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Color Correction Made Easy

SpyderDatacolor

 

Part 1: Matching Sensors with Spyder Datacolor

When you are mixing formats and different lens types like I have done in the past on Need for Speed and recently on Fathers and Daughters, you need to have your color based on some type of brick and mortar foundation. I will take you through some very simple camera etiquette adjustments that will increase your speed in color correction and get you grounded.

“What is the Spyder Datacolor System?”

With the new digital age, many things have started to exit from the camera etiquette side. One of the first things I saw go away almost immediately was the light meter, then the color charts and grey scales. Both are needed and should not have an exit plan in your etiquette.

The Spyder Datacolor is my KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) recipe for color correction success. Many of you have asked me how I mix so many formats so seamlessly. You cannot tell what is Canon 5D, what is film, what is GoPro Hero 3, what was Cooke S4, what was Zeiss CP2, etc. I am going to take you through how I do that with this simple Spyder platform.

“What comes in the case”

The Spyder DataColor kit consists of:
Spyder4elite hd – Easy-to-Master Computer and Video Reference Display Calibration with Spyder4 sensor technology. Photographers and videographers can calibrate their desktop and laptop computer screens to photo and video editing standards, to save time, money and frustration. Custom tune for your studio’s ambient lighting. Match side by side displays.

TV and Video Reference Display Calibration allow hi-definition screen adjustment for accurate viewing of video, from production to final viewing. TVs and Reference Displays are more realistic with incredible highlight and shadow detail when properly adjusted.

This is the secret to your color correction process. Having a monitor that is calibrated with the ambient light levels that exist in the environment in which you are doing your color correction is so important. The calibration tool mixed with the color chart and cube are a one two punch for increasing your speed in your color correction environment and getting you immediately in the ZONE.
 
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Your calibration tool has to be connected to your computer as well as the viewing monitor.

“Motion Capture Work”

The powerful tools I use referenced below might seem bizarre to you but when I am in the color correction bay, the colorist is loving the cube as well as the color chart. Why?
 
Spydercube – The SMALL calibration and white balancing tool that makes a BIG impact on correct color temperature and exposure settings. Its unique multi-faceted design detects primary and secondary light sources in any situation. Portable, mountable, and extremely durable.

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This small cube is awesome. The grey, white, black and the little black hole have everything that you, as a colorist, need to balance your content. True black is so hard to achieve just off of color charts. Why? Because if the chart is kicked into the light a little, its value will change, which throws off your match. With this cube, the black hole gives you the only true black on the set.
 
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Spydercheckr – The professional, 48-color test chart. Durable, foldable, and tripod-mountable. Obtain quick, easy camera color correction with Spydercheckr software. Can be used for still and video work. Supports an increasing number of editing tools.

Spydercheckr
 
Color charts are such a pain in the neck to keep in good shape. The way they are packed into a plastic sleeve which sits in the AC’s camera bag, in the elements, allows them to be affected by rain, sun, etc. I find that the colors are never accurate. They have been muted by time and scraped, which reduces saturation. For a colorist, any slight difference in the color makes it unusable. For example, if the black color is greyed in any way from taking it in and out of your protective plastic case or if it is bleached by the sun, then it will affect your ability to match your color.

The Spyder Datacolor chart is in a tablet form. It opens and closes very easily and keeps the colors out of the elements and in perfect condition. This is huge. When I saw this, I was like, “This is brilliant.” It is small and will fit right into an AC’s AKS bag. The colors are exactly what we need with the new digital sensors. Why? Well, most color charts that are on the market are what you see on the right side of the DataColor chart. The colors that are very difficult to resolve are the subtle ones that are on the left side of the chart below.
 
Spyder Datacolor
 
It also comes with a 1/4 20” receiving screw which you can add a baby pin to so that you can quickly rig it into a c-stand. You could also slide the 1/4 20” internal bolt out of the tablet and you can screw this onto a baby pin. Either way, you are covered.
 

