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We notice more directors, agencies and editors coloring their spots in the finish these days – an option amidst the tradition of working with a dedicated colorist in a color studio. Budgets play a role in this trend, yet many client’s are pleasantly surprised by particular finishers’ knack for color. With that said, only your project can determine which option’s benefits to roll with.

Compositing workstations and finishing bays have come a long way in handling fast-paced commercial color sessions. In some cases the applications we and dedicated colorists use are developed by the same company and share features. While tech itself presents finishers as real options for final color, it isn’t the reason to choose us over a dedicated colorist.

Heavy visual effects spots are candidates for coloring in the finish (online). Your crew may have a matte for just about everything, a deep understanding of the overall art direction and can efficiently balance out surprises coming up in exploration. Deadlines are another valid reason; maybe the spot’s not complicated, but losing a couple of hours or even a day to get into another bay somewhere else isn’t an option.

[Well managed] talent is key.  Dedicated colorists who’ve focused over a decade on their craft often trump finishers in typical live action campaigns; and their chops may leap past the hurdles of heavy visual effects spots. True, many compositors and finishers have a great eye for color, obvious when comparing the original footage to their comps – but all experienced commercial colorists have it.

A suggestion, time and budget permitting, is to treat color the same way a record label handles mix and mastering. Mixers can define as much of a track’s sound as the recording artist – yet without any loss of pride, they’re often the first to send work off to a mastering engineer for polish; for no greater reason than having an objective artist realize improvements less obvious to those embedded in the project. This is a key reason to work with dedicated colorists – or, when coloring at your vfx / finishing shop, work with a finisher that isn’t the project’s compositing lead.

Right before wrapping color, try re-creating the audience’s viewing environment by at least turning up the lights a bit. We’re the only ones zeroed in on feeling every nuance of your artistic vision without distraction, but average viewers are watching in ambient light and listening through the white noise of their households. This is why some of you may have noticed your spots looked darker at home than you remembered them in a blacked out color bay. Referring to the music biz again – ask any famous mixer or producer what speakers they ultimately rely upon and they’ll mention their oldest, cheapest pair… those representing your biggest critics’ experience.

If we’re not coloring your spot in finish, check out Clark Muller at Incendio (www.incendio.tv).

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