Anatomy Of A Commercial Color Grade: Behind The Scenes

Anatomy Of A Commercial Color Grade: Behind The Scenes

August 13, 2015

The question of how to commercials look so good crops up constantly. Dan shares the in and outs of a grading session to show you how


How do commercials always look so good?

One thing that you don’t normally hear when people are speaking about grading a commercial is what actually happens behind closed doors.

We normally offer up a smile and a comment about how we worked with the footage until we found the best look and everyone high five and went home.

There is one secret to a commercial grade that you just can’t cut corners on.


I thought it would be great to open the door to mixing light members and give a blow by blow account of a grading session.

I’m going to describe a commercial job from start to finish I completed for a big fashion company. Including the good, the bad and the ugly moments!

I originally had planned to share details about the job but unfortunately I can’t publish some of the finer details as it has not been released yet.

Hopefully in the future I will be able to post an update insight with even more insight and the finished job!

The Commercial

Probably the most unimpressive part of this insight is that I use the same grading techniques that you do but I just spend much longer doing it.

The initial session on this job was from 10am and finished at 8pm.

Thats 10 hours of grading on one commercial.

That must be hundreds of shots and lots and lots of material?

Nope! Thats 64 shots and 90 seconds worth of material graded.

Add in some client feedback the next day where I spent an additional 4 hour hours grading.

Thats a total of 14 hours grading on one 90 second commercial.

If you spent the same amount of time on a commercial as I do I guarantee it would probably look just as good!

Member Content

Sorry... the rest of this content is for members only. You'll need to login or Join Now to continue (we hope you do!).

Need more information about our memberships? Click to learn more.

Membership options
Member Login

Are you using our app? For the best experience, please login using the app's launch screen


Homepage Forums Anatomy Of A Commercial Color Grade: Behind The Scenes

Page 2 of 2
  • Its funny & scary, as I know exactly how it feels with non-color based feedback, like “too much like a season”. I find it really frustrating sometimes trying to figure out exactly what the client is seeing that bothers them, especially if they arent open to discussing it in more detail. Please do share if you ever figure out what may have helped bring about that realization. Appreciate the conform to delivery details, very interesting lesson

  • Dan Moran

    I will indeed sir. That makes for a great insight. How to break that train of thought can be very tricky!

  • Sergi Llado

    Great insight Dan!
    I had a similar situation and I think the main problem is that I was grading alone as you were Dan. And this sometimes can cause what you said. You get used to the look and think this is the best look you can achieve. But I think, at least in my case, is very important to have other opinions just to see the whole picture. The problem is that, as you said, more and more often, client is not present at the session and this causes lots of headaches because inevitably there are going to be changes and sometimes drastic ones that if the client had been there it would have been a lot easier.

  • Jim Wicks

    LOL. You just described my work day. Perfectly! I agree with you – more and more, clients don’t want to sit with the colorist. One told me, ‘it’s like watching paint dry.’ Nice. As Tom said, I appreciate your honesty. And your friendship. Peace. Jimmy

  • Could you have added a layer of the same shot without the LUT and masked out just the product? Or do LUTS not allow that…

Page 2 of 2

Log in to reply.

1,000+ Tutorials to Explore

Get full access to our entire library of over 1,100+ color tutorials for an entire week!

Start Your Test Drive!