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Old June 2nd, 2011, 03:16 PM   #1
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Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

Hi all. This forum continues to be an excellent source of information for me in my new digtial filmmaking endeavours.

My first few attemts at color grading have looked, well, horrible as, to be frank, I have no idea what I am doing to achieve some of the amazing looks people have accomplished in videos I have seen online.

I am using Vegas 10 which, from what I gather, is not supported by Magic Bullet Looks which was the program I wanted to use.

Some folks online seem to think that great stuff can be achieved without programs like this just using Vegas's effects but I gaze at all the options and am lost.

What are some of the more common settings used in videos?
What are people doing to achieve those amazing skin tones?
How are people making their videos look like films?

Is there a website out there that gives the lowdown on what all of the Vegas settings can do?

What are alternatives for us Vegas 10 uses to Magic Bullet looks?

Is it worth it to downgrade to another version of Vegas for Magic Bullet looks?

Thanks
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Old June 2nd, 2011, 03:27 PM   #2
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

I would check out Glenn Chan's website; he goes into a lot of detail about color and Vegas.

Sony Vegas Tutorials and Other Articles

Generally, the color curves, levels, and the Color Corrector will be the most-often used tools.

As for how to achieve some of the things you're asking about, it starts with how you shoot -- how you light, how you compose a shot, the colors of everything in the shot itself, your in-camera color settings, etc. You don't want to be thinking you can do everything in post, because you need good footage before you can make it shine.

Remember, a pretty shot of a pretty girl starts with a pretty girl. And the opposite is true -- garbage in, garbage out. Strive to shoot footage which doesn't need any work done on it and is already what you want it to be.
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Old June 2nd, 2011, 03:50 PM   #3
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

Not knowing what online videos you have seen and are comparing, I suggest the number one thing that determines great skin tones is camera / lens choice. It all starts with the lens, and goes pretty much downhill from there.

I'm working now on a wedding shot with an FX1 and two DSLRs (actually they are hybrid cams, but that is beside the point for this discussion). There is no possible way I could ever match the tones of the DSLR footage with the stark looking FX1. Admittedly, my white balance settings could've been improved on the FX1, but the DSLR footage is even easier to color correct in post then the FX1.

Below is a sample from another wedding shot with four different DSLR stype cameras simultaneously, you can see how rich the colors are, and how bright things are with cameras 1 and 2. But 3 and 4 are different due to lens differences and probably bad white balance. But the differences are striking, IMO.

I could never have achieved these looks on cam 1 and 2 in post. I'm not saying they are groundbreaking, or anything like that. But it is so much easier when you start with great footage.
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Old June 2nd, 2011, 04:18 PM   #4
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

I'm a very recent - and happy - convert to Firstlight, which comes as part of Cineform's Neo (not Neoscene.)
For me, I'm finding it preferable to convert even .mxf files from the Canon XF300 to Cineform, even though they are already at 50Mbs, just to be able to grade or apply the Cineform preset "Looks" to my material.
It's brilliant the way that you can grade non-destructively either with the stand-alone viewer, or with your chosen NLE running and see the changes being updated on the timeline. Since MB isn't an option for us Vegas users, I recommend that you at least consider a trial of the Cineform software...
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Old June 2nd, 2011, 05:58 PM   #5
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

I'm looking at these 20 flicks at the moment as examples:
http://www.unstage.com/2010/04/20-co...non-rebel-t2i/

At the moment, I don't have any expensive lenses. Some of those were shot on one of the lenses I have, however: Canon 50mm 1.8, which was used to shoot these test run videos:

1) YouTube - ‪Carnival of the Depressed‬‏
2) YouTube - ‪Nightwalk .1‬‏
3) YouTube - ‪Nightwalk .2‬‏
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Old June 2nd, 2011, 11:59 PM   #6
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

Yes Robert, the video entitled "Spring" was amazing, wasn't it? That may have been prettied up a bit in post, I don't know, but the original footage was amazing for sure.

I'm new to this world of interchangeable lenses myself, and it is a real learning process to be able to acquire stunning images, even when you have the equipment on hand. I don't believe I've acquired anything close to stunning myself, but I'm working on it.

I have a couple of halfway decent lenses, but I have so much to learn in using the camera, and taking proper advantage of light, choosing right settings, angle, etc.

While is sure is nice to use the cool effects in post, you really can't get the best results if the original images are not great to begin with. This is, IMO, where we should start, at the beginning with great footage, and then go from there.
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Last edited by Jeff Harper; June 3rd, 2011 at 02:26 PM.
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Old June 3rd, 2011, 05:00 AM   #7
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

And, above all, love the shot and the shoot. Get the shot you want and feel you've done what you can to enjoy it. The chances are that if you enjoy the value of camerwork, then the viewer will too.

I can't agree more about shooting correctly in the first place. And correctly means light and purposefully framed. Post activity makes brilliant shooting look spectacular. Average captures can be spiced a bit, but remain average. Have done the latter? Oh yes. Have I done the former? Well, enough to do more and keep my clients coming back for more.

