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7 Tips for HD Color Correction and DSLR Color Correction

Color correction is just one step of the entire filmmaking process…but oh, what a difference it can make. You can take average footage and really make it pop, sing and enhance the viewing experience of your project. If you have excellent footage, then the sky is the limit. You can also make images look garish, ugly and destroy all the hard work the crew did to capture those images on the day of the shoot. The challenges and choices are many and it comes with great responsibility if you are the one applying the Color Correction and Color Grade. In the indie film world, jobs are more often merged and unified and Color Correction is more and more falling into the hands of the Editor. The smaller the budget and tighter the deadline…the more often this becomes true. Shane asked me to take this opportunity and pass on some tips and tricks I have learned over the years of Coloring features, shorts, ads, music videos and documentaries. I choose to use Adobe CS5.5 for my Color post work and bounce between After Effects, Photoshop and Premiere as I love the seamless integration it provides. I am ecstatic to be integrating Speedgrade into my workflow as it will be part of the upcoming CS6 release. That said…the tips I would like to share with you are applicable to all Color Correction software.

To get on the same page, let’s quickly go over some terminology that clarifies what is what in this realm.

COLOR CORRECTION is the process where every clip is manually tweaked to get a good exposure and balance of light. Each clip is adjusted to match color temperature to a predefined choice for each scene. This tedious and mechanical process is essential and in its own way, an art form. The use of SCOPES (Waveform, Vectroscope, Parade) is critical to this step and luckily most NLE’s and Grading software have them built-in. Without them you are literally flying blind and solely trusting your eyes, which have to adjust to room light ambience, fatigue, funky monitors and other factors constantly. Trust the SCOPES and let them guide you into accurate and creative decision making.

COLOR GRADING is the creative process where decisions are made to further enhance or establish a new visual tone to the project through software including: introducing new color themes, re-lighting within a frame, films stock emulations, color gradients and a slew of other choices. Being that this is purely creative, there is no wrong or right…only what the DP, director and colorist feel is appropriate for the story. It can be subtle and invisible or over-the-top and uber-stylized. Therein lies the challenge…The challenge of choices. The tools available are so numerous, powerful and often free (Davinci Resolve Lite!) that you have no excuse not to explore these options further before you embark on the Grading journey.

LIFT-GAMMA-GAIN / SHADOWS-MIDTONES-HILIGHTS / BLACKS-MIDS-WHITES
These are the three interchangeable assignments used to describe what portion of the image you will be working with. Every program uses one of the 3 naming conventions above, but in essence they are all the same. Even when working with LEVELS or CURVES, you rely on numericals but still have 3 sliders (at least) to make your adjustments. With these 3 controls, you can mold images almost at will.

There are so many different elements to Color Correction that trying to fit it all into one blog would be futile. I would like to focus on several specific tips that will allow the indie filmmaker to be as effective as possible in creating imagery that will help serve the story. I would like to thank Michael Evanet, the director of “HWY”, for allowing me to share his footage for this blog. I just finished editing and Color Correcting his film.

TIP #1 – SHOOT WITH A FLAT OR LOG PROFILE
Shane has learned over his extensive research and testing of every profile available that choosing a flat profile will allow you to capture as much information as possible into the camera. When I shoot on the Canon 5D mkii, I like to use Technicolor Cinestyle or Canon Neutral with minimal sharpness and contrast. I’m also about to test the Similaar Flaat profiles that just became available in four different flavors. The camera companies often have stock profiles that look contrasty and rich in camera but when analyzed on a monitor, you will have crushed blacks and blown-out highlights. That is information that is gone forever and you cannot get it back. We, as filmmakers with the tools in our hands, cannot accept stock anything! Just as auto anything on the camera is a recipe for disaster, stock profiles are for rank amateurs. Tweak away!

Click the image to view high resolution.

Click the image to view high resolution.

TIP #2 – TRUST THE WAVEFORM, VECTROSCOPE and PARADE SCOPES
In PREMIERE, go to the WINDOW tab and choose WORKSPACE and COLOR CORRECTION. Push the little RGB BUTTON on the bottom right of any window. This will reveal the SCOPES and more.  Waveform=Luminance. Vectroscope=Chrominance. Parade=Red,Green,Blue values. I can’t stress enough how critical and essential it is to use these tools. Once you embrace the SCOPES, you will be confident to plow through footage and have instant visual feedback to confirm you are making the right decisions. I won’t broach the calibrated monitor issue that is always lurking ($$$) and will just say that understanding and trusting the SCOPES will get you 95% of the way home. Grab a Matrox Mini and use that to calibrate any LCD TV if you’re in a pinch. This includes finishing projects for broadcast or passing QC for distribution.  I’ve on-lined four indie features on Final Cut Pro using only SCOPES that all passed QC the first time around.  I was sweating bullets…but survived! Adobe makes it even easier for me now.

Click the image to view high resolution.

Click the image to view high resolution.

TIP #3 – ORDER OF OPERATIONS
To maintain image quality and to preserve as much info as possible, it’s important to do things in the proper order.  Just as you wouldn’t ice a cake before you bake it, when you apply an effect is critical.  I have always achieved great results using Stu Maschwitz’s advice. Doing Color Correction on your footage in this order will help you maintain extremely high quality in the interaction of all the effects you use.  Not all steps are needed for every shot but in case you have to use them all, here they are:

1. Remove artifacts and de-noise.
2. Balance your shots by adjusting BLACKS/MIDS/WHITES, SATURATION and WHITE BALANCE.
3. Relight within a shot using power windows or masks.
4. Add gradients, diffusion and other lens filters.
5. Add vignettes
6. Grade your images
7. Simulate a film stock of your choice
8. Resize and sharpen

Click the image to view high resolution.

Click the image to view high resolution.

