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Coloring 101 - A lesson in Color Correction

Color correction is a crucial aspect of filmmaking that often goes unnoticed. It's the process of adjusting the colors of the footage to achieve a specific look or feel. In this post, we will explore the basics of color correction.

The Importance of Color Correction

Color correction can transform dull and lifeless footage into a vibrant and visually stunning film. It helps the filmmaker set the mood, tone, and atmosphere of the film. The color grading can be used to make the footage look warm and inviting or cold and distant. The use of color can help tell the story and evoke emotions from the audience.

Color correction is also essential for ensuring consistency in the footage. The lighting conditions may vary from shot to shot, and color correction helps to ensure that the colors remain consistent throughout the film.

The Process of Color Correction

The process of color correction involves adjusting the footage's color balance, exposure, contrast, saturation, and hue. It can be done manually or through software like DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Premiere, or Final Cut Pro.

The first step in color correction is to balance the color temperature. This involves adjusting the footage's white balance, which can vary depending on the lighting conditions when the footage was shot. This step ensures that the colors in the footage look natural.

This shows a “cool” white balance. Notice the white in the character’s shirt has a blue tone.

This is an example of a balanced image. The white in the shirt has a natural color that matches the lighting conditions.

This last example is a “warm” tone. Here the shirt takes on an orange color.

*NOTE: These examples have been exaggerated to demonstrate the purpose of white balance.

The next step is to adjust the exposure, which involves adjusting the brightness and contrast of the footage. This step can help to bring out the details in the footage and make it look more vibrant.

This image is underexposed. The details are hidden in the shadows and the overall exposure needs to be brighter for it to be properly exposed.

This image is overexposed. There are lost details in the areas along the neck and face. Overall this image needs to be darker for it to be properly exposed.

This image is properly exposed. There are no, or very small, lost details.

It is important to note that depending on how the footage looks, there may be no fixing the exposure. If an image has areas that are either above or below the clipping points of the image, the best you can do is minimize lost data.

The saturation and hue are also adjusted to achieve a specific look or feel. Saturation refers to the intensity of the colors in the footage, and hue refers to the overall color tone of the footage.

No Saturation vs. Saturation

Magenta Tint on left vs. Green Tint on right

A subtle difference, but can be used to convey emotions about our story or characters.

The final step is to apply a color grade, which involves applying a color filter or preset to the footage. These are often called LUTs, or Look Up Tables. This step can help to create a specific mood or atmosphere in the footage.

A filter added to footage in Day Trippers to give it an old film look.

Tips for Color Correction

Here are some tips for color correction for filmmaking:

  1. Shoot in a flat color profile: Shooting in a flat color profile allows for more flexibility in color correction. It captures more information in the footage, allowing for more adjustment in post-production.

  2. Use reference footage: Use reference footage to ensure consistency in the color grading throughout the film. This can be a previous film, still images, or even a color swatch.

  3. Don't overdo it: It's easy to get carried away with color correction, but too much can make the footage look unnatural. Remember to keep it subtle.

  4. Use color to tell the story: You can use color to create a specific mood or atmosphere that enhances the story you're trying to tell.

  5. PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!: Just like with any other skill - practice makes perfect. It will help give you the intuition on what choices to make to best suit your next project.

In conclusion, color correction is a crucial aspect of filmmaking that should not be overlooked. It can transform the footage and enhance the story being told. By following the tips outlined above, you can achieve a professional-looking color grade that will elevate your film to the next level.


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