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what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?

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Victor Nguyen
what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?
on May 5, 2011 at 3:57:21 am

Yes I know that the software doesn't determine how good you are, but I'm just wondering what are yall's preference for color grading. Do you like after effect's standard color correcting plug in such as curves, levels, and SA color finesse or do you prefer 3rd party plug in such as magic bullet looks and colorista. I would also like to hear from those who have davinci resolve; it would be nice if you give feedback of it.

Also please do tell which one color grading plug in you use the most and why.Thank you very much.


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Walter Soyka
Re: what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?
on May 5, 2011 at 5:28:17 am

Victor, what sort of color work are you looking to do?

If you read through some of my previous posts, you'll see that I take color and color management very seriously, but my standard answer when people ask about grading in After Effects is a question -- why? AE is a great motion graphics package and good compositor, but I think serious color correction is absolutely maddening in AE. The toolset and workflow is very limiting for more than basic color work.

AE isn't built for conforming an entire edit; there are no built-in scopes; there are no real navigation tools; there's no way to conveniently store or compare grades; there's no way to conveniently round-trip with editorial; and there's no real time anything. Dedicated color applications don't have these limitations.

I moved from Apple Color to Resolve last fall. Resolve is very nice -- it's fast, and I really like the node system. It also has some specific system requirements that must be met, really benefits from having a control surface, and has a bit of a learning curve. The COW has a great Resolve forum if you'd like to read up some more.

If I only have a couple shots to color, I do often stay in AE and use Colorista II. It's deceptively powerful, the keyer is pretty good, you can easily stack multiple instances of the plugin if you need multiple secondaries, and you can stay in the AE interface.

Color Finesse is also very powerful, but I haven't logged enough time on it to offer an educated opinion one way or the other.

In short -- all of the tools you mentioned (except perhaps Levels) can do the same math and output beautiful imagery. If the output is the same, I think the next thing to consider is the workflow around the tools.

If you're interested in color correction, look up the books by Steve Hullfish & Jamie Fowler, and Alexis Van Hurkman. Check out Walter Biscardi's and Robbie Carman's video training. Play along with your own footage, and remember that color is one more tool in your toolbox for making impressions, telling stories, or evoking responses in your viewers.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Victor Nguyen
Re: what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?
on May 5, 2011 at 3:26:46 pm

[Walter Soyka] "Play along with your own footage, and remember that color is one more tool in your toolbox for making impressions, telling stories, or evoking responses in your viewers."

yes that is exactly how I want to use it for. In my high school, there is a broadcasting class and it is just maddening to me that they don't learn about color grading.next year I'm joining it and I would like to show everyone what a difference color grading can make.I'm glad that you use colorista a lot because that is what I mainly use; I just want to know if that is what professional prefer.

how come you don't like levels? I just mainly use it for contrast since I think it looks better than curves even though sometime it blown out the color.

one more question: does HD matter in color grading? Because sometime I use colorista with SD and it seems that colorista would change the whole video instead of adjusting only one part (such as turning up shadow would change the whole video).Also does my computer have to support open GL to support the keyer, because my keyer is not working


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Dave LaRonde
Re: what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?
on May 5, 2011 at 3:36:25 pm

[Victor Nguyen] "Also does my computer have to support open GL to support the keyer, because my keyer is not working"

You should NEVER use Open GL for rendering. It's okay for previewing, but not rendering. I don't know anybody who uses Open GL to speed up rendering, including Adobe employees.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Victor Nguyen
Re: what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?
on May 6, 2011 at 12:04:31 am

no open gl is not for rendering. In the colorista plug in properties, open gl is one of the options for previewing. if you're rendering, how would you turn off open gl?


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Walter Soyka
Re: what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?
on May 6, 2011 at 12:03:44 pm

[Dave LaRonde] "You should NEVER use Open GL for rendering. It's okay for previewing, but not rendering. I don't know anybody who uses Open GL to speed up rendering, including Adobe employees."

[Victor Nguyen] "In the colorista plug in properties, open gl is one of the options for previewing. if you're rendering, how would you turn off open gl?"

You two are not talking about the same thing. As more third-party effects make use of GPUs, the difference between AE's OpenGL renderer and third-party GPU processing will only get more confusing.

Dave is referring to AE's built-in OpenGL renderer [link], which has some serious limitations that make it totally unusable for production renders. See the linked documentation for a fun read on the many perils of rendering with OpenGL in AE.

Victor is talking about GPU acceleration within Colorista II, which does not use AE's OpenGL renderer, and which can provide a huge speed boost without sacrificing quality.

This is not a formal review or rigorous evaluation, but I just ran a quick test on my laptop. Colorista II rendered about 4x faster with GPU rendering than it did with CPU rendering. In both cases, I left AE's OpenGL renderer disabled, as always, in the preferences. Importing both renders back AE and using the difference transfer mode on them showed a negligible maximum difference of 1 (out of 256) in each of the RGB channels.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Walter Soyka
Re: what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?
on May 6, 2011 at 10:38:21 am

[Victor Nguyen] "how come you don't like levels? I just mainly use it for contrast since I think it looks better than curves even though sometime it blown out the color."

It's not that I don't like Levels. Curves can do everything Levels can do, but with more control. Sometimes it's helpful to add (but not manipulate!) a Levels effect after Curves just to get the histogram.

Regardless, since you're using Colorista, you can add contrast by manipulating the lift and gain wheels.


[Victor Nguyen] "one more question: does HD matter in color grading? Because sometime I use colorista with SD and it seems that colorista would change the whole video instead of adjusting only one part (such as turning up shadow would change the whole video)."

This is not an SD/HD thing -- there's a bit of yin and yang in color correction. Color adjustments can rarely be made in isolation. Sometimes, when you push in one direction, you must simultaneously pull from another.


[Victor Nguyen] "Also does my computer have to support open GL to support the keyer, because my keyer is not working"

I'm not sure. What do you mean it doesn't work? The interface doesn't work, or the effect itself? Have you contacted Red Giant support?

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Victor Nguyen
Re: what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?
on May 6, 2011 at 11:55:01 am

when open GL option is on in the effect, the whole video goes black. I have to set it to CPU for it to work.Open GL is never on for my after effect because my graphic card cannot support it(that's why I'm saving up for a new computer).I have try to work in the keyer, but it just doesn't select any color


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Walter Soyka
Re: what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?
on May 6, 2011 at 12:16:14 pm

[Victor Nguyen] "when open GL option is on in the effect, the whole video goes black. I have to set it to CPU for it to work.Open GL is never on for my after effect because my graphic card cannot support it(that's why I'm saving up for a new computer).I have try to work in the keyer, but it just doesn't select any color"

I explained this in more detail in my last post on this thread -- our posts crossed -- but I'll re-iterate that AE's OpenGL setting is separate from the Colorista's. I leave AE's OpenGL disabled at all times, and I don't see a difference with the keyer on my machine whether using GPU or CPU rendering. You might try contacting Red Giant support.

One other note on this thread that I alluded to in a separate thread on color correction: grading without scopes is like flying without instruments. Check out Test Gear [link] or Scopo Gigio [link].

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Re: what's your favorite color grading software/plug ins?
on May 5, 2011 at 6:35:01 am

Like Walter, I think that a dedicated app is the best choice. However, for limited budgets, AE can provide very good results. I have used the standard AE color correction tools (Levels, Curves...) combined with masking and got great results, but once I discovered Colorista I do most grading in it.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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