Monday, 6 June 2011

Tip #70: Colour grading

By Dan Parkes (Director)

Colour grading or timing is the art of enhancing, correcting or sometimes completely changing the colour and look of a film.

In our case a very simple colour pallete had already been decided upon by the production designer before we started filming. The plan was for the gritty flashback scenes to be completely in black and white, and the village scenes to be in heavily saturated colour. The camera system we used was thus set to capture a heavily saturated image which meant we were able to do a lot of the colour grading in camera. In fact very little of the village scenes were colour corrected.

Black and white flashblack scene colour grading

Here are some basics of colour grading

1. Software

Many NLEs come with colour correction filters which can do basic changes. However I recommend using Synthetic Aperture's Color Finesse, as it runs as a free plugin in Adobe After Effects and is an extremely powerful tool.

Color Finesse software

2. Primary

The first step of colour correction is to set the black, grey and white. In effect this is like doing a camera white balance - you are telling the software what is pure white and black and can be used to correct an incorrect white balance. This is also an opportunity to crush blacks (make them darker) and to check levels -making sure the colour and luminance are within safety levels. You may also need to adjust the brightness of the image.

3. Secondary

Once the the whites and blacks and are all consistent you can then change the feel of the image with either broad colour changes or subtle colour replacement. A common Hollywood colour grade is teal and orange (check an interesting article on this 'virus' here ( but also the Matrix green or the 'Saving Private Ryan' bleach bypass.

The teal and orange 'virus'

In our film the most notable secondary colour correction were the day for night shots. Otherwise most other grading was for continuity.

1 comment:

  1. Color correction by using color gels, or filters, is a process used in stage lighting, photography, television etc......
    photo correction