Node Structure

Behind The Curtain – Can You Prebuild An Ideal Node Structure?

April 6, 2018

Can you prebuild a perfect node structure and use it to speed up your grading? Dan is taking a deep dive to find out how well it works, and if it's a genius idea or a total waste of time.


The Never Ending Quest For Perfection – Can You Prebuild Your Looks?

I had a great question in the comments recently about my node structure and how I like to order things.

The short answer is YES! I do have a structure that I follow.

The long answer is that like a guitarist following the quest for the perfect guitar sound it’s constantly being refined, mixed up and trashed completly to be rebuilt from the ground up.

I also think my grading is heavily influenced by the work of others.

At the NAB conference, I met tons of amazing colorists which led me to re-thinking my way of attacking the look again.

The biggest weakness I found is I really do spend a lot of time re-adjusting scenes after feedback.

Copying and Pasting the same nodes/changes / whatever the hell the crazy director might want!

The solution is really a simple one, use group level nodes per scenes to create the look and feel.

The only problem is that it takes a lot of effort and time to break out of your comfort zone.

Luckily I just sat down for my 10-hour flight to Las Vegas with the worst entertainment system I think I’ve ever experienced.

There is also a bunch of drunk guys sat beside me on a boys holiday so there goes any chance of sleep.

Time to do some research and planning on my node structure!

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Homepage Forums Behind The Curtain – Can You Prebuild An Ideal Node Structure?


    I think you’re demonstrating a nice base there. I’ll also add, as an older guy watching a young one mature, as you’ve been so honest (and thank you!) about your work, and whether you’ve pleased or irritated clients … I’m starting to see you mature as an individual artist. Yea, taking bits & pieces, but starting into doing a Dan thing not to be different or cool, but … because it just is the Dan thing. All good. It will be fun to watch this continue.

    I’m also curious how you’re building your teal/orangey-yellow look. It’s got a very nice and individual flavor going on.

  • Definitely an interesting insight as I’ve been on a similar path myself. Developing ways to make your personal look more streamlined and time efficient. Would be interested in seeing more of this.

    One thing came to mind though when you mentioned the different camera profiles and log curves we work with. Using the Color Transform OFX could help with bypassing this step completely as you can convert any gamma/space into e.g. Arri LogC so the pipeline can stay even more intact.

  • I think that might be what Node 11 is doing in Dan’s setup. By putting the Color Transform Node after his Primaries, but before the Film LuT in Node 1, he can use all source information before losing some through the Film LuT (which is expecting Rec709 / P3, if we are talking about Resolve’s own Film LuTs). Dan, please correct me if I’m guessing wrong!

  • So which Color Transform settings in your opinion would come handy in that case – if they’re sitting after the corrections but right before the LUT? What I had in mind was more in the sense of putting a Color Transform on your first node if you’re working with e.g. Sony/RED/BM footage and convert that gamma/space into Arri LogC and than grade on top of that as any Alexa footage (but still underneath a LUT), which means your curve adjustments could stay more intact regardless of the source footage. That said if your pipeline is designed to expect Arri LogC gamma.

  • Marc Wielage

    I tend to use a fixed node structure for features and episodic TV where it’s very structured and the shot-by-shot context is predictable. I found out very quickly this won’t work for commercials, short form, or trailers — totally different thing. I have a simple 12-node structure, a more-complex 15-node structure, and then a 22-node “kitchen sink” approach, and that’s just the basic node tree. Early nodes normalize the material (LUTs or offset and overall gamma curves), followed by four parallel nodes for secondaries and keys (skintones and skies, mostly), then three rows of 4 serial nodes for balance & level (plus OFX if necessary), second row for preset windows (face, body, flags, and vignette on edges), then third row for clips, black desat, trim (for a client pass), and blacks (tweaks). Every node is labeled in advance. Different projects demand different approaches: I use group grades for style, usually Post-Clip. Technicolor, Level 3, CO3, eFilm, and Picture Shop all use similar techniques here in LA. I bow to Mark Todd Osborne for inspiring part of my approach. I have gone to over 30 nodes for some crazy sessions (particularly when we go window-crazy), but much beyond that and steam starts coming out of the system. Staying on top of Orders of Operation is key. And I use a lot of versions for experimentation.

  • Marc Wielage

    The whole orange/teal story is one that deserves to be told someday.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    RE: Lum vs Sat – I completely agree here, Dan. I love using this Curve to slightly tweak the dark shadows. But that graph you drew in the article almost always results in my images looking false and usually means I need to go to my balance node and re-work the blacks.

    Good stuff.

  • Hi, Dan. Very interesting your approach!
    Can you tell us specifically how you developed your color separation in Node 3? Something like Gain towards 4 and Gamma 11 o’clock?.Have you neutralized blacks in Node 6, or you did a something previous in Node 3?

  • Megumi K

    “I’ll be doing a video insight on how I use this setup very soon.”

    I hope you revisit this topic, I’m having trouble trying to recreate it to see how it all works. It would be great to see you build it or go over any improvements you’ve come across since the last time.

  • Cesar P

    This is gold! Thanks you, very inspiring. I am creating my own node tree, the thing is that it takes time to find one that fits many situations. Definetely great advise here.

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