ColorCorrection.com Puts Color-Grading in Your Inbox
Start-Up Targets Indie Filmmakers with No-Pressure Color Correction Services by Email
Ryan Byrne: For me, at least, it began when I was doing color-correction on my first feature film (à Colombia). I didn’t feel like I had enough time in that process to get the color I wanted translated into the film. Considering the high price of color-correction, my budget didn’t allow me a lot of time to do it, and a lot of color-correction studios are set up so the clock is really ticking while you’re doing the work. As a first time filmmaker, I felt I was being charged on the learning curve as we went through the process, and it was difficult to get things done in a way that was helpful. So this was a reaction to frustration with the process.
Charles Haine: Speaking as a colorist, more and more of my clients wanted to work remotely. They didn’t want to come in, and they’d say, “Can I just send you the file?” In that context, I thought the most convenient thing would be a toolset that would appropriately bill for a service that provided a way to remotely monitor color-correction without a traditional client session. Every photo retoucher i know just sits in a room and emails back and forth with clients, and it seems like other aspects of the industry are going to move in that direction.
SD: So do your clients ever actually speak with someone in real time, or does everything happen via email?
CH: Our whole model is built around back-and-forth interaction via email, so that it can be done flexibly around people’s schedules. No phone calls, no in-room sessions.
RB: In our experience, that actually helps with those interactions. We’re asking for very precise feedback on things, and getting that in written form helps ensure that things get done correctly and in accordance with what the customer wants. We’ve found it to be a really great working method.
SD: Are you finessing looks for different projects, or really just applying them from a library of looks?
CH: Everything is per-project. A few other places out there have tried to build a library, so you can download preset looks for your projects. The problem is that every piece of footage is so different. We certainly have a taste for what we like, and we have opinions, but every piece of footage is captured under different circumstances, so we end up looking at every piece of footage and thinking about where we could take it.
RB: To be clear, this is not “email us your photo and we run it through a computer-robot system that spits out looks until you get something you like.” You are dealing with actual high-end colorists. We’re trying to make a system to give people access to colorists in a remote way. We are looking at every project – dealing with every one individually – and you are interacting with a colorist throughout that process.
Click the image above to see a full-res example of how clients provide feedback.
SD: What’s the fee?
RB: There is a $299 setup fee, and then it’s $29.99 per minute of footage.
SD So the per-minute rate is exactly the same, whether it’s a 120-minute feature or a five-minute music video?
RB: If it happens to be a particularly tough music video with a zillion cuts going on, we may have to address that. But so far it hasn’t been an issue.
CH: At some point we may have to restrict the number of cuts per minute. But that would be a rare video.
SD: And clients pay the same fee, again, for minutes that require repeated passes. How did you arrive at that model?
CH: When you’re in a traditional color session, every time you go back and forth as they’re getting to the new looks, you’re being charged the entire time. And you’re also being charged for your thinking time. If you’re unsure about something that you want to think about, or you want to discuss it with your producer or cinematographer, all that time is being charged. In our case, we start off by focusing on one look. If we know that a particular film is shot in two completely different ways, we might do a couple of looks up front. But in general, we find that the first thing you want to do is get through basic processes like matching shots to bring all of the film into a similar look. So we focus on one shot and then do that across the entire film.
If we were going scene by scene with the person in the room, this would become complicated. But, honestly, the colorist gets what the look is. If you give them the chance to do all that work up front to bring a consistent look together, you’re probably going to end up with a large portion of the film being how you want it. So we do that first, and then you can go back and look at scenes in detail.
SD: What system do you actually use?
CH: We use the da Vinci Resolve with Mac Pro towers, Tangent panels, and Flanders Scientific broadcast monitors.
SD: What’s the reaction been like from clients?
CH: Client reaction has been really strong. We’ve did a job for Tribal DDB in New York, who had a last-minute deadline. They literally just Googled color correction. Even though they’re a big agency, they needed somebody who could do a job remotely, right away. We turned that job around in an hour. We just did a music video for an artist out of Denmark who couldn’t afford any of the local solutions. He sent us his files online. We turned them around in a couple of days and sent them back. Most people are really happy about fitting this into their workflow in a way they couldn’t before.
SD: What kind of reaction have you gotten inside the industry? Do full-service colorists feel threatened by this business model?
RB: For the most part, people seem really excited that we’re growing the business. The same thing is happening to color that happened to editorial in the 1980s. It went from being a very expensive process that required very expensive equipment to something you can put together for 10 grand. Now, there are still big edit houses, but there are 50 more of them, with more people offering the service in a bigger competitive market. And there’s so much more work going on because so many new types of content are being created – reality tv, web shows, cable channels and 3d cable channels. So I don’t think this is a threat to Company 3. It’s really about offering services to clients who might not be intersted in traditional color houses. And if you’ve got a $500,000 machine to do color-grading, it’s not cost-effective to do a music video that comes out at about $1000. You can’t pay off your equipment and pay your colorist at that rate. We offer that, and it draws more attention to color-grading. Our hope is that more business all around is good for everyone.
CH: A lot of independent filmmakers can’t afford to do real color-correction. Maybe they sit at home and do it themselves and don’t really know what they’re doing, or they go to a really cheap independent colorist who gives them a very quick once-over. We’re opening this to a new market of people who are underserrved at the moment. We’ve had clients from Nigeria, Denmark, England, and all over the place so far. They don’t always have access to colorists. Nowadays, not every filmmaker lives in Los Angeles, New York, or London.
SD: Nor does every colorist. Do you expect that, some day, a colorist based outside of Los Angeles, or outside the U.S., could adopt the same model and undercut you on pricing?
RB: It could happen. But our company and our system is not based on pricing. While our system is often more cost-effective, that is not our competitive structure. We put a lot of emphasis on the process because we’re doing things differently. We’re allowing people time to consider their decisions. We are giving people multiple options for the look every step of the way, which really helps people who aren’t familiar with color-correction or people who aren’t really sure how they want the work to look. These are all things that are outside of pricing. Our focus is on the process and, particulary, making that process better for the filmmaker. We are filmmakers ourselves, and we created this because we were frustrated with the process of color-correction more than anything else.
For more information: ColorCorrection.com.