Setting Up a Grading Environment

All grading suites need to have a correctly calibrated monitor for the colourist; what does that mean?. There are technical standards (see SMPTE RP 166-1995- for guidelines) and these following measurements for light out-put come from a wonderful broadcast engineer that I worked with for many years.

COLOUR_BARS100% white is measured at 35 foot-lamberts, IRE100 or 700mV video range. Some digital display manufacturer recommendations may specify ideal peak luminance varies between 20-30ftl (69-103cd/m2) The light out-put of the white patch at the bottom of ‘bars’ is measured with a probe to check the monitor.

An automated LUT generator and a monitor that has a LUT input capacity is usually required to balance a monitor. A technician with a probe will run a number of tests through the monitor to calculate any discrepancies and adjust the monitor accordingly.


Viewing distance should be 3 x the height of the monitor for the colourist. So selecting the size of the monitor may depend on the size of the room and depth of the desk.

There are many different broadcast quality monitors on the market. Choose the highest resolution affordable and ideally, ensure it is future-proof by selecting one that can monitor 4K Ultra High Definition and High Dynamic Range.

  • OLED Monitoring (expensive and small), self illuminating,

  • Dolby LCD Monitoring – peak luma measured in cd/m2 (candela per metre squared). Equivalent of 35ftL is 119.92 cd/m2 (also referred to as ‘nits’)


Suite Lighting:

  • The room needs to be painted in a neutral 18% grey to ensure there is no colour bias introduced in the environment that can reflect on the screen or impact on making colour decisions.
  • If there are windows, they need to have complete black-out capability to stop external light filtering into the room.
  • Monitors need to be placed in a position to ensure no reflections from an opening doorway can hit the screen.
  • Neutral lighting with a colour temperature of 6500k will balance with the light output (D65) of the screen.


Ideally light controls should be within reach of the colourist so that they can adjust levels according to requirements (brightening up when someone comes into a dark room with a hot coffee for instance!)


Recommended Light levels in different areas of the room:Color-Grading-Suite

A backlight ‘bias light’ is ideal to reduce eyestrain. Surround lighting 3.5ft Lamberts

Client area 2-10ftL

Colourist area 3-4ftL



Desk height and depth need to be carefully considered to suit a variety of requirements:

-Neutral or dark coloured bench top that won’t scratch as equipment is moved around on it and have a surface that can be easily wiped clean

-Height and reach of colourists (we come in all shapes and sizes)

-Adjustable, ergonomic, comfortable seats that can fit under the desk

-Knee/leg room under the desk

– Height of desk, with panels on top, need to be low enough to allow a 90 degree angle of arms and thus ensure correct ergonomic posture for colourist

– Size (height, width and depth) of colour grading panels –leaving room for the panels to be swapped around for left hand/right hand operators


– Room for all peripheral equipment; keyboards, pen and tablet, note pad, etc

-Elbow room for client to sit alongside (potentially with laptop or notebooks)

– Standing desks are now very popular in edit suites and could be possible in grade suites too – (may need to think about how the monitoring would be changed along with the height of the desk if it is wall mounted)


– Viewing distance for clients monitor needs to be considered

– Sufficient space in the room for required number of clients

– Comfortable seating, (with cushions for those who are shorter)

– Coffee table(s) within reach of all clients for cups, laptops, notes

– Decent wi-fi connectivity

– Adjustable air conditioning/heating controls

– Coffee/ Tea facilities within walking distance

– Bathroom facilities within hop-skip and jump distance (!)

– Coat hook(s) on the back of the door perhaps*

– Drawers or small cupboard to stow incidentals (bags, pens, cables)*


*As the environment is usually very dark, tripping hazards such as bags, backpacks, satchels need to be placed out of the way.