Dirty Looks – Taking Your Image To The Limit

July 17, 2016

Dan shares his techniques for taking your image to the brightness, saturation, and sharpness limits while maintaining legal levels.


I recently graded a beautiful music video for the legendary Emil Nava and his brief was turn it up to 11. So this insight is all about taking your image to the limit.

You can check out emil’s work here to get an idea of the music videos he directs.

I endeavour for all my grades to look as cinematic as possible but sometimes it’s fun to thrown cinematic out the window and push it into comic book land.

In my mind taking the image to maximum involves 3 things.


I was going to call this contrast but I feel brightness is actually more accurate as the contrast can still be controlled and soft but the levels should be as far as humanly possible without clipping


Saturation should also be pumped up to the maximum allowed before going illegal. With saturation I find just cranking the saturation control up to max is too clunky and destroys the skin tone.

I’ll explain more in my video below but I find balancing the saturation the most time consuming part.


Pop music videos in my mind always deserve a little sharpness to get things jumping off the screen and into that hyper realistic world. I now use a combination of midtone detail and the regular sharpness control to make things really jump

The Music Video

Unfortunately as ever I don’t have permission to share the before and afters for this video so if you’d like to see the inspiration for this insight please check out the video below and then I’ll do a breakdown of the techniques I used in my video insight.



I know the track and video grade might not be for everyone but that’s the fun in sharing my dirty looks.

I share the good and the extreme!



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Homepage Forums Dirty Looks – Taking Your Image To The Limit

  • I found the D.E.B setting in red debayer settings really works good at reducing shadow chroma noise. I’m still figuring out the best way to compress that high DR for these new 15+ stop cameras not like the ursa mini. It can be a challenge to make it look realistic. Like in this shot, I’ve been getting footage with under exposed foregrounds and almost clipping backgrounds and compressing it is kinda of a pain. I’m look forward to the HDR days in the future.

  • Do you find DEB a killer for performance compared to typical NR tho?

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