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Opinions wanted on Color Grading

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Duke SwedenOpinions wanted on Color Grading
by on Dec 23, 2015 at 11:29:20 pm

While I have no intention of seeing "Hat8ful Eight", I love the color grading on the scenes I saw on the commercials. I'm only asking for opinions and I know a lot of you do this professionally, but is it possible for me to achieve the same look, or close to it, on h264 footage? Yes, I know that if it is, I would have to get most of it right in the lighting, and as close as possible in camera. I'm only asking, can it be done with my baby camera D5500?


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David Roth WeissRe: Opinions wanted on Color Grading
by on Dec 24, 2015 at 1:06:26 am

Duke,

The answer is not as simple as the question you've posed... There are two pieces to the puzzle, aesthetic, and technical. On the aesthetic side, you can grade h.264 to look "almost" any way you want, or to look similar to just about anything you see in the movies. However, from a technical standpoint, while the look you create might appear to the viewer/audience to be very similar to the movie you're trying to emulate, it won't have the same underlying latitude, color depth, etc., and thus can't possibly be identical to the movie, or as easy to grade, nor will it hold up generationally as well.

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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Duke SwedenRe: Opinions wanted on Color Grading
by on Dec 24, 2015 at 3:26:44 am

I realize that dealing with h264 is only ever gonna get me "close", at best. Remember, I am and, and will always be, an amateur. My work will go no farther than 20 hits on youtube. So, while I'm not sure what "holding up generationally" means, it doesn't really matter.

You answered my question to my satisfaction. Thanks!


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Andrew KimeryRe: Opinions wanted on Color Grading
by on Dec 24, 2015 at 6:56:09 am

Color grading starts in pre-production. You decide on your look (or at least decide on a general, cohesive direction to go in), then pick your set design, costumes, light design, etc., to achieve that look. Color grading is the final step in the process to dial it in and bring uniformity to all the shots.

For example, the orange and teal look is popular in many blockbuster films (flesh tones are pushed to a saturated/orange hue which makes them 'pop' against the blue/green look of the rest of the frame. Google 'orange and teal' for more info) and if you pause a movie that has this color scheme you'll notice that almost everyone is wearing a somber shade of blue, gray, white, etc.,. Colors that aren't close to skin tones and can easily be pushed to teal. If you want the orange/teal look you don't want to put your characters in a bright red room, for example. Just like if you are shooting a horror movie it's all about the shadows so you don't want to flood the set with light like a prime time sitcom.


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Duke SwedenRe: Opinions wanted on Color Grading
by on Dec 24, 2015 at 9:36:16 am

Thanks to both of you! I may be an amateur but I knew about "orange and teal" and all that. Thanks for confirming and explaining how you have to set up your look all the way in pre-production. I've tried on many frustrating occasions to, for example, give a fall, chill in the air look to video I've shot on sunny days, and thought it was my own shortcomings that failed me.

I do have one question, though. Aren't even "shadowy horror movie" scenes brightly lit, and then darkened in post in order to avoid noise? I saw one clip from this color grader's portfolio where a girl was awakened in the middle of the night, and it was brightly lit, then shadows and color grading added in post.


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Andrew KimeryRe: Opinions wanted on Color Grading
by on Dec 24, 2015 at 4:58:43 pm

[Duke Sweden] "I do have one question, though. Aren't even "shadowy horror movie" scenes brightly lit, and then darkened in post in order to avoid noise? I saw one clip from this color grader's portfolio where a girl was awakened in the middle of the night, and it was brightly lit, then shadows and color grading added in post."

Anything that is going to be dark/moody is shot more brightly lit than it appears in the final version but the relative value of the lighting is set in production. For example, if you are shooting a horror movie you don't want the whole scene to be lit evenly during the shoot because then you won't have any shadows/darker areas to work with in grading. But, as you said, you don't want to shoot it too dark because then you'll have a noisy image. So you have to add enough light to where you want the shadows (to avoid noise) and then add even more light to your talent, for example, so that the relative exposure difference between the shadows and the talent remains constant.


Check out episodes of the X-Files or Supernatural to see examples of giving a dark moody atmosphere w/o everything actually being in the dark.


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Duke SwedenRe: Opinions wanted on Color Grading
by on Dec 24, 2015 at 7:23:36 pm

Excellent. Thanks!


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