China Diary

Day 193: Grade A Color Grading


Color grading is definitely the most peaceful, most zen part of the film production. Taking place usually in a huge suite fitted with AAA-class lounge chairs, comfortable (yet soundless) AC, snacks and a huge 4k screen and Dolby Digital 7.1 Surround Sounds, it’s the most comfortable way to spend a working evening. And the work itself – it’s as far from stress and pressure as anything can be – at least, from director’s point of view. I know colorists are under a tremendous pressure, but for me, it’s easy: show up, sit down and watch as the colorist and the DP tinker with the colors of the picture. The idea is to get the grayish, non-descriptive color of the raw footage to look like the deep, resounding theatrical quality image. This usually takes quite a lot of time and careful controlling, and as a director, I’m mostly there to agree with the end results, but can’t really go into specifics: this light here could be slightly warmer, this tone could be a bit more bright, the shadow areas could have a bit more cyan in them. So I just kick back and relax and try to pay attention to what’s happening, but mostly, the work is done by people with much better eye and understanding than I do.

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Colorist’s masks on Stephanie Paul’s image.
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Mika enjoying the amenities of Digital Domain, Beijing.

The jetlag isn’t letting go this time, I suppose, so I won’t even try to fight it anymore. Here I am, awake at 4:41 am, since waking up after 2 hours of sleep at 23:30. I think I’ll just wait until the breakfast opens, grab some and then head back in and try to get some sleep. That usually does the trick. It means, it doesn’t leave a lot of active time for me for the day: I sleep until 2pm and then I’m picked up to the color grading.

The nights can be long. I’m usually a bit too tired to really be able to read, so I just idly scan the Internet – Reddit, 4chan, Wikipedia – and listen to some music (tonight, it was Boards of Canada and The Beatles). Then, around 3am, Annika has put her son to bed and gives me a call. We talk for about an hour about everything and nothing and anything in between, until she heads to bed herself and I’m still left fiddling with the Internet. Few games of Hearthstone, then maybe breakfast and then, only then can I get some sleep.

I’m not complaining, but I can tell you lying in this bed is bound to give me bedsores. I can’t even go to the gym since it’s open from 6am to 11pm, when I’m either asleep or at work… Ah, well.

Mika arrived today. He’s here only for three days, during which he’s working with the colorist, setting the tone for Iron Sky: The Ark. It’s great to have him around, and I’m enjoying having someone to chat in Finnish, since for the most part I’ve been left out of all the Chinese conversations during this trip. They don’t even try to start including me anymore, which is fine by me. I just zone out and focus on my stuff.

Which reminds me: I still haven’t made friends with that black dog. It’s still growling at me. I really need some ideas for this one damn scene… I have no idea where to even begin. Tomorrow, I really need to find some answers.

Until then, zoning out!

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I guess this is me, manspreading.

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