5 ways to get the best out of your grading session
If you are a director, producer, cinematographer or advertising creative, here are a few nuggets which might be useful for your next colour grading session!
1. Be prepared and think about what you want visually in advance. If you can't quite articulate what it is that you are after, are there any images you can bring to the session? What is it about these images that you like? If you can't quite put your finger on it then do not worry! Your colourist is an expert at imagery and deals with pictures everyday. They should be able to see a common thread. These reference images are a great place to start.
2. Know that the longer you look at an image the more it can normalise. Go get a coffee. Go to the fridge. You can begin the session exploring some really interesting looks and styles but for some reason after a while they don't look that interesting or stylish anymore. This is kind of like how when you walk into a blacked out room it looks really dark at the beginning and then after a while it doesn't seem as dark. Your eyes start to adjust and get used to your surroundings. This is similar to how your eyes start to normalise the image in a colour grading session. I think it's really useful to work on images briefly at the beginning and move forward rather than go into too much detail on one shot. Your colourist can save some key looks and then compare them side by side to give them context between one another. Your colourist uses electronic tools like a "vectorscope" (to measure hue/colour and saturation) and a "waveform" (to measure luminance/brightness) to keep their eyes in check and know how far away from the "normal" looking original they have taken it.
3. If you would like to know more about the colour grading process as it happens feel free to ask questions. Most colourists will be more than happy to talk about their craft and actually love talking about what they do! As they say, there are no stupid questions and giving a commentary of what you are doing can be really insightful and lead to new ideas about what is possible.
4. Provide your colourist with a copy of the final edit (an offline reference) before the grade session. At this point your could always email through some reference images too. If it is a long form project the colourist will have time to watch the project through in advance. If it is a music video or commercial then the colourist will be able to get an idea of what is involved and can start the session without any surprises.
5. A true collaboration can yield the best results. Come to your grading sessions with some visual ideas (either brief or detailed) and ask your colourist their opinion. They work with colour and images every day and this is their niche. It is also really awesome to be challenged in a session by questions, requests and suggestions. At the end of the day it is YOUR session, use it how you like!