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Colour Grading Guide

Discussion in 'Film & Film Production' started by Rohann van Rensburg, Jan 29, 2019.

  1. That happened when I posted the link. I edited this in:
    (the amazon auto embed doesn't work for me - it's "Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter" by James Gurney)

    Click on the youtube button under the video, it should take you to a playlist with 7 videos by the guy. They are all pretty good, wish we had stuff like that when I started.

    The dilemma with learning resources for visual art stuff is that many of them are straight up trash, and when you can tell which are good, you might already be past the point of needing that specific one x].
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  2. Here are two more videos by the same guy, explaining how lightrays bounce around in a scene and lead to different effects.

  3. Sums up music classes and books, too. Much of visual art has taken a downturn with the advent of postmodernism too and the loss of classical studies. Thanks for the posts! Will watch these soon.
  4. Since this thread kind of derailed, this is a summary of where I'm at currently and what I'm after, in case anyone's interested in this topic or fuel for a masterclass is helpful:

    So obviously, as suspected, the great directors/DP's and photographers (notably Wes Anderson, Roger Deakins, Bruno Delbonnel, etc) get the vast majority of their look from lighting, costumes, set design/location, all integral components of composition. Processing and some degree of grading footage is done by all, however subtly, but it's clear that it's often only a small percentage of the overall look. This seems to be the case even in more heavily stylized films where the grade is heavier (i.e. Bruno Delbonnel's films -- heavy grade, but a huge emphasis on soft lighting).
    (As an aside, an exception to this seems to be "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", but my impression is that heavy grading process wasn't favoured).

    Now, as far as I understand the process, when shooting digital, using a LOG profile essentially gives you something of a neutral "negative" and allows for more freedom in the colour correction and editing process. In the photography world (and the example I was trying to illustrate), RAW files are analogically like film negatives -- they require processing (developing/printing) in order to arrive at a workable image. In film photography, your choices in look are largely limited to the restrictions of photochemistry, at least basically. Digitally, one has more flexibility and can affect individual values much more specifically, and therefore artificially. This means one has to approach digital photography with the correct philosophy, as extreme and specific adjustments are tremendously easy to do in contrast to the comparatively arduous nature of developing film on one's own. (I'm not sure if this analogy works in the video world, so it's focused on photography.)

    So I'm working on developing an answer to these questions (I have some, but am looking for input from non-photography sources):
    -What is generally the basic philosophy of pros when it comes to the initial processing of one's "negative", whether video or photo? Is the first step trying to arrive at a faithful representation of what one saw, or is artistic intent mixed in at this stage? I've seen people approach it both ways. I know some DP's use subtle LUTs for consistency, but I'm not sure if they do this in-camera already or in post.
    -When it comes to stylistic grading, specifically, how does one approach this tastefully? Is it simply a matter of understanding how light and colour interact through experience, and taking the time to study and imitate the works of masters? I assume the simple answer is "yes", because that's what it is with most things, but like with music, there are a hell of a lot more "get the cinematic look" articles and videos available than basic philosophical approaches.
  5. #25 Martin Hoffmann, Feb 17, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019
    I can't think of anyone who goes for just faithful representation, but I'd probably find their work a bit boring. I'm not much into photography so I barely know any photographers, I'm sure there are some that strive for "objectivity" too.

    It just so happens that a few days ago someone showed me this:

    I never heard of him before but I quite like his pictures. He very obviously hasn't much concern for realism, going so far as making all green vegetation purple in one shot. I don't think there's anything wrong with using a photo as a "canvas to start working with" and going nuts with the grading, even if the results get surreal.
    The thing that isn't good is making everything teal-and-orange just for the sake of it, just because most others are doing it as well. Much like a string ostinato isn't bad per se either (imho), but you don't want every track to be all ostinato all the time.

    edit 1: Maybe posting a before/after example of something you color-graded would be useful?

    edit 2:
    Maybe the question you need to ask yourself first is, do you want people to be able to tell that you've manipulated the photo, or not? I quite enjoy obviously graded stuff, but I can see why you would want to give a viewer the illusion of the image being just a faithful snapshot that "happens" to be unusually perfect color-wise. For that you'll need a deeper understanding of what you're doing. I think trying both is the way to learn the most.
  6. @Rohann van Rensburg check this out:

    I haven't watched it, but from clicking through it seems like they give excellent examples for edits that make sense and aren't obvious from the final result, and they also discuss the philosophical aspect of where to draw the line.

