Grading at the End Workflow

hello fellow flame artists!

recently I had a chat with a colorist who suggested we do the grading at the end for the project. we were supposed to work off the raw and do our cg compositing before sending to grade.
this seems like an interesting workflow. has anyone tried this before? just curious how would we export the shots for the colorist.

Yes and I am a huge fan @JustAnotherBoy

You would probably have a pipeline that takes the camera log and if CG is required, convert it to a linear colourspace. The colourist would probably like the camera log back again.

Why should you want to do it?

A more accurate/realistic relationship between light and camera means it is much easier to match/recreate in CG. Obviously a HDR pipeline is better. Knocking it down to SDR only at the end. Reference images and captured textures have a better chance of matching pre grade.

Won’t it look shit?

Working ungraded doesn’t mean working on flat (log) images. You can have a viewing LUT that takes the HDR images and converts them to SDR using tone-mapping. All viewing WiPs get exported with this viewing LUT.

Why don’t we do it this way around then?

So possibly people want to see what it looks like graded.
Maybe, like in the case of a car commercial, they won’t know all of the VFX until they see the grade. There might be things that can be done/fixed in the grade but there might be things that they couldn’t quite solve and that will require some more cleanup/VFX.
But the lack of vision, the wanting to see the VFX graded can be worked out and still use this workflow. It is just about time and money. If they want to spend half a day on a colourist they can set a look and generate a show LUT or a few or they can just use one of the off the shelf LUTs with no added cost.

Final thoughts

I also think it ties the whole process up nicely at the end. All the VFX have been done and now we get all of the important decision makers in the same room to review and grade on a calibrated monitor. Like a final approval and grade all in one. It doesn’t mean that final tweaks can’t be done. They just need to be run back through the grade afterwards or titles and minimal clean-up can be done in a finishing session at the very end.

So few of my commercial jobs follow this pipeline but I am trying to actively promote this whenever and however I can (hence this impassioned response).

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I don’t disagree with anything said here. The issue with commercials tends to be that simple changes can often spiral timescales a little out of control depending on how heavily color is booked. The reliance on approving in color with final color also often means that clients will leave what would otherwise be simple approvals out of the hands of vfx and in the hands of the colorist in their bay.

…and there are some colorist here in LA that like to throw that power around a bit. In-house is one thing and can be managed but once it’s multihouse all betts are off :wink:

Conceptually I like ideas like blgs and Baselight Editions—if the errors were fewer and the performance was better.

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This has been the standard workflow for feature films for probably 25 years, and the standard for episodic for at least 10. There’s nothing revolutionary about it.
It’s true that colorists can ask for mattes and make your careful work look like garbage. It’s true that they don’t reciprocate by providing viewing LUTs for you to do your work in any informed way.
But it’s also true that you can achieve a higher level of work by making a comp that is blended the way that light actually blends. I would say be open, but realize that things might not be as easy for a while. Once you’re on the other side, it’s very hard to go back.

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I really like this workflow and have been using it for something like 7 years. Yes at times it’s a headache. But it’s great for clients being able to change their mind on grade and you don’t have to battle against a grading window when you comp. However, I have been very lucky having the colour dept in house who have always tickled their setups to help me and vice versa.

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Yes, 99% of the time I work like that. Only screeninserts I try to do after the grade, because it’s easier to adjust artwork.

Transform to AcesCG or Alexa Scene Linear for comping, and do an inverted transform back to the original camera colour space and send it to grading.

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I have seen dozens of flavours of this workflow in the feature world. They vary according to VFX facility, Color House and Supes.
The most basic workflow I can think of it to have reversible Neutral Grades done before VFX work and then revert back to original on delivery. This is one of the reasons a few on the Nuke color tools have an “Invert” option. This workflow is useful even on solo project where one is handling all VFX and even CG. It just gives you a better starting point and makes things easier when CG is involved. It also allows Color work to start while VFX work happens.

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We’ve also developed a hybrid workflow for spots with no integrated CG, which is, of course, most of them. I often start work before the colour is done using the Raw footage. I can start masking, tracking, comping, etc. then swap out the footage when colour comes in. Using the proper transforms and viewing rules, I can at least work with how the footage was “intended” to be seen, rather than flat, and I find I need to do very few tweeks as long as my elements all came from the footage. Screen inserts usually need a bit of dialing in after the fact. This works well in an environment where many of the final comps are changed and revised up until delivery and often have a shelf life of a few weeks, or a few months at best. Having to send those back to colour after every revision would be impossible in the client’s timeframe.

