Author Topic: Ultimate Color Grading Guide  (Read 19473 times)

rainless

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Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« on: April 05, 2014, 05:01:57 PM »
(DISCLAIMER: This post is going to take a LOT of time to put together. Maybe an entire month... but I'll try to make it worth it.)

I've been really sort of BAFFLED by a lot of really well-known, professional photographers as the stumble and bumble their way through attempting to get great images out of RAW video.  I'm talking about people like Dave Dugdale ( ) and Phillip Bloom (
). 

People with a LOT more money and experience than I have.

I look at these videos and think: "What the hell are these guys doing?"

Dave Dugdale even says he spent half an hour trying to color what looked, to me at least, like a pretty straightforward shot (it's in the video above). He then asked a professional colorist to look at it and that guy nailed it in two minutes.

My background is in videography and post-production editing. I've been doing that for 17 years and I've only been doing photography professionally for about 8 years. So I would've given guys like Bloom and Dugdale every advantage in the world over me when it comes to RAW video because it plays to all their strengths as professional photographers (who also do video). Instead, what we have is akin to Zoolander.

So... without further adieu... I'm going to write a guide to Color Grading, Color Correcting, and breathing life into your RAW videos.

Before I get into in-depth Camera Raw/After Effects stuff, I figured I'd just throw a simple ground rules out there.

1. Color grading starts with White Balancing.

Forget about how much blue, magenta, or green you need in each image.  The first thing you need to do for your editing software is help it define what WHITE is. For Camera RAW this is simple: Just select the White Balance tool and click on something "white" in the image. DONE. It will neutralize, not only whatever you click on, but the entire image.  You can start building up colors from there. If there is nothing white around when you're shooting video, it could be helpful to have a white card somewhere in the first frame so you can use that to balance and then take it from there.

2. Find out which color is overdone

Easiest way to do this is, again, with a white card... or somebody's white shirt, the white of someone's eyes. Just LOOK at the image and see what color is overpowering your shot. White balancing will automatically minimize that color, but it's important to at least identify what that color was so that you can go through and find points that were missed or kick that color back up if it gets knocked down too-far.

3. Sit WAY back from your image or video and compare the colors in the image with the colors around you

I like to do this on a laptop... maybe in the park. Your images should look as close to the real world as possible. (Unless you're making a sci-fi movie... and even then...)

Here's the first image we'll be working with. This is just something I threw together in a few minutes just to explain the process. This was a crop mode .mlv from my 600D at 1280x720, 23.976 frames a second. This was converted to DNGs using MLVRawviewer, and then imported into After Effects (I'm in Windows 7). There I applied white balancing and minor corrections as outlined above. Then I exported an .mov and opened it in Resolve.



Here I should talk a bit about "warm" and "cool" colors.  For simplicity's sake we'll just say that I love the way the flower looks, but the rest of this image is too warm because there's too much red.  Without any effort at all (and in the most ham-handed "Your ass is blind if you can't see the difference) way possible, I just grabbed a color wheel and moved the gamma closer to the blue.



What you have now is a much "cooler" (more blue) image that more faithfully reflects the chilly morning that I recorded it. But also the flower no longer looks good.




 So I just added another node with a mask over the flower (best, mask, system, EVERRRR!) and boosted only the red of the flower (I could've also masked out the flower and done the blue there.) As you can see it's not a very detailed mask at all. But you've got the cool blue in the rest of the image and the red of the flower is back.

And the whole thing took ten seconds to do.

Now look at the scopes.  I know, if you're not familiar with looking at this sort of thing then they probably look like something out of The REAL Ghostbusters. (Handing out points to anyone who knows why they were called that...) A good way to think of it is those solid lines you see at the bottom, middle, and top of the scopes. The bottom would be the shadowy parts of the image. That solid line at the bottom should be are ZERO (0). If it's higher than that then you need to lower it. Most of the time, when you're shooting raw video on these Canons... it will ABSOLUTELY be higher than zero. But that's relatively easy to fix. You just spin the first "Color Wheel" in Resolve. To control the midtones you use the second  wheel and to control the highlights you use the third wheel. I'm still working on my Kickstarter video so I don't have time to show you how that's done... but I did find a guy who is (sadly) less busy than I am... and HE had the time!


