Ideas on color correcting raw footage using Camera Raw controls

Ideas on color correcting raw footage using Camera Raw controls

August 21, 2015

DaVinci Resolve provides RAW controls for color correcting raw footage. Here are three rules if you want to use those controls.


Series

Ideas on color correcting RAW footage

Conclusions in our Series on using RAW controls in DaVinci Resolve

In two previous Insights, we’ve looked at the difference between changing exposure in-camera vs. post-production and then doing the same with ISO.

To wrap up this rather clinical look at how our tools work, I spent a few days running through the reams of RAW footage I have from past jobs trying to come up with some concrete ideas on color correcting RAW footage using Camera Raw controls. You’ll often find colorists have some very definite opinions on which set of tools you should use.

Me, personally? I swing both ways.

I like Raw controls when they work. I don’t like Raw controls when they don’t work.

Pragmatic, right? But not very useful if you’re new to color grading and want some more solid advice. After a few days thinking specifically about advice to pass on to the ‘next generation’…

You’re about to learn 3 Guidelines for color correcting RAW footage, when using Raw controls

In this video Insight, I call them ‘Rules’… and one of them most certainly is a ‘hard and fast’ rule. But collectively, I’m more comfortable teaching them to you as Guidelines. If you want to use Raw controls for color correcting your images, then follow these guidelines to maximize the difference between grading with Raw controls versus the full set of controls offered by DaVinci Resolve.

I always recommend attempting both ‘Raw only’ grading and ‘Traditional’ grading on a project

The key to being a colorist clients like working with is getting them to their end result, fast. You’ll usually find that one approach will get you where your client wants to go more quickly than the other; except you’ll never know which is the fastest approach on a specific job until you try them both on some key shots.

Go ahead, try taking some time at the start of a job using just the Raw controls. Compare those same shots to your results using the 3-Way or Curves controls. Pick the approach that gets you where you want with the least amount of effort… and then commit to that approach.

Watch the video Insight below to learn my 3 Guidelines for grading with Raw controls (in Resolve)

— pat

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9 thoughts on “Ideas on color correcting raw footage using Camera Raw controls”

  1. Outside of the raw pane does davinci treat 12bit raw data as “developed” 10bit data or does resolve work on 12bit though out the whole process? Should I use the raw pane to expand the contrast as much as possible to then reduce the contrast in the primaries? Basically what I mean is besides clipped highlights and shadows is any data lost between the raw and the non raw panes.

    1. “Outside of the raw pane does davinci treat 12bit raw data as “developed” 10bit data or does resolve work on 12bit though out the whole process?”

      My understanding: 12bit throughout… assuming you’ve set your project to 12 bit.

      “Should I use the raw pane to expand the contrast as much as possible to then reduce the contrast in the primaries?”

      My conclusion: Try to do as much of the base grade in the Raw pane… don’t just limit it to contrast expansion. I don’t see much difference between that and using the Primaries for the same adjustments. My Guideline is, if you’re going to go to the RAW controls use them as much as you can to get the image where you want: Exposure, Saturation, Color Temp, Color Boost and all the others. That’s when you’ll start seeing results that’ll differ from the normal controls.

      But remember, clipping is a very real issue. Take it as far as you can but don’t destroy the image using Raw. Save that for your normal controls where that detail is recoverable.

      Another way of saying this: Think of the RAW pane as ‘developing’ your image, the different settings (especially at the extremes) will feed differing data into the rest of the controls. But that’s because whatever you’re doing is changing what the rest of the toolset sees as the ‘original’ image. Again, grade your image up using Raw controls then press the bypass command to bypass your grade… you can’t. It looks the same because that’s the foundation you’ve created… the ‘developed negative’ that you’re handing off to the ‘color timer’.

      If in the process of building that foundation you’ve thrown away shadow detail… guess what, that detail is thrown away.

      Am I making sense?

  2. Hi Patrick
    Nice explanation, what i understood from that : if i cliped the highlight or crushed the shadow in the raw pane, I wouldn’t get it back later. that is same when I am using Lut’s . am I right?
    excuse my english 🙂
    thanks

  3. This is roughly comparable to the olden days of Telecine, where the front end (as we called it) was absolutely critical. This was essentially the “raw” controls within the film scanner and at the first stage going into the color corrector. If that’s not optimized, nothing that follows can fix it. I only rely on exposure/ISO, color temperature, color space, and gamma (logfilm). Only if the footage is really screwed up to I resort to shadows, gain, and all that other stuff. Generally, there’s just no time to dig in there during a session. I’ll go for Midtone Detail and Color Boost on special occasions. The “Order of Operations” Alexis put in the Resolve v12 manual (p. 869) explains a lot why the knobs react as they do. If I can offer a more interesting question: I’m curious when and how people are using the Log controls vs. custom curves vs. Primaries. Those to me yield somewhat different results, but not necessarily better/worse. I find noise to be an issue depending on which mode is used.

    1. “I’m curious when and how people are using the Log controls vs. custom curves vs. Primaries. Those to me yield somewhat different results, but not necessarily better/worse. I find noise to be an issue depending on which mode is used.”

      I’d be interested to hear other members thoughts on this as well. Me? I tend to try them all out at the start of a session. I can never tell which set of tools will be easiest to work with or get me to the results we want most quickly. And it’s probably only in the last 2 years I’ve included RAW controls into my mix.

      In most cases, since I’m not on the big Resolve panels which offer knobs for RAW controls, I find they slow me down enough that unless they get me to a superior image, quickly – I tend to not use them. But I’ve also heard of DPs who insist their colorists use the RAW controls for the initial ‘base grade’… so it can be a client preference.

      1. I agree 100%, Patrick. The Raw controls are too slow, plus I don’t think they give you the control traditional knobs have. If the DPs insist on it, I think they do it out of ignorance and out of theory, not practical use. To me, it doesn’t matter how you get there as long as the image is right.

        1. I agree with both of you. It is def slower using RAW controls without them tied to a physical control set (and Ive yet to think of anything for xkeys) . I think that thought process of “we must use raw controls” is similar to the “we must shoot raw to get best quality” while lots of amazing work is done using AlexaProRes444. Same as “we shot in 4k+, why not master in it” too, i feel.

          Do you notice specific camera formats leading you to play w RAW controls more than others? RED v Blackmagic, etc?

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