How much does professional color grading cost? The rule of thumb I suggest is that it color grading rates should be about the same as your editor’s rates. Naturally, the cost will depend on several variables and the size of your project, but in general, if you keep this in mind, your budget expectations shouldn’t be too far off.
Influencing Factors: Expertise, Experience, and Workflow
There are several factors that can affect the cost of color grading your project. The main one is the expertise and experience of the colorist. A professional colorist with a strong portfolio will have a higher rate due to their skills and knowledge of color correction.
Simply put, the more experience and skill the colorist has, the better the final product will be. The better the final product, the higher their color grading rates. More often than not, professional colorists working in major cities like Los Angeles will charge more compared to a freelance colorist working in a smaller market.
If you’re not sure whether the colorist is within your post-production budget, just be upfront about how much you can afford. More often than not if a colorist knows your budget, they will be happy to get you the best possible product they can within your budget and find a way to work with you.
Scope of Work: Project Size and Complexity
The scope of work will also affect how much color grading might cost. This includes the size and length of the project, as well as the complexity of the color grade.
The length of a project often directly correlates with the hours of work a colorist will have to spend on it. A 90-minute feature film will require more time than a 5-minute music video, even if the music video’s color grade is far more complex. Longer projects ultimately mean a higher cost associated the color grading work.
The complexity of your color grade and film can also affect the amount of work that needs to be done. If there’s work that needs to be coordinated with a visual effects team, or if you need a highly complex look, the same rule about time applies. Simply put, a coloring VFX heavy, 120 minute feature will probably take more time than coloring a straightforward short film.
A lot of it comes down to the specifics of your project, so any information you can provide will give the colorist a good starting point for your quote.
Timeline: Do You Need It Rushed?
The timeline is another factor that could affect the cost of your color grading project. While color grading typically doesn’t take as long as editing, it will still require a few days to a few weeks. This timeline depends on the size of the project, the speed of your review and feedback, and the colorist’s schedule.
If you need the project to be rushed, odds are it will end up being more expensive – if the colorist can fit it into their schedule in the first place. Professional colorists can often have a busy schedule managing multiple projects, so clear communication via email or other methods can go a long way.
99% of the issues I’ve run into can always be solved with better communication. Ultimately, communicate everything from your budget to your timeline, and you won’t find yourself worrying how much color grading will cost you.