Dropping The Midtones

How to create a light, airy feel by dropping the midtones

May 2, 2014

Are you having trouble getting bright, happy images that aren't also feeling flat? Learn how I get around this by dropping the midtones.

Dropping The Midtones

Over the last few months of grading, I’ve noticed a trend in grades that I’d like to share with you all. I’ve moved into the world of commercials from mainly music videos and most of my grades now tend to be very bright and very poppy.

I used to always lift my gains and gamma up to get this very flat and ambient bright look. Nothing wrong with this look at all but when getting feedback from another colorist here at Smoke and Mirrors I noticed a pattern.

“What about if you drop the midtones?”

Let The Image Breath

By dropping the midtones down you’re letting the DOPs lighting and hard work show through. The areas of light and shade will become more apparent and you’ll see so much more depth and 3-dimensional feelings show in your shadows. Brighter isn’t always better and I’ve found when doing before and after comparisons, the images with lower midtones actually feel poppier and brighter than the ambiently bright ones!

Check out the video below to find out more, maybe it’s just me that was midtone challenged recently but hopefully this inspires you to try something new!

It would also be great to know which you prefer from a DOP. Flat soft ambient lighting where you have to shape the lighting yourself or more hard defined shadows that you finesse and add to?

– Dan

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