5 Things to Send Your Colourist Before The Grade

If you’re getting close to a final edit on your video production, then the next step is to have your film graded. The grade is where the look and feel of the video is refined. If you’ve only looked at the raw footage so far, then you’ve probably been wondering, at what point will my video stop appearing so washed out. All of this and more is addressed in the grade. The blacks get blacker, the white’s get whiter and the colours throughout the video as a whole will begin to look far more like you always imagined them.
As grading time can be slow and meticulous work, we thought it would be handy to create a short checklist of everything the Colourist needs on a typical project. This way it should be very easy for you to send over exactly what the Colourist needs in one go. Trust us when we say, the Colourist will thank you for being so very organised. Here are 5 things to send your Colourist to make sure they have everything they need to begin working their magic.

1) A Reference Edit

The Colourist will need a reference of your film so they can ensure there are no visual abnormalities with the version they create. The typical issues a Colourist might encounter include the random extra frame or a frame sizing issue. Having a low resolution version of the film is essential for quickly identifying any problems. When preparing your drive you should consider bundling in an MP4 with ‘reference_edit_final’ written somewhere in the file name. Needless to say, you should only send the final edit through to the Colourist. If you think there are going to be any subsequent changes to the edit, now isn’t the time to send anything to the colourist.

2) The Original Footage

It is important that the Colourist receives the original footage from which to work with. Best practice is to media manage down your timeline so that the only footage the Colourist receives, is that which is required to perform the actual work. The Colourist does not need to see all that footage which ended up on the cutting room floor!

It is also important that you let the Colourist know what camera the production was filmed on and where the final film is going to be seen. If your production is for television broadcast, then there are a different set of colour considerations required than for work intended for cinematic or online audiences.

3) Mood Board

It can be tremendously helpful to give the Colourist a steer of the look you’re going for with a mood board. We’ve had directors put images together in PowerPoint or Pinterest. Some prefer just to email over some visual references. Anything you have which shows the Colourist how you want your video to look will always be welcome.

4) Technical Bits (XML & LUTs) 

!Warning Technical Section Ahead!
The Editor and the Colourist both use different tools in their craft. In order for the systems the Editor uses to be able to communicate with the systems the the Colourist uses, there needs to be a uniform language that each of these programs speaks so that the other understands. Where once upon a time you would send the Colourist an EDL (Edit Decision List) to begin their work, it is becoming increasingly common to deliver an XML (Extensible Markup Language). What are these strange acronyms you’re probably asking yourself?! Put simply, all that is taking place here is that the editing software is telling the grading program which sections from the footage the editor has has chosen in the edit.
One of the reasons XML has replaced an EDL is because it also carries other valuable information too such as when a clip has been manipulated, think speed changes and re-sizing information and you get the idea.
In some scenarios, either the production’s Cinematographer or if you have one, a DIT, might have created a number of look up tables (LUTs) during the production. A look up table is a file which contains some preliminary grades based on how the Cinematographer intends their footage to look. If you already have a LUT then it is very important to send these over to the Colourist early on.

5) In The Grade

When it comes to actually performing your grade, it is essential that you view the final version of your film in the optimal environment before signing off on the grade. Whilst it is also important to watch your film in more casual environments such as on your home television set or on your smartphone; it is essential that you watch the film on an unforgiving, fully-calibrated grade 1 monitor (or above) as this intended for colour accurate work and will reveal things buried in the footage that you might not have noticed elsewhere. This is more important than ever if your film is going to be seen on a large screen.
Are you seeking a reliable post-production company to handle your colour work? You can find out more about our post-production facilities including our newly installed DaVinci Resolve grading suite on this link here. To discuss your post-production requirements, please give the post team a call on 0207 628 7857.

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