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    How much money an average colorist is paid...

    I have a friend trying to change carrier in hte nearby future. He is working in IT and says AI will change the IT business very soon. New software is emerging on the market from Asia everyday and needs something more stable so he could start a family. I told him that a colorist can work from home and is a stable job and well paid. He ask me how much ... Can you please give me some insights ?

    #2
    Others will chime in but I dont know that I agree with any of that.

    To start with, a colorist is most likely going to be a freelancer like many of us, working when a job comes along and unemployed at any other time. Not to say you cant do this and have a family, but it is anything but stable.

    A colorist making good money would have to be fairly skilled, able to land work on higher budget projects, as a lot of lower end/lower budget projects dont use a colorist or the editor does that themselves. I would think building up to that level would take at least a few years if not longer

    Work from home? Maybe. On projects that are “fancy” enough to have a colorist from what I understand the client often sits in for the coloring session. So much of our business is about the image you project...is your friend going to have a nice/professional enough home environment that he would want clients coming over?

    There is a somewhat expensive buy-in for the equipment to do this at a professional enough level to make a good living. Of course a nice computer, but also a nice high end monitor capable of accurately displaying various color spaces, that can be calibrated, and a card or box to send the video signal to the monitor the right way. I’d guess at least $2500 for card/box and monitor, possibly more like $3500-5000.

    And the space you work in needs to be treated as well...walls are supposed to be a perfectly neutral grey to keep the colorist from having their judgment thrown off by a predominace of any certain color in the walls in the colorist’s peripheral vision, and I believe there’s supposed to be a certain kind of lighting too.

    We often complain on here about declining rates as time goes on and I’m sure that affects colorists too.

    And AI will probably come along and ruin this job too.

    Those are all concerns I would have off the top of my head.
    My camera work

    Youtube Channel

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      #3
      Wow, just wow. How has the world changed. My first experience with a colorist was in the fall of 1983 where I got to tag along and watch as some 35mm motion picture film I shot was transferred to video tape. It truly was a magical experience, going into this professional facility, and watching the film image with deep dynamic range be squeezed and manipulated shot by shot into something that could be broadcast and looked better than I remembered when I shot it.

      Then (and for a couple decades to follow), a colorist was a highly skilled, and highly paid individual that worked for a post house. Period. The technology didn't exist for a colorist to work from home or freelance. A Rank Cintel machine and the infrastructure around it was a half mil or more investment. In the structure of most post houses, the colorist was the ARTIST in the building. On-line editors in post houses were usually technically skilled (they had to be), but followed off-line edits from the client and were less involved with the artistic aspect of editing than what we think of as a generalist editor today.

      Back then, the transfer rate in a cow town like Denver (where there were three post houses that had the deep pockets to invest in transfer equipment) was 150-250 an hour, and a typical job (a 16mm or 35mm commercial) would take 2 or 3 hours to transfer. Your rate was based on a number of factors; how many pieces of tech you needed to use while transferring, did you need to clean the negative before transferring, etc. Sometimes you'd sync sound up at the same time, sometimes not. The room where the colorist worked was designed with subdued lighting, and a back illuminated plexiglas surround encased the "huge" 17" CRT with a neutral field of medium grey at the the same color temp as the CRT screen. Oh, and that CRT? They were ALWAYS having to profile and adjust it. Every week it would drift off. In the back of the room, the clients (director/DP/producer & agency clowns) would sit and watch the grading and drink/eat/sleep and criticize everything.

      Not everyone can or should be a colorist. It takes an eye, and years of training to be good at it. A colorist at a post house was usually the "superstar", and had an understudy training under them. A colorist did their job for 8-1-12 hours a day, day after day. What/who is a colorist today? Where does a person who wants to be a colorist go to learn? Where do they get the experience and years of training? I don't know. All that time I spent around "real" colorists rubbed off in the sense I understand that the magical eye AND years of practice is what it takes to be one.

      I do know it isn't from the "masters" claiming to be colorists on YouTube. For instance, this rather randomly chosen bit of self-proclaimed "pro" work isn't a real colorist in action....

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcTQOQ-778g
      Jim Arthurs

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        #4
        IT is a very broad field, what specifically does your friend specialize in?

        I don't see AI replacing IT professionals in the near future; software is always buggy, end users are ignoramus, and Microsoft uses their customer base as beta testers with each major release.

        Does your friend have a degree in IT or a related field? I think only about 26% of people work in their field of expertise, so there should be other corporate job prospects even if AI replaces the IT industry.

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          #6
          With the cost to entry being $300usd, everyone has a Davinci Resolve license and the ability to claim to be a professional.

          That said, I'm contemplating opening a small color service to independent producers. Something I can do at home, for not a huge amount of money, and do it after I get home from my regular job. And have good lead times so I'm not in a rush!

          As an IT person, I can suggest that he gets knowledge on moving audio and video signals across IP and takes a job at a TV station. Get familiar with the script software for NEWS, and the workflow of a modern station. There is plenty of decent work to be had in IT at any station in the USA, and I expect the same work in most any station in any other country. Most stations around here don't really have good IT people, so if he can grasp the way they work and what they need, then he should have a good job that can support a family (at least here in the USA).

