Color Grading In Spectachrome – Starting With Grain

September 26, 2019

Dan answers some comments from members about why he adds his grain to the image at the very beginning of his node graph

Why Do I Work Pre-Clip?

I had some great questions in the comments section on my previous Insight in this Series about my use of the Pre-Clip

I know it probably seems a little crazy. Adding grain and softening the image before I’ve even started grading it but I promise there is a logic in my madness.

The idea was first born when I graded this fabulous video.

Filmed on an Arri SR2 on Kodak 16mm Film.

This video was a bit of an ah-ha moment for me.

When we grade on something that uses film for acquisition the image comes out of the scanner with all the film characteristics already in there.

The grain is already in the image, it’s slightly soft (generally) compared to digital and even though it has been scanned in a log space it has a beautifully filmic (couldn’t think of a better word to describe it!) colour palette to work with.

Here is an ungraded still of the music video straight out of the scanner.

So when I add contrast, saturation, lift/gamma/gain or anything at all the grain is already in there and being pushed around at the same time as the footage.

Yes, it does make it a bit harder to key and grade but that is exactly what I want!

Part of film looking like film is the restrictions and issues of managing the noise levels so although it can be a pain in the butt sometimes I find it helps me get a more realistic looking film.

In The Video Insight Below, We Take A Look At:

  • Looking At Real 16mm Film For Reference
  • Using The 16mm To Add Similar Grain Levels To Our Digital Footage
  • Noise Reducing When Working This Way
  • Sharpening The Image Back Up

Questions Please!

I’m always extra excited to hear comments on these Insights as I can make sure to cover any questions in the next part.



Homepage Forums Color Grading In Spectachrome – Starting With Grain

  • Sean S

    Dan, Thanks for the insight. I have been putting my grain on my grades at the beginning for about four years now. Using the same logic. It is good to see that I wasn’t going nuts. LOL

  • Martí Somoza

    I kind of work in a similar way but depends on the project. If I’m going for a really dirty look I’ll add my grain at the beginning of my chain. However, I generally want a kind of natural look so what I do is placing my film texture emulation between my balance/secondaries and the look:

    (IDT if working with ACES or CST if camera matching is needed) > Balance > Secondaries > (scene look if needed) > Film texture emulation > Overall project look (usually custom built with some kind of PFE flavour) > Output transform (RRT+ODT if working with ACES, or log to Rec709 for example)

    I do that because I want to have the best image possible while balancing and build on top of that, to ensure my image will be more natural. I usually add halation aswell so I want to have all my whites at the same level. When I add the film texture before the balance, if a shot is underexposed and another one is overexposed, the underexposed one won’t have halation in the highlights and the overexposed one will have too much halation. So I only do that when I want a really dirty look.

  • Arcadia Entertainment

    Dan, you mentioned in the previous Spectachrome video that you were going to discuss challenges grading X-T3 material, but you never got to it. Can you discuss these challenges?

  • Seth Goldin

    Love this. A big part of how we evaluate an artistic technique is appreciating what constraints the artist is up against. Recreating the constraints of having baked-in grain is a great way to do this.

  • Arcadia Entertainment


  • Boris T

    Hi, Dan, thanks for your great insights! Just wondering, how do you deal with adding grain in ACES after DR16? It was all good with overlay before DR16 but now there is a heavy gamma shift and no one at BMD seems to acknowledge the issue.

  • Ian T

    Hi Dan, Love the insight! I was just wondering how you put the film grain in the “Add Matte” section?

  • Megumi K

    Thank you for this insight Dan. In part 1, you mentioned how you would go back and deconstruct the original grade. I’d love to see the process of how you achieved this look, especially that gnarly node structure you did on the exterior shot of the building in the snow.

Log in to reply.

1,000+ Tutorials to Explore

Get full access to our entire library of over 1,100+ color tutorials for an entire week!

Start Your Test Drive!