Managing A Grade - The Music Video

Managing A Grade – The Music Video

April 21, 2014
Dan Moran C.S.I.

Grading a music video can be challenging from a time perspective. In this Insight learn about Managing A Grade for when time is tight.


Managing A Grade – The Music Video

When grading a music video in my position as senior colorist at Smoke and Mirrors we often have agreed to do it for a lower rate than commercial grading (or sometimes for free as a favour to a friendly director or production company).

With this in mind, every hour that we’re grading a music video at a huge discount (or for free) – we’re obviously not grading at our full commercial rate.

This means my number one goal for every music video is to finish it on time and finish the grade as quickly as possible.

For the average music video, I normally have 4 to 6 hours depending on how busy the grading department is that day.  This might sound like a lot of time, but I normally have the same amount of time to grade a single 30 sec. commercial!

Most music videos have between 150 to 350 cuts depending on the genre and tempo of the song. Music video directors have the same attention to detail and passion for the image as commercial directors so its up to me to keep the session moving forward and flowing.

When you are a new colorist pressing forward and managing the a session like this can be very hard.

Let’s put it this way – Your client has been pouring his life and soul into the video and you have to be the one to tell him that sorry we don’t have time to rotoscope every single sky or track every single eyeball in every shot.

Its very easy to get bogged down and the pace of the grade can slow to a crawl if your not careful.

So in this Insight, I’d like to share with you some strategies for grading music videos efficiently – and yes, I know most of these strategies break the rules you always hear about for approaching a grade!

Skip The Balance Pass!

I’ve found nothing wastes more time than balancing a music video before applying a look. Yes, I know its technically wrong to approach a project this way, especially since sometimes if you skip the balance pass you’ll have a hard time figuring out if its the balance or the look thats given you problems.

With that said, music video clients really need to see the looks your thinking of early in the process. There is a lot of experimentation in grading a music video, lots of looking a references, lots talking with the client about what they like and don’t like about a look.

If I spent the first two hours of a session doing a balancing pass I’d have little to no time to complete a cohesive look.  Of course balancing shots will help the music video flow better, but nearly always, you will need to re-balance the project once you have applied a look that you and your client like.

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