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Oh Yes, We’re Listening

by alexis
Definition of Interjection

While having dinner with fellow colorist Joe Owens in December, we got to talking about the grunts and interjections that sometimes pass for communication in the suite.

When not in a rush for time, I generally ask a client “so how do you like it?” before moving out of a scene or a shot that I’ve just graded. However, I’m listening to the tone of the reply as much as the words. If a client says, “Great!” then I’m done and we move on. However, if the response is “Uh, fine?” then my impression is that there’s something not quite right, it’s hard to articulate, and the client is trying to convince themselves that it’s all in their head.

My response to this is usually some variation on “so how can we make this shot better?” If I get an answer, then I try and take care of it. If I don’t, then the shot or scene is probably a ripe candidate for revisiting at a later time, when fresher eyes will have a better chance of spotting the necessary improvement. Never underestimate the power of simply walking away.

However, when I’m in the middle of an adjustment, I’m also listening for any little verbal sign of what the client thinks at that moment. My suite is set up with the clients sitting behind me as I work, so if I hear “Ahhh!” then I know I’m doing something right. If I hear “huh…” then I’m inclined to stop and ask what they think of the current state of the image, just to get a sanity check.

I don’t always do this. Some grades are like haircuts, and nothing is going to look good until I make the final adjustment. In these instances, I let folks know when the shot is ready for an opinion. Until then, I encourage them to enjoy the free Wi-Fi.

I remember one gig where the client, a lovely fellow, tended to grunt, noncommittally and often, and usually when I was in the middle of an adjustment. It worried me a bit, and I started checking in with him more and more frequently; “what do you think of this adjustment?” “Oh, it’s fine!” he’d reply enthusiastically, and after the sixth instance of this I simply bit my tongue and hoped for the best.

The session ended up going swimmingly and he was very happy with the result, but it’s worth knowing that, even when our backs are turned, all of us colorists, editors, and post people are paying attention to every syllable you utter.

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