TIP #4 – THE FAST COLOR CORRECTER EFFECT in PREMIERE is 32 BIT, EASY AND EFFECTIVE
This video effect is a great starting point to tackle any shot. This one effect will allow you in REAL-TIME to address levels, saturation, tinting of the image, white balance and more. The shot below shows how I added contrast by raising the input black slider and lowering the white input slider. I used the color wheel and dragged towards orange to counteract the blue in the original image. You can also use the White Balance dropper to achieve an accurate starting point…but I preferred in this case to Tint the whole image towards orange and approximate a 1950’s film look.  I boosted saturation by a healthy 40% to make the image pop. Finally, a 2.35 matte was added to approximate the old Cinemascope aspect ratio.

Click the image to view high resolution.

Click the image to view high resolution.

TIP #5  -  ADJUST YOUR LIFT/SHADOWS/BLACKS FIRST
By adjusting your BLACKS first, you get a baseline started to balance your image. I like working from the bottom up and getting my BLACKS just kissing 0 IRE on the WAVEFORM. I then push the WHITES up to expand my image and get some contrast into it. Finally, I tweak the MIDS as needed. You will notice that moving the BLACKS or WHITES up or down will affect the entire WAVEFORM so there is a give and take dance as you work back and forth. MIDS do not affect the BLACKS or WHITES too much and that is why you should work with them last. Lastly, if you raise MIDS, you will lose overall saturation to the image, so compensate by bumping up the SATURATION to keep the colors popping.

Click the image to view high resolution.

Click the image to view high resolution.

TIP #6 - MIDS ARE WHERE FACES LIVE
MIDS are where the skin tones live and you can really make a face pop by raising the MIDS after you have a good balanced image. Sometimes it feels easy to raise the EXPOSURE in Premiere or After Effects to brighten a face or scene…but that raises all the levels evenly and will ultimately not be as effective as separately adjusting the 3 zones. A good IRE for a properly exposed face is 60-70 IRE on the WAVEFORM.  If you raise the MIDS too much, you will introduce the beast of digital noise, so use judicially!

Click the image to view high resolution.

Click the image to view high resolution.

TIP #7 – Look for the FLESH LINE on the VECTROSCOPE to see how far off your skin tone is. On the 3-Way Color Corrector effect, or on a plug-in like Colorista, you can change the specific zone of color where the flesh tones live. By adjusting the color of the MIDS wheel you can introduce the proper hues into a face that need tweaking. Move the wheel in the direction of the color you need more of in your face. Watch the section of skin tone move until it lines up with FLESH LINE. An interesting note is that the FLESH LINE is accurate for all races and skin tones. We all share the same skin pigment that registers as numeric FLESH color. Proper WHITE BALANCING earlier will make this a minor but still important adjustment.  If you are going for a natural look, no one likes a pink, red or green face. SATURATION should be dialed in at this point to give a natural look to the flesh tone. Here’s a subtle example of adjusting for skin…and an overt example for comparison.  Neither is right or wrong….it’s all up to what feels right for that moment.

Click the image to view high resolution.

Click the image to view high resolution.

Click the image to view high resolution.

Click the image to view high resolution.

I hope that I was able to pass on some helpful knowledge and that you learned at least one thing you didn’t know before you read this. There are infinite ways to approach Color Correction and the best thing is…no one way is the best. You don’t need every plug-in known to man, a 4k projector and a $20,000 control surface to color correct. You only need time, the simplest effects and a sense of wonder and excitement. Feel free to push the footage around and see how it responds. What may look like a mistake on one shot could be the secret sauce you need for a completely different shot. Experiment and enjoy!

VASHI NEDOMANSKY

To inquire about my editing and post services or if you have any questions, please contact me at:

vashi@me.com
310.526.1400
www.vashivisuals.com

Author: Vashi

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250 Comments

  1. I especially enjoyed tip #3 Order of Operations. A few simple steps in the right order and – presto – beautiful “film”. I’ll keep this article bookmarked!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Carl! Glad you enjoyed the post. The Order of Operations really makes a difference in preserving quality.

      Post a Reply
      • Hey Vashi–

        Say you have a clip where you need to do everything listed in the order of operations, from denoising to relighting, to grading, to adding a lens flare, vignette, etc. Would you consider doing something like denoising, and getting your lift/gamma/gain set, then rendering a file to do the grade and effects on in AE? Or would you just layer all of those things in the proper order and eat the long render time?

        Post a Reply
        • Hi MJ. Another good question. A couple things to think about…hopefully each shot won’t need all the steps necessary. De-noising is render heavy but most of the other steps can be done in realtime. Each shot has to have a different de-noise recipe baked into it…but not every shot should be noisy if shot properly. I would stack all the steps in After Effects if possible and eat the renders. With a good amount of RAM it shouldn’t be that much of a hit. Another option is to do send the sequence to Davinci Resolve LIte, which will run realtime if you have the minimum video card(s) in your editing system. I don’t like baking in half the effects then adding on as you lose a generation and then if a better de-noise solution becomes available or if you want more or less of that effect….its too late. Try to keep the effects available for tweaking until the final render. That’s just my take…but I’m sure there are multiple solutions to the optimal workflow.

          Post a Reply
          • Hi! Great tips, thanks.
            About the order of operations, if you have to do some composing ( like a sky replacement or set extension, would you color correct first or do all vfx in the beginning?

    • My pleasure Patrick! Hope you get use some of the info in your work.

      Post a Reply
    • Thanks Jorge! Feels good to share the knowledge…

      Post a Reply
  2. Thank you soo… much for posting this Shane, you always come-up with informative content. Can’t wait to watch “Act Of Valor” take care.

    GOD Bless

    Post a Reply
    • Didier Clermont, you are so welcome and thank you for your kind words. HOOOOOYAAAAAH!!!

