Finding Opportunities when Color Correcting

Finding Opportunities when Color Correcting

October 28, 2015

How do you stay creative when you're not feeling creative? Learn how one professional is always finding opportunities when color correcting.

Scarlett’s Revenge Part 3: Sources for Inspiration

Finding Opportunities When Color Correcting

The challenge for all of us is the need to be ‘constantly creative’. As a professional colorist or editor, we have a continuous flow of clients and each client expects we’ll be our best creative self. Not only do they expect it, that’s our promise to them.

But how do you stay ‘constantly creative’ – every day for every client?

You develop habits. You learn to identify patterns. Those habits and patterns become shortcuts to creativity.

For instance, as I show in this Insight, when I’m grading, a little piece of my brain is always on the lookout for strong separation between highlights and shadows. Sometimes I can see it visually or sometimes it’s the Waveform that shows me this separation, the important thing is:

I’ve tuned my brain to recognize specific patterns that indicate, ‘This is an Opportunity’

The strong separation between highlights and shadows—with a large gap in-between—gives me several potentially creative ideas:

  • Enhance or create a silhouette
  • Pull a Luma key > perform a correction > then work the invert of that key > perform a correction in a different direction
  • Glows, anyone?
  • Lens flares: If the strong separation between highlights and shadows is from a strong key light that’s viewable in-picture (or just outside the frame of the image), then opportunities arise to use lens flares

Notice how one pattern, shadows/highlights separation, gives rise to multiple Opportunities when color correcting

We can pick just one of the Opportunities I outlined, or mix and match them. In this Insight, you’ll see I’ve taken this type of Opportunity and mixed and matched to get to a an image I found compelling and interesting. But Opportunities don’t only come from the image in front of you.

Look for Opportunities anywhere in your color grading session

It can be a word your client casually drops. Or maybe, an idea from the editor. This Insight also shares how I found an Opportunity by looking at the Editor’s original idea. I wasn’t able to execute his specific idea but riffed on it—building on his idea in a collaborative method.

Finding Opportunities is all about creating a system for being ‘constantly creative’

Your best ideas can usually be replicated across many different jobs and many different clients. But don’t fall into the trap of doing the same things over and over again. You need to take these common Opportunities and mix and match your solutions. Vary them and re-combine them in new and different ways.

You’ll find that it’s actually quite rewarding to think and work this way. You don’t need to always be ‘On’ for your clients to feel like they’ve gotten 100% out of you. Even on a bad day, you’ll be able to come up with ideas that add a ton of value to your projects—on-demand and without fail.

This Video Insight shares how I took two ‘patterns’ and found Opportunities

It’s the conclusion of my series on color grading the Scarlett’s Revenge theme park attraction. It’s also a summation of this series. Bringing together the concepts of Motivated Keyframes and Show Me Something under the banner of Finding Opportunities when color correcting. I hope you enjoyed it!


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Homepage Forums Finding Opportunities when Color Correcting

  • Really great series! Love the mindset of adding production value (and value as a professional) via knowing our tools, techniques and what we can get away w using plugins, color grading, and some sneaky glowsblurs and basic compositing tricks. Hope to see more of these project inspired series in the future 🙂

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Thanks Jason. I hope to grade many of these projects in the future… where the producer allows me to share them with all of you.

  • Guy Brinsdon

    Hey Patrick

    I used this groups technique on a short a while ago. I matched shots in each scene then added the “look” as a group grade on top, then tweaked each clip grade as needed. The issue that came up against was that it was a pretty strong look and to keep skin looking natural I wanted to key the cleaner “pre look” skin back over the top of look grade. Something I tend to do quite a lot. But I couldn’t find a way to pull the ungraded skin from the clip grade into the group grade. I wanted to tweak the key for each shot then have it lay over my group look.

    I ended up just doing this in the group layer, then un-grouping the shots where it didn’t work so that I could tweak the key without effecting the rest of the shots in the group. An ok work around but pretty clunky. Those shots no longer change with the group if I tweak the group look etc

    Have you come across a similar problem? I’m wondering if there’s a better way of doing it while keeping the group intact…?

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Guy – I’d take the input into the Group Grade and feed that into the bottom of a Layer Mixer node, key out the skin tones there on top of the Look at the end of the Look Node Tree. If all the shots match and the skin tones all match – it should work (although you might still need to tweak at the Clip level to get the skin tones to line up as that Group-level key needs).

    Make sense?

  • Guy Brinsdon

    Yeah that’s what I’ve been doing. The problem is that key doesn’t always work for every shot in the group. Especially when you have a lot of scenery that falls close to the skin tone range. What would be good is if that key leading into the Layer mixer could live in the clip node tree (but still be feeding the Layer Mixer in the group level). That way a different key could be feeding the Layer Mixer for each shot. If that makes sense…

    But maybe that’s not possible??

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