The Importance of Being…color corrected

After observing amazing color correction (Molly Dougherty’s scene directed/edited by Chris Bosak) and color grading (Sean Liang’s scene directed/edited by Will Simon; sound mixing by Ben Soldate), I felt compelled to write about the importance of and difference between the two.

Especially in the Elon bubble, we use the terms “color correction” to mean both correction and grading of footage.  However, in the professional world, these are two separate functions.  Paulo de Andrade wrote an article on Creative Cow about the importance and ease of color correction in a digital video world.  De Andrade says one of the most easy-to-fix elements filmmakers and videographers ignore is color correction.  Just search “short film” on YouTube and you’ll see what he means.  A lot of young and inexperience filmmakers will shoot a decent video, but the flat colors constantly remind the viewer that the video was shot unprofessionally.  De Andrade approaches color correction as a “technical” element of post production: make your whites bright and true white and blacks deep and true black.  Then of course, depending on the location, you may have to correct for lighting, such as the hues cast by florescent bulbs or the harsh yellows cast by a setting sun that ruin skintones.  These are technical things that give video a professional and “filmic” quality.

Then there is color grading.  This is where you alter the visual tone/mood of the video to enhance the story.  This is my personal favorite part of post production.  Still one of the most famous examples of feature film color grading is O Brother, Where Art Thou?  This movie began a revolution in digital post production color grading.  Now, color artists and digital intermediate are common terms in any post house.  Color grading allows a director to give an entire  film or individual scenes a specific color look without having to achieve everything in-camera.

This hurl blog article gives some very handy tips on color correction/grading with DSLRs.  The article focuses on workflow using Adobe products, but Color Grading Central has some great tutorials for FCPX users.  The techniques taught in both places are applicable anywhere; I get more from the “why do I do this” rather than the “how do i do this.”  Even if you’re not going into editing or finishing, I would recommend understanding the color workflow because it well help you better understand how to create a professional looking video no matter what position you are at.

Below are the two videos I mentioned above as well as the scene I edited which was graded from a fully lit stage theater space to the movie theater space in the scene.

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