Now you can tell in our flower pic that the shadows are fine and the midtones look okay... but the highlights are clipping! What this means is that if you upload or send your video somewhere COMPLETE AND UTTER CHAOS will ensue (like when that guy that did the Africa video who got mad at me uploaded his video to youtube and the white stripes on the zebra were suddenly yellow). All you have to do is bring the highlights BACK down to earth and you're back in business.

(Have to get back to work. Be back in a bit.)
The Gear - Canon 5D Mark II, Yongnuo 565EX flash, PhotoSel 3mx3m backdrop stand with 3mx3m muslin backdrops. Elinchrom D-Lite 4 it studio lights, some big-ass 110cm reflector. Unlimited German Models

togg

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2014, 08:51:03 PM »
Thanks :)

edge11

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2014, 10:48:29 PM »
That sounds more like, color correcting than color grading, if not then please excuse my ignorance.

rainless

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2014, 11:22:04 PM »
That sounds more like, color correcting than color grading, if not then please excuse my ignorance.

Haven't started the grading process yet. What I've written so-far is pre-edit. Color grading occurs post. :)
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pilgrim

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2014, 11:32:12 PM »
- Good idea  :)
- For the the word "ultimate", maybe it's good to mention how important to calibrate the monitor, especially for laptop, maybe less for Mac. Even if it doesn't explain about how to calibrate, or may be just give the link.
- It will be better also not only Adobe family. I don't hate it, I just not use it. DaVinci will be great, or links. Other soft or more simple solution from the experience, not from the manual, will be welcome.
- This subject will touch many or most of us, with so many different many. It will enrich us, I hope.
Keep on...  :)

eyeland

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2014, 01:01:31 AM »
Sounds exciting :) Thanks for taking your time to enlighten the masses
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jose_ugs

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2014, 01:07:25 AM »
+1 rainless

dubzeebass

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2014, 02:46:01 AM »
RGB histogram is your friend too. So's vectorscope. In resolve you can create a mask and hide everything but the mask and check your colours there too.

Great post rainless!

rainless

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2014, 11:49:37 AM »
- Good idea  :)
- For the the word "ultimate", maybe it's good to mention how important to calibrate the monitor, especially for laptop, maybe less for Mac. Even if it doesn't explain about how to calibrate, or may be just give the link.
- It will be better also not only Adobe family. I don't hate it, I just not use it. DaVinci will be great, or links. Other soft or more simple solution from the experience, not from the manual, will be welcome.
- This subject will touch many or most of us, with so many different many. It will enrich us, I hope.
Keep on...  :)

I plan on talking about both Adobe Products and DaVinci resolve.  Mind you I'm not, technically speaking, a "colorist"... I'm a post production engineer and director and DOC with a lot of experience with color grading. But I'm sure some actually colorists will chime in with points that I've missed. (Just like Phillip Bloom is a world class photographer and even a welterweight videographer, but apparently the furthest thing in the world from a colorist.)

And yes... Calibrating a monitor is ESSENTIAL. I use a Spyder for this (and I'll link to tutorials on how to do it.) But there are actually better tools for that as well.

Don't know when I'll have the time to get started with this since I'm right in the middle of filming a Kickstarter campaign... but I'll probably just take some stills and film some videos while I'm doing that which may also be helpful for this thread because it will be fresh in my memory.

Stay tuned! And thanks for the support.  :D
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arrinkiiii

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2014, 12:34:42 PM »
Let's go  =))

dude

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2014, 01:38:47 PM »
Just did a CC and grading for a commercial video, filmed on Red and MKIII RAW.
I used to be a magic bullet fan, then i played with resolve the last year and what i did on this video- color correction via magic bullet.
It has almost everything, davinci has, but is way easier to handle with premiere, because you don t have to export and stuff.
even the keyer in colorista 2 is nice, seperating skintones is no problem. so if you do not want to do heavy keying (eg skin, eyes and background) which needs parrallel notes, go for magic bullet.