      Post a Reply
  3. Thanks Vashi. Step 3 was super useful.

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you Oli! It really is a great reference list to help maintain maximum quality in your images.

      Post a Reply
  4. Hey shane, Im a little confused when it comes to picture styles. I’ve tested various picture styles under controlled lighting, and while there are all different I have no Idea which ones are technically better?
    I’ve also been worried about how cinestyle cut off parts of the information.
    I am courious to see what you think of Flaat and how it compares to cinestyle.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Andrew! For my take on the picture style situation…I use Neutral with Shane’s settings, Cinestyle with full color work after and Flaat 2 as my main three options. Flaat 2 gives me wonderful skin tones and a little more dynamic range than Neutral without all the post work of Cinestyle. Each style has its benefit but between the 3 I can cover all my shooting situations. I hope that helps…

      Vashi

      Post a Reply
  5. Nice article!
    Do you grade hdslr footage on premiere directly from the h264 file canon gives you or go into a 10 bit format? If so, which one?
    Thanks.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for the comment Dan! On my own work ,I edit directly from the native h.264 in Premiere and After Effects. Most effects applied to the h.264 footage is processed in 32-bit and maintains the highest level of quality from an 8-bit source. If you are close in-camera to what you need for the final image, I personally don’t feel you need 10-bit…but the Pro Res, Cineform or DPX options are there if you really need to get aggressive with your color work or need the extra range it provides.

      Post a Reply
      • Mmm, I have to question this with regard to Canon MOV’s due to the metadata in the header of the native camera files that appears to force NLE’s to sqeeze the luma into 16 – 235 at import into the NLE. So immediately the levels are not as shot in camera.

        If anyone is interested checking this here’s a few links to small file size test files to check handling in the NLE:

        http://www.yellowspace.webspace.virginmedia.com/fullrangetest.zip

        Screenies of Premiere CS5 handling of above test files.

        http://www.yellowspace.webspace.virginmedia.com/CS5.zip

        And if you do experience the same and would like to compare a native Canon MOV and remuxed version of file, a dropbox link with sample files and readme. 185MB. :-(

        http://dl.dropbox.com/u/74780302/Vashi.zip

        Vashi, if you have time I’d be very interested to here your thoughts on the dropbox files, as to whether you see any differences, improvements etc with regard to grading the samples. Not that the image is particularly good, pre Cinestyle or FLAAT days, Neutral, 0 sharpness, contrast -4, saturation -2.

        With regard to Cinestyle PS as it’s LOG appearance, shadow levels are captured to 8bit level 16 upwards, ie: lifted. The files are still flagged full range so on import into the NLE they get lifted again in the luma squeeze to about level 32.

        It would be great to be able to compare say a sample of C300 LOG, 5D mkII Neutral flat and 5D mkII Cinestyle all shot at same exposure with the intent to cut together to see what effect the luma squeeze has. I know from the C300 native MXF’s I’ve looked at they have been shot full luma range and they don’t squeeze in the NLE. Only h264 off Canons / Nikons do due to full range flag.

        Thanks for a great article btw.

        Post a Reply
  6. grade HDSLR footage like that and you will have have an ocean of artifacts and heavy banding. HDSLR footage just aint built for that, sadly. don’t matter much when outputting for web, but looks quite ugly when burned to bluray and viewed on a large full hd screen.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Joe. Which method were you referring to that causes the artifacts and banding? I’ve burned plenty HDSLR footage to Blu-ray and have seen countless films shot on the 5D that not only held up great on the big screen. Let me know your thoughts! thanks…

      Post a Reply
  7. Thanks for the tips.

    The first thing I do is checking the white balance, I lift the Shadows at about 20 and bring down the Whites at around 60, and then I check on the waveform how the top and bottom of the RGB channels look like. I can then correct it using the 3 wheels.

    I’ve discovered Davinci Resolve, which is now free (there is a paid version but for DSLR the free on is perfect) and I use it now for all my color correction and grading. It’s an amazing tool and I prefer to have a dedicated app to do the color work. It’s a lot easier to jump from clip to clip, to match clip and you can do so many things with it. I export my DSLR sequence from Premiere Pro directly to Resolve and then back again when I’m done. Resolve can read h264 files, so you don’t need to convert the files before putting them in Resolve. You can add a 2.35 matte directly in resolve, the tracker is amazing (you can track a face that is moving and do a color correction only on that part of image, you can change settings during the play of a clip, to compensate for exposure if the camera is entering a room for example). Well, it has opened a new creative world for me.

    Post a Reply
    • I agree! Davinci Resolve Lite is a powerful tool that everyone should try out. The price is right too! What do you convert your h.264 native into before you go into Resolve?

      Post a Reply
      • Nothing! Resolve can read your native h.264 files and you can grade them in real time! I’m just getting my feet wet with Resolve, but so far am really impressed. It is picky about other files though. For instance, Resolve will not read an h.264 file produced by Premiere with a default mp4 wrapper.

        Post a Reply
        • Hi Chris,
          thanks for all this very useful information.
          Could you please describe exactly how you export you h.264 material and put it into Davinci Lite?
          Thanks

          Post a Reply
          • “your” not “you”

  8. This is very useful information!! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m about to start grading my latest short film ‘Host’ (shot on the RED EPIC) in Adobe and am so glad I came across this page before starting.

    Thanks again,

    Danny

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Danny! Glad to hear you picked up a couple pointers and I hope it helps you on the color grade. 5K render times! Watch out!

      Post a Reply
  9. I’d love to see a video tutorial explain how to use and what exactly are WAVEFORM, VECTROSCOPE and PARADE SCOPES.

