Life Of A Freelance Colourist – Grading On An Uncalibrated Monitor

November 4, 2018

Dan fell victim to an uncalibrated monitor on a commercial project recently and shares his story so you what to look out for.

Putting Your Eyes In Someone Else’s Hands

In this Insight, Dan shares his negative experience on an uncalibrated monitor from a commercial colour grading project. As the monitor had not been calibrated correctly and the end result was a milky green grade. The worst part of this experience is people always remember the time the grade looked different at home than it did in the room and blame the colourist, not the facility.

The Backstory

Now that I’m not working at a large post facility I have the freedom to take jobs all over the country and even the world.

This is great when you are flying to Beijing for a week of grading or popping to New York for a couple of days on a big commercial but the downside is you really do put your eyes in someone else’s hands.

I would say that I’ve NEVERĀ graded anywhere that had a 100% properly calibrated monitor during my freelance adventures.

This doesn’t count established post houses that get me in for holiday cover but everywhere else.

I’m talking about Ad Agencies with “in-house grading”, production companies with “in-house grading” even customers directly with “in-house grading”

I know this comes off a little grumpy but I have spent my whole life working in dedicated suites with proper monitors and lighting so I’m quite sensitive to how things should be done.

Some Sample issues

I think it’s unfair to name and shame the places so I just want to give you an idea of three of the scenarios without being specific.

Suite #1

The job was a 60 min concert film. The machine couldn’t play back the footage…at all

I had a 12 hour day to try and grade this live concert and myself and the director couldn’t watch it back at anything faster than 12fps…and that was on the ungraded footage!

I think that was my first introduction into being embarrassed in a grade.

Suite #2

This job was one of the most mind-boggling ones.

They had spent a huge amount of money on getting the room to look like a grading suite.

All the bells and whistles and uber cool furniture.


The grading monitor was an old Panasonic that I hadn’t seen in years and when I asked if it was calibrated I was told by the engineer

“It’s a broadcast monitor so it comes calibrated out of the box and I don’t touch them afterwards in case I mess it up”

I ended up having to use my laptop screen as a starting point to where the grade should be as I had previously eye matched it to my FSI as close as I could.

Losing the first hour of grading while trying to bodge a calibration is not a good start to the day.

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