T here’s a saying in the industry, “You know your film is complete when you run out of money”. If you’re a colorist performing the final grade on a film, you witness this saying become a reality. By the time a film hits the DI stage, many of the project's departments have already maxed their budgets so there isn't much money left for DI overages. Therefore, you have to be both a creative partner and a pace setter.
The films I grade most often are modest budget Independent films that finish in time for festival delivery deadlines. The established timeframe for grading these projects is 1 week or more precisely 40 hours over 5 consecutive weekdays. This fits neatly on the calendar when the projects are booked a month or two in advance and allows producers to avoid weekend hotel bills for traveling creatives by starting color on a Monday and wrapping on a Friday. This schedule works well for the 80 minute projects I grade, however, for films between 90 and 100 minutes, 40 hours of grading may not be enough. That's when time management becomes essential.
For me, time management of a DI begins well before our first day in the theater. As soon as the project is booked, I ask to see the latest cut of the film to get a sense of the visual scope of the project. After I watch the offline, I set up a call or email exchange with the director and DP. This is a creative call. We discuss looks and inspirations for their film, LUTs, look books, VFX, etc. I avoid discussing time concerns until after I hear their creative goals for the film. If I feel that we cannot achieve their goals within the budgeted time I will propose these options.
Ask the producers to schedule more time. This can mean adding a day at the beginning or end of the schedule, working longer days, or booking a day or two of unsupervised pre-grading so I can smooth out continuity and set looks in advance of Day 1.
- Ask the creatives to prioritize their visual goals for the film in case we run out of time or are unable to secure more time in the schedule.
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