Understanding dailies colour grading
I interviewed Fergus Hally, Australia’s preeminent dailies, finishing, and commercial colourist, about the process of delivering dailies on some of the biggest films in the world. Fergus has worked as the dailies colourist on just a few movies you may have seen:
If you want to talk to someone about the craft and business of being a professional dailies colourist, there aren’t many people with his experience you can chat with. Topics in this discussion include:
- The importance of dailies
- Where do dailies fit within the overall production, and who in the production should ‘own’ dailies?
- The different workflows of LUTs, CDLs, and BLG colour grading metadata that connect production to post production
- Why EVERY colourist should do dailies at least once in their career
- The tools that Fergus enjoys using in his dailies colour grading practice
Terms and terminology
To supplement this interview, I recommend referring to the Mixing Light series on CDLs and dailies workflows (linked below). Here are some explanations for terms that might help as you watch:
- CDL: Color Decision List – This is a simple text document of numeric values designed for easy export to any professional colour grading platform. The CDL represents the dailies colourist’s colour grade using ten values across the three RGB colour channels: 3 x slope, 3 x offset, 3 x power, 1 x saturation. It is a static grade that cannot retain any secondaries like keys or shapes or temporal data like tracks or dynamic keyframes.
- ALE: Avid Log Exchange – “A text-based metadata exchange format used to transfer film, video, and audio data between systems. It contains important information about the media, such as Name, Filepath, Video Format, Duration, Timecode, Scene, Take, Notes, Comments, LUT information, and more.” (source: pomfort.com)
- BLG: Baselight Linked Grades – “BLG is a multi-track OpenEXR file that you can use to create, transfer and review looks. This small portable data file enables looks to be exchanged with all FilmLight systems: Baselight, Daylight and Baselight Editions.” (source: filmlight.ltd.uk)
- LMT: Look Modification Transforms – “LMTs are mechanisms to apply an infinite variety of “looks” to images in ACES-based workflows. Any adjustment away from the starting default reference rendering is considered a “look” within an ACES framework. By this definition, a “look” can be as simple as ASC CDL values preserved from set to define a starting grade. They exist because some color manipulations can be complex, and having a pre-set for a complex look makes a colorist’s work more efficient.” (source: acescentral.com)
- Show LUT – A look-up table that is usually applied across a show as a final colour operation that gives its creative look and feel.
- Scene-referred / Display-referred: These are two different approaches to colouring images. When working scene-referred, you work with the captured camera colour values independently of the display. When working display-referred, your colour decisions are done with the technical display transform of whatever display you are grading.
Key takeaways from this Insight
By the end of this Insight, you should understand:
- The aim of the working dailies colourist can be either to transfer and match/balance the looks created on set or can be a more in-depth colour process. But it always involves preserving the DP’s vision as they shoot.
- The dailies colourist works with many departments, including the camera department, editorial, VFX and DI.
- Dealing with long and unsocial hours can be challenging, but there are workflows that don’t involve working nights. As always, you need to be kind to yourself and not put too much pressure on yourself.
- The dailies colour process can be a training ground for getting the experience required for DI colouring. It gives you a strong foundation and understanding of workflows.
- Fergus Hally’s website
- Fergus Hally’s IMDb page
- ALE: (Avid Log Exchange) Files: What They Are And Why You Should Understand Them
- BLG Tools Product Page
- What are LMTs?
Related Mixing Light Insights
- Tutorial Series: Understanding CDLs (Color Decision Lists)
- What Type of Dailies Is Right For Your Production?
- From Commercial Colorist to Dailies – How Does the Job Change?
Questions or Comments? Leave a comment!
Is this Insight useful to you? Let us know! Mixing Light is all about community discussions, and we’re curious if you found this helpful, if you have something to add, or if you need more questions answered?
Listen to the podcast version