POV (Perspective)
2021 Trends in Grading: 5 Ways COVID Changed The Way We Work Forever
  • Friday, Apr. 2, 2021
Blake Jones

The year 2020 changed forever the way we all work. Many companies around the world developed their own workflows in order to cope with the restrictions they were forced to follow. Even though we are now in 2021, the pandemic is still present, and some countries have even more movement restrictions than was seen in 2020. 

Luckily, many colorists and post-production professionals have been able to adapt using ingenuity and technology to deliver better results than ever, with streamlined workflows and more flexibility. We can expect to see these adaptations last and continue to evolve far beyond the COVID era. So, what are the ways in which the job we know has changed?

--Every cloud has a silver lining
As colorists are very adaptive, we create our own configurations to allow us to get on with our work and remain creative. As for me, I use an unusual combination of tools. I am running DaVinci Resolve Studio running on a Cloud Computing platform. In this Cloud Computer I also have Frame io, ioGates and Google Drive configured. This allows me to handle any type of project required with ease. I compared render time when attempting a render locally on my laptop as opposed to using the Cloud computer. The time difference was astounding. The cloud computing platform was five times faster than attempting the render using my laptop hardware. In regards to monitors, I use the Asus PA32UCX-P and an Avid Artist Color panel as my grading surface. When editing I am using the Resolve Speed Editor keyboard which is fantastic and makes editing a breeze!

--The world’s your office
However not all of us need to remain in town. With lockdowns and curfews being imposed, many chose to leave town and head for the sunny locations. They set up their grading and editing there. I spoke today with a colleague who is now located on the island of Cyprus where he is working remotely. Several other colleagues decided for Spain and are on the Canary Islands. These colorists can easily bring their remote grading system with them using the configuration that I mentioned earlier. Of course, they also need a monitor and grading panel. Many selected the ASUS ProArt PQ22UC OLED monitor and the Blackmagic Resolve Micro panel. The ASUS PQ22UC is a very flat and lightweight monitor that can be brought as cabin baggage on the flight. The Resolve Micro panel is small, robust and can easily be placed in your luggage. When they need local storage, they can opt for a small G-Tech storage unit or an Accusys Thunderbolt 3 Raid. 

--Face-to-face in cyberspace
I know some colleagues here in the city who prefer not to travel and want to maintain direct contact with their clients. Their solution was quite unique. They placed several cameras throughout the grading suite. Everything is tied together using the Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro switcher. This configuration – together with the ATEM Streaming Bridge unit – allowed them to create a secure stream direct with their client. The result was the client could achieve the same client-colorist interaction as when they were physically present in the grading suite. 

--Chain of tools
Even in production, workflow changes had to be made. Using the new CloudStudio product, the production process was adapted to the changing times. CloudStudio allows the rushes to be fed from the location directly into the cloud using a secure link. The editor can then start editing using the automatically generated proxies or full resolution media if desired. The editor and director have a secure video link whereby they can interact during the editing process and see that all changes are carried out. The same principle is carried out with the colorist. The colorist can access all the media and speak with the director via a secure video link. The director can then view and approve the project. The result is that the project is finished much faster than working with the conventional workflow. 

--Train to gain
Finally, with all this new tech, software updates, the fast rise of HDR, and other changing aspects of the job, it’s more crucial than ever that colorists stay on the cutting edge. It used to be that we – the instructors at the International Colorist Academy, the world’s first colorist academy – would travel all over the world to help people upskill. But COVID has meant that learning has moved online. This is a great opportunity for us to keep sharing our knowledge and for colorists everywhere to keep advancing their skills remotely, often from the comfort of their own home, without the costs of travel. Our classes are still live in online classrooms, so students get the best of both worlds – the benefits of an “in-person” instructor and peers, in a more accessible way.
It’s been a painful and frightening time for most people globally. Jobwise, many colorists are freelancers who relied on travel and have been hit hard. But the pressure of the unique current situation has been a catalyst that accelerated innovation and the adaptation of emerging technologies. The changes brought upon us by the worldwide pandemic have forced us to create a new streamlined workflow that most likely will change the way we work for years to come – for the better. 

Blake Jones is an instructor at the International Colorist Academy, which provides color grading training by experienced colorists.

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