DavidSh

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2014, 02:59:25 PM »
Great Idea.
Are going to address speedgrade cc as well?
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Panz

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2014, 03:20:13 PM »
Nice idea rainless!

I did my thesis on color grading, the basic stuff(balancing, correcting, applying looks and so on)
It can be very hard to go on depth about color grading without needing a few hundreds pages of analysis.

Your primary notion about color grading(balancing first and then applying looks) is spot on, although i wouldn't trust my eyes when it comes to correcting, especially when working at a park with a laptop(most laptop displays are not even decent, mine's at least is not).

So i ll suggest a few books that helped me, (you seem experienced cinema guy but in case they do help you)

Interactions of color, Josef Albers,
This book is about design in general, but it really focuses on how our perception make colors interact and create illusions. Main reason you need a dedicated place for color correction

The Visual Story, Bruce Block,
this is a well-known book, it's about cinematography but it covers stuff like color pretty well.

Also Alexis van Hurkman books are generally very helpful.
You may also want to check out a few websites on color and perception but maybe it's not so necessary for your goals(i can give you links if you like)

As for shooting raw, i think most professional photographers don't take into account simple stuff such as ettr.
I have learned the most usefull stuff from this communnity. And i feel  that if you want to get into raw you may have better luck looking for processing in astrophotography.

Hope it helps and really looking forward to your findings and/or helping you!

rtf

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2014, 10:24:33 PM »
Now this is ultimate color grading, imho (tons of useful info in the description too.):



pilgrim

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2014, 11:09:23 PM »
I plan on talking about both Adobe Products and DaVinci resolve.  Mind you I'm not, technically speaking, a "colorist"... I'm a post production engineer and director and DOC with a lot of experience with color grading. But I'm sure some actually colorists will chime in with points that I've missed. ....
Don't know when I'll have the time to get started with this since I'm right in the middle of filming a Kickstarter campaign...
Stay tuned! And thanks for the support.  :D

Go on... many will support you.
Don't worry about the time, all/most of the people here have a job for a living  :)  Don't feel under pressure.
This share of the knowledge will help also for our job for a living, vice-versa.

Some idea :
- Many with some branch/chapter, a kind like for the beginner, the intermediate, and advanced. Of course, the border is blurrrr : some think intermediate other think advanced.
- Maybe also tip and trick, which will be very useful and without border, it can go in every direction...  ::)
My experiences with video editing was without a class or a course, open manual only when needed, so it's not systematic.
I think many other people doing similar.
- Many experiences or problem-solving with MLV or RAW from Magic Lantern  ;) , that's why we are here  :) and also we will not find in other forum, or very little chance.

Many others will wait and support...  :)

hjfilmspeed

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2014, 06:20:01 PM »
This is a GREAT topic. I think its important to convey that Color grading has importance beyond just getting a "FILM" look that everyone is after these days. My concern as always skin tone and mood but I will admit I am also after the cinematic feel and look. There is more to it them one might think. Color correcting and grading is and art within itself. I love this topic, cant wait to here more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

rainless

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2014, 06:38:31 PM »
This is a GREAT topic. I think its important to convey that Color grading has importance beyond just getting a "FILM" look that everyone is after these days. My concern as always skin tone and mood but I will admit I am also after the cinematic feel and look. There is more to it them one might think. Color correcting and grading is and art within itself. I love this topic, cant wait to here more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks. Kickstarter video shoot is this weekend... so it won't be long now.

Now this is ultimate color grading, imho (tons of useful info in the description too.):



Meh... I've been there before, and London NEVER looks that good. :p

Seriously though, the dude's color's look amazing. They would have to though... he used about every plugin and preset currently available. I have to give him extra props for pulling all that off on a 50D though... With a little bit more luck, in a different world, I would've gotten a 7D instead of a 600D.  That's alright... hopefully a 5DIII will one day ease the pain :)
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painya

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2014, 07:58:50 AM »
1+
Good footage doesn't make a story any better.

rainless

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #18 on: April 13, 2014, 04:28:36 PM »
Nice idea rainless!

