How Do I Color Grade 1500 Shot Timelines?

December 16, 2018

Color grading 1,500 shots in a single timeline is daunting. We discuss a question about how to gain efficiency grading really long timelines.


From The MailBag Episode 62

1500+ Shot Timelines…How Can I Be More Efficient?

In some ways, I’ve always been jealous of short-form colorists.  A 30-second spot with 25 shots and a full day to spend on the spot seems well…inviting and creatively fun! Long-form timelines can often be the complete opposite.

This week we got a question from Mixing Light member, Sunny, who asks:

Hi – I’m finding myself doing a lot of long-form projects like TV documentaries and documentary features these days, and those projects seem to always have 1500+ shot timelines. With only 2-3 days to work on these projects (not mention small budgets) do you guys have any tips to help me be more efficient and work faster?

You bet we do!  In this installment, because Dan is away on his honeymoon, we’re once again joined by Mixing Light contributor, Joey D’Anna, who along with myself and Patrick grades a lot of long-form projects!

The truth is long-form timelines are intimidating, but with a few strategies, even the longest feature can be conquered!

Using A Standardized Node Structure, Playheads & Split Screens

As we start the conversation, Joey offers up a great strategy for working fast – using a standardized node structure.

The idea with a standardized node structure is that every single shot uses the same number of nodes, and each one does the same thing.  That doesn’t mean you have to use every node in your standardized node structure, but using the same node setup for every shot does have a lot of advantages.

  • Always knowing what each node does, and building up muscle memory for each node
  • Make changes i.e. rippling
  • Avoid manual addition of nodes – you have what you need and how those nodes are set up right in front of you

Another thing Joey offers up is a new Resolve 15 feature – using play heads; Robbie counters and suggests split screens as another way to assist in shot matching.

Groups, Stills & Memories

As our discussion continued, we all agreed that groups are a great way to pick up the pace of grading on long-form work – especially with interviews that are common in doc work like Sunny is working on. Instead of grading each shot one by one, groups allow you to apply base corrections to all instances of the same shot.  Remote grades are another similar approach.

Another way to increase efficiency in a long form project is by leveraging the gallery – stills, power grades and memories.  All of these times are essentially the same thing with slightly different functionality.  Stills are per project, Powergrades are stills that can flow over multiple projects (great for a series) and memories are easily assignable to keyboard shortcuts or buttons a control surface.

Having an organized stills/power grade structure, as well as having the foresight to save key shots to memories can make a big impact on overall speed grading a long form project.

Working In Passes & Understanding Adding Value

Long-form work is all about passes. As we discuss, multiple passes not only improves your grading – you can perfect a shot in a single pass usually – but it also allows you to get to the end of a project having added value to each shot.

Value is another thing to keep in mind on a 1500+ shot project. You’re not going to make every shot a masterpiece, but if you can improve each shot, and add to the overall flow of the project/story that is a huge win, even though you might not have perfect shot 129 on the timeline!

Do You Want Team Mixing Light To Answer A Question?

Remember, if you have questions that you’d like to get an opinion on please use the contact form.

Your questions can be aesthetic, technical or even client related. We’d love to hear from you, and your question might make future episodes of From The MailBag.

Enjoy the MailBag!


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