• Tom tom@tracksandlayers.com

MAKING THE GRADE: When to engage with your colourist

Updated: Jun 20

Introduction

Tracks and Layers offer an expert colour grading service right here in Manchester / MediaCity UK, but whether you decide to engage with us for your next project or someone else, it’s always helpful to get a better understanding of how to get the most out of a colour grade and it’s especially important to know how to prepare both your project and yourself for the process.


Whether you’ve commissioned the services of a colourist before or you expect to do so soon, we firmly believe that you will always get the most from your experience if you make contact with us at the right time.





When should I contact my colourist?


The short version of this is; as early as possible.


A good colourist can help you to plan out how you’re going to achieve the intended look, or to help to guide you with finding the look. They can also then give advice on specific equipment to use, how to light for the look, lens choices, filtration, camera format & codec and can basically make sure that all the right ingredients are there for them by the time it arrives all edited in their colour suite.


Ask most (honest) colourists and they will admit that the secret of a good colour grade is to be given good footage, and this is really what the intention is by engaging with them before anything has been filmed.


You may also wish to commission the development of a LUT or “look up table”, which is a kind of preview look that is downloaded onto the camera or set monitors to give you a rough idea of how things will look after the grade. Most looks, even if complicated, can be distilled in some way which is helpful for you to make more informed decisions while you’re filming.

This is especially useful for strong colour grades (found often in horror or thrillers) and experience tells us that those who follow this process always end up with more time being spent on finessing the project to a really high standard, rather than endlessly pushing and pulling the footage after the fact to correct for shooting blind.



Comparison of a filming lut in camera and the final grade
Here we have 3 shots from the feature film Blank (graded at Tracks and Layers). On the left hand side you can see the LUT which we developed in pre production. This is how the image will have looked to the director and DOP on their monitors while filming took place. On the right hand side is the end result of the finished grade session. There are nuances which don’t translate well at this scale for the graded versions, but you can see how close the finished look ended up being to the LUT.



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