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Old February 9th, 2008, 07:26 PM   #1
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Colour grade like the pros

Like a lot of people here, I have always been keen on trying to figure out how to colour grade my HD video footage (now using an ex1) to look like what Iím seeing in your everyday theatrical release. I know I know, they achieve the look from high end cameras, high end editing systems and specialised equipment etc, however I have seen many examples from home editors who have managed to produce material that looks like it could easily hold its own next to lower end blockbuster releases.

Thereís a particular look where everything within a frame will have its richness in colour but background objects like walls, floors and sometimes even overall tints are of a deep shade of emerald green, whilst human faces will still retain an organic flesh tone which to an audience straight away says cinema style video. I've tried to create this myself using magic bullet looks but I end up turning everything green or only able to manipulate strong colours that already exist. Iím thinking maybe these background objects where lit with a green gel or something, I'm just not sure and despite my searches information is unclear.

Usually asking these people gets me no where as many are very secretive about how they achieve certain looks which is of course understandable but Iím hoping there will be some people here willing to point me in the right direction.

Thanks
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Old February 9th, 2008, 08:12 PM   #2
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Another approach would be to light the subject with somewhat red lights - and white balancing to it. Now Everything else has a blue hue. Then take and bend your blues towards green.....

Never done it. I just thought of it when you mentioned the green/fleshtone contrast. Might be worth playing with if you have the time? :)

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Old February 9th, 2008, 08:16 PM   #3
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hmmmm, that actually seems very logical. I'm going to give that a try, thanks carl
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Old February 9th, 2008, 08:33 PM   #4
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I'm really eager to hear your results. :)

You could also try with other colored lights, magentas, purples, to try to actually achieve the green. If you can do it on set, it beats the heck out of color grading in post!

Also, look at programs such as Apple Color - they include something called secondary color corrections - which is the holy grail of post color correction IMO =) Manipulating just a specific color range - or perhaps everything but leaving your fleshtones alone. Sound like fun? :)

Good luck trying out shooting with the gels!
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Old February 10th, 2008, 01:25 AM   #5
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Final cut pro, even without using color, can do the secondary color correction. There's an option in the 3 wheel color corrector (or maybe it's the other color correctorf) to isolate a certain hue, luminance, saturation, etc. That's the low budgeters way to do it. You make your overall tint with the color corrector (say, a sickly green for horror), and then apply the plugin again, this time targeting skin tones, and put them where you want them.

Also works in Vegas, which has a dedicated Secondary Color Corrector plugin for just such a purpose.

I think lighting is also a huge part of it in the pro world. Again, let's say we're doing a horror movie with a sickly green tone for the set, and more normal tone for the actors. So you light the set with your green gelled lights, and light the actors with more or less normal colored light. Use flags and whatnot to keep the background lights from spilling onto actors, and vice versa. Enhance in post.
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Old February 10th, 2008, 08:20 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
There's an option in the 3 wheel color corrector (or maybe it's the other color correctorf) to isolate a certain hue, luminance, saturation, etc.
Ooooh. I've definitely gotta track that down. Thanks for the pointer! I think it must be on another CC though, as the 3 way I use every day, and haven't noticed it...
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I think lighting is also a huge part of it in the pro world. Again, let's say we're doing a horror movie with a sickly green tone for the set, and more normal tone for the actors. So you light the set with your green gelled lights, and light the actors with more or less normal colored light.
I agree, definitely. The suggestion of white balancing to a weirdly gelled light for the talent is just a cheat to be able to use less colored lights for the same effect. That way, daylight and other natural light can provide your dynamic (say, green) colors while the talent stays neutral.

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Old February 10th, 2008, 10:16 AM   #7
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You can light your background differently using gels and/or use filters in your matte box and/or use a tool like Magic Bullet Looks to grade your footage. Do all three if you can.

You may want to 'experiment' with the different Cine-gammas on the EX1 and check out the Picture Profile thread in the EX1 sub-forum.

Settinng WB on a gray card can be used to achieve a warmer look. I'd say don't go overboard with colored lighting and oddball WB points unless you want an abstract look. You will get weird color reproduction. Moderation is key.

George/
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Old February 10th, 2008, 10:17 AM   #8
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I did have a play with primary and secondary colour correction (in vegas) and i can definitely see how the effect can be achieved however i can also see how this is the budget way to do things as it can be quite limiting, for example if i want to change the tonal setting of one particular thing that has a variety of hue properties like a brick wall, it would mean applying the effects quite a few times to account for all the different shades within that one wall without affecting the rest of the scene. I know thereís the possibility of using masks and duplicate layers of video etc to grade different areas of my viewer but with moving image i couldnít imagine the amount of time it would take to do this.