    Post a Reply
      • Hi Maxi. I hope Weston’s link helped you out. The scopes really give you great and accurate feedback to nail your final image. You can literally color correct straight off the scopes without even seeing the image once you wrap your brain around them. And once you have to deliver for broadcast or feature films you will appreciate their necessity and power even more. They are a must learn.

        Post a Reply
    • also: I originally made them for my own use, so they’re very tightly taylored for my T2i; I guess you’d like to use them most on 5D2; if you like them, we can try to make a version that is better taylored for the 5D2 (or the 1DX, if you’re moving to that)

      Post a Reply
      • This story is leaving the front page soon, and I still haven’t heard back from your tests with Flaat. I’m worried that maybe you didn’t, but I’ll ask: did you like my little babies?

        Post a Reply
        • Flaat 2 is now one of my top 3 styles that are on all of my 5Dmkii cameras. The skin tones are wonderful and the exposure and dynamic range are very close to my final image in the camera. Thanks again for sharing Samuel!

          Post a Reply
    • Flat 2 is already on my styles ! Thanks.

      Post a Reply
  10. Very informative as always, thanks a lot sir. However, I do have one question, when you give a video a color tint in grading like the famous green shadows and yellow highlights, is it okay that the parade channels will be misaligned and sometimes a channel will be overblown? or do I still have to figure how to realign them even when the shot has a stylistic tint? in short, does the footage fail the test if the channels in the parade don’t align perfectly?

    Post a Reply
    • Good question Bob. When the parade channels are misaligned, it just means that the color balance of the red, green and blue values are at different values. The higher the color channel appears in its section of the parade, the more intense that color is. If any of the colors reach past the top or bottom of the chart, you have exceed chroma limit for broadcast legality. You will have to pull back those colors or cap them with a filter. For your other question, if all 3 channels are aligned evenly…that only means you have an equal distribution of the colors. It will still be illegal if goes above or below the limits. Hope that helps!

      Post a Reply
      • Thanks a lot Vashi, I guess the colors don’t have to be even, they only have to be below the limit therefore, I hope I’m right,m thanks a lot for the info : )

        Post a Reply
  11. Thanks for this.
    What do you use to Denise in PP?

    Wayne

    Post a Reply
    • Good question Wayne. I like to use NeatVideo or Magic Bullet Denoiser in After Effects. Don’t apply too much as skin starts to turn “plasticky” and unrealistic.

      Post a Reply
  12. Shane, Thank you so much not only for this post, but ALL of your posts. I’m new to the technical, and creative demands of being my own DP / cinematographer. And also since I just bought the canon 5d mark ii to make shorts with, you have been an invaluable resource of amazing information. Thank you so much and hope to be able to hire you someday for a film :P

    Post a Reply
    • Brett Williams, thank you so much for those kind words and all your support. You are very welcome and I look forward to working with you as well. Keep up the hard work. Stay passionate, never say die, be excellent.

      Post a Reply
  13. Fantastic blog as always. This site is such a great film community resource.
    Thanks again

    Best Wishes

    Lliam

    Post a Reply
    • Very kind words Lliam! Thanks for the comment. It feels good to share with other filmmakers.

      Post a Reply
  14. Amazing post! It’s great to have the process laid out like this!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Kris! There is so much to color correction, but I felt it important to focus on tips that you can use everyday, no matter what the project.

      Post a Reply
  15. This is the post I’ve been looking around for. Very helpful and informative! Thanks for the post.

    Post a Reply
  16. I echo Lawrence’s comments; this is the post I have been looking for, too. I do not have aspirations to work in Hollywood, but want my videos to look their best, and want to be able to make adjustments on purpose and understand the concepts. This is the best explanation of color correction and color grading that I have seen. I made my own notes from it, which always helps me dig in and remember things. Looking forward to putting this new understanding to work… thanks very much!

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you Mark for your post! I’m so glad you took away some knowledge and get to use it in your work. The principles are the same for Hollywood films as for any video shoot. Make it look great Mark!

      Post a Reply
  17. This is a great post! I throughly enjoyed reading it. I must say that i did learn a great deal from this. Currently I’m a film student and i just got out of editing class last month and they didn’t teach us color correction. One of the instructors kind of dipped into Final Cut’s Color but I feel that this post was a lot more helpful than what the instructor briefly talked about in my editing class. I personally didn’t like Color as i’m more of an Adobe guy. I have found out that Adobe’s color correcting effects to be more detailed and easier to use. I pretty much learned it on my own just playing around with it. The one thing that really caught my eye was in tip 6 i didn’t know that skin tones live in the 60 to 70 IRE range that was something that I didn’t know. This post will definitely help me with my future projects. once again thanks so much. :)

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Robert! Glad you took something away from the post and let me know if you have any questions in the future!

      Post a Reply
  18. Dear Vashi

    I don’t know how to thank you for this great post, its simple, clear, and a must need for everyone to start learning color grading.

    I wish you can do a video tutorials for important Tips and how to solve problems that may face us in color correction or grading.

    What we need also is to learn how to achieve a Creative style for our footage. I heard that there are styles that are considered as standard, i wish you can teach us some of these techniques and styles.

    Thank you again and again for this great post.

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you Zlad for your awesome comments. The great thing about creative style is that it’s different for each and every project and there is no right or wrong. If it looks good…it is! That is the only rule. Best of luck!

      Post a Reply
  19. I was waiting for the post like this for years!!!! Thank you very much, Shane! amazing blog!