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agreed with everything here. Esp if there is CG integration with live action, pre-grade comping is the way to go. As @SamE points out, everybody else in the entertainment universe has been doing this for years… EXCEPT advertising. Some clients don’t quite understand it yet. One thing i find helpful: i will always try to get the show (or shot) LUT the dailies are made with from the DIT and work under that in your timeline. that way the clients aren’t thrown for a loop when they sit down with you to work after being in edit for a few weeks.

FLAME ON

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yea same i have only been doing this for forever now.

I am extremely militant about it → NEVER comp
on graded plates.

colorist man … they skew lighting, add halation/glows mess with grain , add this remove this…

then colorist messed up a mask and oh they never grade handles …

Compin in CG into graded plates is ridcolous. the lengths people go to , to match cg to random luts colorists use… please just dont .

Then during final
approval client decides to change grading and you have to go back and forth all day.

I really dont know where the workflow of comping after grade comes from … it doesnt make any sense, I think its something legacy from the dark tape days that somehow stuck…

And what I often hear is color is booked — so what?? everyone can open resolve nowadays, give me the project and Ill pull my comps through the grade when everything is done… or even for dailies.

And tbh I spent lots of time conforming resolve projects as a junior , colorists arent magic , most just throw on a bunch if downloaded luts, do bad keys and whacky tracked masks and call it a day… as we say in german “everyone still cooks with water”…

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I’m with Finn! … never comp on graded plates, it’s just wrong… ;-)… (ok. some exceptions… mainly screen inserts, like @PVR mentioned)

… and whenever the colourist ask for a matte (because he’s been told it exists) I refuse and tell him to treat it as if it’s been shot like that. If for some reason then the comp breaks, I’ve done a shitty job and should revisit it.

Often, that last day, I’ll be working simultaneously with the colourist for last minute adjustments etc…

No, we not THAT bad. At least most of a time. But if every time I explane comp guy why comping after grade is a bad idea someone give me a dollar…

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It’s generally a good idea to be weary of phrases that include “always” and “never.” The world isn’t that binary. Pipelines ought to flex and work at the service of the project. We are a service business and sometimes for the betterment of our clients it makes sense to do all sorts of whacky things. Every show is different and ought to be serviced as such.

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Service? hmmm… that could be an entire new topic… do you want to be seen as a ‘service’ ?? … wouldn’t you rather move up on that ladder and in stead of servicing your clients be working -with- your clients? Might seem a bit “potato-potato” … but there’s a mentalitiy nuance in that, when executed consistently will make things more intersting in my experience…

And you’re right, always and never are almost always never that binary… :wink:

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I’d argue the very act of providing thoughtful and flexible pipelines for clients based on their unique project’s needs is by definition a ‘with them’ relationship.

Don’t worry. I’m on the right part of the ladder. Excellent point.

clients book me to fix their shotty “pipelines” so they expect this of me :smiley:

I get your point though, lots of places just want "a flame guy to fix it " fair enough…

Regardings screen comps , I also use aces for that, treat it like a emission texture input and dial in the luminance to fit the scene, same as you would do with a actual phone, If they complain I just explain that this looks more realistic than other methods but I understand the pain with it.

Whats always annoying is to make something “CI” colors in a scene, wether thats a tablecloth or some shirt color… if nobody has a reference CI patch shot next to it you are flying blind…

As always beign upfront about it helps, but you have to have the audacity to be that person that wants to bring change - at least I always have and yes Ill be that guy crying about colorworkflows every step of the way, might be offputting to some clients - totally , do I give 2 *****? hell no.

I did mess around with the Baselight plugin for Flame a couple of years ago… looked very promising but had too many caveats back then, maybe it’s improved by now? I really like the concept. Same with the Lustre node… it’d be intersting if BM would do something similar for Resolve…

they went the other way putting fusion into resolve
and you can* even put out mattes from fusion to color … theoretically but its in a state of uselessness right now.

Just teach colorists to use image :rofl:

Why again can we transfer complex 3D animation and volumes across apps . (look at USD and VDB …)

But we are still stuck with those dumb luts?

Or just become the colourist and grade it yourself. If you’re using ACES you’ve been forced to understand a good chunk of colour science anyway. I grade about half my jobs now, and I love the process of slowly building the job up in the timeline. Usually do about 60% of the normal flame work, then start putting together a grade and slowly build them up together. I love it.

That’s what I have been doing too. Love the workflow of edit through to finish and everything in between (except audio of course).