Color Grade Impacts Sound Design / Mix

Posted by Luke Farroh on

The Story

A quirky and funny short film; The scene established a bright sunny day in a downtown New York City luxury apartment. A girl hears a sound coming from the bathroom, she stands and starts walking slow and nervously down a long bright hallway to the bathroom that will swiftly open the closed door to see what's happening.
We were working on this short film and were in the post-mixing process and incomes an email with the requested color graded version of the cut. After we swapped the old version with the new graded version we realized that something was not working - Was something not working in the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)? A muted reverb aux? Inactive clip?
Everything was working technically, but this scene didn't feel right - Something changed. The bright sunny day turned into a cloudy overcast day with a rolling thunderstorm; the bright hallway was now a dark corridor, The girl wasn't just nervous - she is terrified of what she might see as she moves cautiously to the door.

The Edit & Mix

What we found is that the sound wasn't working creatively with the scene and wasn't helping to tell the story. We were editing and mixing the audio for the scene of the bright sunny day in New York City and not the overcast ominous day of the scared girl walking through the dark corridor. 
We went back to the drawing board; we created some leaky, rusty pipes inside the walls, creaky wood panels and floors like the walls were closing in on her, and additional subtle impacts of her footsteps as she is walking closer to the door. Good news, the scene worked a lot better, and the director loved it and felt better on how the scene played out with a long build-up to the reveal.


The sound helped this scene a lot and gave the emotional impact the director wanted because we changed and adjusted the sound design to the color graded version. Ever since every project, we do after this - We request the color graded version of the cut before we started mixing and have found it tremendously beneficial for us and most importantly to help tell the story.


1. Do you request the color graded version of the cut before you start sound mixing?
2. Has the color grade made an impact on the sound mix or a change in the edit of the project you were working on?
Let's start a discussion - Comment Below
(Thanks to Alex Gregson for the awesome meme that gave us the idea for this article!)

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