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Unveiling the Art: Colour Grading in Feature Films

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

A colour grading software on an computer

Embarking on a feature film project can be both exciting and daunting. While working on a feature film is often the goal for many aspiring colourists, it's essential to approach such projects with a distinct strategy, considering the unique challenges and intricacies that come with longer formats. In this blog post, I aim to delve deeper into the nuances of colour grading feature films, outlining key considerations and strategies for success.

Managing the Influx of Data

The scope of a feature film, coupled with the use of high-end cameras and diverse shooting formats, inevitably leads to a significant increase in the volume of data involved. An early and open dialogue with the director is crucial to establish a seamless media delivery process. Ensuring your grading system has the necessary storage space is paramount.

In my case, I've found that setting up an internal SSD RAID 0 configuration on my Windows machine serves as an effective solution. Leveraging DaVinci Resolve's Project Manager, I selectively copy over the media, incorporating 24fps handles. This strategy significantly reduces the size of the rushes I need to handle, streamlining the workflow without compromising on quality.

Strategising Project Management

Dealing with the vast expanse of a feature film necessitates breaking it down into more manageable segments, often referred to as "Reels." By approaching the film in 20-30 minute increments, I'm able to maintain a steady sense of progress and accomplishment. Moreover, this approach offers multiple benefits. It allows me to systematically work through the film while providing the director and Director of Photography (DOP) the opportunity to gauge the film's trajectory and direction. The iterative feedback loop that emerges from grading the first reel often informs my approach as I proceed through subsequent sections. This iterative process ensures that by the time I'm working on the final reel, I've cultivated a comprehensive understanding of the client's expectations and vision, leading to more effective and efficient grading.

Crafting a Thoughtful Colour Approach

Crafting the right colour approach is a pivotal aspect of colour grading for feature films. To establish a common ground with the client, I prefer to begin by grading a selection of the main scenes early on in the process. This involves setting up various 'looks' that encapsulate different visual aesthetics. By sharing these early 'looks' with the director and DOP for their feedback and approval, I'm able to align my creative vision with theirs before delving into a full grading pass.

This pre-grading phase not only familiarises me with the client's preferences but also facilitates a collaborative environment where we can fine-tune the visual style together. With a foundation of agreed-upon 'looks' in place, I can proceed with the confidence that I'm aligned with the creative direction and move forward with the complete grading process.

In Conclusion

Grasping the intricacies of colour grading for feature films requires a distinct approach that acknowledges the project's magnitude and complexity. From efficiently managing data to structuring the project into manageable segments, and from crafting a thoughtful colour approach to collaborating closely with the creative team, each step contributes to the successful realisation of the director's vision. By combining technical prowess with creative finesse, a colourist can transform a feature film into a visual masterpiece that resonates with audiences and captures the essence of storytelling.

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