[Tig] Budget (time) a discussion

Steve Hullfish steve at veralith.com
Sat Sep 10 03:42:46 BST 2011

I hope this won't offend any of the members of this list.

I am currently writing the 2nd edition of my book "The Art and Technique of Color Correction." Many illustrious members of this list are mentioned or interviewed or perform corrections in the book, which is based on watching 12 colorists grade the same images on the same system.

One of the popular sidebar discussions in the book was a short piece on "budgets." I would like to post the contents here for comment. This was written in ... 2005? I think. Some of the interviews might have been done in 2004. (Festa was still at R!OT at the time...pre-New Hat) Has the time allotted for these tasks changed as the technology has changed? What percentage of anybody's work still involves racking film?

 Like most things - color correction is usually done on a deadline and within a budget.

American Dramatic prime time shows are usually in the range of 1000 shots in a “one hour” show and are usually graded in 12-16 hours, averaging a bit better than a shot a minute. Reality shows are closer to 1200 shots in an hour long show and only usually budget for a single day including laying it off to tape, which works out to about 170 shots an hour or close to 3 shots a minute. Color correction for Digital Intermediates can vary greatly, but can average about 20 minutes (about two reels) per day.

Neal Kassner, a colorist for CBS’s “48 Hours” estimates that he has about 16 hours to color correct that show’s 1200-1500 shots per episode. That’s 75-90 shots an hour. Other colorists I’ve spoken to have mentioned averages for a nationally telecast documentary as 6-8 minutes to correct one minute of finished program time. On spots, the average is 3-8 hours for a single 30 second spot or a series of spots based on the same material. Some facilities expect certain “output” from their colorists, such as 100 shots an hour.

Craig Leffel, of Chicago’s Optimus, says that it depends if the corrections are from tape or server or if the OCN has to actually be racked on the telecine. For film negative, the average is four to six shots an hour if there are only a few shots per reel.

Legendary colorist, Bob Festa, of R!OT in Santa Monica, says that for spots he corrects off the telecine, the average is 10 shots an hour. “Unfortunately, in today's world, I’m still racking up film on a day by day basis. Today I was working with dailies rolls and we had 30 shots in 3 hours basically. So that’s pretty much to my formula of 10 shots per hour.” (Most colorists working from telecine have an assistant that threads up the telecine for them.)

Some of these numbers have changed somewhat over the years as colorists are transitioning from a workflow that was originally almost entirely “straight off the telecine” to a current workflow where telecine transfers get transferred “flat” to either a digital disk recorder, some kind of a server as a file or to a tape format like D5, then the colorist basically does a tape-to-tape color correction or color corrects from a file. Back in the day, a rule of thumb for telecine transfers was 1 hour to grade 11 minutes (one 1000 foot 35mm reel.)

The trick to grading an entire project on budget is to leave enough extra time to work on the shots that really need the additional attention.

Until you get more experienced at estimating how long you need to really tweak an entire project, try to get a first pass at all the shots done in half of your budgeted time. Then use the second half of the time to polish the overall corrections and devote extra time to “trouble” shots or those that have high emotional significance or importance to the story,

 Also, don’t forget to leave time for revisions, especially if you don’t have absolutely every single decision-maker in the session.


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