How to Explore Visual Ideas Using DaVinci Resolve
How do you learn to see like your clients? Even if they’re not sitting next to you?
With nearly half my clients living hundreds or thousands of miles away, that’s a huge question I’ve had to figure out. Because as a colorist, that’s my job… to see the footage in front of me the way my client sees it—and then collaborate from that point. What do I do to get to that point, where I’m seeing the footage the way my client is seeing the footage?
The simple answer is: Give your client choices. Several choices. But not a bunch of tiny little different choices.
Feed your client a few, different bold ideas
And while feeding them those ideas also provide a rather straight-forward version of their footage. Here’s the important bit: Ask them to mix and match those ideas to suit their tastes. You need to encourage your client to feel free to say:
• “I like the skin tones in version 3 but there’s no grain”
• “I like the ‘heaviness’ of the grain in version 4 but the size of the grain in version 2”
• “In version 1, at 1:45, I love her skin tones but the image looks too happy”
• “I don’t like how I can’t see what’s happening behind the characters at :45 in version 1… version 3 is much better—they don’t feel so isolated”
Notice, we’re giving the client contrasting ideas. By pushing the edges we start to discover what their preferences are. Also notice, we’ve provided them a way to make specific comments about version numbers and time indexes. That’s not a mistake and needs to be built into your workflow. But it’s also important that you’re starting from what the DP and Director have given you, or they’ll feel frustrated that you’re not following their lead.
What do I mean? If the rim light is blue then do a version with a heavy blue push—don’t suddenly decide that rim light should be orange. If the only light source is a practical light then enhance that choice and do a version when the light drops off dramatically, rather than suddenly adding a new light source you think will work better.
If you do feel the need to go in a radical direction… it’s often an easier sell if you iterate after first giving them a more neutral grade—and when going radical, go off in a specific direction and provide the context for WHY you went off in that direction. “Just because” is rarely reason enough… and you need to be able to execute that radical direction in multiple shots, so show them that look as it plays across multiple shots and angles.
But what if the client IS in the room?
Working with a client in the room isn’t much different than if they’re 1,000 miles away—you’ll just get more immediate feedback. Although . . . I often find I need to get them to settle in their seats as I get prepared. Clients are very excited to be at the color grading stage and they often want to jump right into the ‘meat’ of it. It’s our job to get the session properly prepared so that when I am ready to start ‘seeing through their eyes’ I’m not fiddling with basic color grading tasks like fixing color balance problems or shot matching.
But doing that basic prep work can take a long time and the question you need to ask is:
How do we prepare a color grading session that doesn’t have the client twiddling for 12 hours?
That’s where the Hero Shots workflow comes into play. We select a subset of the overall job and start working just on those shots. An entire scene might be represented by a total of four shots… and we’ll do our basic color and contrast adjustments—plus the shot matching. Then we can dive into quickly iterating out several different Looks for our clients to react to.
If you’ve got your client sitting next to you and you didn’t have early access to the job then having them help your Hero Shots is a great way to get them immediately involved. After selecting the Hero Shots, ask them to check email for 15 minutes while you do a bunch of basic contrast corrections and shot matching… and then it’s off to explore their ideas for how each scene should look.
If you do have early access to the job and can prep before they walk in the door—then having those Hero Shots already selected with basic balancing already done? Guess who’s the real hero in the Hero Shots workflow now? (good job, Mdm. Colorist)
In this Insight Series: The Outer Darkness Workflow Breakdown with Team Bloody Cuts
I graded this Episode while in Orlando, collaborating with my clients in London. In this series, I’ll be breaking down our collaboration workflow, showing the methods that allowed us to finish off this grade without too much back-and-forth.
Today’s Insight: How I Learned to See Like My Clients
Watch the Insight below to see how I set up my DaVinci Resolve 11 project and executed the Hero Shots workflow. Notice the specifics of the workflow I follow, with the prep work I do. This prep work allows me to make extremely effective use of DaVinci Resolve 11’s Groups feature, to quickly change the look of an entire scene (and have it work, without much additional fiddling). The goal? To allow my clients to react not just to how a Look works on a single shot, but several shots playing against each other—and easily switch between big bold Looks to explore the boundaries of where they want the project to go.
In Part 2 of this series: Delivering my Four Looks and Final Revisions
In the next Insight I’ll show you precisely how I work in DaVinci Resolve to deliver the four different Looks I come up with—allowing them to give me precise feedback and understand the final image they want to see. We’ll then do some shot breakdowns and look at how I handled a few of the special effects shots (plus review several mistakes that were made and how we recovered).