    Post a Reply
    • My pleasure Alexander! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Post a Reply
    • Sasha, you are so welcome. Vashi rocked this baby out! Thanks for the support

      Post a Reply
  20. Vashi, excellent tutorial, I love the way you teach things. Thanks a lot.
    A question with your permission:
    Do you use power windows, trackers,etc very often with the dslrs footage?
    I ask this because all the cinematography masterpieces that we love and atempt to imitate did not use such techniques.
    What is your opinion.
    Thanks

    Post a Reply
    • I believe in lighting properly on the set so you can capture what your creatively envisioned. That said…power windows and trackers are now free and powerful (Davinci Resolve Lite, etc) and can be used as needed to improve upon what you shot. Sometimes you run out of time and can’t relight for a shot on set. Sometimes the EVF or external monitor runs out of batteries or craps out. Sometimes you forget to check the historgram before you hit record…or you are in a flat camera profile that misleads your eye visually and you set the wrong exposure. All these reasons and the tumultuous nature of shoot days can lead to a blown or technically imperfect shot. We have the tools to fix that now in post and h.264 DSLR footage can be pushed around and tweaked to correct that…just not as far as other codecs or RAW files from other cameras. Get it close in camera and triple check your settings! In regards to the cinematography masterpieces of the past…I’m sure IF they had the option, they would have tweaked within the frame a bit too!

      Post a Reply
  21. Thank you so much! Just brilliant! Great for those of us who are making the switch from FCP to Premiere – just made understanding the Color Grading process in Premiere that much easier!!! -

    Post a Reply
    • My pleasure Kyle! Glad you took something away from my post. Keep learning and have fun with it!

      Post a Reply
  22. HI, great post. I was wondering, How exactly did you put the 2:35 matte on there? As well as on Act of Valor. What was the workflow to convert from 16×9 to 2:35 there?

    Post a Reply
    • In Premiere, I import a 2.35 mask made from a Photoshop file (png). I then place this image file on a track above the footage and extend it for the duration of the project. This gives me the aspect ratio that I prefer and also allows me to reframe vertically (up or down) to adjust my composition. I’m sure Shane will chime in but I know that AOV was shot 16×9 in camera then cropped in post using a similar technique.

      Post a Reply
      • Thanks for the quick feedback! So would you export a 16×9 file? I mean, once you have used that png. file to help with the re-framing, is your export cropped to say 1920×817, or do you stay with your 16×9 aspect ratio and just have the bleck bars be part of the file?

        Post a Reply
        • Hey, Payton and Vashi. I was wondering how to do this in Premiere too. I’ve done a mask before, but that seemed unnecessary being as FCP has the widescreen filter with a vertical positioning slider that won’t allow you to drag the footage too far into the open space between the 2:35 bars. I thought I was just missing some filter somewhere but apparently not. I switched to Premiere, but I REALLY miss using that FCP filter! Anyway, YouTube, Vimeo, television, DVD players, and projectors can all handle the 817 crop (in my limited experience), but I’ve run into sizing errors within the NLE when trying to combine previous 2:35 cropped footage and 16:9 footage in the same sequence. It’s easy to give the NLE a wrist slap for that (telling it not to stretch that footage to fill the 16:9 frame) but a bit of a nuisance. So, if you think you’re going to pull the completed project into something 16:9 in the future, it’s easiest to just leave the bars and export a 16:9 in my opinion.

          Post a Reply
          • Good question Page. In Premiere I use a 2.35 png matte that I overlay on the video track above my footage. This allows me to interact and reframe footage just like I used to do in FCP but with more range.

  23. What exactly does the matrox do?

    Post a Reply
    • The Matrox Mini i use allows me to use any LCD TV as a color accurate monitor via HDMI out from the Matrox box. It allows for 1:1 pixel accuracy and comes with Calibration software to set up your LCD TV. This allows me to have a 42″ client monitor available in my edit bay to give a very accurate broadcast final image available directly out of Premiere.

      Post a Reply
  24. Hi, nice post!

    I was wondering how you de-noise in the beginning…
    Do you run every single H.264 file through After Effects, apply Neat Video and render out as ProRes?

    Thanks,
    Dave

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Dave. I use Denoiser or Neat Video on a shot by shot basis depending on visible noise of each shot. With Denoiser I can do it directly in Premiere or After Effects and Neat Video is only in After Effects. The render out depends on my final delivery format. It could be DPX for film out or projection, Pro Res for broadcast or h.264 for web delivery. Hope that helps!

      Post a Reply
  25. Congratulations for the post!
    I am Brazilian and here we enjoyed your blog:)
    Question, what is the best cost versus benefit in relation to VGA Video Card?
    Make and model.
    RAM, I use Kingston memory modules (4g) have a total of 20 gigs in 1333, what do you recommend to work flat on the AP and AE?

    thank you

    Post a Reply
    • Hello Brazil! In my 2 Mac Pro edit stations I use a Nvidia gt 120 and GTX 285 in one….and a gt 120 and GTX 470 card in the other. Both of my systems enable the CUDA and Mercury Performance in Premiere and both of them also power my Davinci Resolve 8.2 LIte with unlimited nodes for amazing color correction potentials. I have 12g RAM in my older Mac Pro and 20g in my 8 core. I hope that helps!

      Post a Reply
  26. Hey Shane, I know you put a ton of time in this post, and it’s an incredible post! This is extremely helpful. Sometimes, for me, it’s kinda hard to figure it out with just reading and pictures. I would love to be able to color correct my footage to look like that first picture with the guy and the car behind him (By the way that looks incredible.) Do you think you could do a video tutorial with Premiere Pro on how you got to that point? This post has helped greatly, but it’s just a request that I am mentioning that would help me alot. I learn alot more by following along with you in a video than just looking at pictures. If not, I understand, This post has helped me already. but if it’s possible, that would be great. -Thanks-

    Post a Reply
    • Justus, you are so welcome. Thank you for your support. That will be a huge commitment. I am a working cinematographer. I don’t run a blog that talks about the work I should be doing, I do it, then write about it. That would be something that Adobe would have to generate. We will continue create, educate and innovate. For now this is all I got. Peace

      Post a Reply
  27. I learned a lot from this post!
    Thank’s Vashi and Shane.
    I would also like to watch such as Justus how professionals use Premier Pro for color correction!
    But if you can,understand it,this is enough for now :-)

    Greatings for Serbia!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks DRaganche for your comment! I’m glad you learned some good stuff from the post! All the best to you….
      Vashi

      Post a Reply
  28. Excellent article!! I have a question though: when correcting a color cast looking at the rgb parade… The lines have to be aligned or it depends on the fact that the shot has more information of a color than another -ex a blue sky-? I’ve found that correcting certain shots trying to align the RGB parade I end with unnatural skin colors… I’m a bit confused by this!!