Grazie
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Old June 3rd, 2011, 09:11 AM   #8
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

Jeff: Indeed. I am just starting out myself. The great thing, of course, is seeing these videos and knowing that the camera I bought CAN do that. Right now I may not have the know-how (or equipment) to pull this stuff off but the camera CAN do it, Sure, I could have went out and spent $3000-$4000 on a high-end camcorder or even got a better camera then the T2i but from what I have seen the T2i can pull off some amazing stuff. Right now, I think, before I go and spend $1000 plus on a better lens, I still need to keep cutting my teeth on what I got:
-kit lens
-55mm-250mm (came free with the camera)
-50mm 1.8

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That said, I have read that shooting FLAT (or some people say SUPER FLAT) helps best in color correcting in post. I see there is no setting on the camera.

Do you folks here suggest shooting in Nutral or utilizing the another picture style?

I guess what I am asking is what picture style to most of you use or is it constantly changing. Do you have a custome style?
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Old June 3rd, 2011, 12:48 PM   #9
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

Shooting flat and grading in post is a way to go. However, as has been said, avoid the trap of shooting flat and leaving your decisions up to post. Know what you want before you shoot . . .
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Old June 3rd, 2011, 01:00 PM   #10
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert James View Post
...That said, I have read that shooting FLAT (or some people say SUPER FLAT) helps best in color correcting in post. I see there is no setting on the camera.

Do you folks here suggest shooting in Nutral or utilizing the another picture style?

I guess what I am asking is what picture style to most of you use or is it constantly changing. Do you have a custome style?
Shooting "flat" is very appropriate under some circumstances, and will almost always necessitate color correction. Flat means lacking in normal contrast range, in an extreme case the blacks look dark grey, and the whites look light grey (that's probably too flat!)

This is entirely dependent on: the scene (and blocking), its lighting, and the latitude of your camera (sensor, image processing, and codec).

Typical problem - overhead existing lighting leads to deeply shadowed eye sockets on some people, and some people are only backlit by the overheads. You push up exposure to compensate, to get some shadow detail, and now you have the bride's dress blooming and losing detail in the highlight areas.

Of course we wish we could re-light the whole scene, and tell that one bridesmaid not to step back out of her light, but we can't.

In short, we have a scene with more exposure values than we have latitude in the camera. We're going to walk away with insufficient detail in shadows or highlights, and color correction won't bring it back acceptably.

The easiest solution is to use whatever the particular camera offers for lessening the recorded contrast in the scene, "flat"tening it out.

I haven't shot with the T2i, and every manufacturer has slightly different tools under different names, but according to this page, you have a highlight control called Highlight Tone Priority (HTP), and a shadow control called Automatic Light Optimization (ALO).

You'd need to do some experimenting and benchmarking the results under different lighting conditions to start to get familiar with when and how to use them to control scene contrast.

Then, when you color correct, you increase the contrast, typically with Color Curves in Vegas, but this can also be done with the Color Corrector, if you're doing other corrections too.

How do you know when you need this? As you're developing your eye for this, squeeze off a couple stills and look at the histogram display. If you've got a lot of peaks right to the left edge of the display, you probably have a shadow detail problem - increase exposure. If you have a lot of peaks on the right edge of the display you probably have a white clipping problem - reduce exposure. If you can't find a decent middle ground, apply the contrast control tools until you get no crowding at the edges, but lots of middle.

Take all this with a good look at your scene, because there may be large areas of background that *should* be black and without detail. But, you don't want that in faces!

There was a lengthy group of threads in the JVC HD100 forum a few years ago, talking about maximizing recorded gamut, I learned a lot reading them, and applied that info to creating a Picture Profile in my Sony camcorder that used what Sony calls "black stretch", it brings blacks up to dark greys. Looks flat in the camera, but color correction brings out nice imagery.

PS. There's a Canon T2i forum here, with people who've probably used HTP and ALO...
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Old June 3rd, 2011, 02:48 PM   #11
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

Robert, you've been given a lot of good info, for sure.

You would not do badly to consider looking at lenses if you want, that is where the magic begins. Well, technically the magic begins in your mind, with your vision, but as far as implementing it, it starts at the lens.

The reason I mention lenses, is once you buy a new lens, you will have to learn how to use it. You have an amazing camera, capable of so much. And in the right circumstances, your kit lens will work well for you, particularly outdoors.

But when you get into faster lenses you will have more options, but there will also be a learning curve. Focusing is more difficult with faster lenses, like the F/1.4, etc, but the colors pop! I'll have a video up shortly, and you can see the differences between the lenses I used. It's pretty dramatic. I have shot with a F/2.8 zoom next to a prime F/1.4, and there is NO possible way to make them look identical, the images look different. I can adjust white balance, etc on the camera, but in post there is NO way to make the lesser footage look like it was shot with a better lens.

I'll try to post a link to the Vimeo video I'm talking about when it's ready and you can see.
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Old June 3rd, 2011, 04:13 PM   #12
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Re: Grading advice in Vegas / Magic Bullet Looks and Alternatives

Robert, first, this is simply a lens demo video, nothing more. Notice the dramatic differences in the shots. It's very frustrating. Her hair is red, but appears brown with the Tamron lens. I have the same problem in church, the white balance using this lens is really difficult, and just isn't the same. The real issue is I have to learn how to set up the camera when using the lens. This is what I was talking about regarding learning the lens.

On the other hand, at exactly 1:00 there is a brief shot taken with the Canon 135mm F/2.5 and it is a beautiful shot. I just had the white balance on cloudy, and it was perfect.

Click on Bev at Ault Park and you can watch the video if you're interested.

Cincinnati Video on Vimeo
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