From The Grading Suite: From Short Form To Reality

February 6, 2018

Dan shares the tale of his attempt at grading long-form reality television after spending 10 years being a pampered commercial colorist.


Going From Grading 30 Seconds To 57 Minutes

I always strive to be as honest as possible here on Mixing Light. Especially as we live in times where everything is filtered to just show off our best moments, I know I’m guilty of that just by looking at my Instagram page!

This weeks insight is a pretty sore subject for me personally but by writing this insight and sharing it with you all some good can come from my screw up!

I recently gave up the life of being a staff colourist to spend more time travelling and working on Mixing Light.

I also moved to a totally new city in the west of England called Bristol.

It’s home to some of the best factual work on TV like the BBCs Blue Planet series. That’s graded down the road from my house at Films @ 59.

With the area having an amazing reputation for its factual excellence and documentary style visuals, I had to jump into a totally new world of grading.

After 10 years of spending a whole day on 30 second amazingly shot commercials.

My first job was a 57-minute regional family cooking challenge show. 6 cameras of all makes and compression type. The main cameras were Canon 305s right down to GoPros inside fridges set to full auto.

What a shock to the system!

I’ll jump into the full story below to explan each step but to put it simply. I screwed up…I screwed up badly.

That was last Wednsday and I’m on the train back to that post house right now (Monday morning) to do a total regrade for free.

Why for free? I feel like I didn’t live up to the standard I expected of myself and if I’m not happy how can I ever expect a client to be happy!

I’d rather offer one day of my time for free to clear my reputation rather than hiding away and never getting a call from those clients again.

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Homepage Forums From The Grading Suite: From Short Form To Reality

  • Stef Colosi

    Well done Dan for such a candid and honest article. And a reminder that anyone can get themselves in a pickle when you don’t do enough planning before a job.

  • Marc Wielage

    Doh, we’ve all been there, done that. We have an expression in America, Dan: “You gotta know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em.” No way would I have even attempted a 1-hour reality show without a panel. Not gonna happen. I can do it in a day (a LONG day), but a lot depends on the nature of the material and the expectations of the client. All of this stuff is a learning, growing experience — and I share your respect for the hardworking people who do reality TV every single day. It’s a different set of skills than commercial or feature work, but man, it’s tough, grueling, work. Particularly when a lot of 8-bit material is involved.

  • Dylan Hopkin

    Wow, that must have been a hard-landing. Reality shows are really hardcore. Nothing like nicely shot tvc or drama / features (that’s hard work too of course). Grading a 1h reality show in one day is pretty though even with a panel.
    It’s all about doing just enough to the images, no fine details, blast through and don’t look back (well not to much at least). Preview the graded show at 2x speed if your slammed for time. It will be interesting to see where your path leads now.



  • Marty Webb

    This is a really great insight. I remember having the opposite problem in symphony way back when I was starting out. Not really understanding the different kinds of grades. I was grading master clips and scratching my head as to why seemingly random other clips on the timeline kept changing. There’s also another catch where if you have in/out points set, they don’t show up when you’re in colour mode but they’re there. And when you make a change to one clip, it changes every clip between those points. So what should have been a short job took me forever, I ran low on time the end result seemed very rushed.

    Like you said, most of us are guilty of trying to only show filtered versions of ourselves. It’s really comforting and inspiring to see how someone as successful as yourself can still have the same troubles I sometimes have.

    I’d like to ask how you managed to learn baselight? did you have regular access to a full system? Did you get some training from Filmlight or was it all just baselight editions?

  • David Jahns

    Great article – and great of you to publicly share your “oops” moments with us. I’m currently in Ad Agency TVCs for big clients. It is nice that you get a whole day to grade a spot, but the projects that I really love working on a feature dramas with a few weeks for grade, maybe a week of light visual effects and delivery. I’ve done a few of those jobs – grade in Resolve, VFX in Flame via Fusion-Link hack, and it’s pretty sweet setup. If I could find a half dozen of those per year with a decent budget, I’d leave the Ad Agency work and be a happy guy.

  • Rob M

    Good for you for sorting it, Dan. I’ve just found myself in quite a similar situation – used to spending all day on a commercial and being asked to do a very, very long piece in just a couple of days. It’s a totally different kettle of fish, and if I’m honest, I’d go so far as to say it’s almost a different job role…?

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