    Post a Reply
    • You only want the portions of the image that are supposed to be neutral to line up…It’s a particular skill to recognize in the parade the parts the scope that are supposed to be representations of neutral colors, especially because every single shot and set up is unique. After a while, though, you get the hang of it.

      Post a Reply
  29. Some people say;Premiere pro HDSLR native edit doesn’t give 10-bit color space..Is it true?
    Thank you!

    Post a Reply
    • Hi FLAIN. Canon HDSLR footage is 8-bit but once it’s dropped into a timeline…Premiere will apply many effects in 32-bit float to gain you full access to the most color space available to h.264 footage. The other option is to convert the HDSLR footage to 10-bit Pro Res and edit that but that takes time and much more hard drive space. I cut/color everything natively in Premiere and have had wonderful results. I hope that helps!

      Post a Reply
  30. Hello Vashi and Shane, thanks for this inspiring post.
    I got a question not far away from this topic, it´s about black and white shooting.
    Shane told us in the blog that it would be better to shoot with the monochrome PS, for better lattitude.
    Vashi, did you find it better for grade? and Do you tint the footage to get an old look?.
    I find that the monochrome is too cold and plastic and I would like to get a vintage look, How could I achieve this?
    Thanks Masters.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Ignacio. I defer to Shane on this one as he is the HDLSR master. I’ve edited and colored both color and BW footage that was delivered BW for final image…each has its own challenge but from discussions with other colorists…they prefer color footage so they can have more options in making the final BW grade which could have Sepia or Duo-tone or a number of other BW tinted final looks. Good luck!

      Post a Reply
  31. I cannot express enough how great this article is. It’s been of great help. Thank you very much. However, I do have questions. I still don’t really get the waveforms entirely.
    First, I use Premiere Pro, so, can I simply use the Luma Corrector effect to fix the luminance or do I have to use many other effects? Or should I stay away from that effect?

    Moreover, where should my final IRE levels be at? I heard from 7.5 to 100 was the normal, although another version says from 0 to 100 is what you should be comfortable with.

    Sorry if you covered these questions already and somehow I did not get it.

    Thank you.

    Post a Reply
    • Good question Shikai. For basic color correction in Premiere, I recommend the Fast Color Correction to keep things in real time and have accesss to luminance, saturation, contrast and color cast. In terms of IRE…0 to 100 is the normal range you need to stay inbetween. 7.5 is a step-up which refers to analog only video images and I doubt that is in use for anyone using HDSLRs or any other HD format. I hope that helps!

      Post a Reply
  32. Thank you Vashi for this fantastic article!

    Post a Reply
    • My pleasure Rafa! Glad you enjoyed it. Color is a never-ending quest!

      Post a Reply
  33. Hi Vashi,

    Could you elaborate a bit more on the skintones needing to fall between 60 and 70 IRE? Mine look perfectly fine (hit the skintone line), levels are correct, etc. But when I isolate the skintone with the crop tool, it seems to be stretched between 20 and 50 IRE on the YC Waveform. Unless I’ve misunderstood what you meant about making it hit 60-70?

    Post a Reply
    • Dre,

      Thanks the question…let’s see if I can elaborate. My 60-70 IRE reference would apply to a properly exposed face in a well lit scene. This could be an exterior with sunlight or interior with ample lights hitting the subject. The face could have have darker regions that fall into shadow (almost to 0 if I chose) or highlights that can hit up to 90 IRE. The 60-70 is a target that will allow you to push it around in post if needed. If you isolate to small a zone with your crop you will get a specific IRE but not an overall for the whole face…if we are using a face. Feel free to send me a screengrab of the image/video you are using for this measurement. If your skintones are between 20-50 IRE…without looking at it…I would guess you have your subject in a low lit situation with not much hightlight on the skin? If you are using a flat profile that compresses both top and bottom that will squash your measurements into the middle as well. I use 60-70 as a guide to know I have nice exposure but every situation is different. With DSLRs and h.264 8-bit compression…I like to have ample light or at least a good spread of light values…even if that is from a small LED or practical. The wider the spread of light…even in low light…will give you a more pleasing image and be easier to work with in post. I hope that helps…and sorry if I rambled!

      Post a Reply
  34. As I continue to grow my skills as an editor and a film maker, resources like this have proven to be priceless. This is by far on of the easiest to read, and most practical guides for getting started with color correction. Thank you so much!

    Post a Reply
    • My sincere pleasure David! I’m glad to help out and share some knowledge. Pass it on!

      Post a Reply
  35. this is the awesomest guide to color correction for a noob ive read in 20 years. thank you for finally explaining it to me.

    Post a Reply
    • Neo, thank you for your generous comment. You are too kind! I’m so glad anytime someone can learn something from my posts. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions in the future. You made my Monday extra bad ass!

      Post a Reply
  36. Man, you’re brilliant, that was really helpful, keep it up !!!

    Post a Reply
    • Abdelrahman, Thank you for your super kind words. I will keep it up and more to come!

      Post a Reply
  37. Thank you so much for this article! Love it!

