How much can be graded in a day?

Approximate reading time 3mins

Let’s say you’re planning your next film. You’re trying to plan the what, the when and of course the How Much.

Something that has been discussed a lot with my customers over the years is how to assess how much work (and time, as time is money) is needed when you’re not a colourist yourself. Ahhh… How long is a piece of string hey? Or rather, how much time do you have? There’s quite a few moving parts in a production. And you can spend a lifetime refining.

Therefore the answer is both simple and complicated at the same time.

The short answer is that it’s a mix of:

  • Film duration
  • Number of cuts/shots
  • how many different camera sources
  • whether it was shot in a (known) log format or not
  • the resolution of the deliverables
  • the complexity of the look
  • the amount of conform work needed, in case there’s a lot of mixed formats, before we can even start grading
  • The amount of VFX or animation involved if any
  • Upload and Download times, if the footage is not provided on a physical disk
  • Rushes Disk speed (which does affect render time)
  • Whether someone sits at the colour bay to approve shots in real time (as opposed to using online reviewing platforms such as
  • Dealing with any other unexpected issues that might pop up

Now, that’s not a short list, is it!?

The truth is, this is unfortunately something you learn with time, and most of my clients get a good sense of what they can get for their money after the first couple of jobs we do together. And I can definitely identify patterns, and things that some clients often/always do – which means for every new project with that same person, I get a little faster at preparing the project for the grade and at reaching a base look we’re happy with.

But before any of that can happen, a conversation needs to happen. I’ll ask most of the questions from the list above. I’ll gather other relevant information from what is shared, and of course from watching the current edit of the piece.

The one tip I can share is to simply send a link to a very early edit to your colourist and let them tell you what to watch out for and what they think they can achieve within your budget. And do this as early as possible. Then organise a call to talk through potential issues.

When I do this, it’s quite a fast process, and I’ll generally list my concerns if I have any. I never EVER charge for this unless the project is really massive or requires it. The point is to help assess workload and find a good strategy – not to fix every problem straight away.

Some of my oldest clients even call me before the shoot takes place (generally producers or DOPs), so we can chat formats and preferred log curves. Not everyone has a DIT on set to manage the different cameras and their formats. And sometimes, it is enough to realise that you could shoot at lower resolution, or in prores rather than RAW which can create unnecessary costs we’re trying to avoid otherwise.

Let’s take a stab anyway

I know the answer above is not the most tangible in the end. You probably wonder “but what does that mean in the real world”. So here’s 5 very different pieces which ALL took a day or less to grade and deliver.

List of 5 pieces that took a day of grading or less: