Insights on the Craft of Color Grading
In this round up I wanted to share some of the great resources to be found online about the art and craft of color grading. While many of the grading posts focus on the technical details of colour spaces, working in Resolve or achieving specific looks, I thought it was worth rounding up some insights on inspirational work too.
Interviews with Colorists
It used to be that it was quite hard to get quality interviews with colorists but these days there are plenty to go around. To kick us off check out the Mixing Light colorists profiles from Juan Salvo and Alexis Van Hurkman.
In this short interview with colorist David Cole you can pick up a few tid-bits on grading a 3D film vs a 2D film, from his work on TRON:Legacy.
There are a lot of tricks you can do in a 2D world that get exposed when they are put into 3D. We had to test and see what we could and couldn’t do and develop new techniques to use in our arsenal.
Colorist Adam Glasman is interviewed briefly over on Arri.com on his work on World War Z, which was shot on Alexa and used a print emulation LUT to kick off the grading process.
Before we went through the whole film, we created some examples of distinct looks designed to represent different locations in the story. This was to ensure that everyone was onboard with the approach before we did the entire thing.
DNEG has an interesting Q&A with VFX colorist Garry Maddison who has worked on Rush and The Dark Knight Rises, who answers emailed in questions. It’s a great opportunity to hear from a different side of the color grading work world. There is also a superb collection of other VFX artist profiles on the same site.
We start the grading process at the beginning of each show to neutrally balance all of the plates using in house designed grading software. We grade and review the sequences with the supervisors of the projects to make sure we have the right look, and create contact sheets for easy and quick referencing on groups of shots.
In a really interesting article Junior colorist Aurora Shannon, who has assisted colorists like Stephen Nakamura on Quantum of Solace, shares how she got her start in the business as a runner at Company 3 in Soho, London. I think the big take away to those looking to work as colorists, is to do what you can to get yourself in the room so that when opportunities arise you can seize them!
Slowly my confidence and their trust in my ability built up over the course of about three years until I was doing the video grades, trailers and affiliated commercials, cut changes, new shots and scenes, ‘outsourced’ shots with complicated grades, visual effect backplates and providing additional grading hours on big projects.
Continuing the theme of female colorists advancing in their careers, Creative Cow has this interview with Natasha Leonnet on her sixth collaboration with director Robert Rodridguez – Machete Kills. She has also graded Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and Sin City.
Gervais was determined to maintain the high quality of the RAW camera output throughout. With Baselight EIGHT, she ran comprehensive trials on the de-Bayering algorithms, i.e., setting up the way she wanted the processed files to look precisely and then making sure the conversions in RED tools achieved exactly the same results.
DIT Jeff Flohr is interviewed by Studio Daily on his transition from on set DIT to DI artist taking Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring through the conform, color grading, compositing and finishing all inside Assimilate Scratch.
I was taking on the DI for my first big feature film by an acclaimed director and DPs. Aside from the obvious pressures, I did not have a team of people to share all the duties like a facility would — conform, roto, color, etc. There was much more than color-grading to be done, and it made for some very long days, but Scratch allowed me to make it happen.
Filmlight, makers of colour grading system Baselight, has its own profiles of Baselight colorists and in this post on Andrew Lichtsein, Senior Colorist at Chainsaw LA, you can learn a few things about why this particular colorist prefers Baselight.
As the cut is revised and more material is acquired, Baselight makes the process of updating and revising extremely easy. I can return to a project, even render it out and Baselight will have provided fully graded handles to account for any revisions down the road.