    One Question though: do you denoise every shot even before doing your edit? right now i have a single dynamic Link for every cut to denoise it in AfterEffects using Denoiser II. Is there a less fragile Workflow?

    I would love to see a workflow on how to move your final edit into Speedgrade. There are some out there on how to work with speedgrade but no one talks about the best way to transfer it to Spededgrade.

    Keep it up!!

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Michael, thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed the article! In regards to denoising…I only start that process (and color correction) after I’ve locked my cut. So many things constantly change in the edit that if you start picture adjustments before a locked cut…it will bite you in the butt.

      I don’t denoise all my shots…just the trouble shots that stand out. Since each shot has its own inherent noise pattern, the level you find acceptable varies on each shot. It’s also dangerous to try to denoise every shot as you can lose resolution/sharpness in the pursuit of a perceived “perfect” image. Finally, since I like to add grain to my final product for a more organic look…I found out it also smooths over or negates a certain level of noise. So long story short…I just denoise the bad buggers.

      I have not used Speedgrade on a paying gig yet…still riding Colorista and other plug-ins for quick work and Davinci Resolve for larger or more intensive work. The Speedgrade workflow is very much like the Resolve method which is: 1.Load your media. 2.Load an EDL export from Premiere. 3.Conform your media to the EDL. 4.Export your final footage in the flavor of your choice. I will keep tabs on Speedgrade but am content with Resolve as of now. I’m sure the next upgrades for Speedgrade will make the integration more fluid for Premiere users.

      I hope this helps a bit and let me know if you have anymore questions!

      Thanks again!

      Vashi

      Post a Reply
  38. I might be a bit late joining the conversation but I have two questions regarding using an external monitor…

    * I edit on a 27″ imac but have an older 20″ imac which I hardly use…. is it possible / feasible to use this as a second colour correction monitor?

    * Using the Matrox MXO2 mini and hooking it up to a consumer LCD TV… are there any specific models of screen you should go for??

    Thanks for a great post… this knowledge will bring my work to another level.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Glenn, thanks for reading the blog and your kind words.

      I know one solution that is pretty elegant for hooking up another Mac and using it just as a second monitor. The program is Air Display ($19.99) and here is their website: http://avatron.com/apps/air-display

      It won’t give you a calibrated display but you can that second display to leave full scopes up there or use as a reference monitor to keep an output video image up there. Extra real estate is always welcome when you are color correcting!

      When using Matrox MX02 mini with a consumer LCD/LED TV…I look for 2 things that are absolutely necessary.
      1. 1080p playback…which luckily know comes with most TVs starting at 24″. I use a 47″ Vizio via a Matrox mini to my Mac Tower and it works fantastically. Matrox just released new drivers for OSX Lion and Adobe CS6 Suite…which is my basic set up.

      2. Make sure the TV does not scale to 1080…it should be native 1 x 1 pixel representation and be true 1080. Matrox mini lets you calibrate a TV that DOES scale the image…but you lose 3 of the 5 parameters that are used to calibrate the TV to broadcast specs.

      If you make sure you are aware of both of those points…you should be up and running with a viable, affordable, accurate coloring station.

      I hope that helps and let me know if you have further questions!

      All the best,

      Vashi Nedomansky

      Post a Reply
  39. Hi Vashi

    Nice article and conversation here. Congrats.
    Many time mentioned the Da Vinci Lite. And you mentioned you use Matrox Mini. How they cope together? Because i read Da Vici work only with Black Magic Extreme 3D. In this case how can you calibrate your monitor? And finally: why don’t you use Dreamcolor for calibrated monitor, or is cheaper and better other consumer LCD/plasma? Thx.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Katyi and thanks for the kind comments and questions. With Da Vinci Lite I use the included scopes inside it to make my grading decisions. The Matrox mini works with Premiere and After Effects for a calibrated output but not with Da Vinci (as of now…but who knows what will happen!). The Matrox Mini comes with calibrating software which is a 10+ step process to calibrate an external monitor/LCD/LED TV and has been spot on for me. I use Dreamcolor monitors on set and when I color for agencies or at various post houses but at home…I prefer my larger 46″ LED Vizio to display the image for clients and color in house. Between the scopes of Davinci and Premiere and After Effects…I’m always satisfied with my results and have always nailed QC for broadcast and air. (fingers crossed!) Dreamcolor prices have come down and it is on my list for purchase in the near future!…thanks again for your questions and I hope to have helped you out!

      Post a Reply
      • Vashi, in regards to your Vizio Led are you on a 60hz or 120hz. Is the 120 better for video or does it make it look like bad hd?Also, you use the vizio as your main monitor correct? Thanks again for this post. Huge help.

        Post a Reply
        • Hi Brian, thanks for your question and support of the blog. I do not use 120hz or any “Smoothing” function when I edit or watch films. It just doesn’t look right. The motion blur and cadence of 24 fps is magical and ethereal. I use the Vizio as my main output monitor in my edit suite. To be clear, I edit on 2 Apple Cinema Displays and at the same time, output an HDMI reference feed to the Vizio for the director/client to review. It mirrors my source or program panel in Premiere as needed. I hope that helps! All the best…

          Vashi Nedomansky

          Post a Reply
          • Thank you very much!

    • Hi, nice review.
      I did a short so far, 22min long.
      I’m thinking of buying a Panasonic GH2, because it’s a nice budget and resolution.
      I have Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, and the plugins Colorista, Looks, Neat Video and Mojo.
      How could I copy the film look?
      Should I just crush shadows or work with the midtons?
      Improve contrast or reduce it?
      Thanks

      Post a Reply
      • Thanks for the comment Lohanan…much appreciated. The film look is different aesthetically for every person but there are some traits that everyone registers as the feel of film.

