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How to Construct a Professional Color Grading Station

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/19/2011

Learn what is involved with a component based professional color grading suite, what elements you could use to build it, and what it will cost piece by piece.

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    High-End Color Grading

    For a high-end color grading facility you are going to have to indentify a series of individual pieces of equipment so as to create one centralized workflow. To finish a system you are going to have to get component pieces of each part of the whole system, including the Control Panels, Color Correctors, and monitors.

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    DaVinci Color Correction

    To start out with you are going to need a control panel where you interact with the software in a physical control system. The DaVinci system remains an industry standard for color grading and can provide several of the aspects that you need. The DaVinci Resolve software is a Mac based computer program for high end color grading. The DaVinci Resolve can be used with conventional control panels that can be purchased from regular retailers, but if you want to actually create a high-end system you may want to match the Resolve software with a control panel from DaVinci. You can get the DaVinci Resolve software with the Resolve Control Surface for $29,995 from DaVinci for a complete interaction between the two. This panel now is the only custom built hardware to come from the DaVinci line.

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    DaVinci Resolve

    Another product that is now being initiated by DaVinci for incredibly high end color grading is the DaVinci Resolve Linux License. What this is going to do is to allow you to work in real time with incredibly high video quality, including the new RED workflow. Instead of using single computers to complete the color-grading job with Resolve you will be able to stack computers several high. This will add another $19,995 to your DaVinci purchase.

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    Mac Pro

    From here you are going to need the computing power to handle this color correction software and hardware system. To do this you will want to stack Mac Pro computers three high with a focus on the 8-Core system. When building these specifically you will want to include the highest possible selected parts possible in a few specific areas. Start with selecting the two 2.93GHz Quad Core Intel Xeon system and 32GB 1066MHz DDR3 ECC SDRAM memory. You will want to include an extensive amount on internal hard drive space for security so you will want to invest on a full two Terabytes in each of the four hard drive bays. The graphics card is going to be especially important in this situation so select the 4x NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512MB. For monitoring you can purchase HD monitors directly from Apple with your Mac Pro purchase, which will save you money in the product and shipping costs. For your base monitors you can select three 30" flat panel HD displays for a total of $1,799 each additional. This can be a single purchase of triple monitors as you are simply making the next two Mac Pros available for computing. This three-monitor system will then allow two for software viewing and the third for specific color calibration that will allow you to see the true color of the image. The total cost of this computing system will run $40,190.

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    Monitoring

    It will be important to also see the image in a larger monitor setting, such as a high-end commercial HD monitor. To use this it will be best to find a large HD television that can be mounted directly behind the color correction monitors that are used in the DaVinci color grading system. The Samsung PN50B860 Plasma television is known for having almost perfect color balance and for being the thinnest plasma available. It is also much cheaper than others at $1,579.00 and will be perfect for large viewing in a color-correcting suite at 50". It runs at a true HD 1080p, so the image accuracy will also be in line with what you are looking for. This will be especially important for bringing out fine points, like subtle image contrast.

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    Desk Lamp

    You are going to need to see what the color grading will look like in regular room light, so you will need a lamp nearby with variable settings and enough of an outpour to temporarily mimic the low key lighting of a domestic setting. The 15" high Ledu L9074 Halogen Desk Lamp is going to be perfect when placed off to the side of your monitors. This will run $79.99 brand new.

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    Complete Color Grading System

    All the equipment you will have must be put together on a multi-level desk so that there can be monitors both below and up top. This does not have to be excessively large, but large enough that you can stack monitors on one level and possibly the second level if necessary. The Visions Collection Multi Level Computer Desk will be able to do this and the second level, though somewhat narrow, can be adjusted in terms of height. This is also going to be affordable at $389.95. This desk will also have to be matched with a computer chair that will allow mobility around the color-grading suite and will also provide back support for long periods of work. The Baxton Studios Bruto High-Back Net Fabric Office Chair with an adjustable lumbar support cushion should make this much more comfortable, and runs at $229.00.

    Total System Price: $92,457.94

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