Tim Wreyford, a freelance colourist, lives with his young family in a quiet spot on the coast of New South Wales, Australia, about a three-hour drive from Sydney. However, he began his career working at post houses in the city before successfully starting up his freelance business, and Sydney remains the source of most of his work.
Mainly collaborating with production houses and their ad agency clients on campaigns for brands such as Kia, BMW, Toyota, Audi, Hyundai, Jaguar, Dell, Red Bull, Japan Airway’s, Jacob’s Creek, Airbnb, Asics and many others, Tim also works on music videos, documentaries, short films and independent features.
Tim and the family relocated from Sydney to the coast in 2017. He now admits it was a bold move. As a well-known colourist working on high-profile campaigns, he took to travelling back-and-forth to work in the city to minimise any potential risk to his professional relationships.
Colourist Tim Wreyford
“Because we made the move long before remote working was a viable or even an attractive proposition, I was travelling a lot for work. It was a bit nerve-wracking moving the family away from Sydney, since I didn't know how it would affect my clients or how they would respond. So, to be on the safe side, I didn’t advertise it except among my closest mates and allies,” Tim said.
“Looking back now, there was no need to worry, as business has always been good. But at the time, living outside of Sydney meant I had to make regular journeys for work. As I was always required in the grading suite for a 9am start or earlier, I had to travel down the night before, which entailed booking accommodation, never mind food and fuel expenses. When the job was done, I typically wouldn’t get back home until the late evening or well after dark, which meant I missed time with the family.
“I worked that way until Covid hit. That’s when people really had to start investigating how to operate remotely, and the idea has since become a regular practice. Today, remote grading has become a way of life – a perfectly acceptable new normal for me and my clients, who might be in entirely different parts of the world during a live remote grading session.”
Tim’s initial remote workflow involved rounds of uploading and downloading work-in-progress via his home broadband connection. Meanwhile, clients’ written notes and instructions were sent via email or posted on collaborative online video-review platforms.
“It worked, but getting down to the final result could be a slow, time-consuming process. Also, colour is very subjective, and communication about creative intentions can easily get muddled. So, working that way was far from an interactive experience.
“I still work in this way with some clients and it can work as long as you have a good working relationship with them and really know what they do and don’t like. But for newer clients and for those whose relationship with me is less personal, having the live streaming option via Colorfront’s Streaming Server Mini has greatly improved the workflow.”
Streaming Server Software
Tim’s connection to Streaming Server Mini started back during its beta period, when he became a beta tester. At the time, he had been aware of a number of systems that could enable live/remote grading, but said, “When I looked into them, either the service offering itself or the hardware requirements were far too expensive to justify the end result.
“In July 2022, Stuart Monksfield at Mojo Media Solutions in Sydney mentioned that Colorfront were developing a much more affordable software-only streaming server – the Colorfront Streaming Server Mini. It sounded interesting and I enlisted as a beta tester, and that’s really when my situation changed dramatically.”
Tim runs his Streaming Server Mini on the same workstation he uses for colour grading – namely, a 2019 Mac Pro, with dual AMD Radeon Pro Vega II 32GB graphics cards and 8Tb internal SSD RAID storage, connected to an external 56Tb RAID. Grading is done using Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Studio and a Blackmagic Mini Panel control surface. A Blackmagic Decklink 8K Pro card feeds the video signal to an LG C1 55-inch 4K OLED screen. The signal is fed through a LUT box for Rec.709 monitoring, which Stuart Monksfield calibrated himself.
“Installing the Streaming Server Mini beta software was straightforward and my overall spend on getting set-up for remote grading was around AUD 1,000 (USD 670), but this was due mainly to needing to upgrade the video card to the Blackmagic Decklink 8K Pro, as my older card was on its way out,” Tim said.
While the technical set-up described here has ample power for colour grading purposes, he is astonished at just how low the broadband connection speed requirement is for Streaming Server Mini to work effectively.
