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Magnus Wolff Soerlie
on Dec 23, 2016 at 3:52:04 pm

Searched a lot around, and I'm really sorry if I've missed an obvious post.
I've been working half-professional with video for about two years now, and I've tried to become more serious about
color for about 6 months. I've looked a lot around for information on controlling the basics and grading, everything from manual to LUTs,
but they always seem to heavily smash or color the shadows and/or highlights.
I use PP and AE 2016, and I have the newest Magic Bullet and Universe suites as well. Cameras are mainly BlackMagic Cinema 4k and Phantom 4.

I live in Norway, and being able to sell images like the orange midnight sun without having my shadows look orange, and the glaciers and mountains with cyan waters, blue sky, and still grey/black/white mountains/rocks/snow is important for the segment I'm aiming for. Color spill when using curves with secondary coloration and luma masking never seem to work well, but I'm well aware that this might be because of my inability. I can make images pop and all that fancy stuff that YouTube teaches you, but I'm looking for more extensive color control, both for natural and Michael Bay looks.

TL;DR : I can't find good info on color grading that lets shadows be black (or milky), white snow and clouds white, the sky blue, the grass green and the sunset orange. I know color is a field on it's own, and I don't want to offend any seasoned professionals by thinking this is easy, but can anyone point me in a direction to improve my skills? I don't mind buying books or paying for online courses as long as they are aimed toward "pro" results.

I've shot a relatively large amunt of Phantom 4 footage, and it seems to me that it more or less always it makes the greens more yellow.
I do have the same issue from time to time when shooting on my BlackMagic Cinema 4K (shooting film, ProRes HQ).
This becomes an issue when saturating in post, and stuff just turns ugly yellow. I've tried Magic Bullet HSL and other methods to select the color range and change the hue, but it seldom turns out nice. In my mind, it would make total sense to be able to select a color range, change the hue, lightness, perhaps contrast, and saturation without running into bad pixelation/banding (let's ignore issues because of the codec of the drone for now). I know sometimes cameras just capture things the way they are, like purple shadows, but controlling it seems possible with the plethora of tools we have available?

I've tried masking parts of the image, that sometimes work (even though it can be a large amount of work), and sometimes not, like when dealing with hair/tree silhouettes etc. I also tend to get the effect that my rotoed portions of the image feels to separate from the rest because of the (dis)coloration.

Is this really the life of colorists, to roto every single shot to get really nice color separation and control over light/shadow saturation?

Thanks guys!

- Magnus

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Chris Wright
Re: Color
on Dec 23, 2016 at 4:52:26 pm

can you post an example of what you're trying to accomplish? it sounds like you want to give color without unnatural tinting. also, davinci is used for hue on hue coloring with power windows with built in tracking so may be a better choice for professional coloring. Also, premiere's lumetri doesn't have hue angle control which is a huge oversight.

"saturating in post, and stuff just turns ugly yellow." there are many way to increase color pleasingly. bumping saturation will often give unnatural color in the shadows, compared to say, selective color, or vibrance effect. technicolor, or variations of it don't bleed color into white/blacks. Are you more interested in appling luts or making your own color from scratch?

premiere's coloring tools are still in their infancy, and going pro, would require other tools for the job. Others may disagree.

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Blaise Douros
Re: Color
on Dec 23, 2016 at 5:11:54 pm

Yep, welcome to high-level color work.

There's a featurette out there about the movie Birdman that shows them enhancing the lighting on just about every scene with roto-ed and tracked masks. Look it up--it will make you feel both better and worse.

You also need to adjust your expectations about what's possible with compressed vs uncompressed codecs. You want to be able to control every aspect of color from your DJI footage? Tough. You can't. The color information just isn't present. You push it a little bit, and it will band and pixelate, because it's a highly compressed codec. There's more latitude there when shooting ProResHQ, but is your white balance correct? Exposure? What camera settings are you missing that might allow you to get an image in-camera that's closer to your vision? The closer you get in-camera, the less you have to futz with it in post. That's the thing about Hollywood productions--they spend a TON of money to have a whole crew there lighting a scene. It results in a better image because they started with a better image.

Just because it "makes sense" to you that it should be possible doesn't mean that it is, at least, not without spending money on a camera that can capture all that information, a crew to light the scene to make a perfect input to the camera, and having the skills in post to know exactly what is and is not possible so you can push the image to its limit without making it look over-processed.