Canon C500

Canon C500

Spyder Datacolor
Spyder Datacolor

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“How I use it”

I use it to get my dailies colorist in the ball park. I am not a big on set color correction DP. I do not like to live in the black tent away from the actors and the director, spinning knobs and adjusting secondaries. Using the simple camera etiquette of a color chart on the beginning of your scene, placed in your lighting set up, is so helpful for the colorist to get in the zone. Once my colorist has the image balanced, he or she can slide the tone to warm or cool based on the notes that I provided.

I also use this system to balance different camera sensors or different lenses that I might be shooting with on the same camera. I pass the kinds of tests that I am sharing with all of you on to the colorist so he or she can see the different color shifts that each lens exhibits. With the use of the Spyder Color Chart, the colorist can make those necessary adjustments and build profiles for specific camera sensors and different lens manufacturers.
 
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Obviously, each sensor has its own characteristics and its own capture format. Some are softer; some are sharper, have a video look or are more saturated. Then you have their capture method. Some are in a Log C format, or C Log, or a 4K RAW format, 4:4:4 10 BIT. You name it. They are all different ways to capture your creation. Here is what I do. Once the scene is lit, I roll a little media on the Datacolor chart and the Cube static while I am lining the shot up with Second Team (the stand ins who are there to rehearse and get all your lighting and camera worked out) before the First Team, our actors, comes in. When I am happy with the light and right before I call First Team, I roll a little on the Datacolor chart and the Cube static. If it is a moving shot, I have the Second Team carry the cube with them on their journey.

This gives you, the colorist, a foundation to build on. By seeing the color chart and the cube in the environment, you can now match a Canon C500 with an Alexa, or an Epic with a BlackMagic Cinema Camera, or a Leica R with a Zeiss CP2. This will get you in the right pocket so that, with subtle tweaks, you can make it an exact match, which saves time and times is money. Right?

Camera Tech Specs:
Canon C500 PL Mount
Canon C300 EF Mount
Canon 5D MK III
BlackMagic Cinema Camera
GoPro Hero 3

Lens Tech Specs:
Canon 30-300mm Cinema Zoom
Canon CN-E 24mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm
Zeiss CP2s 21mm, 85mm
Leica R Mount 24mm, 90mm
Canon Lightweight Zoom 30-105mm

Support Tech Specs:
Letus BlackMagic Cinema Camera Cage
Element Technica Powered base for C500 and Cage system
Codex S Recorder @ 2K 10 BIT 4:4:4
O’Connor 20-60 Fluid Head
O-Connor 10-30HD Fluid Head
SmallHD DP-7 On-Board Monitor
SmallHD DP-4 EVF
Flanders Scientific CM250 24” Monitor

Lighting Specs:
2- 4’Baton Lights
2- 575 Watt ETC Pars with Medium Lenses
1- Kino Flo Celeb 200 with 90 degree grid
All lights supplied by Paskal Lighting

Music in videos below supplied by The Music Bed
GoPro/5DIII: Matthew Kidd: Somehow
C300/BMCC: Dexter Britain: Once Done Wrong
C500/BMCC: Aural Method: As Cities Danced In Feast
C300 vs 5DIII: Cedric Conti: Alone in Toyoko
 
lighting chart

“The Sensor Tests”

Canon C500

Canon C500

BlackMagic Cinema Camera

BlackMagic Cinema Camera

Canon C300

Canon 5D MK III

Canon 5D MK III

GoPro Hero 3

GoPro Hero 3

“A Telling Sign of How Powerful the Spyder Datacolor System Is”

I wanted to see how well this color chart system worked in the color bay. I had our colorist try to balance the BMCC (Blackmagic Cinema Camera) to a color corrected C500 set up. After 30 minutes of trying to get it somewhere in the zone, I stopped him. OK, now let’s use the Color Chart and cube to balance and match the BMCC. Within five minutes, he had it looking amazing and people were coming into the room and saying that there is no way that is the BMCC camera. One word describes that — WOW!!!!! I have to say, I love the look of the BMCC. The skin tones are incredible and alive in this test.
 
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Below, we have included some other cool tests that we did. I found the GoPro vs. the Canon 5D MK III interesting as well.
 