I did my thesis on color grading, the basic stuff(balancing, correcting, applying looks and so on)
It can be very hard to go on depth about color grading without needing a few hundreds pages of analysis.

Your primary notion about color grading(balancing first and then applying looks) is spot on, although i wouldn't trust my eyes when it comes to correcting, especially when working at a park with a laptop(most laptop displays are not even decent, mine's at least is not).

So i ll suggest a few books that helped me, (you seem experienced cinema guy but in case they do help you)

Interactions of color, Josef Albers,
This book is about design in general, but it really focuses on how our perception make colors interact and create illusions. Main reason you need a dedicated place for color correction

The Visual Story, Bruce Block,
this is a well-known book, it's about cinematography but it covers stuff like color pretty well.

Also Alexis van Hurkman books are generally very helpful.
You may also want to check out a few websites on color and perception but maybe it's not so necessary for your goals(i can give you links if you like)

As for shooting raw, i think most professional photographers don't take into account simple stuff such as ettr.
I have learned the most usefull stuff from this communnity. And i feel  that if you want to get into raw you may have better luck looking for processing in astrophotography.

Hope it helps and really looking forward to your findings and/or helping you!

Thanks for the books :)

I'm probably going to try and keep it accessible (and long) with lots of pictures.  I'm quite baffled by the way some of these pro-photographers look at color grading. That one guy in the video I posted in the OP was completely confused... Hopefully I can help shed a little bit of light. I have to see if I have fraps laying around still... maybe I could do a video as well.
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rainless

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #19 on: May 04, 2014, 09:21:21 PM »
Updated! Slowly but surely I'm getting started...
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Ramon

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #20 on: May 04, 2014, 10:38:29 PM »
Lol.. I can see your mask on the background.. doing it the right way is not that simple mate
Grading raw is way different than grading a very VERY flat 4:2:2 (what Dave was doing)

Nice work making a guide though, I'm curious about the result ^^

rainless

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #21 on: May 05, 2014, 12:32:28 AM »
Lol.. I can see your mask on the background.. doing it the right way is not that simple mate
Grading raw is way different than grading a very VERY flat 4:2:2 (what Dave was doing)

Nice work making a guide though, I'm curious about the result ^^

Ahem...

Quote
Here's the first image we'll be working with. This is just something I threw together in a few minutes just to explain the process.

Also I mentioned how that first example was just a "ham-fisted" way of explaining the basics.  I get that you might be an absolute EXPERT at color grading... but this guide starts with people who are not. I wanted to give, in as simple a demonstration as possible, an idea of what the possibilities of this program are. Before gradually revving up the difficulty curve (because I hate "guides" that don't really explain anything and expect you to know all of the things that were the reason you started looking for guides in the first place.)

So if you want "the right way"... then stay tuned for some of the later portions... you might learn something.

..."mate".  8)
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Ramon

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #22 on: May 05, 2014, 11:37:44 AM »
I'm totally no expert, just so u know :o
Would like to learn something ^^ gl

vukster

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Re: Ultimate Color Grading Guide
« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2018, 12:42:10 AM »
You lost me at step 1. White is NOT the first thing you should find in fact not all white colors are created equal so by telling people to use "something white" which in fact may not be accurate will cause all kinds of headaches later.

No, don't use white, that is what an amateur would do, be a pro and shoot a 12% gray card, forget 18%, that value was used a long time ago with the print press and today we use monitors and LED and a whole other complex set of technology so the new 18% is 12%. Calibrate your white balance first by dialing in middle gray and THEN tune your white balance to get accurate color.

By using just any white color you find in the environment you are essentially introducing bias into your color matrix which. Calibrate correctly from the start and you will have much better data to grade.


(DISCLAIMER: This post is going to take a LOT of time to put together. Maybe an entire month... but I'll try to make it worth it.)

I've been really sort of BAFFLED by a lot of really well-known, professional photographers as the stumble and bumble their way through attempting to get great images out of RAW video.  I'm talking about people like Dave Dugdale ( ) and Phillip Bloom (
). 

People with a LOT more money and experience than I have.

I look at these videos and think: "What the hell are these guys doing?"