Yes, most things that appear green to us are actually in the yellow spectrum. Grass, for example, is actually quite yellow when seen through the camera. You learn something new every day!

TLDR: Adjust your expectations of what you should be able to do with media shot on cameras that are not capturing 16-bit RAW.

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David Roth Weiss
Re: Color
on Dec 23, 2016 at 6:21:20 pm

I agree with everything the two others have already said... Plus, you've only just begun, mastering color is truly a "black art" that only comes two ways: 1) with time; or, 2) by sitting next to an experienced colorist.

Ripple Training does offer some terrific guidance in some of there tutorials, and they are a real bargain, but there is no substitute for actual hands on experience gained over time, unless you can learn from sitting at the side of another who already has years of experience.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist & Workflow Consultant
David Weiss Productions
Los Angeles

David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.

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Magnus Wolff Soerlie
Re: Color
on Dec 23, 2016 at 10:17:50 pm

Thanks for all your answers!

Sidenote: I do understand color enough to get the results I want in Photoshop on raw stills from Canon 700D, but understand that it's a different beast.

One example of what I'd like to achieve is this one, shot on Lovund i Norway:

It's shot on a Phantom 3, and I was at the same location with the same weather conditions and my Phantom 4 this summer, and my grass still turned out yellowy, and I've still to make it as green as in that video without ruining the shot. I've learned later that the Phantom 4 codec really can't handle the D-log well. I've recently gotten my hands on a P4 Pro, so I'm excited to see if 100mpbs h.265 can handle it better, or if I'll have to adjust for lower dynamic range for each shot/location. As we can see, both in the Lovund video and the Supervention video I link to below, it is possible without extremely high end gear.

Sidenote : I do come from 15 years of professional audio, and I know that at least there there's the difference between pretty good and REALLY good. I'm trying to approach color from a pretty good-angle right now. I consider the clip from Lovund in the pretty good-range, if one have the skillset to achieve those colors with a P3 Pro, wouldn't that translate well upwards to better cameras?

I just finished a promo where I basically did a rough edit in Premiere, copy+pasted the entire timeline into AE and worked on the FX there (lotsa animated text). Could a PP timeline potentially become a huge AE timeline where every clip more or less is it's own comp to do what's necessary

Another example is the use of GoPro in the norwegian ski movie Supervention 2 :

I was at a seminar with the guys, and they told me the only thing they did was film in neutral color and use ND filters to get the shutter down and motion blur up as much as possible considering the amount of light. The rest was done first matching the cameras (RED Dragon shooting raw, Inspire 1 shooting raw, a 5D3 shooting "as log as possible" on the ground and the GoPros. They said that the most important part was matching the light in them, and that they could go to town coloring afterwards. They did have a dedicated colorist with years of practice though.

But is there a slight consensus that the Adobe Products, even with Magic Bullet, can't do the job?

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Chris Wright
Re: Color
on Dec 24, 2016 at 2:13:31 am

i watched these. they had good quality of light. there is no replacement for that. they simply contrasted the midtones, bumped with vibrance, and offset the white balance. nothing fancy. you'd be surprised what you can get with offsetting white balance towards magenta. selective color/hue angles will fix the yellow grass. From what I've seem with magic bullet, it tints everything all one color. From your examples, you don't want to do that. you want separation of color.

btw, did you know that you can color grade video with photoshop? you don't even need to learn a new tool!

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Herb Sevush
Re: Color
on Dec 28, 2016 at 1:43:10 pm

[Magnus Wolff Soerlie] "But is there a slight consensus that the Adobe Products, even with Magic Bullet, can't do the job?"

You can do great work within Ppro using Colorista IV, a plug-in for Ppro by the same Red Giant that makes Magic Bullet. I know there is a Colorista module within Magic Bullet but I don't know if it's as full featured or what the workflow is; but I do know that the MB presets will not get you what you're looking for. Many people are quite happy with the Lumetri Color Panel within Ppro, but I don't use it much and can't speak to how well it would solve your problems. Using Colorista's HSL color wheels you can specify a color, then move those frequencies higher or lower, darker or lighter, more saturation or less, without affecting other colors. It is just what you want to make your grass greener without tinting the rest of the color spectrum. There is a similar tool in the Lumetri Panel, but I don't use it enough to comment on it.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf

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