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I wanted to show you that I could get nice golden skin tones out of the BMCC in the warm studio lighting environment. You all had expressed that the BMCC in my other tests were a little pink. I had said that the red quality of the coating on the old Canon zoom played into this. In this studio test, I think we really knocked it out. We were able to color grade this in less than five minutes with the Spyder system.
 
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“How We Color Corrected It”

In the color bay at Light Iron Digital with our colorist Ian Vertovec, we lined up the color charts. We zoomed in and matched the size of the color chart, then flipped the other camera so that we had the exact same colors on both sides, which would look like this. Sorry about the iPhone pics, but I think you can quickly understand what we are up to.
 

BMCC vs C500

BMCC vs C500


 
By doing this, you really see immediately the color depth of the C500. Look at the out of focus red light. These are the same exposures and the C500 sees it beautifully as red. The BMCC cannot handle the over exposure so it sees it as a red ring with a hot over exposed center. Also, look at the BIT depth of the C500 with the color chart. The colors look nice and rich where the BMCC looks thin because of its too flat RAW file. Again, 45K price tag with the C500 vs 2K price tag with the BMCC.

The same goes for the Canon 5D MK III vs the C500. The 5D cannot handle the red light and its color BIT depth looks fairly thin next to the powerful C500, but it is 45K vs 3.5K in price.
 

Canon 5D MK III vs C500

Canon 5D MK III vs C500


 
The BIT depth with the Canon C300 vs the 5D MK III was very interesting. The red light again burned out in the center on both cameras, but the red donut was a completely different color. I felt the C300 had a little more depth in color and was more balanced than the 5D MK III.
 
Canon 5D MK III vs C300

Canon 5D MK III vs C300


 
Next week in part two, we will go into how the Spyder Color Management System helps you in matching different types of glass. We will be comparing Zeiss CP2s, Canon CPs, Canon Lightweight Zooms and Leica R mounts.

Buy the Spyder Datacolor System at B&H
 

Author: Shane

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28 Comments

  1. It looks like you missed a photo. You apologize for an iPhone photo of the zoomed in color chart but its not there.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for pointing that out, Wes. Got them added back in.

      Post a Reply
      • Hey Shane, love your blog.

        Have you had a look at the new Panasonic GH4 yet?

        Amazing images coming out of that camera.

        I’d love to see you test it as I imagine many more would too.

        Post a Reply
        • Ketzal,

          We will be doing a test with the GH4 soon. I’m having my assistant get all of the tools to test that baby to it’s full potential and rock it out. We will have a post to showcase what it can do sometime next month.

          Post a Reply
  2. Great article! Thanks Shane!

    Post a Reply
  3. Thanks Shane for your continued giving back to the filmmaking community. As an owner/operator I have found the information on your site as the school of practical experience versus a bunch of book knowledge. Thanks again!

    Post a Reply
    • Cliff,
      Thank you for your kind words and continued support. It’s great to hear that the blog doesn’t read like a book and that it speaks to everyone. I’m glad to hear that is a solid resource!

      Post a Reply
  4. Shane, if the black on the colour chart can shift in the light why doesn’t the same happen with the cube?

    Post a Reply
  5. Great write up as always Shane. It’s good to see this topic covered that appears unsexy however is actually quite important in the production pipeline.

    This is why we partnered with DataColor to release a version for our recorders.

    Thanks Shane!
    -Brooke | atomos.com

    Post a Reply
  6. Hi Shane,

    Have you tested 5DMKIII RAW video yet? The bit depth is very high in comparison with the H.264, would be interested to see how it matched up to the C500 once shooting in the RAW mode. RAW on the 5D is quite incredible quality for the price you pay for the camera.

    Post a Reply
    • We haven’t tested it fully yet here at HV, we plan to in the coming months ahead.

      Post a Reply
  7. Hi Shane,
    Do you have any preference between the spyder 4 and other calibrators like the calman c3 from Spectracal? Ive heard from numerous colorist who swear against the spyder due to inaccuracy compared to spectracal units, but I wanted to inquire as you seem to have extremely good results from it (specifically the Spyder 4 calibration unit). Def will be picking up the chart and cube, especially w Resolve 11s new chart feature. MANY thanks for the great article.