Dave Dugdale even says he spent half an hour trying to color what looked, to me at least, like a pretty straightforward shot (it's in the video above). He then asked a professional colorist to look at it and that guy nailed it in two minutes.

My background is in videography and post-production editing. I've been doing that for 17 years and I've only been doing photography professionally for about 8 years. So I would've given guys like Bloom and Dugdale every advantage in the world over me when it comes to RAW video because it plays to all their strengths as professional photographers (who also do video). Instead, what we have is akin to Zoolander.

So... without further adieu... I'm going to write a guide to Color Grading, Color Correcting, and breathing life into your RAW videos.

Before I get into in-depth Camera Raw/After Effects stuff, I figured I'd just throw a simple ground rules out there.

1. Color grading starts with White Balancing.

Forget about how much blue, magenta, or green you need in each image.  The first thing you need to do for your editing software is help it define what WHITE is. For Camera RAW this is simple: Just select the White Balance tool and click on something "white" in the image. DONE. It will neutralize, not only whatever you click on, but the entire image.  You can start building up colors from there. If there is nothing white around when you're shooting video, it could be helpful to have a white card somewhere in the first frame so you can use that to balance and then take it from there.

2. Find out which color is overdone

Easiest way to do this is, again, with a white card... or somebody's white shirt, the white of someone's eyes. Just LOOK at the image and see what color is overpowering your shot. White balancing will automatically minimize that color, but it's important to at least identify what that color was so that you can go through and find points that were missed or kick that color back up if it gets knocked down too-far.

3. Sit WAY back from your image or video and compare the colors in the image with the colors around you

I like to do this on a laptop... maybe in the park. Your images should look as close to the real world as possible. (Unless you're making a sci-fi movie... and even then...)

Here's the first image we'll be working with. This is just something I threw together in a few minutes just to explain the process. This was a crop mode .mlv from my 600D at 1280x720, 23.976 frames a second. This was converted to DNGs using MLVRawviewer, and then imported into After Effects (I'm in Windows 7). There I applied white balancing and minor corrections as outlined above. Then I exported an .mov and opened it in Resolve.



Here I should talk a bit about "warm" and "cool" colors.  For simplicity's sake we'll just say that I love the way the flower looks, but the rest of this image is too warm because there's too much red.  Without any effort at all (and in the most ham-handed "Your ass is blind if you can't see the difference) way possible, I just grabbed a color wheel and moved the gamma closer to the blue.



What you have now is a much "cooler" (more blue) image that more faithfully reflects the chilly morning that I recorded it. But also the flower no longer looks good.




 So I just added another node with a mask over the flower (best, mask, system, EVERRRR!) and boosted only the red of the flower (I could've also masked out the flower and done the blue there.) As you can see it's not a very detailed mask at all. But you've got the cool blue in the rest of the image and the red of the flower is back.

And the whole thing took ten seconds to do.

Now look at the scopes.  I know, if you're not familiar with looking at this sort of thing then they probably look like something out of The REAL Ghostbusters. (Handing out points to anyone who knows why they were called that...) A good way to think of it is those solid lines you see at the bottom, middle, and top of the scopes. The bottom would be the shadowy parts of the image. That solid line at the bottom should be are ZERO (0). If it's higher than that then you need to lower it. Most of the time, when you're shooting raw video on these Canons... it will ABSOLUTELY be higher than zero. But that's relatively easy to fix. You just spin the first "Color Wheel" in Resolve. To control the midtones you use the second  wheel and to control the highlights you use the third wheel. I'm still working on my Kickstarter video so I don't have time to show you how that's done... but I did find a guy who is (sadly) less busy than I am... and HE had the time!


Now you can tell in our flower pic that the shadows are fine and the midtones look okay... but the highlights are clipping! What this means is that if you upload or send your video somewhere COMPLETE AND UTTER CHAOS will ensue (like when that guy that did the Africa video who got mad at me uploaded his video to youtube and the white stripes on the zebra were suddenly yellow). All you have to do is bring the highlights BACK down to earth and you're back in business.

(Have to get back to work. Be back in a bit.)