How to Estimate Time for a Color Correction Session

How to Estimate Time for a Color Correction Session

April 2, 2015

How long will it take you color correct a 10 minute timeline? In Part 1 of this series, we discuss the anatomy of a color correction session.


Identifying the Six Phases of a Color Correction Session

Imagine you walk into your car mechanic’s shop and ask, “How long will it take to get an oil change?” and he answers, “I’m not sure. Maybe 2 hours. Maybe 6.”

Not thrilled with that answer, you decide to get a second opinion so you stop at the next mechanic you see, ask for an oil change and he instead he asks you a series of questions:

• What’s your car?

• How many miles since its last oil change?

• Is the Check Engine light on?

• When do you need it by and are you waiting?

• Are you hearing any noises or rattles?

After dutifully answering his questions, he responds, “I can start the job in 45 minutes and have you out of here in 2 hours.” THAT is an answer that gives me confidence.

Now, imagine a client calls you up on the phone and tells you they have 110-minute indie feature film they want you to color correct.

When your client asks, “How long will it take to color correct my film?” are you Mechanic #1 or Mechanic #2?

The simple fact is, most of us are Mechanic #1. Both Mechanics probably know about how long it takes to get the job done but Mechanic #2 understands the variables.

Mechanic #2 asks the right questions, identifies likely obstacles and provides an estimate he’s willing to live with. Chances are he has a healthier business.

But you can’t be like Mechanic #2 if you don’t understand how your workflows

And that’s what this Insight series is all about. We’re going to discuss how a color correction session flows, how to determine your personal color correction throughput and tips on how to increase your efficiency as a colorist to help speed you up.

This Insight is a presentation I’ve only given once, in 2012 at NAB’s Post | Production World. Due to its length, I’m breaking it down to three parts. And I’m sharing it now because, as I write this, the 2015 NAB Post | Production World event is barely 10 days away and I thought it’d be fun to bring a little bit of my NAB to you.

In this Insight we start with: How do you ‘break down’ a color correction session?

After all, if we need to accurately quote our clients we need to understand the various phases of a color correction session. Depending on the specific needs of a session (Is the Check Engine light on? Are you hearing any noises or rattles?) we’ll need to allocate different amounts of time to each phase of the session.

But if you don’t know what the phases are, you’ll never know the questions to ask to help you develop a reliable quote.

I’ve found there are six distinct phases to a color correction session

Between the initial preparation to the final delivery, every job has six potential stages it passes through. You’ll learn in the video below what those stages are and an initial rule for how to allocate your allotted time.

But what if a job doesn’t have all six phases?

That’s fine. In fact, that’s excellent information to have! If you’ve had a detailed enough discussion to know one or two phases don’t apply to this job, your time estimate will be much more solid. To your client, you’ll start sounding much more like Mechanic #2.

Next: How to determine your hourly ‘shot count’?

In Part 2, we’ll talk about ‘shot count’. It’s impossible to give accurate quotes if you don’t know how many shots per day you can color correct. I’ll also show you how you can modify the phases of a color correction session to help maximize your daily shot count.

– pat

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