5 top tips to getting the grade you want


Tom Russell TV-Bay Magazine
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Generally speaking, a grade session can be broken down into two distinct parts - managing the people involved and managing the grade itself. As colourists, we know that unless both of these criteria are satisfied, it is likely that the client will walk away from the project unhappy and not return to us with the next job.

The first step is to manage the people who would be involved in the grading process. Most importantly, colourists would speak to the principle stakeholders involved in the production, whether it be a film or TV show. This would typically be the director of photography (DOP), director and producer in order to get a feel for the project and a good understanding of their creative vision. It's vital to involve these people as close to the beginning of the grading process as possible to ensure that the project will run smoothly.

To clearly articulate what the client is expecting the grade to look like, the colourists must be able to access how realistic their expectations are. To do this, usually several creative briefings or meetings are scheduled to plan the grading requirements but nowadays almost nothing is impossible in the post production world, given sufficient time and investment.

Usually clients will almost have a complete idea of what they want and it will be the colourists' job to make that vision a reality. A key tip to remember is to always remain positive with clients, even when you are saying no to them. This can be achieved by suggesting a different approach or methodology as this will lead them in a more appropriate direction as trying to move them from their main goal or vision can often fall on deaf ears.

Needless to say, most grading jobs will fall somewhere between where the client will have a strong idea about what they want and where the colourist has made suggestions to take the lead on the look of the film. Colourists must understand their clients and work together to achieve the ultimate goal of a perfect grade.

Having understood the client and the job, it's time to move on to the grade itself and managing time scales is the key to success. For most jobs resources are limited, therefore it is important to use the allotted time appropriately. There is no point having a perfectly graded first five minutes, if the subsequent 85 minutes are patchy and mismatched due to bad time management.

The client may be looking for a stylised look but it is really important as a colourist to get well-balanced images first, before adding the technical elements. A very moody or dark look may be very appealing to the client but when working with footage that includes actors, their features can be lost which can forfeit the purpose and drama of the whole production.

Below are five top tips to remember when grading:

1. Don't try to run before you walk when it comes to grading techniques

2. Be very wary of presets and 'looks' which will depend on the client's vision

3. Know the camera and let the photography do its job

4. Keep the grading simple before reaching for the bells and whistles

5. Remember that consistency is key

A last piece of advice would be to refresh yourself when working on a grade. This means coming out of the grade environment periodically to give your eyes a break. When you return, you can revaluate your work and this will give an indication as to whether you're on the right track and following the clients creative vision.


Tags: iss121 | grading | top tips | Tom Russell
Contributing Author Tom Russell

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