        A nice wide spread with deep (not always crushed!) blacks and non-clipped whites will give a perceived sharpness and clarity that “feels” right. The midtones can then be dialed in to bring out the meat of the scene including skin tones of faces and the things you want to emphasize. A lot of commercials and films are using low contrast looks lately which is a different direction but also looks like film.

        Adding film grain to your footage will also add an organic feel and approximate some aspects of the film look. As will: vignettes, bloom in highlights, color casts and even 2.35 aspect masks that give a widescreen look to your 16:9 footage. The possibilities are literally endless!

        There are no right or wrong answers so choose the techniques that please you and even strive to set new standards for the term “the film look.”

        I hope that helps and best of luck!

        Post a Reply
  40. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Thank you – great tutorial! Really helpful info.

    Post a Reply
    • Neil! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate your words and I hope you learned at least 1 tip you didn’t know before! All the best…Vashi

      Post a Reply
  41. exactly what I have been looking for a guide with a guide…I can use this is my baseline for future edits and work from here. Great stuff… bookmarking and saving in multiple locations…just like a bank account backup. Thank you

    Post a Reply
    • Frankie…

      Thanks for the kind words and glad you enjoyed the article. The response has been fabulous and I’m just happy to share some of the knowledge I’ve learned over the years. Enjoy!

      Post a Reply
  42. Hi Vashi,
    First of all, thank you Vashi. I’ve been searching for such info for literally months now. I live in Nairobi and around here if youre not working with Apple no one takes you that serious. But Apple isnt affordable (tech-wise). You have shone light on how general these “hidden” methods are and for that I’m grateful. Just a last question, are there so far known and categorised types of color correction/grading especially for music videos (which is where I’m starting at for the moment :p)?

    Post a Reply
    • Radido,

      Thank you so much and I’m very glad you learned something from my article! Apple is expensive, but it’s just a tool. PC do the same work and export the same end product…often for a much cheaper cost. Remember…the client only sees the final image, not the process it took to get there!

      In terms of specific color grading for music videos…I find that in the 3 or 4 minutes you are trying to tell your story…I like to exaggerate the intensity of colors and really have some fun with it. There are no rules! Make it memorable and stylized and make strong decisions and stick to them. Super-saturated? Why not! Black and white for certain shots? Sure! Tell your story and make it stick in people’s mind. ENjoy!

      Post a Reply
  43. Amazing article, exactly what I was looking for. How about making a video version of it with some more hands on tips and tutorials, would be the best guide EVER!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words NonEx! I hope to have some more tutorials out soon. Stay tuned…

      Post a Reply
  44. Hi Vashi!

    First of all congratulations for your article, it’s amazing.

    I have a some questions: De-noise and sharpen a video… with what? A special plugin? After Effects? I know the de-noise plugin is called “Neat Video”, and sharpen mask with After Effects.

    What do you think about this?

    Thanks :)

    Post a Reply
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed my post David. You have some valid questions so let me try to illuminate. For my denoising work I use either Red Giant’s Denoiser 2 plug-in or as you mentioned…Neat Video. They are both solid options and can really save your footage from artifacts, blocky dark areas and general digital grain patterns.

      In terms of sharpening…every NLE has either a sharpen or unsharp mask filter effect. In my editing software of choice, Adobe Premiere CS6…I use the unsharp mask filter that one of the most knowledgable and accomplished gurus, Stu Maschwitz, has recommended…especially for DSLR footage. I use Unsharp Mask: Amount=120 and Radius=1.1 as an excellent starting point to pop the footage.

      My other choice for sharpening is using the “Pop” setting in Colorista II and dialing it up as needed. It adds nice contrast to give perceived additional sharpness and can be used in both the positive and negative direction to sharpen or soften.

      I hope this helps you out and you can get better results with your work!

      all the best,

      Vashi

      Post a Reply
      • Perfect! Thanks for your answer :) I will try it on my footage!

        All the best!

        Post a Reply
  45. Vashi
    Great no-nonsense article. How about a follow up article using Davinci Lite? Since SpeedGrade still doesn’t offer a true roundtrip solution, I don’t see what advantage it has over Resolve.

    I’ve tried doing all my CC in PPro, but for the type of short films I do, I find AE offers much more power, finesse, and options when it comes to CC and grading. The two major disadvantages with Dynamic linking are
    1) I find its a lot more CPU intensive
    2)It forces you to be a LOT more organized

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Jim B!

      Thanks for the comment and question. i’ve been using Resolve 8 for the last 6 months and just downloaded Resolve 9 a couple days ago.

      For quick color tweaks where I don’t need secondary color or power windows I stay in Premiere…but for any paid jobs or intensive work I have fallen in love with the ease and power of Davinci Resolve. I can kick out a Final Cut XML from Premiere or even a flattened file and use scene detection to cut it up.

      I’m very comfortable and fluid in Resolve and it really allows me to do anything I need. I also find that the real time playback is great for when the director or client is sitting in with me. I’ve used Speedgrade but right now I’m faster and more effective in Resolve.

      In terms of organization…I find that I have to be as organized as possible on any project as they inevitably become bigger and more clustered faster than you can image and at the end of the day…my bins and timelines can be look like a bomb went off. I always spend time at the end of the day to place items where they belong so that the next morning it doesn’t look like a tornado tore through my project.

      Each project has different needs and deadlines and prerequisites and I apply whatever tool I need to make it as painless as possible. As of now…I find Davinci Resolve my favorite color correction/grading tool and use it as much as I can. I look forward to the upgrades coming to Speedgrade and Premiere and Colorista so that they can help me finish my days quicker and smoother.

      I hope that helps and let me know if you have any more questions!

      all the best,

      Vashi Nedomansky

      Post a Reply

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