Color grading an AD for TV is always a little challenge! Despite well known rules of broadcast delivery, colorist must include as much information as possible within certain legal restrictions! That includes exposure and saturation. It’s very important that material is shot properly before color grading is applied because technically speaking color grading is a destructive process and if RAW footage has issues it’s going to be very difficult creating an interesting look. The color grading process is an extension of cinematography, not a fix in post solution! Even most expensive cameras like Arri Alexa and RED Digital have their limitations.
Preparing the Project
Before we start color grading, we must first prepare and make sure that project settings are correct. It’s a very important step of the process because if you start color grading with the wrong settings you basically wasting time and things can go bad from there especially if time is a major factor!
Important things to make sure that the media settings are all the same, especially if you working remotely! Sometimes one clip can be 24fps and another one 29.97. That can cause potential issue depending on the project.
Davinci Resolve Studio has fantastic ability to automatically scale up and down project settings keeping all the masks and tracking information in place! It’s an amazing feature that can allow you to work in the smaller resolution to make things move faster if your hardware is not cutting edge! For example, you can scale down 6k project to 1080p and grade everything in HD before going back to original resolution for final rendering! It’s very useful techniques and a lot of studios and freelancers utilizing this little cheat!
Optimizing media and render cache can also be a good way to speed up your project! Sometimes effects such as noise reduction can eat up a lot of your resources, so caching clips can be a good way to keep computer playing back in real time! Grading choppy footage is very challenging because when playback is slow you don’t see obvious issues like color shifts or noise.
Make sure your color management settings are correct and the LookUp Tables parameters also based on your project specifications! I personally noticed that a lot of times Davinci Resolve does resets user presets so you have to double-check before moving forward that those settings are correct!
Shot on Alexa
AD that we are working on today was shot on Arri Alexa. The footage was transferred to me as PRORES 444 so all the quality is nicely preserved and we have tons of information to work with! It’s very important that source footage is in the correct format and has enough information to give the artist more flexibility! For PC users an equal alternative to PRORES is DNXHD or DNXHR, all those codecs are intermediate specifically designed for that kind of work and they can also be used as a delivery as well!
Let’s Start Grading!
Once everything above been sorted out we can finally start grading! I was given direction to make this AD vivid and high end looking. Since it was shot perfectly I knew immediately how to color it! My first step was to experiment with different looks and feels of this commercial. Every artist has a different approach to how they grade, I personally like to start rough and dial things down as I need to. I decided to use my custom made Film LUT for this project as a starting point to give it a nice vibrant feel.
Film LUT gave me a fantastic starting point to move forward. I wanted to make commercial more welcoming and warm so I increased the color temperature fo match desired feel.
From that point, it was just a matter of small adjustments to give it the nice vibrant overall feel of this AD. Many LUTS typically crush and alter the natural colors of the footage, gladly It wasn’t the case here. Everything came together very nicely. There is always a challenge working with vibrant colors to make color palette work right. In this ad, there are 3 dominant colors. Yellow/Orange, Blue and Green. We can see with the examples below how well each of those colors supports each other in the final grade. If you are uncertain about how to use color palettes, you can use a little cheat color wheel so dial exact color schemes for your next project. It’s a big help and I always have that color wheel on me when I shoot something.
In the final steps of the grading process, I brought overall exposure up to mimic additional fill light of the scene. Final grade made it feels like there was an extra massive bounce used for filling the shadows.
What about orange skin tones? In certain situations like this one, keeping skin tones slightly more orange/saturated is completely normal. As long as grading goes along with the overall look, its ok to diverse a little bit from generally accepted rules regarding the color of the skin. With the serious natural color grading, this kind of skin tone obviously wouldn’t work, however, in the creative happy and vibrant grade, it’s perfectly fine!
Color Grading in Davinci Resolve Studio is very intuitive and simple. My only major complaint about the program is that I wish the Blackmagic Design team would refine secondaries a little bit better. Los Angeles RAMS AD can be seen on Fox 5 San Diego
FilmLUT also available for BMPCC4k & BMPCC6k Digital Cameras