    I tried searching for "subtle color grading" on youtube, and the first results are all about how to make stuff teal and orange... seems hard to find good material on what you are looking for, youtube might be an especially bad place to look for it though.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  7. No. LOG does not provide anything "neutral"; it's still garbage-in/garbage-out. LOG is a way of storing information to allow for the most linear representation of values and not prematurely biasing based on gamma or color space, but there's still a finite amount of data. If you film a red room with a red light, shooting in LOG won't allow you to get the greens back. It's just a wider-gamut/latitude friendly way to record data. It requires more post work than working in BT2020 or REC.709 or even sRGB. The net result is that you have more freedom in the grade, yes, but not because it's given you a more neutral start; you're still bound by the conditions you shoot in. People shoot things "neutrally" and in LOG now because they can't be bothered to or don't have the skill to commit to anything, and figure they'll just dial it all in in power windows in Resolve later, as though this is the same as having lit it and designed it so; this is untrue. I would begin all studies in image production in black and white. Contrast ratios and compositional balance are important to develop a sense for, before complicating the luminance with chrominance. Great color will not save an image with poor contrast ratios and composition.
  8. #28 Rohann van Rensburg, Feb 18, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
    Thanks for the clarification. And good point, that's something obvious I should have included -- there's no way to introduce nonexisting colours, or magically turn high contrast lighting into soft lighting, at least not faithfully (as far as I can tell). Was watching the Grand Budapest Hotel, and while it's obvious that there's an exaggerated hue in some shots (i.e. the opening scene in the snow), it's clear the vast majority of the work is done by very soft lighting and the colour palette of everything in the scene (importantly, the complete absence of certain colours), not to mention Wes' very distinctive composition.
    I haven't bothered shooting LOG yet as I don't feel confident with understanding how to use it properly.
    The black and white challenge is an excellent idea. I've been trying to make that more of a discipline with photography in general. It's quite eye-opening.
  9. #29 Rohann van Rensburg, Feb 18, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
    This was more aimed at shooting video, as this only seems important in photography if one wants to colour correct for i.e. skin tones (different cameras and lenses have fairly distinctively different colours coming out of even RAW, despite having the same sensors in many cases). Depends what one wants to represent. If I'm taking landscape shots, I sometimes do want to recreate what I saw. If you want to see bad edits of landscape shots, just peruse instagram, where they add fake suns, change the colour of grass, etc. It's done in a way that's intended to be deceptive, but isn't, and ends up looking very "commercial".

    Thanks for the link! I like the mood he creates.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with that either -- like with music, intent and control. I like if someone can convince me the photo was taken on an alien planet, but this still requires a good understanding of i.e. how light works.
    Indeed, master composers used ostinatos, they just didn't rely on them to pad their entire piece, and they didn't use them because it was the only tool in their toolbox.

    Probably not a bad idea. I'll play around.
    I think it's difficult to answer, because there are many cases where the answer would change. I'm not that interested in "digital art" (what I would call it, anyway) that some people think is photography, i.e. photoshop the hell out of it to the point of including fake snow, a fake sun flare and a different sky so your photo looks "perfect" -- not that there's anything wrong with digital art, but I think some people are digital artists while believing they're photographers.

    I think a good example of some stylized vs non-stylized shots are the screenshots I initially posted. Delbonnel's shots are very obviously graded, but the majority of his look comes from composition (obviously) and very particularly soft lighting. Same with some of Wes Anderson's shots -- he doesn't change blue light into red light, but he alters and exaggerates the hue of a cloudy day to look pink, which is mostly suggested by the abundance of non-contrasting colours in the scene (presumably because they couldn't paint the hotel pink). If one looks at the snow (and behind-the-scenes), it's obvious there's grading done, but the overall effect works. Ditto an evening snowy scene -- somewhat exaggerated blue.
    It goes without saying that the absolute vast bulk of Anderson's look is his composition, set design, lighting, etc. I visited the cafe he created in Milan and it feels exactly like one would imagine:

    You can see how much the existing lighting and palette is doing with behind the scenes videos (see attached).

    The Matrix, I think, did this creatively -- the greenish hue was something you didn't necessarily notice at first, until the contrast between the real world and Matrix showed up.

    Here's a photographer who, I think, illustrates the exaggeration idea well:

    There are obvious edits here, but the majority of the intrigue comes from the composition, lighting and environment.

    EDIT: Probably the simplest route is to study masters. It seems like behind the scenes footage is a really big help in seeing the difference between some semi-accurate representation of the conditions of a shooting day and the final scene. Taste is an important thing to develop, and it's something I'm working on. I'd actually love suggestions of specific films, DP's, photographers, painters, etc to look at. Master painters are probably some of the best, in this regard.

    I should also mention that the majority of the hue adjustments, etc I'm inquiring about have to do with natural light, not artificial light. With artificial light the solution is relatively straightforward, however difficult it is to achieve (i.e. gels). With natural light, you have natural reflections/reflectors to work with, and that's kind of it, unless you want to use filters.

    Attached Files:

    Martin Hoffmann likes this.
  10. I think that's a good idea. I found a list with some funny examples, but I don't know how safe that site is without adblock (mine says it blocked 23 items there...)
  11. Some of these are pretty fantastic examples of really creating the shot "in camera". It's interesting to see how far they took the editing afterwards to create a certain mood, too.
  12. Missed this one.

    I'll take a look, these two are usually pretty good at putting forward good arguments.

    And yeah, it's difficult to find. But ditto Mike's classes -- those weren't common knowledge or something I stumbled upon, it was something I discovered after having been on VI-C for a while. I discovered a few semi-promising looking courses and sites, but they would say things like "You should compose in the Romantic style because that's what people like". Mike did a much better job of explaining why and what people like on a deeper level, irrespective of period.
    Martin Hoffmann likes this.

  13. More of a software question Mike but I noticed in one of your videos you mentioned that you edit in Premiere and do your coloring in Resolve? How do you like that workflow? Also have you used Resolve for editing? We are thinking about switching to Resolve completely from premiere for everything because of some new Black Magic RAW codecs with our BM Cinema Pocket 4k but wanted to get your thoughts on both softwares. Thanks!!
  14. I hate Premiere and will just as often use Media Composer, but nether tool is a substitute for Resolve's Color Grading. Basic editing in Resolve is fineish, but not a substitute. Editing functions are infinitely easier to implement than color science, so I figure it's only a matter of time, but right now, most of the time it's Premiere for assembly and grading in Resolve.
    Samuel Diaz likes this.
  15. Thank you Mike! Always appreciate your input. Yeah Davinci definitely does seem to have more options as far as grading goes so we might try it out over at our company and see how it goes. Thank you again and look forward to Film School 102 one day!!


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