“I basically only need a home internet connection, which takes the form of an optical fibre from a node down the street and then copper into the home,” he said. “I'm getting about 62Mbits per second download speed and around 32Mbps on upload – not fantastic in itself, but more than enough to run Streaming Server Mini without any trouble. It only needs 10Mbps to function.”
Other than a few expected bug fixes, Tim experienced minimal disruption during his time as a beta tester. Since the start of 2023 he has been working from home using the latest shipping version of Streaming Server Mini, which he said is “rock-solid reliable, as are Colorfont’s technical support team, who have been super-quick at helping resolve any issues.”
Working from his home studio, Tim has successfully graded major advertising campaigns involving widely dispersed clients by holding live grading and review sessions via Streaming Server Mini. One of these included a video for Kia, with director Simon Thomas at production company Elastic in Sydney. For a Head & Shoulders commercial, a session was attended simultaneously by the director and production team at Elastic from two different locations in Sydney, plus agency executives in Singapore.
He also worked on an action-sports project for a mountain bike film with New Zealand-based production company Hunt Cinema. The production required the director Hunter Paull and producer Nick Stevenson to work from two different locations in New Zealand, and co-director Scott Robb from Canada – all viewing the live Colorfront stream remotely and concurrently while Tim graded from home.
Another longer-form project was the surfing adventure feature, Corners of the Earth – Kamchatka, directed by Spencer Frost and Guy Williment.
“Using Streaming Server Mini on Corners of the Earth was an awesome experience,” Tim said. “At the end of every day I would send the team a streaming invite to go over the day’s progress, and I could then make any changes live and on-the-fly. This was a huge time-saver on such large project and it suited Spencer and Guy as well because they had other shoots during the day. Despite the distance between us, it kept the grade running smoothly and on time.”
Live and in Real Time
Before grading a commercial, Tim typically downloads the media overnight as the overall size of the assets required is not huge. On longer-form projects, the media is shipped to him via hard-drive.
“Once I have the media on my workstation, grading/review sessions take place live and in real time,” he said. “Clients, wherever they might be, only need Colorfront Streaming Player video receiver software, plus a local broadband or wi-fi connection, and they can see what I am doing instantly, with colour fidelity guaranteed. This might be on an iPad, a professional monitor or even an iPhone over 4G or 5G.
“Generally, we get on the telephone or a Zoom call during the session, and the collaborative, interactive experience of working and conversing this way – with the director, DP, agency and client – is a close as you can get to being in a room together, even though they might be hundreds of miles away across the country, or thousands of miles away on different continents. Because everyone is seeing the same pictures and colour, they can convey to me what they want. I can understand their aesthetic and arrive at their desired look much quicker, without confusion, and that’s really cool.
“Some clients like to view the entire stream live, but others may not have the time for this. In these situations, I set-up a live grading session to establish looks on hero shots. The client will then continue with their day while the shot-matching takes place, and another live grading session is set-up once all shots are graded and ready for them to review live.”
Tim’s clients particularly enjoy viewing the grade in these ways, procedures that are improved by the fact that the Colorfront Streaming Player app is colour-managed. This means that if, at the client end, they are using devices like laptops, iPads or phones instead of a calibrated grading monitor, he can still be confident that they are viewing in the most accurate way possible on those devices.
Tim and his clients appreciate the fact that Colorfront Streaming Server Mini has security features that include 256-bit AES encryption and NexGuard forensic watermarking – especially when working on high profile jobs. Nevertheless, it’s actually the spirit of togetherness that Tim treasures most.
“I thrive during the collaborative process that Colorfront’s system makes possible,” he said. “One of the great attributes of Streaming Server Mini is that it supports multiple streams, and that the participants can be anywhere. All they need is a broadband connection and the Streaming Player app.
“Whatever the project, my clients have been impressed by the visual quality achieved while working remotely, and are 100% happy with me working up here, from home, on their projects. The idea of remote working has become perfectly viable and acceptable, and is here to stay.
“I have a passion for colour and beautiful imagery and now I have the remote workflow to get the work done effectively and efficiently. Also, thanks to Colorfront, I now get to see my kids every day.” colorfront.com