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Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Mar 21

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3/21/2012 6:56 AM  RssIcon

remotegradingla-3.jpgWhen his clients located in Moscow and Paris seemed to forget that there was a 12 hours time difference and that they were 5,000 miles away and began using head nods and hand signals to show approval for color grades, Jake Blackstone realized that his vision was now reality.

That vision was to build a business around real time, remote color grading. And those clients were nodding and pointing at grades that Jake had just made on his Resolve in LA, from their offices across Europe. All in real time.

Jake began his career as a colorist in Los Angeles and he helped to open the doors to one of the first color correction facilities in Russia located in Moscow. Jake took his dream from Kiev to Los Angeles and created MOD Color (RemoteGrading.com), a company focused on becoming one of the first international color grading companies to offer real time remote color grading. And MOD Color (RemoteGrading.com) was built around Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve.

Real time remote color grading allows color correction changes to a project to be performed and seen immediately between decision makers and artists regardless of location. Decisions can be made quickly and efficiently and artists could be chosen by talent, and not be limited by location. Until recently, professional level remote color correction was only available on a Linux platform and technology and storage requirements simply did not allow for the type of immediacy needed.

“Remote color grading fails if there is no immediacy between the client and artist. Waiting for the Fed Ex truck to arrive with drives containing color graded files or using highly compressed codecs for reviewing color decisions is not the way people want to create. It has to be in real time, and that is what we have set out to do with Remotegrading.com,” said Jake.

Real Time Workflow

Following his move back to LA, Jake has built a client roster that includes some of the biggest brand names in Europe. He has done this in conjunction with MetraFilms, a creative production and postproduction house based in Moscow. Focusing primarily on short films and commercial campaigns such as Russia’s Megaphone, Burger King and the French high end food chain Hediard, Jake has been able to perfect a real time remote color grading workflow on some of Europe’s most recognizable advertising campaigns.

“Real time color correction works very well with short form projects because the original material for color grading can be sent rather quickly over the net. This is necessary because all parties must have access and be working from the same material at the same time,” Jake said. “We began testing the remote work on some independent films and then ad campaigns. Even with the heavy graphics elements in these ads, the workflow we set up worked perfectly every time, regardless of camera origination - Film scans, Red, ARRI or Canon.”

Jake’s workflow includes Resolve Software, a control surface, high bandwidth Internet connection and Mac Pro. MetraFilms uses identical hardware for their Resolve with calibrated monitoring, using a variety of different editing systems, while providing footage directly to Jake once initial edits are made. The Resolve is used to perform a wide range of color correction on a variety of different projects, from simple grades to complicated ad campaigns and films requiring extensive corrections to each and every scene. For these, Jake relies on the Resolve’s extensive feature set to meet any of the challenges thrown his way. With the Hediard campaign, Jake worked on Resolve in his LA office, with the Hediard director located in Paris and MetraFilm’s producer and editor in Moscow. Each party set up access to view the color corrections taking place, with grades viewed and agreed upon in real time. New color grades were captured by MetraFilms's Resolve, who then handled rendering of the changes.

For Megaphone, the largest wireless phone company in Russia, Jake and MetraFilms worked with an ad agency that did a variety of versions of the ad. Footage was shot on Alexa and was then posted to be downloaded by Jake on the company FTP. Color grading began as soon as the footage finished downloading and was loaded into Resolve.

“Sometimes, if changes needed to be done quickly and because of the 12 hour time difference, I would log into Resolve from my house, do the grade on the spot while speaking with the ad agency people and immediately send the grades to MetraFilm for rendering. In cases like that, no one was ever in front of the actual systems, and it all worked great. The clients were happy with the improved response and it allowed us to focus on creation instead of waiting for delivery trucks or low quality codecs,” Jake continued.

Since finishing the Megaphone campaign, Jake and MetraFilms have also completed campaigns with Burger King in addition to a number of short films, with one of them, "Tokio," shown at the Venice Film Festival.

“When Blackmagic Design gave me the ability to use the full set of Resolve features on my Mac, it fundamentally changed the way color correction could be done. Real time remote grading is just not possible without the Resolve software,” Jake said. “And with the ability, if needed, to run Resolve on a laptop, I can basically do what my clients and I need anywhere there is a good Internet connection.”

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