The right suite at the right price

Now that BlackMagic Design has presented Resolve 11 at NAB I have been doing some thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of having everything in one suite. It’s not only BlackMagic Design that goes that way, the same goes for Adobe CC with Premiere, After Effects, Speedgrade etc.
On one hand I’m very happy with the new development where we get the possibility to do everything in the same software or software suite on one machine. This is great for smaller businesses where the same person does everything from offline to grading, online and vfx.

On the other hand I do see a problem for larger facilities to do everything in one software / machine. Is it economically justifiable to charge the client for occupying the grading suite, the most expensive suite at the facility, to edit offline or make changes to the online? Does your staff know how to do all the different tasks? Is your colorist also an online editor?

Don’t get me wrong. I am very happy with the possibility to do everything in one software. But I think one should think about workflow and the possibility to make changes at a later date.

One machine for each task

Today I work in different machines in different rooms, for which we charge different prices.

My clients often do the offline editing elsewhere, using Media Composer, Final Cut or Premiere. We do offer editing suites with the same software for a cheap price. The offline editing is done with offline (low-res) files to keep the amount of data to the minimum.

The next step is getting the offline to the grading suite using an EDL, XML or AAF and conform to the high-res material. This is our most expensive suite due to calibrated screens / projectors and other expensive machinery. The client wants to keep the amount of days to a minimum.

After the grade I export the whole film as Prores, MXF or DPX, depending on the clients wishes or our online pipeline. Now I have a clean graded master, without titles credits etc.

Some clients do their own online, so they get the graded file. Others want to do the online at our facility and we use Smoke, Media Composer or Premiere. This is done in our online room, which is cheaper then our grading suite.

After the online I backup one clean graded master together with the final audio files and a project file of my online project. I also have a master with titles, final audio etc.

When I need to make any changes I grab my backup and make the changes in my online machine.

So what happens when we start doing everything in one software package / machine?

Doing it all in one software

The first thing that comes to mind is about how to charge the client. Do they pay the same amount of money regardless what task is performed in the suite? Or do you charge them depending on the task?

If you go for the same amount you will probably have a very expensive offline suite and a very cheap grading suite.
If you go for the charge depending on task your expensive grading equipment might be locked up by a long offline session.

To be honest I don’t see people sitting in the grading suite to do their offline, but I am pretty sure grading and online will be done in the same suite as soon as Resolve 11 is released.

The next thing is your staff.
Being a colorist and being an online editor is not the same thing, even when I know a lot of people can do both. But I have also seen colorists that can’t conform or some that have no idea about file formats, but they are great colorists. There are great online artists that have no clue about grading. And you can’t be certain that all freelance artists can do both.

So if you have one suite and 2 artists, one colorist and one online artist, how do you keep them busy?

Then you have the endless changes in titles and credits. When are you going to do those when the suite is busy with a client attended grading session and the other project’s online must go out the door yesterday?

When you make a backup of the project you have to backup everything in order to keep your project live. This can be a huge amount of data and who will pay for the backup? What about the clean version without titles?

Conclusion

As I mentioned before, I am very happy to have as many tools in the same software / machine as possible. But I still believe that you need to have different rooms for different tasks.

One thing I would love to see is a way to connect all these suits together so you can run the same software on all machines, but for different purposes. Something like Avid Unity but for DaVinci Resolve is on my wishlist, so you can switch suites and continue working. The right suite, at the right price.

Posted in Workflow