Nothing Looks Good

Colorist Block – When Nothing Looks Good

January 24, 2015

Sometimes you just can't make a grade look good no matter what you do! The Colorist Block is real and dangerous but defeatable.

Colorist Block – When Nothing Looks Good

I’ve been incredibly lucky in my grading career.

I got my own grading suite in November 2013 and every weekday since then give or take a few holidays and the occasional outside the grading suite adventure, I have been grading full time.

Of course that means new clients, new jobs and new challenges and at my facility it’s usually all three of those each day!

One thing I’m particularly proud of is that I’ve have always been able to find a look that both myself and the client could really be happy with at the end of the day.

Until yesterday!

What happened yesterday was I hit a complete creative roadblock and couldn’t grade a music video and get it to the point that either myself or the director were happy with.

I was pretty damn frustrated and did pretty much everything wrong for hours.

Finally after almost 3 or 4 hours of grading I managed to reboot my brain and the looks and grades started flowing again.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there and while Pat and Robbie have shared some great Insights about how they overcome a creative block, I thought in this Insight, I’d share my story and how I managed to get over my frustrations and lack of creativity and hopefully this will help you find a way to overcome similar situations in your own work.

My Block

In this particular case, I was working with a director I have worked with many times before named Michael Holyk. He is also a good friend which made the creative impasse less of a disaster and more just frustrating as I could be honest with him about what was going on in my head.

See the thing is I know what we’re capable of doing as a team which made my frustration….well…even more frustrating!

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Homepage Forums Colorist Block – When Nothing Looks Good

  • Extremely helpful tips! Figured out the “throw it away and start again” one myself after fighting and fighting, trying to force a look I wanted to work, when it didnt belong. Just now learning the important of regular eye breaks (to the extent where Im asking a client for us to take a break). Any further tips that help break through that “block” & finish a tough sessions like that, particularly if the client isnt as friendly to your ideas?

  • This article is amazing Dan and thanks for sharing it despite your concerns. I think we have all been there before and it’s incredibly reassuring to know that even the best of us can have days like this. In fact it’s just inspired me to get back to work on something I’d given up on for the day because I have been so frustrated that I convinced myself that I’m just not good enough. I think I end up in danger of this more when I can no longer decipher if it’s me or badly shot/lit footage 😛 I personally find that I’ll overcompensate and throw *too much* at a shot to try and make it more interesting and then end up making the grade itself stand out (if that makes sense) which is never good.

    Anyway, thanks for the inspiration to get back to it and start again 🙂


  • Marc Wielage

    Great thoughts, Dan, and we’ve all been there. It does help to have a client who already has a look in mind for what they shot. I’m not a fan of mixed color temperatures and would rather throw that in as an effect, rather than have it slammed into the original material. It’s hard to break DPs of that habit, and I concede it’s their creative choice.

  • vincenttaylor

    You almost didn’t write this insight?!!!! It’s fantastic that you did write it.

    Expressions are great aren’t they, like “You learn from your mistakes” which is of course true but what they don’t say is “You learn from your mistakes…but it’s sometimes really hard and your pride gets hurt and at the time you feel stupid”

    This insight tackles the taboo conversation of not just color grading but much of post production. I’ve got another expression to share (sorry, I’m in a quoting kind of mood) which relates to fitness. Apparently fitness isn’t how far you can run it’s how quickly you can recover. To be in a grading session with tough footage, pressure behind you and time running out it’s easy to stumble. I’ve been in that position where I’ve dug my own hole when it would have been smarter to stop and step away from the project for a break and then start again (but then keep it simple as you said)

    Great insight, really inspiring.

  • BenJoyner

    Great post Dan! Thanks for sharing. Definitely have experienced this recently.

    I was also curious if you have a breakdown anywhere on the site for the black and white ‘southern’ video. love that grade.

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