Color Correction: How to Grade a Film

Color Correction: How to Grade a Film


‘He didn’t get a workout in?’ ‘No.’ – ‘This is
Dustin’ ‘Hello’ ‘What the hell is this?’ ‘This is Mom.’ ‘This is what allowed us to get through
this film.’ ‘That’s a computer or a drive?’ ‘Computer filled with rated drives.’ ‘What is
that called?’ ‘Tangent wave panel.’ ‘I don’t know a whole lot about color. I don’t
understand any of this stuff.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Those things, that’s all a big mystery. What is
it, if you’re a filmmaker, and you want to make your film look better and you have
DaVinci Resolve, which is for free.’ ‘You start with the wider shot of the scene
Instead of starting with a close-up. Because it gives you kind of an idea of
what the tonality of the overall environment is and then helps you match
from scene to scene. So the first thing I’ll do is I’ll take this shot which is
kind of a wider shot of the scene. I come in and the only thing I worry about is.
No color. Nothing about that. I just look at my lift, gamma, and gain. That’s black,
mid, bright. Balancing the image. Trying to get your contrast, your brightness, your
blacks, all of those things. You just try to get them balanced in the way that it
looks nice. So my black levels are all way too high.
So the first thing I do is I bring those down a bit. And you can see on the screen
here, I’m using my lift to come down a bit.
And then I’m going to bring my gain up and just kind of come up to something
that feels about right for the scene. I’m going to adjust my gamma, get those
blacks down a little punchier. And I might even come in here and mess around
with contrast that’s built in. Depending on how I want the scene to feel. But
basically I just first kind of go for an evening out of the scene and kind of get
nice levels of contrast. Once that’s done then I go in and I
start saying: Well I need to bring in some saturation because this was shot
flat in a log kind of style. So I might up my saturation. Oh now we’re getting a
little orange. Well, there’s lots of ways you can mess around with taking orange
out and all of tha,t but maybe that’s how I want that scene to be for now. So I kind
of basically come up with this as my grade. Just something kind of, you know,
kind of basic. And you want to make sure you play the scene through
because you might have come up those stairs and there could have been a
really bright area. This is the shot before. And so I’m going to try to match
this shot to this one. You know, make it contrasty. Brighten it up a little. Make
it feel a little more commercial. We’ve got a little hot spots on there. Then we
throw in some saturation. And we kind of clean it up a bit. So here’s what we got
now. And then this is what happens when we turn off the grade. ‘Okay.’ So you can
see the difference. Turn off… this is how it was shot and this is kind of the
beautification of it. ‘Amazing.’ “Come on. Let’s take the tour.” I feel really
good about the movie. “Do you even wanna see this?” “Yeah, Yeah… because if anything…” In fact I feel
great about the movie. We’ve really had the right amount of time for me just to
be able to sit with kind of the rough cut. And then when we came in and started
working together, we had time to sit and reflect on that and realize, oh, there
was an opportunity to make it even better. ‘You can see how beautiful you can,
the things you can do with this footage and we went down this road. When I color
something my first instinct is to make it look really good. And then we
discovered at the end of the grade from the whole film that it didn’t feel right.
It didn’t feel real. ‘There is a certain level of rawness to the movie that once
you start to take the color and sound into… You take it through the traditional
process of how things are kind of cleaned up and polished you start to
lose some of that rawness. And that’s a problem.’ So we decided to take a
completely different approach. What we decided to do to make this feel very
real. First, I unplugged the wave panel and put it away. ‘It started to feel
like two different films. Like one different element trying to come into
the way the movie is and turn it into something that it’s not.’ We wanted to
give it a real documentary feel, so I’m going to reset this back to nothing here.
Here’s how it was shot. Now let’s just transfer it over directly into rec.709
color space, which is basically saying to da Vinci, why don’t you automatically
take the image how it was shot and convert it over as though we were going
right off to deliver to broadcast. Before it was like this. This was in black magic
design color space, which is the color space it was shot at. Now what
I’m going to say to da Vinci is: Now, give me rec.709. And
this is essentially like I’m not doing a single grade here.
This is how it was shot. This is how it would look if we didn’t touch it. What we
noticed that gave us was a sense of reality. It gave us a sense of
documentary. Tt gave us a sense of not trying to touch up the imagery which was
really important to this film. ‘I love this movie so much and I really wanted
to do right by myself and this film and the best way possible. So taking this
time to get it where I feel… where I feel really really good about it
is great.’ The only things that what we allowed ourselves to do was to adjust in
camera settings as though we had access to the camera in the moment shooting the
scene. Things as simple as ISO adjustments. If a scene was too bright or
too dark we would take down the ISO. Like if I take down the ISO here it gets even
darker and if I go over here and I set it to rec 709, because I remember, we shot
this in the moment, same lighting it ought to match. Because we shot this very
documentary style, we didn’t tend to change a lot of lighting setups. And so
we had fairly close matching scenes already. ‘Each time I watch the movie through in
its entirety, I continue to gain some new level of insight into kind of a
magic behind it.’ “Well, let’s take the tour.” And that happens while we were editing,
it happens when I sit and watch the movie all the way through or it happens
when I’m just reviewing a scene over and over and over again, trying to grade it.’
“The courage to change things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. God’s will,
not ours be done.” ‘Sup, man.’ ‘Sup. How’re you, man?” ‘Doing good.’ I’m just gonna create a new node,
which I’m going to add on top of the previous grade to kind of tweak things.
Maybe if I want to make this scene feel really oppressive and dark, I might
simply do a vignette. And I’ll just draw the vignette real quick. These are
actually a little secret weapon that can be really great. And then we’ll just
invert that. But you want to be careful about this, because then it’s obvious. But you
can also adjust the softening of the edges but if you notice what that does
is I’m going to soften just a little is it kind of narrows the world a little
bit, kind of makes it feel a little more closed off. And so if you look at it with
the vignette and without. It’s very subtle, you can go much further. And then
I would just copy that same vignette effect to the next one and then I might
also say, you know what? Overall the scene needs to be a little darker. So I’ll
create another node and say, we’re still, we’re still not quite done. This is
feeling like we need to be a little moody. So I might bring down my gain
a bit. And just kind of you got to be careful, because now, if I bring it all
the way down, now we’re starting to feel really kind of a lack of detail in his
face. So I might just kind of, just kind of do a little of that. And then let’s go
back. And then let’s just play those and see what that looks like. Yeah, it’s not bad. So it’s not always about making
the pretty image. ‘On to the the Big Kahuna!’ But what can always help is starting out
with lift, gamma, and game. It’s been really cool though because we’ve gotten
to come up with all these processes and we were probably the first feature to
shoot on the Ursa mini 4.6 K camera. Which was really cool but also daunting,
because we had to learn a whole new process. And then you took the film and
edited it. And then I got it back about a month ago and started grading and we had
a very tight schedule. So I did have a 36 hour work day where I worked 36 hours
straight at this desk, which was my new record. And now we’re kind of in the
final throws of finishing the last bit. ‘And when are you delivering?’ Tonight, the
idea is that at 6 p.m. I export this out and 9 p.m. I’m uploading and we submit.
‘Alright, well then we don’t want to take up any more of your time.
Good luck finishing it off.’ Thank you.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Just found this channel. Love that I found it. Great look into Davinci. Is it really actually free?

