freeze frame from the matrix

In a nutshell what is colour grading?

Colour is, of course, fundamental in any form of visual storytelling, so getting it right on screen is essential. In the postproduction process, colour is perfected through colour correction and grading, although there is often some confusion between the two.

Correction is correcting and balancing each frame, making sure every colour stays true to itself and is consistent throughout.

Colour grading, however, is about creating an aesthetic for your film or emphasising certain moods. Examples of this would be the green look that is created in “The Matrix”, which lends a futuristic feel to feel to the film, or how Westerns often have a warm, orange feel to them.

Panel for Davinci Resolve

What specialist equipment, expertise or processes are involved?

There are a few different levels of colour grading, mostly depending on the size and budget of your video. At the lower end of the scale, the editor of your film may create a look for your film in the editing software LUTs, or may alternatively choose to create the look manually. But at the higher end, the colour grade process starts in-camera.

Higher end cameras can capture a ‘flat’ image, meaning what is captured has little true colour or texture to it, as this will be added in the postproduction process. Naturally, this gives the colour grader more freedom to add colour and create a unique aesthetic for your film. There is also higher end post productions equipment for colour grading.

One of the main programmes is Da Vinci Resolve from Blackmagic Design, which has its own desktop panel with specialised buttons and wheels made for colour grading. There are also professional colourists that specialise in colour grading who can create the perfect look that you are after. However, this can be a big expense in your postproduction budget.

Why should I consider using colour grading in my video productions?

Colour grading is great tool for if you want your film to have a certain aesthetic, or if you’re aiming for a particularly cinematic look.

The finishing touches added to your film in the colour grading process can also help to provoke a certain emotion from your audience.

For example, some films have used a colder blue to provoke sadness or desperation, whilst warm red and yellow colours lean more towards happier, hopeful or nostalgic scenes. Grading can, however, be used in many genres of film besides fiction.

For example, it is used a lot in music videos to create a certain look or feel. In the corporate world, engineering and technology companies can go for a ‘blue’ style, as it makes the film feel more technical.

Colour grading is also often used in product videos which can be used to draw more attention from the viewer and really bring the product to the forefront of the images.

When wouldn’t colour grading be ideal for my video production?

Colour grading can take a very long time, so if your video production is on a very tight deadline it may not be the best option to you. Many corporate style videos don’t actually need colour grading; for example, a conference-style video doesn’t need a certain look or feel to the film because the look isn’t as important as what is actually being said during the conference and could actually end up competing with the message for the viewers’ attention.

In a similar fashion, another genre of film that doesn’t use colour grading often are documentaries. This is done with purpose as documentaries are a truthful portrayal, so if there strong colour grade on the images it draws attention to the fact that it is actually a film and has been manipulated for your viewing.

Summary

Colour grading is the process of altering or enhancing film to create an aesthetic or provoke an emotional response. It can be a very powerful tool to make your film stand out, but you will need to ask yourself whether it is absolutely essential as it can be very time consuming, expensive and may require an expert.