Colour grading and colour correction is an essential part of the filmmaking process that is often overlooked. For our film ‘Colton’s Big Night’ we were fortunate enough to have the film graded at Molinare, where the ‘Kings Speech’ was graded – How cool is that? However, don’t feel disheartened if you don’t know anyone there that can do the grade for you.
You can do it as long as you (are not colour blind and) have the enthusiasm! You don’t have to have state of the art equipment or years of training to get good results, it can all be done on your laptop in your bedroom with a bit of research and practice.
The purpose of colour correction is to make a scene look like it was shot in the same moment, despite it being filmed over several hours or days. The director of photographer will try and make the shots in a scene as seamless as possible. However the always changing sun may have crept behind a cloud or a light may have been moved between shots so the look will undoubtedly be different, if only subtly. This is when the grader will adjust the light levels to match the shots in a scene so that it feels like it’s one continuous take.
The purpose of colour grading is to give the film a certain ‘look’ that will enhance the emotions in a scene. For example adding blue tones will enhance the coldness and orange will enhance the warmth. Adding colour tones to a scene can help tell your story in many different ways. For example in the Matrix, there are two worlds: ‘the Matrix’, which has a green tinge and ‘the real world’, which looks more naturalist and slightly cold. The green makes ‘the Matrix’ feel false and mechanical while the cold naturalist colours makes ‘the real world’ feel regular combined with a sense of loss.
Colour grading can also involve isolating a colour while making everything else black and white, like in “Schindlers List”, with the girl in the red coat. Blurring or darkening the edges of an image, which is called a vignette, will draw the viewers attention to the center of frame. Bringing out the brightness of selected areas in a frame and adding grain or pixilation to a scene will give a ‘real’ or ‘old fashioned’ feel to the film. However if you’re just starting out I would recommend keeping things simple and not get carried away with the ‘cool’ and ‘exciting’ effects. An important question to ask yourself before adding any colour grading effects is why am I doing this? How will this benefit the telling of the story?
A great way to practice the skills needed for colour grading is editing photos, this will help give you an understanding of how you can enhance the look and feel of an image by purely changing the colour, contrast, brightness and saturation. Once you’re feeling confident in the photo arena, go onto moving images. There’s lots of brilliant software out there, if you have a mac I’d recommend using ‘Colour’ (before it was merged with ‘Final Cut X’), if you have a PC I’d recommend ‘Magic Bullet’. If you’re not able to get your hot little hands on any of these sweet pieces of software, not to worry, most editing software these days have grading plugins built into them which will allow you to perfect your master piece!
Below are a few tutorials and tips to get you excited and show you the endless possibilities. Remember if you get stuck there’s always an answer – just Google it or ask a filmmaking friend. Good luck!
Tips for HD Colour Correction:
Colour Grading in Premiere Pro:
Colour Grading Tutorial – Sunset Look: