As a runner we can either stay doing our runner’s duties or we can train in our chosen department. I had decided to go the route of MCR2 which is online and colour grading assistants to the operators. I decided to see if I could train with them but they said they were too busy, and told me to go down to suite 1 to see if I could sit in with Danny. Danny is a fairly new colourist at Envy however he started off as a runner there and worked his way up to a full time op.
I knocked on his door and he told me to come on in and sit in with him. The grading rooms are pitch black and the suites are huge and usually the most expensive in the company. The one that I was in I was told costs around £400 per hour, so you can see how time is money in this industry. Danny told me that it had been a quiet week and he had a few jobs on but nothing too stressful…for a change. He said he’d talk me through what he was doing and then teach me some stuff. Woah. I did not expect so much kindness and mentoring from someone on such short notice, but I was delightful and seized the opportunity.
So his first task while I was there was to drop in some extra scenes that were being added to an episode of Gold Rush. This is usually when the client has decided to change a few of the shots in the show and of course, they must be changed. However a different colourist did the grade on the show and Danny has to grade these added shots in the same way, not as easy as it sounds. He explained that he didn’t want to do too much to the shots because the show in itself isn’t his entire job and wanted to respect the other colourist’s choices.
Managing Creatives – Managing Clients
Danny was fascinating to speak to about managing his work, creativity and clients all at the same time. He, like all of the other graders I’ve spoken with, first explained how tight the time deadline is with grading. They literally have minutes for each shot. He then added when a director or producer is looking over your shoulder humming and ahh-ing it doesn’t help. They often question a lot of what you’re doing while you’re doing it which makes creative decision making difficult and also means you have to explain what you’re doing as you’re working to the deadline. He said it can be difficult but that he generally tries to build a good rapport with his clients so they’re on the same level. He said that when you’ve worked with a particular client a lot you get to know what they want as well which makes it easier.
Danny was quite funny when he spoke of some his techniques and tricks he would often play. He said one of the best pieces of advice he received from a mentor was that you should always make 3 obvious mistakes in your edit/grade. “Mistakes” in the sense that you have them deliberately there though you would change them anyway. In this way the client will come in and spot these over anything else you’ve done. The client will always have adjustments to make but if they choose these “mistakes” that you haven’t rectified over the work you’ve spent hours on it will be easier for you. A very crafty and maybe devious way, but what stems from that is that people will never be satisfied on the first cut of something…they will always want a change. Perfection is not something that exists in the creative industries, something that creative workers have to deal with particularly as clients spend hours adjusting and re-adjusting their work.
Danny told me to take the reigns and have a go at grading a scene from one of the short form fashion promos he was grading. It was shot on one a RED and was a high end fashion video. Very abstract, very stylistic and very expensive. I had never even touched Baselight which is the software used.
Danny gave me the lowdown on how the software and machine worked.
Colour Grading Suite – The video I was grading
He left the suite for about half an hour and let me play around with colours. It was great and in that half an hour I actually got a feel for what it’s like working with those machines work and the environment in general. I completely made a mess a few times of the video but managed to get a few nice grades in the end. When he returned he gave me a few tips, if I remember how to actually do them on that machine, will be the greatest feat.
I spent 3 and half hours with Danny that day and he was so helpful. He spoke openly to me about his work and then even gave me some practical training. As I have always thought, mentoring under someone higher up has always been a preference of mine. I learn the most when I’m around people who are better than me especially in the creative industries. Experience is key in managing your creativity alongside managing your clients. You need both skills to survive.