How to Estimate Time for Color Correction Part 2: The Big Picture

How to Estimate Time for Color Correction Part 2: The Big Picture

April 9, 2015

Explore the 6 'slices' of a color correction session and how we manage our time across them. This lets us bid & quote more accurately.


Allocating your time across the 6 big phases of a color correction session

“How long will it take you to color correct my project?”

That’s the first question out of a potential client’s mouth after you answer your phone and say, “Hello”. In this Insight we’re going to take the big slices of a color correction session we’ve already talked about and start figuring out:

1. How do we allocate the time we spend on each of those six big slices?

2. How do we turn that allocation into a daily shot count that lets us quote a final price to our clients that makes sense?

In sum: It all starts with your ‘Personal Shot Count’

How many shots do you color correct in a day? If you don’t know that number, you’ll never consistently accurately estimate the time it takes to deliver a color correction.

Of course, once you start color correcting events conspire that may change our estimate—taking longer (or shorter) than you expect. But if you’ve got an attack plan on how to allocate your time at the Session level (the 6 slices of a color correction session), then when you get bogged down in one of those slices, you’ll be able to readjust on-the-fly to be sure you hit your deadline.

How do you determine your ‘Personal Shot Count’?

Easy. At the start of the day:

• Note the first shot you’re working on

• When you stop color correcting, count how many shots you color corrected

• Subtract any major breaks (longer than 15 minutes). This gets you the final hours actually worked.

• Divide the number of hours worked by the number of shots completed that day

You now have your shot count for that day! You’ll need to refine that number by doing this every day on that job. Average those numbers out to get a much more accurate estimate of how many shots you can grade in a day.

Now… continue to keep track of your Personal Shot Count for the next two jobs

You’ll be able to give rock-solid estimates of how long it take you to color correct a job. Of course, you’ll have to re-do these estimates when major changes happen to your workflow such as:

• When you move off a mouse to a control surface

• When you move off a 3rd party control surface to a high-end dedicated control surface (costing the price of a new car)

• When you move from a non-linear editor to color correcting in a dedicated color grading app

You may also find your Personal Shot Counts change depending on the class of job you’re color correcting. Indie features will have a different shot count than 20 minutes docs. Or not. It depends entirely on you and the nature of your client base.

Watch the video Insight below to dig deeper into estimating your time for an entire session

In Part 3, we’ll look at ways to increase your Personal Shot Count. After all, colorists who work more quickly and more accurately tend to bill more per hour and develop bigger followings.

– pat

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Homepage Forums How to Estimate Time for Color Correction Part 2: The Big Picture

  • Very interesting set of insights. Thank you for the human “workflow” advice! These topics are huge, as they arent commonly discussed elsewhere, and I also tend to flat bid, making it even more important, as you pointed out w your example. Looking forward to part 3 and further suggestions. I got some timing to do!

  • Remco Hekker

    Hi Patrick, Thanks for the insight! This really adds a ton of value.
    Quick question. I hear you talk a lot about shot count, is your shot count similar for different types of projects?

    Personally I’ve experienced that a combination of project screentime and project genre gives me a good indication of what to expect.

    I sometimes get documentary’s with a pretty low shot count. But most of the shots are shoulder mounted and follow people for several minutes. These then take me just as long as the same screentime would if it had 3 times the amount of shots.

    I Look forward to part 3.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    There are two sides to the Shot Count thing:

    1. Your personal Shot Count — You should know within 50 shots how many shots you can get through in a day… on average. It’s a metric we all need to calculate across several jobs to understand how genre will effect our personal shot counts.

    2. The project Shot Count — Yes – I find different genres will have different shot counts for the same length of programming. But: (total shot count)/(personal shot count)=#daysToCompletion is a good shorthand.

    Except in those rare projects where they do weird things like, shoot 3 minute takes, this estimation holds up well. But yes, you’ve got to see a rough cut to make sure strangeness like you mentioned won’t blow your estimates out of the water… since a 3-minute tracking shot will clearly take longer to grade than a single shot that lasts 10 seconds.

  • R. Neil Haugen

    NIce to see this in the current “flight pattern” after first watching this several years back. The comment about the care of the eyes … and that after a certain number of hours working, you will likely start making errors you will need to correct the next day is spot-on.

    Very good to review … many other good points to remind myself about.

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