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October 2014
Issue: March 1, 2008

UNIT SEES POTENTIAL IN APPLE'S COLOR

By: Luke Colson & Tom Bridges
LONDON - The release of Apple’s Final Cut Pro Studio 2 (FCS2) saw Color being bundled with FCP for the first time. Color is a grading tool that harnesses the power of the modern Apple Mac for the demanding job of realtime colour-correction. It aims to do the same job as its competitors, which are based on bespoke hardware and have been, traditionally, colossally expensive. Unit Post Production has 18 Final Cut Pro suites, all running FCS2. We have two dedicated grading suites, with the remainder largely being used for online and finishing work. Our rapidly growing visual effects division, Unit Effects, takes up the top floor of our building on Carlisle St. in Soho.

When Color got bundled into FCS2 it’d be true to say, technically speaking, that each one of our edit suites became a grading suite. We resisted that temptation; we only offer grading in a properly- controlled environment. This is what makes the difference at Unit: the tool is treated in a professional context. Someone could install Color on a laptop or a Mac at home if they wanted, but – as any colourist will tell you – any colour decisions made in a non-controlled environment are meaningless. Both our grading suites offer hardware control panels, calibrated monitors and projectors, and carefully controlled lighting. We also use dedicated colourists, as opposed to onliners who can grade. Nigel Collins and Peter Lynch are popular choices, but we also offer a wider selection if asked by our clients.

With our central storage model, Unit prides itself on being able to offer a truly tapeless workflow. A suite change can be achieved by simply logging out of one suite, and into another; whilst the VFX department can drop completed shots straight onto the editor’s timeline. Color slots in seamlessly to this workflow: clients can send their FCP projects straight to grade with the click of a button. This process is not yet as foolproof as it should be, but with a correctly- prepared project, it works well. At Unit, our technical assistants are well-versed in these particular peculiarities, and take an active role in this kind of project management.

Offering support for SD, HD and 2K, Color as a grading tool is enormously powerful. It is far more flexible than the standard colour correction available in Avid or FCP. In fact, when coupled with the correct lighting environment, hardware control panels and properly calibrated monitors, its feature set is comparable to most of the top-flight grading systems. It doesn’t yet offer quite the same amount of realtime performance, and grades do have to be rendered, but with computers getting faster and faster each year, the gap has already narrowed dramatically. Color looks set to offer even more interesting possibilities in the future. Amongst other projects, Unit has recently completed a 4:4:4 grade for a cinema commercial, as well as four 60-minute full HD grades for National Geographic.

We think it’s only going to get better.

Luke Colson is the Facility Director at Unit (www.unit.tv). Tom Bridges is Head of Operations and a co-founder of the Soho-based studio.