How Do You Know When You're Done Color Grading?
As Leonardo da Vinci once said: "Art is never finished, only abandoned." If you're a colorist working on a grade, you might just agree.
You're looking at the footage you're color grading and it looks good, but you think you need to add a little bit of contrast to the shots, and maybe a little more highlights, and a slight vignette wouldn't hurt either...and then you realize, you've been working on the same grade forever. Will the madness ever end?
Editor Casey Faris provides a fantastic answer in the video below, in which he explains not only the many variables that will determine how long the process will take, but also his philosophy when it comes to grading a project.
Color grading doesn't have that "future bride trying on her perfect wedding dress" moment where you'll say, "That's it! That's the one!" Every project you're going to work on will have different needs and requirements, so the answer is a little more nuanced than a simple, "You're done when you think it looks good"—or, in my case, "when someone is sent to your house to make sure you're still alive."
Being done with a color grade depends on more variables than
simply painstakingly achieving the aesthetic you want, like delivery deadlines, budgetary constraints, and the desire to be a functional adult. Because, as we all know, you could tweak the color on a project ad infinitum.
"Do I have the time and budget to make it better?"
If you're working on your own project, you can certainly keep color grading your shots forever. Have fun. However, if you're working on a project for a client, you're probably working on a deadline. If you're dealing with a grade that you're not quite happy with, you've got to ask yourself: "Do I have the time and budget to make it better?"