do it.  It's best if you plan from the beginning that the project will be color graded and keep your timeline REALLY ORGANIZED.  There are also times that I would recommend keeping the project in FCP and having it graded with Colorista.  This compromise limits what you can do quite a bit but makes it more feasible economically to have your piece graded.

I guess the point of this post is that if you want to have a really good looking film, you have to plan (and budget) from the very beginning.

Now I am going to play some more with my new, sweet tool:

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