  2. Question: When you edited the film, did you edit straight from the uncolored raw files? FCPX is not running RAW files, so how did you do this? (I'm at this stage and wondering how to start the workflow)
    THANKS

  3. I really think colour has been somewhat of a problem for digital photography. It can look very nice, especially when it gets pushed in a clear style, but when it comes to a more natural look it tend to look incredibly flat.

  4. Title: "Color Correction: How to Grade a Film"
    Accurate title: "Little hints about one very specific color grading situation"

  5. Hi,

    Thank you for you video. With all due respect, I think it's a bit misleading to name this video "how to grade a film". With this kind of video, people – just like me – trying to improve their game visually, could be led to thinking that tweaking settings in Resolve is the only way to create a look for a film.

    This works for this specific film which was visibly shot in a documentary style manner ; with a big use of natural light ; allowing randomness in the light and exposure ; and then no wish to move away from a news/documentary look, precisely because the director wanted to keep that feel to better tell his story : fair enough!

    Now, the grading of a film is also about setting a specific LUT in post production, completing the process of creating the look of a film, based on a choice taken even before shooting began : this LUT being choosen after doing tests, tests involving basically a complete shooting setup ; with people, lights etc ; so that a specific type of exposure on people's faces, a precise level of blacks, a certain level of saturation are determined. Then, with that in mind, the cinematographer lights and sets the camera so that he gets the look on set, carefully setting the contrast with lighting and setting a certain F stop to obtain a specific level in camera. Then, grading the film is only about using that LUT, achieving the desired look, foreseen from the very beginning. That's why the famous Roger Deakins says that, working on Coen's brothers movies, he barely has just a few days in average doing the color grading with a colorist (one can assume that could be different with Blade Runner 2, with the number of CGI involved). He doesn't create the look in post. The color grading for him is just about evening out things that were not done exactly right, but that's it. Basically he works just like he would do on celluloid, when, before digital tweaking was enabled, you could never change the contrast in the lab. That's how Wally Pfister worked on Nolan's films also, where they only had a photochemical finish. You can work in a digital environment just like that.

    Ultimately what I'm saying it that color correction isn't just a contrast enhancement of a flat raw video. It's one of the cornerstones of cinematography for a carefully designed look which works hand in hand with on set light design. Of course, I'm sure you know that very well thisguyedits, but I thought this needed to be said for people trying to learn about cinematography.

  6. I've been lurking on your channel for some time. I've also considered getting into the already saturated market of producing Youtube gaming videos, But with much more of a "Cinema" style which is something I've never personally seen. Or at least not as a primary type of content and appreciate the tips and everything you publish and work you do to inform people!