    Post a Reply
  8. Thanks again a whole lot for sharing this. This is a great article. You know I kind of like the ungraded look of the 5DmarkIII,the graded- to me take away some of the detail in the shadows and high lites.

    I’m a fan of 24-Live Another Day. I watched the behind the scenes clips on their site and the DP (Jeffrey MyGatt) said he used the 5DMarkIII for the interior car scenes (in episode-5pm-6pm) and of course the ALEXAS’for the primary.The footage from the 5D crosscut pretty well with the ALEXA’s footage. Don’t know if he used the RAW codec from Magic Lantern or not. But still it looked great on the 65inch.

    Post a Reply
    • I agree with Eli. The UNGRADED Canon 5D samples look very natural and correct to me. The graded version gives the model an unnatural color. My Spyder 3 always bumps saturation unnaturally high on yellows and greens and the samples here reveal that the 4 does that too. I want color correction that makes everything look like the Canon 5D!

      Post a Reply
  9. Loved the article Shane! If your blog had existed when I went to film school I probably would’ve thought twice about dropping that huge amount of money!

    Post a Reply
  10. Your blog is great, thanks for your posts!
    Anyway, you should try to improve readability: font and color combination are quite awful :P

    Post a Reply
  11. Best blog posting ever**

    I’ve recently acquired the BMCC (and the free copy of Resolve) and I’ve been floundering on how to get it to work with out existing cameras (as well as floundering on Resolve in general, but a course from Ripple Training will hopefully help correct that). So this is insanely helpful – many thanks.

    (**Except for the other Hurlblog posts which were also the best blog posting ever).

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks so much for the kind words Manning. We will be talking about the BMCC more in the coming months, all over the blog, so keep an eye out for that!

      Post a Reply
  12. Awesome article, thanks Shane. Looking forward to the next one.

    Post a Reply
  13. Hi Shane,

    Thanks for sharing your tests.
    One question: How do you know the ISO setting and shutter speed for the GoPro? It is written ISO 100 shutter 1/50. What GoPo is it?

    Luchian

    Post a Reply
  14. Hi Shane,

    Huge fan of your work as well as the candidness with sharing your workflows. I”m curious about your opinion on the position of the DIT, and to what extent you utilize the role.

    Post a Reply
  15. Is there an easy way (plugin) to match clips with a few seconds of the colorchecker board? I know Resolve 11 has this, but wondering if there are other solutions.

    Post a Reply
  16. Hey Shane, thanks so much for the post. I was curious, what sources do you light the charts with? If you’ve got mixed sources do you, for sake of discussion, expose the chart as 3200k if you’d like that to be considered white or vise versa if you’re considering daylight to be white? Or do you simply throw the chart up with whatever the scene is lit with and consider whatever your in camera white balance is to be white? Or is this simply an old concept mostly used with film stocks. Thanks again for the posts. You’re a boss.

    Post a Reply
  17. Hi Shane,

    I think i’m missing something. I personally own a X-Rite Color Checkr Passport, and have been experimenting with my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and Sony a7S in various conditions, outside and inside, experimenting not only with matching my cameras but also just getting a neutral starting grade with the feature in the new version of DaVinci Resolve 11 Lite. Now I am concerned I am doing something wrong and I’m not quite sure what, because occasionally DaVinci Resolve will get COMPLETELY thrown off in a color. I realize that its an automated process, but i’m not quite sure how else to use these charts to match two cameras.

    from reading this post, it seems that you use these charts in your shots and then send them off to a colorist to do the rest. is there any way for the Inner Circle (or here on your blog) you could cover this in a big more detail as far as “how” this is achieved?

    Post a Reply
  18. Hello Shane

    You have made a good blog about color correction.You also describe clearly by using image & YouTube simultaneously.This is a nice task.You describe how to color correction on camera. Is it possible on Android cell phone also?

    Post a Reply

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