Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Grading (A Resolve Set Up)

Been a while since my last post but I'm just getting towards the end of the edit of my fourth feature film as editor, Tamla Rose. Its been an interesting job because whilst principal photography ended several months back and I have been working on the film on and off since then, the team only shot the final day of pickups a couple of weeks back and we are already trying to get the film locked. I also got a nice surprise when I was asked to grade the film as well. I wasn't expecting this as the last film I did for this company was sent down to a Colourist in London. This is going to be my third feature as Colourist (after Born of Hope which has now had 11million views and The Turing Enigma) so I made a couple of big decisions. Firstly, I wanted to do it in DaVinci Resolve (which I have recently spent a lot time learning so that I could teach it at the media school I work at) and secondly I wanted to have at least some kind of proper video monitoring and a colour control surface.

So the first decision was easy. Whilst I love Apple Color (which I used on the previous two features and several shorts) it's a dead application (thanks Apple) so continuing to hone my skill on it seemed kind of pointless. Resolve is the industry standard and now its cheap (or free for the Lite version which "only" goes up to HD resolution) it's becoming incredibly commonplace.

The second decision was more difficult because it would mean a lot of research on my part into getting the "right" setup and it would involve not only spending all the money I was getting for grading the film, but also getting a loan to pay for the rest. But I think any career in such a competitive industry as TV & Film needs to be full of bold moves that you hope pay off. When I quit doing temp work in an office I had no idea if I could support myself with just film work and teaching, but it paid off and 4 years later I'm still paying the rent, so you have to have a little faith. But how much to spend? That was the big question. I priced up my ideal suite at between £8-10k. It would have looked something like this;

Now if that doesn't make you drool then what the hell are you doing reading my blog? But £8-10k is a LOT of money to be dropping unless you have several well paid jobs definitely lined up. Which I don't. I have some pretty nice potential jobs and few definite jobs on the horizon but in the end I thought that spending this money would be a mistake because it would essentially be taking several steps at once. I would be moving up from my MacbookPro, to a tower with additional GPU processing, adding external monitoring of my video signal and getting a broadcast quality OLED monitor.

So I downsized my budget (several times) and ended up with a figure of £4k, which meant I could get pretty small personal loan that if worst came to worst it would still be pretty easy to pay back on a minimum wage job. So instead my setup looks like this;

I replaced the MacPro (which are a dier need of a revamp by Apple anyway) with a top spec iMac. I replaced Black Magic card with the cheapest Black Magic thunderbolt box (the Intensity Extreme). I kept the colour control surface and the 42" high end consumer plasma screen but lost the OLED monitor. Whilst the setup (I'm looking at it right now) doesn't make me drool quite as much as I had in mind it is still a major step up for me (and I still feel a little giddy about it). I believe I was stretching my Macbook as far as it would go and that is the moment that you should upgrade. So that's what I did. Now I can edit and grade in HD whilst monitoring the actual video signal on a faithful(ish) monitor that at least attempts to emulate the scale of watching a cinema screen and I can grade at least 4 times as quickly (and I'm not even practiced yet) with the control surface. Once I have pushed this gear as far as it will go then I can upgrade to the suite above and this setup will become my offline suite. Until then, I'm happy with this.

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