Colour Grading Tips (why it is important)

30 May

Colour grading is often overlooked by the amateur film makers but its something that can make or break the overall response of your film. A good story with good content is always key but time after time I find my self watching Vimeo films where someone has got their Canon 550D, shot a nice story with some good sympathy building around the characters and they totally skimp out on any kind of post production grading. For me its one of the strongest methods of pulling some one into the story your trying to tell. When you see a film at the Movies chances are its going to be heavily graded, especially a story that rely’s on some kind of fiction as its basis, i.e Terminator Salvation. This is a good example because its colour grading is very apocalyptic to suit when in time it is based, in fact, there’s only two real colours to the film, grey and green. Often people use simple 3 way colour correction methods to colour grade and try to pick out a natural skin tone colour. I feel you shouldnt hold back on changing people’s skin tones and effect the colour of the world the film is based. Start simple, level all the clips to match tonally and get all those skin-tones looking skin tone colour, then push your grade to suit the world your film is based within. A good colour grader will need know all of these tools:

  • Curves
  • Levels
  • Saturation
  • Lift, Gamma, Gain
  • Shadows, Mid-tones, Hi-lights
  • Blacks, Mid’s, whites
  • Masks(vignettes e.t.c)

Remember when your shooting video and you know your going to grade it after make sure you shoot as FLAT as possible. What do I mean by this, no in camera sharpening , less saturation and no noise reduction. check out this video for setting your flat picture profile’s, this video also goes through some other settings you will need:

This video shows you how to start your colour correction, then grade it after, I strongly advice against using Apples colour, instead use After Effects or a plug-in like Magic bullet Colorista.

Magic bullet or a similar suit like davinci resolve is what you ideally need to get your short film graded like a pro easily. Follow this tutorial masterclass like a bible,  Stu Maschwitz is a colour grading god and I have learned a lot from him. Of course for this you will need Magic bullet Colorista and Magic Bullet looks:

TOP TIPS: Shane Hurlbut , BY Vashi Nedomansky

SHOOT WITH A FLAT PICTURE PROFILE:

I like to use Technicolor Cinestyle or Canon Neutral with minimal sharpness and contrast.. The camera companies often have stock profiles that look contrasty and rich in camera but when analyzed on a monitor, you will have crushed blacks and blown-out highlights

TRUST THE VECTOR SCOPE, WAVEFORM & PARADE SCOPES:

Waveform=Luminance. Vectroscope=Chrominance. Parade=Red,Green,Blue values. I can’t stress enough how critical and essential it is to use these tools. Once you embrace the SCOPES, you will be confident to plow through footage and have instant visual feedback to confirm you are making the right decisions. I won’t broach the calibrated monitor issue that is always lurking ($$$) and will just say that understanding and trusting the SCOPES will get you 95% of the way home.

ORDER OF OPERATIONS:

To maintain image quality and to preserve as much info as possible, it’s important to do things in the proper order.  Just as you wouldn’t ice a cake before you bake it, when you apply an effect is critical.  I have always achieved great results using Stu Maschwitz’s advice. Doing Color Correction on your footage in this order will help you maintain extremely high quality in the interaction of all the effects you use.  Not all steps are needed for every shot but in case you have to use them all, here they are:

1. Remove artifacts and de-noise.
2. Balance your shots by adjusting BLACKS/MIDS/WHITES, SATURATION and WHITE BALANCE.
3. Relight within a shot using power windows or masks.
4. Add gradients, diffusion and other lens filters.
5. Add vignettes
6. Grade your images
7. Simulate a film stock of your choice
8. Resize and sharpen

Look for the FLESH LINE on the VECTROSCOPE:

On the 3-Way Color Corrector effect (Premier), or on a plug-in like Colorista, you can change the specific zone of color where the flesh tones live. By adjusting the color of the MIDS wheel you can introduce the proper hues into a face that need tweaking. Move the wheel in the direction of the color you need more of in your face. Watch the section of skin tone move until it lines up with FLESH LINE. An interesting note is that the FLESH LINE is accurate for all races and skin tones. We all share the same skin pigment that registers as numeric FLESH color. Proper WHITE BALANCING earlier will make this a minor but still important adjustment.  If you are going for a natural look, no one likes a pink, red or green face. SATURATION should be dialed in at this point to give a natural look to the flesh tone. Here’s a subtle example of adjusting for skin…and an overt example for comparison.  Neither is right or wrong….it’s all up to what feels right for that moment.

I hope this has been a helpfull post, remeber trust the scopes your monitor may not be correctly callibrated!

Here’s some of my grades from ‘Solvo Curso’:

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