Running A Stronger Color Correction Business in 2020

January 14, 2020

In this Insight, Robbie reflects on 2019 and shares some of his goals for 2020 to help run a stronger color correction buisness


Series
Day 14: 24 Insights In 24 Days – 2020 New Year Marathon!

Reflection & New Goals To Have A Great 2020

Each year, around this time, I start thinking about the past year and what I could be doing differently/better for the year ahead of me.

I think about both creative & business improvements, but I think it’s important to not just think about the year gone by, but to use what I’ve learned to inform new goals for the coming year.

I’ve done this publicly a few times here on Mixing Light, but forming this article was particularly challenging for me because 2019 was one of the most difficult years I have had in my professional life.

After 11 years in the same space, my partners and sister company Ott House Audio and my company had to look for a new space – our landlord decided that he wanted to increase the rent for a new 5-year lease by 85% for the first year with a 6% yearly escalation. In the already expensive Washington D.C. market there was just no way we could do that.

 

In some ways 2019 was awesome. We secured a new 4000 sq ft facility and had a ton of fun designing it from the ground up. But 2019 also kind of sucked – contractors going AWOL, budget overages and lack of studio space for an extended period of time put stress on me and my company.

 

We quickly found a new space and started in on construction. Well, that’s where things quickly got hairy. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but they include contractors going AWOL and lawsuits, county inspectors literally changing building codes mid-construction and refusing to grandfather us in on plans they had approved in the first place, supplies being back-ordered and lots more!

What this meant for my business was that for nearly 7 months I had to exclusively work out of my house, rent friends’ studios for supervised session/reviews and ultimately spend about $50,000 more on the project vs. budget.  As you can imagine, that put a ton of stress not only on my business, but for me personally and my family.

But there is no sense living in the past. I’m stoked for a great new year and I want to share some of my goals for 2020 (informed by 2019) in hopes that they can help you too.

Fewer Caveats & Less Explanation – Let The Work Stand On Its Own

A character trait of many people who work in postproduction is an unwavering need to please people – please clients & please/impress colleagues. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing in moderation, but a desire to please often comes with explanations & caveats.  Let me explain. Ha!

 

I have a tendency to over-explain things to clients, especially in email. The result oftentimes is pointing them to things that probably wouldn’t have been problems except for me mentioning them. In 2020, I’m going to be more concise and offer fewer caveats or explanations.

 

Let’s say I complete a pass on a film and post it for a client to view on Frame.io.  I might write an email to a client that looks something like:

Hi Peter – 

I’m completed my first pass on the film. Here’s a LINK.  I think things are looking good, but as you know there are a ton of tough shots in this project but I think I got things flowing better.  A few additional notes:

There is a ton of noise reduction and sharpening throughout 

I did my best on the really dark shots – they’re not great but I’ll continue to work on them

The interview of Melissa is tough, I’ve done quite a few beauty work passes, but unsure if its really helping.  Take a look.

Let me know if you have any questions or have trouble accessing the screener. 

-Robbie

On the surface, this seems like a pretty innocuous email, but it’s not.  Of all the amazing things about working with Mixing Light contributor, Joey D’Anna in both ML & our color correction business, is that I’ve learned a ton from him about communication. Joey has pointed out that I often write emails like this and has urged me to present fewer explanations, less caveats and just let the work we do stand on its own.

Here are the main problems with the above email:

  1. Either pointing out the obvious or worse, potentially insulting the client by telling them their project has a lot of tough shots. The reason they probably came to us is exactly that there ARE tough shots!
  2. What’s the purpose of explaining a technique(s) I used?  Nothing other than to try to prop up my work, or as potentially a pseudo excuse as to why the color work is not as good as could be.
  3. Lack of confidence. By telling a client I’m not sure if something is working it’s almost as though I’m begging the client to take issue with it. And maybe worse, it can spread doubt not to just the specific thing I’m pointing out but to everything.

Any way you analyze that email – it is bad communication and something I’m working on in 2020.  A better example of the above would be something like:

Hi Peter – 

I’m completed my first pass on the film. Here’s a LINK.  I think things are looking good!  Feel free to make comments in Frame.io and I’m happy to address any changes you might have.  Let me know if you have any questions or have trouble accessing the screener.  

-Robbie

So do I have evidence that this simpler communication is better?  Actually, I do! I’ve probably worked on 7 or 8 projects so far this year and I’ve tried to use this more concise strategy in emails.  I’ve found that it’s led to less harsh comments, less focusing on problems that I’ve pointed out and in general more focus by the client on all the good stuff done to their project.

In your own business, I’d urge you to just let your work stand on its own, and not caveat it based on crappy footage or difficult solutions – I think you’ll be surprised how clients react.

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