Getting Ready For Color In Postproduction

postproduction, video editing, color grading

In the last couple of posts, I’ve gone on and on about nesting. I thought I was finished with the topic, but my last post—avoiding trouble when you transfer your project to an audio designer—reminded me of some things you can do to make a grading session easier.

There are many ways to create files for a color session (usually, XML or AAF) and many techniques for avoiding problems. Different camera originals, editing software and grading software all have an impact on how smoothly the process goes.

In my experience, the colorist wants a simplified sequence. It makes relinking any troublesome clips easier. The colorist only wants to bring in the elements that they will touch. That’s not to say you can’t send an XML or AAF with multiple layers, but you might have issues.

My process is to make a copy of my sequence once it’s locked, and then get rid of all the miscellaneous layers. By “miscellaneous” I mean graphics, adjustment layers and titles. I also get rid of any audio. If anything has been nested, I open up the nest, pull out the clips that need grading and get rid of any graphics or non-video elements. If it’s a particularly complex nest—say, a composite of eight different clips—I leave one clip in place and put the rest, one after another in a line, at the end of the sequence.

Now I have a sequence with one video track. That should be good for most situations. If I want a security blanket, I might make a copy of this sequence and remove any effects on the clips. I then export the sequence as a movie in a high-quality codec so that if there’s a problem with the XML, they could grade from this movie.

Lastly, it’s important to create a reference movie from your original sequence, with all of the effects and audio. The colorist can use this as reference during the session, but, more importantly, as a guide to make sure they have all the right shots linked up.

Michael Guncheon is an accomplished editor who has cut a wide range of projects, including music videos for Prince, a documentary on Genesis, and numerous commercials and corporate pieces. A partner at HDMG, a Minneapolis video production and post-production company, Guncheon has written several books on DSLRs and is the author of the Kodak Digital Photo Guide. He has presented his talk on shooting with HDSLRs at Twin Cities Public Television, WGBH in Boston, PBS in New York, the Hollywood Post Alliance and at the annual SMPTE conference in Hollywood.