How To Color Correct On A Budget
We like to refer to color correction as magic. It can make a big difference in the quality of your film. Color correction involves adding a color treatment or enhancing the tones and shades present in an image to better interpret the script. Subtle forms of color correction give interview subjects nice, even skin and a healthy glow. A more dramatic example would be changing a cloudy day to a sunnier day or making a hard-to-see, dark scene in the shade of a tree visible again.
Whether you’re simply using color to give footage shot at different times or with different cameras a consistent overall look, or you’re looking to make substantial color adjustments for creative reasons, color correction or color grading is a crucial (and fun!) part of finishing a video project. However, since this service can be an expensive part of the film production process, it is important to understand so you know where you can cut costs. To help you with this, Henninger Media Services presents how to color correct on a budget.
Consult with a colorist before production begins
We often tell filmmakers to start at the end and work backward. Thinking about how your film will be shown and distributed can help guide your entire production process. Colorists can help make sure your production choices are appropriate for your planned delivery. They can also review your workflow and recording format to make sure you will have the range and flexibility to achieve your color goals.
Have a budget in mind
Prepare a price range in your mind and budget for color upfront. Since color correction is a process that happens close to the end of post-production, it’s easy to dip into the color budget to cover production overages. Resist that urge! Color helps unify your project visually and raises the overall quality to help your project look more professional and polished.
Understand the needs of your audience
If your goal is to be accepted by film festivals, read their submission guidelines carefully. Many festivals are willing to take works-in-progress for consideration but will expect the film to have color correction, sound design, and mix completed by the time it is exhibited.
Your goal is to put a good foot forward for the submission and an even better foot forward once your film is accepted and set to be screened. In this case, your audience is the committee that screens films and chooses what will be shown. You may even want to try to speak to filmmakers who have previously been accepted to a specific film festival to determine what process they followed. How final was their film when it was accepted? What threshold should you aim to meet to have the best chance possible at securing a screening?
Make the best use of time
Let’s say you’re trying to get your film ready for film festival submission. Ideally, you’d like to have a colorist tackle the whole film, giving each and every scene attention. But your budget is limited, and you haven’t been accepted to film festivals yet. Start by sending your colorist a cut of your film (or at least a few clips) and asking for their opinion. Sometimes the best use of your budget will be to touch on all scenes with basic “primary only” color corrections to match the piece overall. In another situation, you might be better off focusing on specific problem areas. If you’re able to raise more money after you’ve been accepted to a festival, you can invest that in additional color work, but if no more money comes through, at least you’ve done your best given your resources.
Where should you spend your money?
As the filmmaker, the answer really depends on your vision. Your colorist can help you determine what changes will make the biggest difference to the overall quality level of your film. Creating a prioritized list of your color goals allows you and your colorist to tick off the “big things” first, making the most of your budget. Start a dialogue with your colorist as early as possible.
If you need any help addressing color correction issues, feel free to reach out to us at Henninger Media Services. Our color correction team is Dolby Vision certified. We are a leading video production and post-production company in Arlington, VA and offer a full range of media services, including 4k and digital distribution. Our experienced professionals provide guidance throughout your project’s lifespan. We treat it each project as if it were our own.