I really like the idea of using lights to colour a set, this is something im going to try, I've just ordered some new gels to have an experiment with but in the meantime Iíd like to continue this discussion to see if anyone else has any input on their approach.
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Old February 10th, 2008, 11:01 AM   #9
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I watched the director's commentary on Pan's Labyrinth and he talks about gels and what he used in certain scenes to create a specific feel, color, tone, mood. I thought the film was gorgeous looking color wise - it might be worth sitting thru some of that. It was very informative.

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Old February 10th, 2008, 11:14 AM   #10
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I love that film and a perfect example of the look im refering to, never had access to the director's commentary though, but will try and get my hands on it.
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Old February 10th, 2008, 03:28 PM   #11
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Ok, I just checked. Granted, this is FCP 6, so maybe earlier versions are different, but both the plain old color corrector and the 3way (tee hee) have the option to do the color isolation. Got to the numeric option (as opposed to visual), and you'll see a little check box under chroma, luminance, etc. asking if you want to limit them. If you check each of these, further down, there are controls for luminance width, chroma width, etc. Once those boxes are checked you begin adjusting the widths to isolate a specific color range, like skin tones.

You mentioned having to do multiple layers and stuff. . .this may be true to some degree, but you should be able to get some decent results by playing with the shape of the mask. If I can isolate a person's face separate from the rest of the shot, you can isolate a brick wall!

But yes, if you can, light for the look you want in post. In the real world, they do all kinds of testing to see how everything's going to look later on. If you have the time and resources, what you'd do is bring your actor to the set, and maybe even shoot a scene, testing out various strengths of gel over and over again ("should we use 1/2 CTO on his face, and Full Plus Green on the walls? or Full CTO on his face and 1/2 plus green on the walls?"). YOu make all these tests with different configurations, then put each of THOSE through your various Post FX like the color correction we talked about. You might even try several different post FX. So now you have a billion different combinations of lighting setups and post FX, and you look at everything, and pick one (or several). Now you know that to get the look you want, you use this particular strength of green, and this particular type of orange gel, and this particular effect in post, and you shoot and grade accordingly from that point on.

This is of course the hardcore way to do it. You can just be lazy like me and shoot clean and try to slap it on after the fact.

Oh, and in Vegas, at least in version 6 (that's the one I still have), unfortunately, the secondary color corrector's mask is very rough, literally, around the edges. You get a hard pixelly edge where the mask cuts off, which is very noticeable when your video's in motion. This makes the effect somewhat useless unless a) you don't apply a very different look the masked area from what's around it, maybe a subtle enhancement, or b) the masked element is something that doesn't move in the shot (a building on a static shot, for instance). Maybe this has been addressed by now. In FCP, there's an option to soften the mask edge.
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Old February 10th, 2008, 05:27 PM   #12
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I just found an online tutorial, it's not presented very well nor too easy to see whats going on but after recreating what was done on some still photos i got real close to what i was trying to achieve. Have a look:

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/459442...after_effects/

In after effects, applying a solid colour over a video track (i used a brighter green) then applying a colour burn transfer mode mixed with another ajustment layer to correct some exposure you can get pretty nice results.
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Old February 10th, 2008, 10:44 PM   #13
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hey thanks, also if you didnt know you can white balance on different color cards for different results
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Old February 11th, 2008, 12:03 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
Ok, I just checked. Granted, this is FCP 6, so maybe earlier versions are different, but both the plain old color corrector and the 3way (tee hee) have the option to do the color isolation. Got to the numeric option (as opposed to visual), and you'll see a little check box under chroma, luminance, etc. asking if you want to limit them. If you check each of these, further down, there are controls for luminance width, chroma width, etc. Once those boxes are checked you begin adjusting the widths to isolate a specific color range, like skin tones.
in the 3 way color corrector for FCP (version 5.X), the visual has a little triangle to 'open' the extra settings below the 3 wheels. That will reveal the luminance and chroma limit bars.

-gb-
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Old February 11th, 2008, 10:20 PM   #15
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Good FCP 5.1 Color Correction Tutorials

If you check out the tutorials on Lynda.com for Final Cut there's a particular bit about using the secondary CC in the 3-way Color color corrector what's very relevant. It's the one on "The Limit Effect" in Section 9.

http://movielibrary.lynda.com/html/modPage.asp?ID=298

I love Larry Jordan's tutorials on FCP and this is one of them.

An account is required to see all but the first few movies but I think you can get a week's free trial through the URL http://www.lynda.com/deke

--Shayne
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