  7. Your content is exactly what I'm looking for. Not how Youtubers grade their stuff but how actual film makers grade it. Thanks!

  8. The color space is 'everything'. Make SURE you use 709 TEST VIDEOS to ENSURE your OS, Software, as well as the final product preserves the SAME color space you intended down the whole chain. Converting to other color spaces WORKS and has a dramatic effect on the outcome. Although most will want to their videos to be contrasty, the color space is the first best option and really evens out the color. Remember when you ENCODE the final video, your encoder just might AUTOMATICALLY convert it to RGB etc so be careful. I find the new 2020 colorspace with some added touchups the best. Remember the TEST VIDEOS!

  9. I cant believe you unplugged the wave panel….but when you put it away …wow…crazy shit right there!!!!

    Love the videos BTW, im helping my son edit his Youtube videos and these videos are invaluable

  10. I wonder how somebody becomes a color grade professional. How do directors discover that you are above average in grading? Sorry if it's a pushy question, i'm just curious 🙂

  11. Great piece. I found fascinating the human experience in the feeling for coloring rather than the obligatory, "well…lets clean this up and polish it by using these text book techniques." I found myself as a newbie doing the text book stuff and went back to rec709 for the Sony ASI. He is right, find your process first, discover it, then own it. Work flow dictates your emotional wealth for the entirety of the product.

  12. Since "shooting flat" is referenced here, I must say this: if you aren't shooting RAW or 10-bit video, DO NOT SHOOT FLAT. Your $1000 DSLR uses chroma subsampled 8-bit color compressed output and you will RUIN footage by shooting flat. Make it look right IN-CAMERA. The added dynamic range doesn't matter because the damage to your color differences can't be repaired. Don't shoot log, don't shoot with contrast or saturation turned all the way down. "Film look" guides and LUTs are garbage for all consumer-grade cameras and camcorders and should be ignored.

  13. Love the honest approach of your videos. They feel warm and confident. I had a quite uninteresting question about this one, though. It is maybe the first time I've seen an editor's desk meant to be worked with while standing. Is it healthier that way? Have you ever tried it? Thanks.

  14. Scary. It's such a subjective process. I shouldn't even be here. I need to go find some training on how to do basic color correcting first before I mess with this "grading" stuff. But I'll be back!

  15. Was he looking at the scopes doing those lift gamma gain adjustments? The screen didn't show the scopes. I have the feeling that the colorist WAS looking at the scopes, but by NOT showing the scopes, you lose the value of how he knows what to do and concentrating instead of WHAT he does. How did he know that the blacks were too high? How did he know when to stop bringing up the gain? These are the things that would make this useful. As it is, not so much.

  16. Very interesting and refreshing to see what 'actually' happens in a grade as opposed to what people perceive happens in a grade. I understand that sometimes more is required for highly stylistic movies but what I took from this that style is about looking at the movie and grading 'in service of the story' and not just grading for the sake of it because you think thats what should be done in order for it to look professional. Enjoyed it thanks.

  17. very useful to someone like me totally noob. very authentic storytelling of the grading process. by the way if I am looking at the footage correctly, around 8:47, when he plays back, you can see quite a few dropped frames, a bit of a choppy playback. being noob to this, I have seen a lot of obsession in reviewers of computers about not dropping frames, so it was refreshing to see professional grading being successful even with choppy playback.

  18. We have made Regional Marathi Language film in India. Its an Indian sub regional language film. The film is so low budget. Would you guys provide us colour correction services. The footage is shot on 5D MARK 4 Dual camera.

    if you interested please mail at [email protected]

  19. The biggest problem I find in grading is not defining the grade or making it look right, but the consistency between shots and creating a workflow that offers an even output.

  20. 'How To' implies a technical instruction on using the software and that's not what this is really. It would be more accurate to call the video 'A Philosophy of Colour Correction''. It is interesting, but isn't really going to help beginners learn how to colour correct.

  21. Have you done a video on the hazards of digital color correction? What I mean is that no 2 monitors have the exact same look. I could edit on 1 monitor and it looks great. I give it to you and on your monitor it looks off.

  22. See the title is misleading that being said having watched this did it help/inspire/give me an insight into how another professional does this .. YES …. so I don’t really mind that it was slightly misleading .. good stuff

  23. 5:34 "I am not doing a single grade here" So I basically just spent 10 minutes of a grading tutorial for a guy to tell me he used REC709 and din't grade. LOL. Seriously?

  24. I got unreasonably excited when I recognized the music that ethereal guitar music playing in the background 🤣. Very nice video!

  25. I learned a lot in this snapshot. It gave you starting points for both commercial and documentary style. It actually says a lot in a little time working as a throw you in the water 101 tutorial. Really well done!

  26. Wait, i just realized the movie is filmed in Philly! Who ? What? Where? Fellow struggling filmmaker needs to know! Need an assistant?lol

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