          As for the break down of stuff he should have for "professional high end" work:

          Powerful computer with at least one really high end graphics card (probably multiple cards)
          Good wide gamut computer monitor
          Monitor profile hardware/software calibration tools
          output card (probably 12g HD-SDI)
          calibrated output monitor (HD-SDI connection)
          color correction/grading control panel (yes you really should have this)
          Lots of fast data storage space, 4K and larger workflows take a lot of space and need high throughput
          And probably a cinema quality projector and screen (calibrated) to ultimately test the output the same way many people will be viewing it.
          An eye for color, it is not something that can come to anyone with training, just like not everyone can be a top violin player, no matter how much they practice.

          I'd also recommend some other consumer monitors and computing devices. Need to check things out how the end user is going to use the product. Phones, tablets, computers, smart TV, etc.

          If both ends have a full Resolve license, then you can remotely grade and the far end sees the results in almost real time.

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            #7
            I'm reminded of 8 or 9 years ago when everyone bought a DSLR and started calling themselves DPs or photographers.
            sigpic

            Independent Filmmaker
            BMD URSA Mini 4K/Avid Media Composer/NukeX/Blender/Mixcraft/ProTools/Resolve Studio

            Feature Films
            Wulf - 2008 | Leap - 2010 | Leap: Rise of the Beast - 2011 | Surviving The Wild - 2020

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              #8
              Originally posted by El Director View Post
              I'm reminded of 8 or 9 years ago when everyone bought a DSLR and started calling themselves DPs or photographers.
              Yup.

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                #9
                Originally posted by Cristian Mihai View Post
                I have a friend trying to change carrier in hte nearby future. He is working in IT and says AI will change the IT business very soon. New software is emerging on the market from Asia everyday and needs something more stable so he could start a family. I told him that a colorist can work from home and is a stable job and well paid. He ask me how much ... Can you please give me some insights ?
                Not sure where you're (he is) located in the world, but a colorist would have to be working for a very, very good company in the United States to be "well paid" like one of the common "dream jobs" of a doctor or lawyer. And even many of those doctors and lawyers in their finest hours will not make a quarter of what many professional athletes do.

                Truly depends on your context.

                I'm sure there are many independent colorists who have very nice careers, but it's an astronomical difference/ratio to the ones who do not. And colorists could very easily be replaced by AI as well.

                Being a colorist/editor (even a videographer on the weekends) on the side is always something you can do for extra income (like many already do).

                I would 100 percent look somewhere else.

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                  #10
                  If anyone has used the automatic control in Resolve, you can see just how fast people with no budget can get decent images if the source is decent. may not give you consistent match from on shot to the next, but it will get you close.

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                    #11
                    Yeah but that’s not really a “colorist”...that may be what many of us do but personally I would never call myself a colorist doing that. I would only do so if I felt fully versed in proper techniques and workflow and felt confident my work was within spec of whatever destination the client required.
                    My camera work

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                      #12
                      Really interesting answers here...totally different from his perspective and mine also ( read expectations ).....Thanks

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                        #13
                        Originally posted by Josh Bass View Post
                        Yeah but that’s not really a “colorist”...that may be what many of us do but personally I would never call myself a colorist doing that. I would only do so if I felt fully versed in proper techniques and workflow and felt confident my work was within spec of whatever destination the client required.
                        Artistic positions like this usually fall under the same category with very grey guidelines. Like the adage of throwing some paint on a canvas and calling it "art", or like the aforementioned example of a person buying a camera and a few lights and being a "DP".

                        OTOH, someone giving someone cough drops wouldn't be called a doctor.

                        In the traditional sense, I think most of us would agree someone pressing a button in software for a generated look is not a "real" colorist (at least to us), but it doesn't matter because the world is changing.

                        Even though being a colorist is a skilled and technical position, the definition of a job is only as useful as its purpose.

                        If the tasks you complete to earn a living will be computerized, it doesn't matter what the true definition of your job is, ha.

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                          #14
                          Originally posted by Cristian Mihai View Post
                          stable job





                          Your premise is deeply flawed.

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                            #15
                            The democratisation of film software and equipment that has been happening for well over a decade now has lowered the threshold until non existent for entering the business. As a self thought individual, this is something I've taken advantage of myself.

                            But what mostly happens is that as more people are starting to create content or provide services for "cheap", new customers are popping up looking for "cheap" content; i.e people who couldn't previously afford some services are now buying them from people who couldn't previously provide them—it's almost a closed eco system. It's very rare that someone with little experience and basic equipment will be able to sell services to large established customers.

                            To work as a commercial colorist you will have to setup a grading suite. In most cases this includes a room to receive clients, a pretty powerful dual gfx workstation with one to two monitors plus a color accurate proof monitor (plus a large client OLED TV, or quality projection). Add to this separate monitors for scopes and perhaps a hardware panel to control the software. And at least 5.1 audio of course. It will cost more than $300.

                            You can say that Resolve installs fine on a laptop and you can import, grade and export—hence you have a color suite! But do you really, though?

                            Not that this matters all that much. The real differentiator will be WHO you are. Some people who bought the 5D mkII are shooting on large sets with Alexas now and some of them are doing favours for friends of friends shooting with GH5s for 3 days for $800...

                            It DOES have to do with your ability, but much more so it has to do with your mentality and your communications skills.
                            @andreemarkefors

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